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Week 17: Detox Debbie

Debbie is in her late 30s and has struggled with her weight since her first year of college. She got hit with the “freshman fifteen” and then some and has been battling a roller coaster of weight gain and weight loss for close to 20 years. At 5′2″, Debbie currently weighs 175 pounds with a body fat percentage of 44 percent, which means she carries 77 pounds of fat!

Debbie is obsessed with her weight. She attends The Pulse Zone, a gym where she spends most of her hour-long class focused on her cardio, specifically on the rower and bike, and where a mic’d, quasi-cheerleading trainer pushes her and her classmates to “stay in the zone.” Debbie frequently glances up at the progress screen to make sure her heart rate, which is monitored by a device strapped around her chest, is optimized (in the “Pulse Zone”) and that she burns at least 500 calories by the end of the class.

The Pulse Zone, a cardio-focused chain gym with its month-by-month membership option, works well for Debbie because she generally commits herself back to an exercise regimen when she’s simultaneously decided to “detox” again.

Debbie’s detox days began in her late 20s when she met a nutrition guru named Dr. Dean. Debbie had heard about Dean from some of her coworkers, who referred to him as a “holistic expert” who had a special “detoxification” formula that was helping so many people lose weight. While already in the midst of her weight struggle, Debbie was willing to try anything.

So, Debbie set up an appointment with Dean at his chiropractic office. After an initial, two-hour complimentary consultation where she and Dean discussed her struggles and reviewed testimonial after testimonial from Dean’s clients, Debbie agreed to an extensive blood panel profile based on his strong recommendation. Though quite expensive at a cost of $700.00 and unfortunately not covered under her health plan, Debbie trusted Dean, and in her mind, his success stories alone were enough to win her over.

Within a week, Debbie was called in to review her results with Dean (this time costing $175 for an office visit), and Debbie discovered she had numerous deficiencies and allergies (many of which she could not pronounce) that affected her ability to lose weight. But she was so relieved to learn that there were reasons behind her struggles, and even more so, that there were solutions. Debbie agreed with Dean’s suggestions for a detox and supplementation program, bought her first months’ worth right on the spot, and signed up for the formulas to be sent directly to her house moving forward each month at a cost of $199 per month. The monthly fee would be conveniently deducted from her checking account via monthly debit.

The very next day, Debbie was mixing and consuming her seaweed-green, ingredient-rich, fiber-filled shakes three times per day, joined a gym, and began performing her cardio-heavy workouts five days a week and spent quite a bit of time on the toilet.

After just one week, she dropped ten pounds! She was absolutely tickled with herself! Furthermore, at her three-week follow-up with Dean (and another $175 office visit), she was down a total of 18 pounds! Debbie had never experienced this kind of rapid weight loss in her life.

Debbie was on cloud nine. After seven weeks, she was down 35 pounds, and even better, she began dating a great guy named Derek, whom she met at The Pulse Zone.

With the fling and newfound motivation, Debbie added another visit with Dr. Dean. With this extra visit came additional vitamins, a proprietary formulated bar for when Debbie could start eating whole foods, and special drops designed to suppress her appetite. (Note: the monthly debit to her checking account was up to $279, but she felt she was well worth it.)

Unfortunately, Debbie’s happy streak came to a screeching halt at Week 10. Just a month into her hot and heavy relationship with Derek, she found out she was not the only woman he was dating at The Pulse Zone. Debbie dumped Derek and found herself distraught. She went back to familiar ways: finding comfort in food and spending much of her free time at home snuggling up with a blanket in front of the TV with cookies, chips, and hot cocoa. When she did make it out, it was to meet a couple of girlfriends at her neighborhood pub, where she had a few drinks and appetizers and talked about her breakup. Debbie also gave up the gym, as she just couldn’t drag herself there.

Within four weeks of self-pity, Debbie has gained all of her weight back, as well as an additional five pounds. She couldn’t believe this had happened! Less than two months ago she was at the top of her game. But after three more weeks went by and another four pounds went on, Debbie knew it was time to recommit herself. Her bank account was still being hit with those monthly automatic charges for the detox program, and she had two months’ worth of detox formula in her cupboard already. So, the detox cycle began again. She started down the path that enabled her to lose the weight so quickly the first time. Green shakes three times per day, a bunch of cardio, and of course a lot of time in the bathroom. And while the weight wasn’t dropping as quickly as she would like, Debbie had managed to drop 14 pounds in four weeks.

However, Debbie was still feeling lonely and she desperately wanted to be social, so she accepted an invitation for a girls’ night out. At the bar, she slipped up and had a few drinks, which caused her to drop her guard. She ended up consuming quite a bit of rich, high-calorie, solid foods that she hadn’t touched in over a month. The taste was almost insatiable, and on her way home she couldn’t help but stop and grab some late-night pastries for a bedtime snack. She awoke the next morning to feelings of guilt and shame for acting so out of control the night before. In an attempt to offset her evening of gluttony, she hit the gym for a two-hour cardio fest and skipped two of her green shakes, less is more, right? But the next day, her urges got the best of her and she found herself at the grocery store bakery aisle buying everything in sight.

Off she went on another roller coaster ride of weight gain, until her next attempt at a “detox.”

To this day she continues her weight losses and gains, each time returning to her old ways: attacking her weight with what she thought “worked before.”

Dear Debbie,

Stop the cycle of misguided mayhem! You need to look at what has happened to your body composition level over the years. Remember when you lost a lot of weight very rapidly in your very first detoxification? It’s highly likely that you lost not only fat weight (note: metabolically inactive weight), but most likely you lost a good bit of precious lean muscle weight (note: metabolically active weight) as well. So even though you were lighter, your metabolism was slower.

When you inevitably broke down from this restrictive plan and went back to eating whole foods (and plenty of unfavorable ones), you gained your weight back and then some, but likely very little of that was muscle. This problem was exaggerated because your workouts consisted primarily of cardio exercises and no significant strength training. You then turned to another “detox” and rapid weight loss, which again likely involved losing some fat and a good bit more muscle, each time gaining back your weight and then some (but with less and less muscle each time). Now you’re 45 pounds heavier than you were when you entered college, and from a metabolic standpoint, your fire is barely lit.

Debbie, you need to wake up and recognize the “detox” and excessive cardio quick-fix pattern you’ve been performing for the past 15 years is in large part the reason for your current condition. Yes, this is probably very disheartening to hear, thinking you’ve wasted 15 years of time when you thought you were improving your well-being.

But my dear, there is hope, and you have a full life ahead of you. You can turn this around, and within a year that 45 pounds can be long gone and that lean body you so desperately long for can be yours. You need to begin a properly designed training program that will help you increase lean mass and hence your metabolism. You need to begin eating whole, nutrient-rich, non-processed foods in a plain and simple fashion.

There are no true quick fixes or magic liquid elixirs. Debbie, forgo the excess chemicals; embrace Mother Nature.

Week 17 Quiz:

1) How long has Debbie been battling a roller coaster of weight gain and weight loss?

a) Less than a year

b) For close 20 years

c) 10 years exactly

d) None of the above

2) What did Debbie likely lose in her very first detoxification?

a) Fat and lean muscle

b) Fat only

c) Water weight only

d) None of the above

3) Quick fixes and magic elixirs are the way to a long healthy life:

a) True

b) False

4) What should Debbie do to turn her health around?

a) Begin a properly designed training program

b) Eat whole nutrient-rich foods

c) Stop at a fast food restaurant

d) Both a and b

Once you've taken the quiz, click here to see how you did.


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