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A Story of a pickle. Why Alex gained 13 pounds in a day.

It was а Sunday morning. I was having one of these vivid wonderful dreams that you think you are a part of, rolling in my cozy bed when at precisely 05:54, my phone rang. I’ve muted it. Then it rang again. I thought I’ve forgotten my alarm on, and since I wasn’t particularly thrilled to wake up at such an ungodly hour on a Sunday morning, I’ve muted it once again.

And then “bam”, another call. But how do I know now that I’ve muted the phone? Well, I usually keep my cell right above my head on the bed shelf, just in case I have to snooze an alarm I’ve forgotten. A single press of the “snooze” button usually gets me an extra hour or two of sleep in the morning, but unfortunately, it didn’t work this time. From the vibrations of the call, the mobile fell on my forehead! I couldn’t ignore this Sunday morning annoyance anymore, so I peeked with one eye to see what is happening and who needs to be hanged for disturbing me that early.

Surprise, surprise. It was a call from a client of mine. Alex. She’s got the wrong number I thought, why would she call me that early. Alex was a client of mine for the past 7 months and she’s never called me, not a single time. NOT at 05:54 Sunday morning for sure.

Anyway, I’ve picked up the phone with a slow deep voice I initiated the call: Mooorning Alex, what is up? Did you get the wrong number?” (I’m not exactly friendly in the mornings), the response I got was unexpectedly energetic and it was like she’s been waiting for me to pick up the phone to spill it all out over me. “No, I wanted to call you! I’m bloated, miserable and fat. I’ve gained 13 pounds, I feel awful and it is all your fault” – then she hangs the phone on me.

Wow, wow ,wooow. I’m thinking to myself. What did I do wrong? Did I do anything? Probably not. Let me just think about it for 5 minutes until my brain processor loads. What started as a “tough” Sunday morning, now looked even more optimistic.

Who’s Alex?

I feel like I should tell you a little bit of Alex’s background  before I go further with the story.

Alexandra was 47 years old lawyer, which can tell you quite a bit about her and her personality already. She wanted to be in control of every little thing and she made damn sure she always was. She was more strict than the law itself. Which was actually a good thing for me, as she never cheated with doing fewer repetitions or slacking with the last few sets, stuff we mortals do.

When we started working together, Alex was already in a decent shape, but if you’d ask her “She was a fat slob, with zero signs of muscles”. For the past 7 months she wasn’t late or skipped a single workout, and it was definitely paying off. She looked better than ever. And now for the past month or so she was paying more attention to her nutrition, because she wanted to get in incredible shape. She defined it as “I want abs. Period.” And who am I to argue? I said, “We will get you abs.”. This was followed by “Tell me exactly what I have to do and I will do it.” So I did exactly that.

I had her following a 4 to 1 low-carb eating protocol, meaning for 4 days she would eat close to zero carbohydrates daily with moderate fats and high protein and on the 5th day she would eat high carbs, low fat, and moderate protein diet. It’s been 3 weeks since she started doing it and the results were incredible. For 21 days she lost more than 7 pounds and now was able to see the top 2 layers of her abs, also the definition in her shoulders, arms, and her legs were also getting leaner.

Where “the call” came from?

But if you follow a plan, for a prolonged period of time, a plateau is inevitable. For the past 5 days, she’s been eating as the protocol prescribed and yet she didn’t lose a single pound. Which immediately rang a bell to me. She needed a so-called “re-feed day”. A day where she would indulge on some more food than usual just to readjust her hormone levels and get back on track.

So that’s what we did. I told her “Alex, this Saturday is your lucky day, I want you to eat a lot of food. Have a pizza, a burger or a piece of cake. Actually, eat what you’ve been missing the most the past couple of weeks.” She was really skeptical at first but after reassuring her 5 times that it is completely okay. She agreed with an evil grin on her face, as she already had a treat in mind.

The following Saturday she’s sent me a picture of a juicy burger with a side of fries. Now Alex, is MY type of person and for me, there are two types:

1. People who LOVE burgers.

2. The rest of them.

Unraveling the knot

Fast forward, it is now 06:10 Sunday morning and I’m slowly starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together after her “pleasant” wake up call.

So let’s see what could be the cause of this 13-pound weight gain from a single day of eating?

As I said, Alex has been religiously following the nutrition advice I gave her. Meaning she would prepare her own food. And usually, when we prepare our own food we don’t put as many condiments as a restaurant would, which relates to less salt/sodium in the home cooked meals. This combined with the fact that Alex was on a low-carb diet, for most of the part, her body was flushing all the water out like crazy. NO salt, you flush water out. NO carbs, you flush water out. …And then you look flat… and you call your personal trainer 5am on Sunday morning… but that’s a whole different story.

So what happened is over the course of these 3 weeks Alex really depleted her body, flushed all the water out, lost some fat and now has gotten to a place where her body has adjusted to her new eating regimen.

A simple change in the routine she’s now got accustomed to would be the cause for her weight gain. It could be as simple as having too much salt during the day. And because her body is not used to the high-level intake of sodium anymore, it holds onto water. The cause could be a pickle. Yes, a pickle, because it has enormously high sodium content that can throw you off the wagon in an instant and trash your motivation, into little pieces. Now let’s also add the burger and the fries. Despite the high fat content of this mouthwatering meal, we would be more concerned about the carbohydrates in this particular case. But why?

Because for each gram of carbohydrates in your body, you hold on additional 4 grams of water. Now let’s do the simple math (Which I’m not really good at). Let’s assume this meal had 250 grams of carbohydrates (it was a huuge burger). That would relate to over one liter of water retention in your body just from the carbohydrates alone. And when you add the increased sodium intake (fries are salty, the burger is salty and the pickle is the cherry on the “salt cake”). And Voila! You’ve got 13 pounds heavier in less than a day. Now, this is temporary, until your body figures out what the heck is going on and goes back to its normal state, flushing all that water out again.

Unfortunately, the facts that I’ve just shared with you, aren’t widely spread amongst the general population and it would take me some time to explain that to Alex, especially in her current state of mind. Hopefully, she doesn’t hang the phone on me again.

So what’s the moral of the story?

Don’t let a pickle mess with your head. You are doing a great job at eating healthily but fat loss is not a linear process. There will be ups and downs. And often there are little things such as a pickle that can cause you to battle yourself and question your efforts. But don’t. Pickles don’t deserve your attention.

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