I have a highly experiened client in her mid-20s who contracted the STD Chlamydia while undertaking programming for weight loss (cutting for a bodybuilding show). She had no idea what the problem was initially and was diagnosed five months into the infection. At first, we were both stumped as she was physically ill frequently and experienced a rapid weight gain of almost 20 pounds over a six-week period despite the intense programming and caloric restriction. We know now that the weight was brought on by the infection. Nevertheless, we cut back on the workout intensities and cut out the bodybuilding regimen to regain her health. Previously, she was about 116 at 15% BF (looking to cut lower for a bodybuilding show), but she is now about 136 pounds at about 22-24%. Currently, she is clear of the infection and has finished her final antiobiotic treatment two months previous. However, she is still experiencing major problems and frustrations returning to her original weight. She has never had problems losing weight, and the initial programming was working fine until the infection. As a trainer, I am currently at a loss on this matter. Following the healing of the infection, it seems that no matter what exercise intensity I prescribe, she manages only to lose five to six pounds only to gain half back some weeks and lose it again the following week. This seems unfeasible regarding her healthy diet and calorie intake. We have tried many arenas with regards to her eating (i.e., eating at higher caloric intakes and eating at lower), but the same thing seems to happen. Nothing is moving. I have researched intensely about this infection but came up with very little on its effect on the body's metabolic functions. I have been educating her about metabolic function and stressors (like physical ailments, etc). However, I am writing to gain some insight as to what route to take from here. She has already had numerous visits to her MD to no avail. All outstanding testings and blood work has indicated no further infections or abnormalities of any sort. Then why is there no change in her weight?
This is a great question concerning the overall health of your client. Remember, the absence of a symptom is not “health!” Just because on the inside or outside there are not symptoms does not mean she is healthy/at homeostasis. I am sure at this point you know all you can know about this STD, so I am not going to educate you on that end of it. I am going to take a different approach. I will give you some education on the stress and its many faces, physiology, organs, mental/emotional issues in correlation to that and nutrition and lifestyle principles to drive it all home towards homeostasis. I cannot go into great detail, so your research and continuing drive to find out more behind all this will help your client even more. As well, feel free to contact me by email.
For starters, women are dramatically different than men in every way possible. Women’s hormones are very, very touchy! When they are exposed to the stressors below, their body’s internal chemistry becomes chaotic:
So, it is not their hormonal systems in isolation that causes cramps, bloating, weight gain, mood swings, joint pain, etc., it is their other physiology that causes the hormonal imbalances. Some simple ways to get the entire body back in balance are using Metabolic Typing; following the less is more principle with exercise; making sure she is drinking enough water and eating organic foods; and getting enough sleep (10pm to no earlier than 6am).
In this case, I can guarantee that her dieting is one of the main causes of continuing stress. Yes, in the past she did lose lots of weight, had a low BF% and looked aesthetically pleasing. Remember, though, the absence of a symptom is not health nor is someone that is externally pleasing to the eye. We grow from the inside out, not the outside in.
DO NOT DIET! Dieting does not work for many reasons. One of the many reasons is blood sugar fluctuations (which causes a person to become insulin resistant). This happens from the high intake of carbs in relation to protein and fats. The body will be releasing insulin for the constant balancing of the blood sugar levels. So if she is exercising less than usual, the muscle stores become full. The next place to store it is in fat. Dieting as well can do many of the things listed below (taken from Paul Chek’s Equal, But Not the Same home study course):
- Increased quantity of lipogenic enzymes (each diet increases the amount of these enzymes) = fat storing
- Decreases the quantity of lipolytic enzymes (each diet reduces the amount of these enzymes) = fat burning
- Increases size of fat cells
- Decreases lean body mass
- Decreases basal metabolic rate
- Each diet makes it harder to restore normal basal metabolic rate = starvation insurance!
So, if she keeps up this generalized bodybuilding diet, the above will happen, and each time she diets, it will become more difficult for her to shed the pounds. As well, she might lose the weight and have a low BF% secondary to following this very unhealthy bodybuilding diet, but internally she will be extremely chaotic. The end result will be weight gain when she starts to go back to eating like a normal human being.
Despite the fact that she is female, we are all different down to the cells in our body. We all need various ratios of carbs, protein and fats to be vital each and every day. If she is not eating for her Metabolic Type, then that is a stress to the body as well. It does not matter if she thinks it is healthy nor if it is the highest quality of food. It would be like putting high quality gasoline in a diesel engine - it just doesn’t work! (Purchase Paul Chek’s book How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy! or read Bill Wolcott’s book The Metabolic Typing Diet to learn more.)
When the body is under stress (as she is or was with this STD), it releases stress hormones from the adrenal glands. When this happens normally, our levels will come back down after the stress is over. If the stress is constant for a prolonged period of time, as in this case, there is a constant release of these stress hormones in the body. This can result in:
- Adrenal fatigue
- Chronic fatigue
- Mood swings
- Lack of motivation
- Poor recovery from exercise
- Reduced sex drive
- Abnormal highs and lows
- GI Dysfunction (dysbiosis, leaky gut syndrome, etc)
Now if the body keeps releasing these stress hormones, there can be an overabundance of them (cortisol, adrenaline) in the body. If a person is constantly stressed and does not do anything to detoxify, then the hormones will get stored in fat. These hormones are fat storing hormones. So this is one of the many reasons your client is yo-yoing with her weight loss. She is most likely working her adrenal glands too hard and they are or are almost on empty. Exercise at this point is just throwing more fuel on the fire. She is in a sympathetic state as of now. Your current goal should be making her more parasympathetic with nutrition, lifestyle adaptations, less intense/dense exercise programming and Qi Gong/Tai Chi/Meditation. Use the "less is more" principle!
One more thing about females and hormonal balancing. Females typically don’t eat enough fat and/or protein. I would recommend her to start incorporating cod liver oil and coconut oil into her diet for many reasons. You can learn more about them on www.mercola.com. As well, they need protein as the building block in the development of their hormones. So a simple easy way to increase protein intake and keep the fat off is to “train, don’t drain,” increase her lean muscle mass, eat soon after working out and balance cardio with weights (cardio increases cortisol levels).
Two more things you want to look at are her sleep-wake cycles and restoring gut flora. She should be getting to bed by 10pm and getting up no earlier than 6am. This will allow her to repair and regenerate for the day to come. If she is not, once again she will have elevated cortisol levels in her body during the night. So when she is supposed to be repairing, her insides are working as if she is getting chased by a lion. Elevated cortisol levels can lead to adrenal fatigue and weight gain.
Antibiotics do exactly what they are supposed to do. They kill everything good or bad. So she has no flora in her gut to digest, absorb, assimilate and eliminate food. I would start her on a probiotic to re-instate flora into her gut. She is most likely not absorbing the nutrients from the food she eats. This can lead to a heap of GI issues such as dysbiosis, leaky gut syndrome, malabsorption, weight loss/gain, constipation/diarrhea, etc. This is a big stress to the body, and weight loss will not even be considered by the body.
I hope I have answered your question, and good luck with your client!