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What Am I Doing Wrong? Gaining Weight & Fat

BLUF: 29 yr/old female, usually 122 lbs, always eat healthy. Got super fit after deployment: 17% fat, 118 lbs, felt great. Started working out more and eating less after I started gaining back weight. Fat gain and weight gain accelerated. Now 132 lbs, 20% fat despite daily workouts and healthy diet. Tired all the time. Performance is suffering. No idea where I went wrong or what to do.

Hello! I am hoping you can help me because I am at a loss at how to fix the situation I am in. I am a 29 year old woman and am struggling with my weight and body fat. Yet this is not the typical question or circumstance…I have always been skinny and in-shape, I’m in the military and ace every fitness test, I only cook home-made meals and never make anything pre-packaged (even spaghetti sauce) and I work out 7 days a week, sometimes twice a day. Workouts are usually BeachBody routines like P90X3, Hammer&Chisel, LIIFT4, ect. with running on top as the second workout. I have a sub-10 min 1.5 mile, and try to keep 7min/mi pace for longer runs. I lift pretty well for a woman (20lb curls, 35lb dumbbell bench press). I don’t drink much, maybe 1-2 drinks 1-2 times a week at most. So what’s my problem?

When I was deployed last summer I managed to get down to 118lbs (I’m 5’6’’, usually 124 lbs) and was CUT with 12-17% body fat (12% per bod pod, 17% per home body scale, I trust the body scale more). I had almost no visible body fat, in fact, I even went down in bra size and I didn’t have much to start with anyway lol. Yet I decided I loved my body that way…I was in the fittest shape of my life, running 5-6 miles almost every day and doing bodyweight training/lifting. But, after returning home I started gaining some weight. (To be fair, some of my weight loss was due to a bad street food bug where I couldn’t digest food for about 3 weeks and had dropped to a very unhealthy 113 lbs.) But SEEING the weight gain and fat coming back was when I kicked things into high gear and started working out every day or twice a day, and I started messing around with different diets to see what might help: I did Keto for a month, I cut all carbs, sugar and alcohol for another month, I did a month of keeping calories around 1600/day, and then 1 week intervals of 1200 calories a day. Each month of experimenting I ended up with more body fat and weight gain. Despite eating healthy, working out, and dieting, the more I do the worse shape I seem to get into. Now, eight months later, I’m pushing 132 lbs (heaviest I’ve ever been) and my home scale reads 20% body fat, with the bod pod showing 15%. Yes, I know I have gained some muscle weight (about 2-3 lbs) from doing the lifting programs, but I can see the increase of fat on my midsection…I went from having a visible 6-pack to having jiggly love handles. I avidly logged my daily exercise, weigh-ins, and calories to see if there were any correlations, but the weight keeps coming and I don’t know what I am doing wrong. I am still eating right (mostly…I beat myself up if I have a beer or enjoy a throwaway meal of chips/dip and cookies during Game of Thrones), and am working out every day. I have only missed three days this so far this year and that was due to traveling. I also have logged probably over 60 days of 2 a day workouts. Yet despite all this, at every morning weigh-in I weigh more, and I’m seeing more and more fat accumulate. I’m also exhausted, I can hardly stay awake throughout the day and I am fatigued during my workouts when I used to be a beast. I am also hungry constantly. I usually get up at 0445, workout, eat around 0600 (eggs, or sausage, or just a breakfast drink), have lunch around noon, and dinner around 1800-1900 and get to bed hopefully around 2300. I just don’t know what to do to correct this mess.

And, in case it matters, I am diagnosed with “skinny” PCOS, have high testosterone, and no insulin issues. I bring this up because I suspect there is an adrenal issue causing the PCOS given I don’t have insulin resistance. I initially tried all my dieting to see if diet could resolve my infertility via a certain food regimen (like keto) but was told by a PCOS nutritionist there was nothing I could do since I “don’t need to lose weight”. To top it off, I am also about to start trying to get pregnant through IVF…which has me very worried that this decline in my body composition is only going to be worse if I do get pregnant. I am being told I need to quit working out and running, and I can’t imagine what abandoning my daily workout will do given I am already blowing up like a balloon. Anything I can do to target my ideal body fat of 17-18% and get my 6-pack back, I will do. Even though I want to be back at a stable 122-124lbs, if I was 132lbs of pure muscle and at my target body fat goal, I’m ok with weight gain. I’m willing to do just about anything but not sure what I need to change or where to start. Any advice would be most appreciated.

My wife has also been diagnosed with lean pcos. Have you been put on metformin? They said it is hard to prove insulin resistance (and high insulin may be present within the ovary regardless of blood results) and although tests may not show it it’s best to just take metformin, especially if doing ivf as it can Help with egg quality.

Any prolactin issues? Are you ovulating? Regular periods? Dont worry if you dont want to answer and get into the fertility side of things.

Why would you need to stop exercising? Or do you mean if you get pregnant.

I know you’re new to the forums but CT is one busy man. He’s more than happy to help but he usually doesn’t have the time to read a wall of text. Any way you can condense this to something much more succinct?

kd13…I will find out my way-ahead for treatment the end of next month and will likely be a different path given I will be actively pursuing IVF. As far as the female side of things, they are unsure if am ovulating, I have regularly irregular cycles (long cycle, differing lengths) and produce too many follicles (PCOS) that 1 egg may not be maturing/ovulating.

They are saying any more than 4 miles/week is too much cardio and heavy weightlifting is not recommended…at least while trying to conceive and through the first trimester. Worried about ovarian torsion, and the egg not implanting. They say women who do cardio (more than 4mi/week…I would do 4mi+ per run) are 40% less likely to have IVF success. I want to call B.S. but it’s a lot to possibly throw away by being stubborn.

Yeah it may be best to tone it down a notch, especially during a ivf cycle We have done 4 ivf cycles, it’s tough. If there are other avenues to explore, iui, drugs to help ovulation/maturation then they are worth trying first. Many pcos woman get pregnant naturally and have more regular periods/ovulation on metaformin. It’s worth asking and doing some research about before going the ivf route.

@believer423…edited! Thanks!

Wait big flag here. You can’t workout everyday, and everyday with sometime twice a day? This is insane. Your body must be quite tired. You need rest lady. And also 20% bodyfat is not that much for a woman. Do you have picture of now and after? Maybe you see yourself as fat but you aren’t.

And don’t go to one diet to another. Just keep the macro in. Losing weight is about calorie in, calorie out. If you exercise well, rest well, eat well, it should do the trick.

So, in order:

  1. REST. Train 4-5 time a week, not 7-10 time a week.
  2. Don’t jump into the first diet you see. This is wrong. And keto IS bad.
  3. Eat properly, count your calorie, don’t do drastic change.
  4. If you are planning to have a baby, you must be ready to do the right sacrifice (Yes you will get fat and yes you will not be able to train as you did for minimum a year) My ex with our first kid she took around 60 pound from 115 to 170 I am not saying this is what will happen to you, but you won’t be ‘‘In shape’’ that’s for sure.

Thanks for the advice. I’ve been wondering if I am overtraining and have dialed back to only once a day. To be clear on “rest” days in programs I still workout but I do like P90X3 YogaX or Isometrix or something that is a good stretch routine but still gets my blood flowing a little.
I am attaching some before/afters but can only do one at a time so will post via other replies. Before is the swimsuit, a day after I got home from my deployment & months ago. The other is from the beginning of this month.

Wait! What?

Have you had any thyroid labs done?

I have seen multiple endocrinologists who say everything is fine except my testosterone is elevated which leads to some PCOS issues. I thought I would get an alternate opinion that could resolve an underlying hormonal issue but that didn’t turn out to be possible. I’m just stuck now wanting to get back to how I looked in the orange swimsuit…when I somehow worked out less and ate more and had such great results versus me killing myself now and only going backwards.

You look great in your sports bra photos!

Yes, your “before” pictures are leaner but I don’t see that as being sustainable - especially for a mother.

There’s fitness model physique and then there’s real world, year round physique. One is temporary and requires months of prep. The other is healthy and you can maintain it all year.

Stop using a stupid scale for body fat %. Don’t use it or turn that feature off. It’s inaccurate and it’s not helping you to look at that every day.

I think you’ve been over doing it with your training. Backing off will do you some good and it’ll definitely help your chances of getting pregnant.

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Maybe you should take your own advice here. Go back to training less.

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