How I Tried to Lose Weight And Failed

Growing up, I was blessed with a metabolism that would not quit. Around the age of 16, I noticed my metabolism was beginning to slow. I didn’t gain a ton of weight or really look that different to any outsider, but I noticed.  Like so many others, as I grew older, my metabolism slowed more and more. Combined with the wide variety of selections in a college dining hall, my slowing metabolism and I hit a wall this fall. I began to gain the dreaded freshman 15, and I wanted to find a fast way to solve it.

Now, if you know me then you know I am not the biggest fan of physical activity. I played soccer growing up and enjoyed it, but without a goal at the end of a field, running doesn’t make much sense to me. So, if I wasn’t going to cut the weight by exercising, I decided I had to change my diet.

At first, I tried intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is a basic dieting technique that only gives a certain window of time during the day that you are allowed to eat. Technically, the point is that you can still eat anything you want it just has to be in the time window that was allotted. Typically, the eating window is 8 hours of the day to begin with. Most people go with the 10-6 time window, which is what I did. My whole life, I have never skipped breakfast. But, with an 8 am class that ran back to back with a 9:30 class, I had to wait till 11 am for the first meal of my day after already being up for 3 hours. This was a huge transition. I know for a fact my classmates could hear the rumble of my stomach from every part of the classroom. While fasting may work for some, it really didn’t change my weight much. Since I had free reign to eat what I wanted in the eating window, I just would squeeze more meals into that time to overcompensate for the times when I wouldn’t be allowed to eat later. So, I looked for a new plan.

I settled on doing the most basic dieting technique, eat less. I looked up how many calories my body type burns a day and how many calories I would need to eat to lose weight. There are calorie counters all across the internet, but the one I ended up using was the Macronutrient calculator. It calculated that for me to lose a pound a week, I needed to cut down to 1400 calories a day. That would be about a 700-800 decrease from average daily intake. So, I downloaded a tracking app and began my new diet.

The first few days (ok, really the whole time) were hell. Turns out, dieting is really hard. Like really hard. To ensure I would have enough calories for lunch and dinner, I would again skip breakfast often. While many people are able to do this, and I too was able to comfortably do this towards the end, the transition to skipping breakfast was difficult. It is very hard to focus on anything in class when you can’t stop thinking about how hungry you are (hence the necessity of free/reduced lunches in schools). I no longer looked at food and wondered how good it would taste, I looked at it and wondered how many calories it was and if I could even eat it anymore. I became obsessed researching all types of foods to calculate meal plans and try to allocate calories throughout the day. Every time I would get a serving at the dining hall, I was mentally calculating the amount of cups, oz, or grams the food on my plate was. It was exhausting.

While the calculating was exhausting, the physical toll was just as draining. I became extremely tired all the time. If I had a choice, I would constantly pick the elevator instead of the stairs. I dreaded walks that were longer than 10 minutes because I was tiring so quickly. If I wasn’t exercising before, I sure as hell wasn’t exercising now. The physical toll wasn’t even the worse part. Mentally, I was constantly having headaches from hunger or perhaps the lack of energy. I also was having a hard time focussing or studying, not necessarily because I was hungry all the time, but more so because I just didn’t have the energy to think.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t really feeling more hunger pangs than normal. I felt the other physical and mental side effects, but I wasn’t feeling hungry. The biggest helper, and something I still recommend, is to drink a ton of water. Before meals, between meals, after meals: drink water. A huge percent of the time that someone feels hungry, they’re actually just dehydrated. Drinking water before meals will make you eat less and drinking between will cut snack cravings.

After one week of this diet I had lost 4 pounds. I’m not sure if the initial weigh-in was wrong or what happened, but I was losing at a faster rate than I was predicted. Of course, this gave me encouragement to continue what I was doing despite the obvious deterioration of my body.

I continued for another week with similar complaints. I still got headaches, fatigue and was unable to fully function as myself. After the second week, I dropped another 2 pounds. The second week also included Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving on 1400 calories is not a good time. Never would I recommend trying to only eat 1400 calories on Thanksgiving because you will be forced to starve yourself till dinner, eat tiny portions of each casserole and cut the smallest, saddest sliver of pie in the world. There are some days where the diet can wait and the happiness of food must take precedence. Thanksgiving is one of those days.

The final straw, and the reason I am writing about this diet in the past tense, was my body's inability to digest properly. A drastic cut in calories will most likely mess up the bodies digestive tracts. It also will slow down the metabolism and train the metabolism to work less efficiently. Therefore, showing some big initial weight loss results and then quickly slowing to a stop. After about the first week, I noticed random sharp pangs from around my rib cage and abdomen regions. It started to concentrate in the left forward part of my stomach. I also noticed that while I was losing weight, my stomach seemed to be getting bigger. I realized that I was extremely bloated all the time and the left part of my abdomen was swollen fairly severely. Around the same time, mono began to spread around my dorm room, so I initially attributed the change to a swollen spleen. The location, however, of the swelling was not close enough to my spleen or any other major organs. The doctor confirmed it was not my spleen nor any organs, merely my body’s inability to digest food and the bubble was most likely trapped food and gas.

Ok, I thought to myself, the whole idea behind this diet was to feel and look my best. I look bigger than I was before because my stomach is bloated out the wazoo, and I feel like absolute crap. Most importantly, this diet was not sustainable for me. I could barely make it through 2 and a half weeks and didn’t know if I could continue, so I stopped.

This is my experience and story. There are many fitness and nutrition experts that promote this diet and have evidence to support it. There are also just as many experts that do not support this diet and have evidence to support that. I’m sure many readers will think I gave up too early and did not give my body the chance to adapt, which is very valid, and I’m sure I would have eventually been able to adapt. Many studies have shown that humans can and maybe should go days without food as our hunter-gatherer ancestors did in the past. These diets actually force the body to begin eating its own fat cells and enter a state of ketosis.

I also have really no clue what I am saying in terms of fitness and dieting techniques. I’ve read a few online articles and watched some Youtubers give their opinions, but truly I have absolutely no idea what the right answers are. At the same time, I don’t know if there is a “right” answer for diets and fitness. Everyone handles things differently and no one’s body acts the same.

The main thing I took away from this experiment is that diets are hard. It takes an intense amount of self-discipline and accountability to be able to successfully diet. If you eat right and exercise, then you’ll lose weight and be fit. Humans, however, are always looking for the easiest, most effective solution with the least amount of work, hence the creation of so many dietary and fitness plans. We want the easy answer when really the answer is a complete change to your lifestyle.

So, maybe I’ll be a few pounds heavier than I’m used to. At least I can think straight, experience the joy of food, and be able to be my true self. Everyone’s different, and everyone wants different things out of food. It’s all about trying to find the best balance for your own body and what makes you the happiest.