I’ve Been Personally Victimized By The BodPod

Last week, in my blog post, Confessions of a Crash Dieter, I briefly discussed a tragic story, of the time I subjected my body to the scrutiny of the BodPod. A BodPod, is a fancy little egg-shaped chamber, that uses air-displacement to accurately measure body fat percentage.

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The dreaded BodPod

The first time I entered the BodPod, I was confident. I was feeling brave. I was feeling like a weight loss master. I had been taking Phentermine for 6 months, eating 1,000 to 1,200 calories a day, and running three to four days a week. I thought I was doing all of the right things to lose weight. So I stepped into the BodPod, knowing that I wasn’t at my ultimate goal, but feeling pretty good about the progress I had made on the scale. Picture it, as I stepped out of the egg chamber, chest out, shoulders back. I sauntered over to the buff personal trainer and BodPod operator. Now imagine my embarrassment and horror, when he placed the results before me and read the verdict. 49% Body fat. I was a soft boiled egg. Half of my 150 pound, size 8 body, was made up of fat.

I knew I was still jiggly in places. I knew I still had work to do, to “tone”, but I was not expecting to be told that I was still considered to be in the “Risky” category for my body fat percentage. Even though I was at a normal weight for my height, because of the amount of excess body fat I had, I was still at a high risk for conditions related to obesity such as Type II Diabetes and heart disease.

Needless to say, I was ticked. How much more weight could they possibly expect me to lose? I held it together, the whole time thinking, “Maybe I did this at the wrong time of day? Maybe I ate a lot of sodium yesterday! Maybe I wore the wrong clothes?” I tried and tried to justify why the results had to be wrong. Totally dumbfounded, I tried to listen to him go over the results. He was talking, but all I heard was the Charlie Brown, wha wha. When I came to, he was totally calling me out. He said, “It looks like you’re eating way too little and doing too much cardio.” How could he know that from numbers on a paper?

It’s More Than The Scale

He knew exactly what I had been doing. Like so many others, I had based all of my weight loss

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150 pounds, 49% Body Fat

success on the number on the scale and the amount of pounds lost. I hadn’t thought one iota about body composition or fat loss. My only concern was seeing my weight drop.

The scale is a tricky thing, especially for women. While it is an important tool for collecting data points, it isn’t the end all be all when it comes to successful weight loss. So many things can cause our weight to fluctuate day-to-day. When I started losing weight, I weighed myself everyday. While this may seem a bit neurotic, it really helped me to learn my body. For me personally, I now know, that my weight will fluctuate if I have a busy day at work. It will fluctuate if I do a really heavy leg day and have delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). I know that I’ll gain a pound or 2 when I ovulate, it will go back down for a week, and then it will go back up 2-3 pounds before I start my period and then I will have a big weight loss after my period.  As women, so many things can have an effect on our weight. At the risk of sounding like the lady from Fried Green Tomatoes with the hand mirrors…it’s so important to learn your body. The scale is an important tool, but it’s also important to have other ways to measure progress.

The Toning Myth

When we start losing weight, we usually have a picture in mind of what our dream body would be. We usually don’t want a smaller body that’s still flabby. Most of the time we picture our ultimate goal as a “toned” body. Dropping more and more weight, isn’t what is going to make us look toned. We just need to lose enough fat to reveal the muscle underneath. However, if we’re trying to lose too much too quick, we will also be losing our muscle. That’s why sometimes it can seem like you’re chasing your tail when it comes to toning. When you’re eating too little and burning through your muscle, it’s going to be really hard to see progress.

There’s a saying that sometimes floats around that says, “muscle weighs less that fat.”img_1362 That’s not actually true. A pound is a pound no matter if it’s a pound of fat, muscle, or a bag of peanuts. What they’re actually meaning, is that a pound of muscle is much smaller and compact than a pound of fat. This is why a person who weighs 150 pounds, but is 49% body fat, can look much more overweight than a person that weighs 150, but has a body fat percentage of 25%. What their weight is made up of is completely different, and looks completely different…because a pound of muscle is smaller than a pound of fat.

The Metabolic Powerhouse

Muscle is so important when it comes to weight loss, not only because of the look it gives our body, but also because it actually helps us burn more body fat. In a previous blog post I explained the term Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This is the amount of calories our body burns, just to support us being alive. This number is important, because it play a part in telling us how many calories we should be eating in a day. This number is not fixed! It changes according to your body composition! Muscle requires more calories to support itself than fat does, and has been referred to as the “metabolic engine” of the body. So the lower your percentage of body fat, and the higher your muscle mass…the higher your BMR. Translation: the higher the amount of lean muscle you have, and the lower the body fat percentage you have, the more food you can eat while maintaining or losing weight!

Let’s Try This Again

This time when I lost weight, I started my weight loss journey, with body composition in mind. I knew I would lose weight on the scale as a by-product, but I wanted to retain as much muscle as possible during the process. I knew this time around, that the more muscle I had, the more calories my body would burn naturally. I wanted to help my body work for me.img_1286 I learned that although I can burn calories while doing cardio, resistance training is so important for weight loss because I can continue burning calories long after my workout, as my body repairs my muscle. I learned that not eating enough food, and doing excessive amounts of cardio doesn’t do much to change my actual shape or body composition, because while I am burning some body fat, I’m also burning through my muscle. Imagine you have a giant balloon filled half way with water, and the other half with baseballs. If you slowly begin removing the same ratio of water and baseballs, your balloon is going to feel the same, it will just get smaller. However, if you work to only remove the water, leaving as many baseballs as you can…eventually you’re going to have one deadly weapon of a baseball balloon on your hands! Does that make any sense? It did in my head, okay!

Body builders know this concept, and have it down to a science. It’s nearly impossible to gain muscle mass, while eating in a caloric deficit. When a body builder is trying to put on more muscle, or “bulking”, they are actually eating at a caloric number above their maintenance calories. When they want to drop body fat again, to show off their new muscle, they drop their calories back to a caloric deficit, or “cutting”. They lower their calories just low enough to lose body fat, without dropping it so low that they’re going to lose all of that muscle they worked so hard for during their bulk. When in a caloric deficit, your main goal isn’t to necessarily build muscle, but to maintain what muscle you already have, so that your body is burning the maximum amount of calories it can while at rest.

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

So this week,  I decided it was time to put my money where my mouth is, and once again face the dreaded BodPod. I have been working for so long to change my body composition, and wanted to make sure I actually was. I wanted to prove to myself, that losing weight this way had worked…that it wasn’t just a theory. So this past Thursday, May 10, 2018, I stood in nothing but a sports bra and compression shorts, in front of a complete stranger and braved the Pod.

I checked my body fat percentage on my scale at home before I went, just to compare the results.

Results from my home scale, the morning of my BodPod test

According to my scale at home, I was 32.4% body fat.

I will admit I was a little worried. The last time I subjected myself to the BodPod, I had been confident, and it was a disaster. What if all of this weight loss advice I had been touting was total crap and I still had no clue what I was doing?

First of all, my body fat scale at home was WAY off, but in the best way possible. I left that place with the biggest smile on my face. 22.8% body fat! I couldn’t believe it! I’m finally a hard-boiled egg! The girl went over the results with me, and told me I was in the “Lean” category. Mind you I was only 0.2% away from “moderately lean”, but she said lean and I’m totally running with it!

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BodPod results from May 10, 2018

Never in my life would I have ever referred to myself as lean, and honestly it’s still a bit surreal to me how far I’ve come. According to the print out, being in a lean category means: “Lower body fat levels than many people. This range is excellent for health and longevity.” How freaking cool is that?

I hope that by sharing my results, you can see that it’s possible to completely transform your body with food and exercise. For years I struggled with bouncing back and forth with my weight. I could lose 20- 60 pounds and still not be completely happy with my results. It took me a long time to figure out, that the body I desired, required not just weight loss, it required muscle. I had to shift my focus to fat loss and muscle retention, not just on pounds lost on the scale. Things like progress pictures, measurements, how your clothes fit, and body fat percentage, are so much more telling than just your weight on the scale. Just 18 months ago, I was obese…I would’ve been considered in the “risky” category. If my body fat percentage was 49% at 150 pounds, I shudder to think what it was at my highest weight. With the right food and exercise strategy, I’ve been able to completely change my body, and much to my relief, I now have the paper to prove it!

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All smiles after braving the BodPod

Confessions of a Crash Dieter

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Let us pray. Dear Lord, be with me. Guide my fingers, as they dance swiftly across my keyboard, while I attempt to explain my severe distaste for everything related to fad diets, gimmicks, or “magic pills”. Please help me to share my experiences…the money lost and the extra pounds gained, in such a way as to minimize the offense that may be taken from said advice. Help me to use this platform, small as it may be, to save my dear friends some time and heartache by owning up to the truly idiotic things I have done to lose weight. Amen.

Where to Begin?

Like a lot of first time moms, my introduction to the woes of yo-yo dieting, began after the birth of my first son. I had tried to diet in the past, with decent success, by making small changes here and there. img_0770Nothing drastic. But I feel like there’s a mental shift that tends to happen regarding weight loss after the birth of a child. I think it probably stems from always being told as women, that your body will never be the same after having children. The horror. Choosing to become a mom, can truly be a terrifying prospect when it comes to body image. It’s a total crap shoot. While you may be one of the rare diamonds in the rough who never develops the first stretch mark and leaves the hospital in your pre-pregnancy jeans…you really have no idea what might happen to your body when you become a mom. From everything you’ve been told, you’re destined to live out your days, marred with stretch marks, widened hips, sagging skin, stubborn body fat, and let’s not even get started on what the actual act of childbirth may do to your body. Yikes.

So you throw caution to the wind! YOLO! You’re a mom! You trudge through the first few months of motherhood, sleep deprived, but falling in love with this new little human. Eventually, you clean the crust from your eyes, brave the bright lights of the bathroom mirror, and it’s time to assess the damage. For me, stretch marks and extra pounds were my proof of pregnancy. However, It turns out I was a slow adjuster. I was in pure survival mode for a long time, and it wasn’t until after Levi’s first birthday, that I decided it was time to tackle the “mom bod”.

I was 204 pounds when I gave birth to Levi, and by the time I was finally ready to do something about the baby weight, I was up to 215. I started out pretty conservatively, joining Weight Watchers with my mom. I have heard so many great things about Weight Watchers…it’s actually a lot like flexible dieting! I know many people have had great success with their program, but at this point in my life, it was working too slowly for me. I was 23 years old, and I didn’t have time for slow and steady. Impatience got the best of me, and after a few short weeks, I had enough.

That Escalated Quickly

So after my short stent with Weight Watchers, I did probably one of the stupidest diets I’ve ever done in my life. You talk about a quick fix recipe for disaster. Enter the HCG diet. img_1056Human Chorionic Gonadotropin Hormone. If you’re unfamiliar, that would be the pregnancy hormone…the same hormone that your placenta produces, and is what makes that pregnancy test turn positive. My brilliant idea, was to lose my baby weight by injecting my thigh daily, with pregnancy hormone for a month. A true stroke of genius.

Not only did I inject my thigh daily with HCG, I paid $250 to do so, and followed the diet plan that went along with the program. The diet plan was extremely restrictive. Like 500 calories per day restrictive. I lost 30 pounds in a month, all of which I gained back in the next couple of months after I stopped the injections. Who would’ve predicted that injecting yourself with expensive pregnancy hormone was not a sustainable diet strategy?

On to the Next One

After that disaster, I can seriously remember googling how to qualify for the Lap Band. I know, I know…hilarious. It turns out I wasn’t quite ready for that yet. I would’ve needed to gain another 50 pounds or so to be in the BMI range to qualify, and honestly for a brief moment I considered living it up for a few months…plumping myself up, like a fatted calf preparing for the slaughter. I thought I could gain just enough weight for what I felt would be the “easy way out”. That’s how naive I was, I thought having surgery and permanently altering my anatomy was the easiest option, not realizing that even surgery requires diet modification to be effective long-term. Oy. I quickly realized how irrational I was being, and briefly tried out a diet pill called Alli.img_1055 Any diet pill that states on the bottle that it may cause “oily stools” is probably not the greatest option long-term. I decided my next course of action would be Phentermine. It was way cheaper than the HCG, and it also gave you energy!

So I dragged my rear to a weight loss clinic, and started running. I continued taking the medication for 6 months, losing an average of 10 pounds a month. It definitely suppressed my appetite, but it also gave me horrible dry mouth, acne, and thinning hair. I quickly figured out that I could still lose weight eating Taco Bell and junk food…I just ate less of it. I got down to 150 pounds, but I was still 49% body fat according to the BodPod. It turns out, that when you lose weight that quickly, your body isn’t just losing body fat. It’s also losing water weight, and because I was doing only cardio and not eating enough protein, I was also losing lean muscle mass. That’s where the term “skinny fat” comes from. Just because someone is within a healthy BMI range, it doesn’t mean their body looks “toned”. They can be 125 pounds, but because they have very little muscle mass, they still feel like they look flabby.  img_1057In order to “tone”, you just need to change your body composition, meaning gaining lean muscle mass, and losing actual body fat. After taking Phentermine, I got to just within the normal BMI range for my height, but I still felt like I hadn’t really reshaped my body, and I figured out it was time to shift my focus to losing actual body fat. I also knew that I couldn’t continue taking the Phentermine forever and it was getting too expensive to keep buying it every month.

After I stopped taking the diet pills, I actually kept the weight off for a while and started working on my body composition. It wasn’t until life stress and the comfortable flow of a new relationship came into my life that I began packing the weight back on. And then I absolutely PACKED it on. I had been starving my body for months, and it was having no more of that abuse! I gained weight so rapidly, that I swear it’s what caused me to need to have my gallbladder removed. My gallbladder was done trying to keep up with weight gain and food intake, so it just stopped functioning all together. I had it removed, and then got pregnant 2 months later! Looking back now, I can see that I have really put more poor body through the ringer!

So Here’s My Issue

Besides the fact that all of these “weight loss aids” cost a ton of money, none of them teach anything about nutrition or weight maintenance. Because let’s be honest, if they did, you wouldn’t need them anymore. My problem with diet pills, teas, wraps, etc…is that mentally they can really warp your perception of what a healthy lifestyle is, and make you feel like you’re always going to need some superfluous thing, to make you to be successful. Even if these products work, and you lose weight, it’s just not realistic to think that you’re going to use any product or pill for the rest of your life, and then what do you do? I know for me, for a long time, I felt like the only way I would be successful with weight loss, is if I took Phentermine again. If I couldn’t afford to do that, there was no point in trying at all, and I went completely in the other direction.

This time around, when I began losing weight, I was determined to not depend on ANY product, person, or thing, to make me lose the weight. I wanted to look back on my success and be able to say, without a doubt, that nothing had assisted my weight loss except for my body, the food I was eating, and the exercise I was doing. Because that is truly sustainable weight loss. If every supplement company, pharmacy, or diet book in the world suddenly disappeared…I knew how to eat to continue my weight loss, because I had removed all other variables except for my nutrition and my workout routine.img_0948

Now when I hear of a new miracle product or amazing new diet, I’m extremely skeptical. I’m a total conspiracy theorist when it comes to fad diets or weight loss aids. There’s always the same questions that run through my head:

  1. Will someone stand to make a profit if I become mentally or physically dependent on this product? If any company truly created a product that worked, they would quickly go out of business. They would fix everyone’s weight issues, and then no one would need their product. Their company depends on my mental dependence on their product…because physically I know, I don’t need it.
  2. Will this product help me lose weight without diet modification? Scientifically I can tell you the answer is no. No product can cause you to lose weight without diet modification. Surgery can’t even do that. However, diet modification can make you lose weight without the product, and you don’t have to spend any extra money!

Quietly Tip-Toeing Off The Soap Box

I truly hope that by sharing my mistakes with weight loss and crash diets, that I can save you some time and money. I think so many times, we can fall into the trap of thinking that we need some external thing to assist us with weight loss. We get impatient. We feel like we’re too old, we’ve broken our metabolism with motherhood, we’re too mentally weak, or any other reason we can think of. img_0751I hope that by sharing my weight loss journey with you, that you can see that it’s totally possible to do this. I’ve said it multiple times, and I’ll continue saying it…I’m no one special. I don’t have a super fast metabolism. I’m not naturally skinny. I don’t enjoy “healthy foods”. I wasn’t an athlete in high school. I’m a busy working mom, with stretch marks, and spider veins. I never found a miracle product, pill, or tea. I just figured out how to eat a more balanced diet, in a caloric deficit, and I figured out how to make my own body work with me. Although the term “Flexible Dieting” may be trendy right now…bodybuilders have been manipulating their nutrition for decades to transform their bodies. It’s nothing new.

I never thought I would want to share my weight loss experience publicly, but I’m becoming increasingly more passionate about it, because I truly feel like anyone can do what I’ve been able to do. Anyone can feel the sense of accomplishment that comes from completely transforming your body naturally with food, and the pride that you feel, knowing that you didn’t try to cheat the system this time. So instead of investing in a product that claims to be the next break through, invest in your knowledge about nutrition, and invest your money on good food that helps you reach your goals.

“And that’s all I have to say about that.”- Forrest Gump