My father and I have had this conversation many times. I’d raise my eyebrow and try not to be too condescending when I said it. I’m pretty sure I failed.
“Well, I don’t know,” my Dad would say sagely. “The scale said I weighed two pounds more today than I did yesterday.”
I’m going to admit a truth to you. I like to be right. So I grabbed a Groupon and got both me and my Dad one of these
for Christmas, just to prove to him that those two extra pounds were water, not fat.
Guess what? Turns out, Father does know best.
Can That Be Right?
I’ve been dealing with a (hopefully small, quick-healing) injury lately, and as a result, I’ve had to switch to some lower-impact activities. I’ve also stopped running in the mornings for a little while. That said, I’m still active every day, though I’m pretty certain that my daily average calorie burn has gone down since about New Year’s.
I have been monitoring my weight throughout this process, and I’ve noticed something interesting. When my calorie consumption goes up and my activity level goes down, my weight goes up.
And according to the numbers on the scale, it’s the fat percentage, not the water percentage, that’s increasing.
Really? That’s not PMS-related water weight? GAAAAH!
Yet another of my long-treasured weight management beliefs shot to oblivion.
And yes, I weigh myself at the same time each time I weigh. First thing in the morning, visit the restroom, then get on the scale. So it’s not a timing thing.
I’m tellin’ y’all, I am not making this stuff up.
What Can This Mean?
Apparently it is, because I did it. And I can see the difference in my face and belly.
So then I started to wonder about that whole fat-cells-never-go-away thing. Does that mean fat cells can “re-fill” quickly since it takes less energy to use existing storage containers than it would if the body had to create new storage containers?
I’m starting to think the answer to that question is yes, although I’ve not gotten definitive facts on that point. Only the experience of the shifting body fat percentage on my scale and the results in the mirror tell me that I might be on to something.
What Do We Know About Fat Cells?
In my efforts to better understand what was going on, I came across this 2008 article on CNN about liposuction.
The first section provides this critical quote:
Is it true that fat cells swell up or shrink down depending on what we eat?
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, chief medical correspondent: That’s true. It’s a really simple equation: 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. Your very best bet for not “fattening” up your fat cells is exercise, particularly weight-bearing exercise. Exercise builds muscles — and it’s true, muscles use more calories than fat throughout the day, even while you are resting.
The article also clearly states that fat cells never go away. Once we’ve got them, there here to stay. Even liposuction can’t vacuum away our doughnut days.
See my theory above about existing vs. new fat storage containers…
Wait – We Can Also LOSE the Weight in A Week!
The good news is that while I can apparently gain two to six pounds in a week, I can also lose that amount in a week as well. The process isn’t glamorous or new. It’s simply monitoring what I eat to ensure that my intake is at a reasonable level while also being pretty active, aiming for 500 to 1,000 calories burned each day.
That’s not as tough as it sounds. One really good Zumba class plus an extra 30 to 40 minutes joggining or strong effort on the elliptical machine will do the trick.
My personal theory is that our bodies giveth and takeaway “quick weight.” In other words, our bodies have their own Last-In-First-Out system of fat storage and release. This is the same first week weight loss that is so motivating when we first start a diet.
Then we have to start dealing with the tougher stuff that’s been entrenched longer.
Another Good Reason to Keep It Under Control
This experience reminds me (yet again) how important it is to manage my weight on a daily basis. Because guess what? Losing 5 pounds really is a whole lot easier than losing 20 — for a whole host of reasons.
It took a long time to empty all those fat containers. I’m not interested in filling them up again any time soon.
I’m headed to the gym. Right after I make a call to my Dad and tell him he was right all along. He’ll be so pleased.
Wishing You an Awesomelicious Day,