Crash diets and epiphanies

A tape measure on a scale ot demonstrate weight loss

For most of last year I was trying to lose weight to some extent. Every day, I’d weigh myself and mark it down in an app. Looking back over the past couple of months, I can see I was mostly good at maintaining my weight, but not losing it. Since October, I’ve been right around 235 pounds, give or take a few pounds. It was rarely more than 237 or less than 233. While there is some comfort in having a stable weight, it’s annoying when you’re trying to lose weight. For me, even 230 pounds seemed elusive until last week.

Yesterday I had a colonoscopy for the first time, so the whole process was full of new experiences. A couple of weeks ago, the clinic sent me some information about what to eat prior to the procedure. For five days before the procedure, I was on a Low Fiber, Low Residue diet, and the day before the procedure I was on a clear liquid diet. Looking at the information they sent, I figured it would probably cause me to lose weight. I didn’t know how much, but estimated it would be five or ten pounds. Instead, I lost 15 – 20 pounds, depending on how you look at it.

Some online research shows me that a Low Fiber, Low Residue diet is designed to reduce the amount of stool in the colon, but it’s also meant to give the colon a rest. High fiber foods can cause an increase in colon activity, so low fiber foods can give it a rest. During digestion, our bodies extract what they need from the food we eat. Whatever is undigested is “residue” that will eventually become stool poop. The low residue part of the diet has food that shouldn’t leave much residue after digestion, which means less stool poop. For the first few days of this diet, my weight didn’t really change that much, but I found I was being more mindful of what I ate and how often. I didn’t snack between breakfast and lunch, or between lunch and dinner, but I usually had a snack or two after dinner. The snack was usually some creamy peanut butter on a tortilla, or a simple grilled cheese. I started the Low Fiber, Low Residue diet on Wednesday, and by Saturday my weight hadn’t wavered that much; I gained a mere 0.2 pounds. Sunday was something else.

On Sunday morning, I finally managed to get down to 230 pounds. I attribute this mainly to mindful eating, but it was a mere hint of what was coming. Throughout the day on Sunday, I was on a clear liquid diet. Instead of drinking fluids, however, I mostly fasted because I was worried that drinking might make any hunger feel worse. During the evening, I was required to start taking a variety of laxatives to make sure the colon was clear for the procedure. It was this part of the diet that made me think about losing 5 – 10 pounds. I don’t know how much the colon normally carries around, but I didn’t think it would be a lot.

On Monday morning, I woke up early to take some more laxatives, but weighed myself before doing so. When the scale read 215.0 I was flabbergasted. I got off the scale, and got back on to try it again. The scale still showed 215.0 pounds. Losing 15 pounds was beyond my wildest dreams, but it still wasn’t over because there were more laxatives to be taken and more bathrooms trips over the next few hours. After the colonoscopy, and after I managed to get something to eat, I weighed myself again and I was at 212.6 pounds. In those few hours, even after a hearty lunch, I still managed to weigh three pounds less than I had. In a little over 36 hours, I lost 15 pounds, and in less than a week, I lost 20 pounds Outstanding!

This massive weight loss was an epiphany and got me thinking about my goals for the year. What lessons could I learn from the past few days? Could I sustain this weight loss? Can I keep my weight stable for the next few weeks or months? Should I try to lose weight normally, or should I try to maintain a regular weight level, and use fasting and laxatives to lose a lot of weight in one go? This would be like a stepped approach to weight loss. Is it possible to lose that much weight without laxatives? How long should I wait before trying this again?

According to the online stuff, the Low Fiber, Low Residue diet shouldn’t be used on a regular basis. It’s mainly intended for certain medical conditions or prior to procedures like colonoscopies, but not for weight loss. Based on that, I wouldn’t want to continue this diet indefinitely, but maybe there’s no harm in trying it again in a month or two. Maybe in February or March, I’ll do four days of the Low Fiber, Low Residue diet, and a day of fasting and laxatives and see if it leads to a similar amount of weight loss.

It’s something I’m seriously considering, but for now I want to see if I can maintain this weight without gaining any more.

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