Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Anabolic / Catabolic Switch


This is possibly the most information-rich of the graphs I keep. The blue line is my hip measurement and red line is my waist measurement. I was not tracking the hip measurements until my big weight loss was nearly complete, unfortunately: it would be interesting to see what that looked like. But there's two and half years of daily measurements, here. To me there's one really striking fact that jumps out at me: my visceral fat is always either rising or falling. It's really striking given that my muscle (as represented by the hip line) was doing pretty much exactly what I was aiming at: a slow steady increase. But my visceral fat (as represented by the waist line), despite my best efforts at a slow steady decline, never did that. Not even for a couple weeks at a time. It was always either rising or falling, and always at about the same slope, either way. When you back off and just get the gestalt of the chart, it's obvious. This despite a very rigorous discipline in the number of calories consumed: I did change things, occasionally, but always in a controlled manner, and never by more than 100 daily calories. Yet, between those changes and the very occasional binges, the chart shows this very strong pattern.

It could be sheer happenstance, but I suspect I'm seeing an important physiological truth here: that for me there's an master anabolic/catabolic switch that has only two settings. It's either on or off.

I have always held, as an article of faith, that what I wanted was a slow steady loss of fat, until I hit the desired level (i.e. where I am now), whereupon I would ease up on the calorie restriction slightly and level off, and live happily forever in the perfect steady-state. But I realize now that I have no particular reason to believe such a thing is possible. I mean, clearly a steady state is possible for people whose appetites have never been broken: but it may not be possible for me. I may have to settle for a consciously-imposed version of homeostasis, flipping this switch back and forth every few weeks. Or maybe, with fasting as a new tool in my kit, it's will be a matter of generally leaving the switch on, but fasting for a few days every time I hit a tripwire, to jolt the line back down.

The steeper slope of the last visceral fat loss, by the way, coincides with taking up a ten or eleven hour feeding window. I'm playing with making that window smaller, and being done with eating for the day by 2:30. (This sounds quite stern and draconian if you don't take into account that my first meal of the day is often before 6:00 a.m. It's just a slightly early supper: the equivalent, for someone who's less of a morning person, of knocking off eating by 5:30 p.m.) I find, to my great astonishment, that I really don't like going to bed on a full stomach, now: it feels weird and impairs my sleep. 

The time-restricted feeding and the general calorie restriction don't coexist entirely comfortably: I'm still thinking about that. In general, I'm sort of doing both, since I generally don't want to cram any more eating into the feeding window than I'd be allowed under my usual calorie-restriction anyway. But on the rare occasions that I do, maybe I should let myself, so long as it's just a matter of more of my usual food.

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