Fat: It Keeps Comin’ Back

I’m sure other people have this problem. You finally take off a decent amount of fat, only to find that it’s returned out of nowhere – slowly but surely – somewhat reminiscent of a horror film and a nightmare combined into one.

I was always someone who always had a bit of squish to me of various amounts. I finally noticed in 6th grade but I didn’t really care until university. Then, I discovered the gym while in college and I would go on-and-off. Of course, the problem then was a lack of something called motivation.

I seriously hate doing things that don’t interest me (i.e. chemistry and why I’m no longer going to be a doctor; I refuse to subject myself to torture) and though the gym was interesting the first handful of times, you were limited to only a certain number of things. Let me tell you something: the idea of walking/jogging/running in place doesn’t hold much for me, though it is amusing watching the other avid gym-goers do their thing, that resulted in me tripping on the machine because of how distracted I got. I ended up making it a game on the days I did go. First, I would take about 20 to 30 minutes on the eclipse machine and then spend the next 30 to 40 minutes on weights. Weights proved to be more interesting because if it got too boring, I could always adjust the weights to ones that provided more resistance. Then, I could try out other machines and see how they worked. I got pretty good at it and my favorite was the pair of Rape Machines, as they were nicknamed. You know, the ones that work out your adductors and abductors (your inner and outer thighs).

At roughly the same time, I also discovered something called protein drinks and bars. I loved the grainy taste they provided and as a vegetarian, I didn’t see much harm in eating/drinking some protein products. Well, I soon gained muscle, which was awesome. However, in the long run, if you stop working out for a period of time, the fat will come back and some of your accumulated muscle tissue will convert into fat so you’ll look even bigger – with the remaining muscle and the overlying fat. This contributed to my on-and-off somewhat toned to flabby switch-offs that later ended in my Freshman 14. Truthfully, I could never figure out how I could ever lose weight but now, at the age of 24, I’ve noticed there were a handful of things that I did that allowed me to lose weight:

  1. Being Nocturnal: For a month, I became completely nocturnal and I only ate a meal a night. All I did was read fanfiction for that entire month during that summer between high school and college. I ended up losing 5 pounds.
  2. Working at a Restaurant: For 6 months, I lived worked at a restaurant full time (and over time) as a hostess and waitress. My longest workdays had me there from 9:30am and leaving at around midnight and I also worked on the weekends. It was a Vietnamese-Chinese restaurant so most of their food wasn’t vegetarian. Occasionally, I would get the chance to eat a meal, but half of the time, I just grabbed a pair of vegetarian spring rolls and munch on those over the entire day with a fortune cookie or two to hold me over. Over those months, I lost about 12 pounds.
  3. Living in Korea: I gave myself a busy life with working 8-hours at school, cooking, cleaning, and going to taekwondo for at least an hour every day. On the weekends, I would often go out and travel or meet up with friends. I soon craved something called sleep and so for an entire month, I actually kept myself in my city in an attempt to get more sleep. I was still sleepy, but it was better than nothing. Here, I lost a further 4 to 5 pounds and toned up a bit, so most of that lost weight was fat.

When I took all those major moments of weight loss into consideration, I realised something: either I had to limit my caloric intake by a lot and not do anything else, limit my caloric intake by a lot and keep myself moving constantly as long as I was awake, or keep myself insanely busy and practice hardcore taekwondo at least 5 hours a week (on some Saturdays, I went out with them as well). Then, I wondered: was I one of those people that would be cursed with having excess squish unless I exposed myself to semi-extreme to extreme conditions? It’s known that females tend to possess a slower metabolism than males, but did I really have a truly slow metabolism?

Now why am I going on about this? Well, four months after returning to the States, I finally allowed myself to step on the scale and see the effects of living in America. I knew that I gained some weight since coming back even though I do walk and I started to do some Insanity with my workout buddy – but only for 3 days a week due to our busy schedules. Like my mom happily disclosed to one of my friends, I’m one of those people that would gain weight after taking a sip of water. It’s true for most (water weight), but I think that statement has some merit. It turned out that I gained four pounds since coming back – roughly a pound a month and that simply cannot continue. I’m not overweight, but I can easily get there (I was right at the line between being of average weight and being overweight at one point in college); in fact, all I have to do is gain an additional eleven pounds.

Honestly, even though I am busy now, most of what I do is done on my behind. I wake up at 7:15 every morning for work, commute the 40 minutes to work, go to my office job, come home after another 40 commute, eat dinner, relax, and then go work out for about an hour. During the entire day, the only time I’m off of my butt is for that one hour when I work out with either my friend or just take an hour long walk around the house. The rest of it is just short walks to get things, to and from my car, etc. Oh, no wonder Americans gain weight so easily. I know that I walked at least 40 minutes a day in Korea, just from walking the 20 minutes to work and back – not to mention being a teacher to elementary school students requires a lot of energy.

I do understand that my personality isn’t conducive to working out on purpose. I don’t mind if I just go out and being active is a part of my life and daily routine (i.e. Korea), but if you’re asking me to do something that’ll directly affect my weight, I’ll soon get bored. When it came to taekwondo, I did it as a hobby and not primarily as a method to weight loss and I rarely got bored there because we did something new every day. I’m one of those people who also gets bored easily. And I don’t do diets (and I mean eating salads consistently, since my family’s into healthy foods), but I try to eat small amounts throughout the day. So, there must be other reasons to why people gain weight, right? I mean in addition to the usual diet and exercising factors. So I looked it up and found this mini-article:

  1. Lack of sleep – When you don’t get enough sleep, your body experiences physiological stress and, biochemically, you store fat more efficiently. When you’re tired, you also don’t handle stress as well, so you may reach for food as a coping mechanism. The bottom line: get at least 8 hours of sleep a night.
  2. Stress – Stress moves us forward and helps cope with life’s demands, but it also affects our mood and emotions. During a stress response, “our bodies store fuel, slow down metabolism, and dump out chemicals [cortisol, leptin, and other hormones] which are more likely to cause … obesity in the abdominal region.” Stress eaters tend to prefer high-carbohydrate foods because these foods trigger an increase in the brain chemical serotonin, which has a calming effect.
  3. Medication – Every drug works a little differently to cause weight gain, from increasing appetite, altering the way fat is stored, to how insulin levels change,” says May. “And not all drugs have the same side effects on all people.” Some of the common fattening drugs include steroids, antidepressants, anti-psychotics, anti-seizure medications, diabetes medications, hypertension medications, and medications treating heartburn.
  4. Medical conditions – Several conditions may trigger weight gain like Cushing’s syndrome, but the most common is hyperthyroidism. A deficiency of thyroid hormones can decrease metabolism, causing appetite loss and weight gain.
  5. Menopause – Along with aging comes a natural slowing of metabolism. At the same time, hormonal changes can trigger hunger, depression, and poor sleep. The cure? Exercising within the categories of weight-lifting and strength training.

Looking through that list, I have now concluded that in addition to my stubborn nature, only the first two on the list would apply to me. I average around 7 hours of sleep a night and though I don’t feel stressed, I know I eat when I feel bored or want something exciting in life. Trust me, trying new foods is an adventure in itself. Even so, it’s not like I can eat as much as I did before.

…My findings are still ultimately inconclusive.

Perhaps I should just move to another country that relies on leg power to get around and enroll in daily classes of their national sport or form of self-defense.

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