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.