Monday, June 17, 2013

Weight Gain and Running

I'm not an expert in anything weight loss related.  I keep an eye on what I eat, but there have been times when the number on my scale did not make me happy.  To drop the pounds I generally cut calories (Step 1 - NO french fries with lunch!).  Then when I plateaued, as always happens after a quick 5 lb or so loss, I would start working out again.

I haven't tried South Beach or Atkins or Zone.  However, I have paid (too much!) for low calorie meals that were delivered to a gym near my house.  Expensive, but tasty real food that worked for a 10 lb weight loss, but the biggest draw back was that I had to eat dinner at home 5 days a week!  Sometimes I prefer to go when I had to start tossing meals, I dropped the plan.  When I went back to my regular eating, I gained a few pounds back.  This should be no surprise to anyone and is the primary reason diets don't work.  Unless you are changing your eating habits FOR LIFE, you will end up going back to where you started.

My solution (mentioned in past posts) is "clean eating".  By that I mean staying away from processed foods.  Eating lots of fresh fruits and veggies, organic when it makes sense like with strawberries and cauliflower and not when it doesn't (things that get peeled before you eat them).  I also eat protein - chicken, pork, beef and some carbs, but I don't eat gluten...wheat, barley, or rye.  The no wheat thing is the hardest part, it's in everything! Sauces, pasta, thick soups, beer, meatballs...everything.  After over a year of this, I can tell you, it's definitely worth the effort.  However, that is not the point of this post.

Image Source:

When I began my Half marathon running journey in January, I was at my Happy Weight (what I weighed in High School).  I assumed that by the time the race came around I would be super lean and lose at least 5 lbs.  It was four months of drastically increased running, how could I not lose weight?

I'll tell you how.  Running makes you hungry...all the time!  Not "oh, I guess I could eat" hungry.  Ravenously in, if I don't eat something right now, my stomach is going to eat a hole in itself and may go on to bore a hole through the earth!  So, I rather quickly gained 5 lbs, much to my annoyance.  Muscle?  Maybe...I was lean and my measurements didn't change, but the number on my scale was going up and that concerned me...just a little...

Image Source:  Woman Around Town blog

Now here it is about a month after my Half.  I am still running, but 1 - 3 times per week instead of 3 times with increasing mileage every week.  Got on the scale last week and to my surprise, the extra 5 pounds were gone...along with one bonus pound.

I worked out less and lost weight?!  How is that possible?  Easy, I lost the "in training" hunger, and am still eating "clean".  Without really noticing, I just started eating less.

So, my non-scientific conclusion is...*drum roll* ...your body needs extra calories when you're training!  Your stomach will get them (and you thought your brain was in charge...) and will store them for later use (like during your race).  But here's the important part...that's perfectly OK.

Don't deny yourself.  Plan for those moments when you're so hungry that you are eyeing small children in the parking lot.  Have healthy snacks on you, and in your desk drawer at the office, and in your fridge at home.  And don't worry about a few pounds on the scale.

I think in this case, your body probably knows what it's doing.  Keep an eye on the quality of the fuel you're providing your body...and just run with it.

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