Third in the "Weight Loss 101" Series, I will be talking about adipose (not the cute little guys from Doctor Who, but the real life adipose). I will explain to you the Stall and Whoosh Effect, and why you may not be losing weight.. or at least *think* you aren't losing weight. This information could save your whole diet!
You’ve been sticking to your diet to the letter. You’ve been working out, counting calories, and have created a deficit. You step on the scale and nothing; the needle hasn’t budged. Another week passes. You’re weighing and logging everything you put in your mouth. You up the intensity of your workout. You just *know* this week you’re down a pound at least. Weigh in day comes, and still nothing. Not one ounce is gone. This is a frustrating thing that happens to all dieters. It is what causes so many to give up and go back to eating like they used to. You begin to rationalize, “I’m older now and my metabolism is too slow to lose weight”. “It must be my thyroid”. “My body just can’t slim down”. Before giving in and downing half of a Supreme thick crust pizza, let me tell you about something called “stall and whoosh”.
Adipose cells, also known as fat cells, are responsible for storing unused energy. This energy is stored inside the adipose in the form of triglycerides, or what we call fat. Fat isn’t a bad thing. Fat cushions our body, gives us shape, keeps us warm, and keeps our body running when we aren’t eating. We all need fat in order to live, and our body is programmed to keep those fat stores “just in case”.
When we diet or exercise, and there is no fuel in the blood stream to feed our other cells, such as the brain, liver, and lungs, the adipose cells release triglycerides into the blood stream. Those droplets of fat are used by the other cells in order to function, and when the triglycerides are converted, we eliminate whatever isn’t used as fuel by exhaling and through urination. This is what we refer to as “burning fat”.
Adipose cells deflate when they are emptied of fat, but they are also programmed to attempt to keep their size and shape for the next anticipated deposit. The way they keep their size is that they absorb water and hold that in place of the fat that they just released. When the adipose are satisfied that they no longer need to hold space open for fat stores, the water is absorbed back into the body and is then eliminated.
What is going on with a stall and whoosh is that you have burned the fat by diet and/or exercise. The water that the adipose is storing replaces that fat, making it look as if you haven’t lost weight, but you have. When the water is finally eliminated, there is a “whoosh” and you wake up the next morning weighing 3-6 lbs less than you did the day before.
There are a couple of signs that you can look for which are clues you are in a stall and whoosh cycle. Check your measurements. If you are losing inches but not weight, it’s a good indicator. Water weighs more than fat, so the inches could be gone, yet you would weigh the same thing (or even more). Another indicator is that your fat feels “squishy” or “loose”. Fat has a different texture than water and moves differently. If your belly or thighs (or wherever you store the most fat) feels extremely squishy or jiggly compared to normal, it is likely water that is being stored.
There are a few theories on how to trigger a “whoosh”. One theory is to up your sodium content temporarily. Sodium absorbs water and would allow the body to flush out the extra water. Alcohol is another theory. As a diuretic, drinking hard alcohol and staying within your daily calorie allowance could help flush out the water. Some say that carb loading for a day is a good way to get the adipose to release the water. I have tried all three of these with varied results.
The one thing that I know works every time is to stay the course, don’t eat the half of a Supreme pizza, and just allow the adipose to do their thing. If you are continually creating a calorie deficit, you will lose weight. Don’t let water retention prevent you from reaching your goals. Understand it, accept it, and wait it out. You can do this.