Ain’t Nobody Got Time for Fat.

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You may have seen my post several weeks ago about how to not gain weight on vacation.  Well, those tips are definitely still valid, but for an avid gym-goer and fitness nut like myself the aforementioned blog post doesn’t tell the whole story.  You see, while it may be entirely possible to not gain WEIGHT on vacation, it is possible to gain FAT.  And that friends, is exactly what happened to me.

I should have known that eating a carbohydrate rich diet of rice and noodles for three weeks and getting in minimal  workouts would lead to the situation I experienced the week after returning from Asia when I went to my trainer to get a full fitness diagnostic.  I wanted to weigh in and have my body fat percentage calculated after a few days of getting back to my routine.  Before I left I was roughly 17.2 – 17.6% body fat, which, for a 30-year-old woman is pretty damn excellent.  After 3 or so weeks away from the gym and my normal routine I was…….twenty percent body fat.

I was devastated.  Crushed.  10 weeks of putting in work in the gym to go from 20% body fat at the end of March to roughly 17% at the beginning of June had just been wiped away.  I was at a loss.  I didn’t go to the gym for two days.  I almost even blew off my beloved pilates class.  I went on a peanut butter and ice cream eating “binge”.  (I don’t even EAT ice cream but I ate it that day!)

Before I get into what exactly I decided to do to pull myself out of my fitness funk (which I finally did after about four days), let me answer the question many of you are probably wondering:  “So how could you weigh the same but be more “fat”?”

Well, the short answer is that you have to work pretty hard and eat right to maintain muscle otherwise you’ll lose it.  Essentially, you have to USE IT or LOSE IT.  Because I hadn’t been working out — I lost it and what showed up in it’s place?  You got it — fat.  The other thing to keep in mind is that muscle weights more than fat.  So even though you may gain fat it might not show up on the scale like you may think.  You will appear physically larger or “puffier” as I like to say but the scale may register the same.

Notice how this woman is HEAVIER on the right after "losing weight" because she turned fat into muscle, which is heavier but takes up less mass.

Notice how this woman is HEAVIER on the right after “losing weight” because she turned fat into muscle, which is heavier but takes up less mass.

Fat-vs-Muscle-burn

I had a heart to heart with my trainer about a week after getting “the news” and he reminded me of something I knew but had been in denial about for some time.  Fat never goes away.  Yup.  Cruel sad fact of life.  NEVER.   He explained that once you’ve been fat those cells are always in your body.  You can shrink them but you can’t get rid of them.  I mean, think about it, you couldn’t get rid of a mole you didn’t like just by willing it away and working out really hard.  Fat works kinda the same way.

According to Dr. Sanjay Gupta in an interview with CNN.com, fat cells can shrink but not disappear.  He explains, “When energy input is equal to energy output, your fat cells don’t expand to accommodate excess.  It’s only when more calories are taken in than used that the extra fat is stored and the person begins to accumulate fat.”

lipocytes-fat-cellsThe solution?  Build muscle and “starve” your fat cells to get them to shrink.  For all of the lean muscle you put on your body that’s less fat you’ll have.  Muscles even burn more calories than fat  in the times when you’re not doing physical activity.

And that’s the hard reality.  Once you’re fat, and especially for those of use who were at an unhealthy weight during childhood and into adulthood our bodies will continually fight against us to return to their former size unless you keep the fat cells in check.  It literally is a constant struggle, and one that, sadly, many of my “I was never a fat kid” friends don’t understand sometimes.  (They by the way are the same ones that innocently say things like “Oh, you can have a little bit of chocolate cake/brownies/ice cream/soda/etc….”)  My former fitness coach now friend Eydie use to always make me laugh when she would shout, “You wouldn’t say that to an alcoholic would you!?!”  And truly, it’s a very similar “disease”, obesity, and one that affects way too many children in the United States today.

Childhood obesity.

Childhood obesity.

I was one of them.  But who do I want to be now?  And how bad do I want to be that person?

That was the question I was trying to figure out while in my fitness funk.

Don’t get me wrong — 20 percent body fat is good.  It’s actually really good.  But it’s not where I wanted to be.  Feeling daunted with the idea of spending 8-10 weeks undoing what I had done in 3, I asked my trainer, “So how much body fat can you lose in a week?  What is possible?”

The answer:  up to about 1%.  With a lot of hard work and eating right.  One percent per week.  That became my new goal and I must admit, I like a challenge.  So my regimen will be workouts 6-7 times per week for the next two-three weeks.  Fifteen minutes of intense cardio, followed by 30 minutes of weight training at a quick pace ,and fifteen more minutes of less intense cardio.  15-30-15.  Today is a “relaxing” day of reformer pilates.  Saturday will be a rest day.  Carbs will have to be held to 50-60g per day, protein about 60-75g, sugar < 15g, and fat (with the exception of peanut butter) isn’t too much of an issue for me since I’m mostly a fish and tofu kinda girl.  I’ll be amping up the fresh no-butter-no-salt veggies to 4 FULL servings per day if I can.

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.  I’m hoping to get to the goal quickly because, well, call me impatient but ain’t nobody got time for fat.

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