Stretchmarks like Rings on a Tree
Friday, June 10, 2011
I weighed in this morning, and I was in shock.
I haven't seen that number in...I don't know how long. College? After college? Before the boyfriend that nearly wrecked my life?
Here is the condensed story of "me".
I was never overweight as a child or teenager. I was moderately active in high school and college with soccer and martial arts. After college, I got my first "real" job that wasn't minimum wage. It was a desk job as a computer programmer, and I was "on-call" 24-7. I worked somewhere between 60-80 per week. A coworker and I became romantically involved. We ate out at almost every meal. McDonalds for breakfast, Mexican for lunch, and Chili's or Applebee's for dinner. I went from about 127 to 160 in a very short period.
I drank about 32-64oz of fully leaded Coke per day. Why I did this, I don't know. Obviously this was bad for me. Why I blamed "old age" (at 26) for "slowing metabolism", I don't know. I can only conclude it was arrogance. I arrogantly believed I could eat and drink like this without consequence.
Anyway, dear boyfriend was financially irresponsible. He nearly destroyed my immaculate credit record by draining our bank accounts and my credit card. The one smart thing I did was kept a personal savings account with my own money in it hidden from him. When I left him, I used that money to leave and move to Seattle.
So I moved to Seattle broke and fat.
It took me 5 years, but I paid off the debt while maintaining my great credit record (tip: always pay on time). I didn't have to declare bankruptcy. I borrowed a little from my parents towards the end, then paid them back. I got rid of the last of my financial baggage from that relationship.
But I still carried the weight. I was able to lose a lot with a healthier lifestyle in Seattle, but I could never quite get below the 130 threshold. I got to 127 once before the new boyfriend (now fiance) and I went to Jamaica, but it quickly rebounded.
Here's a sample of a day before I cut starchy carbs.
Breakfast: Blueberries, yogurt, 1 cup Kashi cereal.
Lunch: Udon noodles with asparagus, onions and bell peppers, and poached egg.
Dinner: Stir fry with pork tenderloin, 1 cup rice.
Sounds pretty healthy. I didn't lose any weight eating this kind of stuff on a daily basis, though. So this must have been a high fat/high calorie day, right? Wrong.
Calories in - Calories out completely failed. According to Spark, this should be the perfectly balanced ratios.
I was maintaining my weight and bodyfat. Where is the junk? So unfair to have junk in my trunk and I didn't even get the benefit of being "bad".
With the exception of the breakfast, my meal was fairly typical of an Asian diet. I have often pondered why my Asians relatives can eat rice at every meal, and yet not have the overweight/obesity problem.
Well, I think it really comes down to they consume a lot less sugar than Westerners, especially Americans. We buy 12oz cans of Coke. In Asia, coke cans are 6oz, and most kids share a can with a sibling or friend. They drink it maybe once a month as a treat, not everyday like Americans. Asian desserts are not very sweet compared to American cakes. Most of my friends in school didn't like my Korean sweet red bean and rice dessert because they weren't as sweet as a Twinkie.
If we were to look at the mitochondria of Americans, we would find signatures for corn. Corn in the form of high fructose corn sugar.
Which is what I did with those 32oz Big Gulps. I used to buy them because they were a "good value". $1 for that much Coke - what a steal.
There is always a price. My price was damaging my metabolism. Fructose in high quantities has been shown to damage insulin receptors, increasing insulin resistance. Higher insulin resistance means less able to tolerate carbohydrates. It means weight gain, difficulty in losing weight, and higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome like diabetes. High fructose corn sugar found in soda is a super concentrated form of fructose.
If I had just eaten fruit, I'd probably never have developed an insulin problem, so I don't want anyone to think I'm saying "fruit is bad!". But super concentrated fructose like soda...well. It is unnatural. You'd never find that much fructose in an orange as you do a can of Coke. That was damage. Time will tell how much I can heal. It is unlikely I will be able to recover the sensitivity that I had before my weight gain. I feel relieved that I at least know what is going on, and I can at least halt the progression.
No doubt some people will have done the same or worse than me, and were able to bounce back, no problem. I was not so blessed. My body is clearly telling me "no more".
I am half Asian, and if Asians generally eat less sugar, then it makes sense that Asians probably have less tolerance to it than other ethnic groups. Studies have shown that Japanese who immigrate to Hawaii tend to develop diabetes at a much greater rate than European immigrants. Most likely due to adopting a higher sugar western diet that they have not adapted to. While I am also half German, I think I have inherited less tolerance to high carb/sugar from my Asian ancestry.
I feel lucky that I can do something about this before I do develop metabolic syndrome. No doubt if I had developed detectable levels of insulin resistance, everyone would have said it was my genes. "She worked out, ate low fat and healthy, and still got diabetes." "Oh that's a shame, just can't fight genetics."
I think perhaps I have more of a propensity towards insulin resistance, but I refuse to accept this as my inexorable fate. Not after what I have seen with my own eyes.
So now I am steadily losing weight by cutting out starchy carbs, which was the hidden form of sugar I didn't pay attention to. Some skeptics say it is just water weight loss. No doubt some of it is water weight - insulin has the effect of making your kidneys store more water and salt than it should. But here is my evidence that it is something more:
- My measurements are shrinking. I've gone from 33inch waist to 29inch. While I don't have quite a washboard, my stomach is looking more flat, rather than distended.
- Lean mass is holding stable. No drop in muscle, according to my data.
- I fit into a pair of jeans I haven't worn since college.
- My bra fits evenly across my back, without squeezing fat.
- Stretch marks.
If I'm feeling less shy about it, I'll share some before/after photos later. Right now, I'm just holding them private, as proof and motivation that I am on the right track.
The stretchmarks are bothersome. I look at them and sigh. However, as unsightly as they are, I am looking at them like tree rings. They have a story to tell. Abusing my metabolism, and arrogance of my youth. Bad choices.
But I also intend for them to tell a story of redemption and hope.