Friday, September 26, 2014

Diary of the Guinea Pigs: Day Twelve

<< Day Six

It's the second to last full day of this session of the study, which means, like last weekend, it's 6 hours (three sets of 2 hours) of 15 minute breath captures.

The nice thing is that it means a day off from classes, and from work, translating into an extra day to study, and start researching for the six papers due by December 2nd.

Tomorrow is going to be a strange day because it's the "overfeed day", word is that the amount of calories given the first three days to stabilize the system is just a drop in the bucket. So they'll take the 2400 calories that this body requires (based on their tests and calculations) and ramp it up. Based on what's being said a lot of people have a hard time finishing all the food (which is required), and for some it takes them an hour to eat it all.

Go fast and go hard, so far, is the motto stuck in the head.

While it will be the favorite of the three menus (cereal for breakfast,  turkey taco salad for lunch - which includes part of a Hershey bar, and turkey pasta casserole), the idea of overeating is already creating waves of nausea. If anything because it will disrupt the great weight-loss that being experience, which is no close to nine pounds since Monday September 15th (less than two weeks!) - for a grand total of 12 pounds since August 13th.

Also, there's fear that somehow once leaving here the edge of the bandwagon will beckon. We need resolve.

This study has illustrated how important sleep is to weight management, how much the massive amount of alcohol previously ingested on a nightly basis was impacting weight loss - given that, in general, overall calorie intake at the 40%< isn't that much different than what was being ingested before, rather the composition of calories was wrong. (over 1/4 of it being alcohol calories).
Also, as the low carbohydrate diet attempted over 10 years ago [which resulted in a loss of 100 pounds - almost a third of which we've put back in since coming back to the states three years ago] showed, which also required the removal of caffeine from the diet, caffeine may have negative effects on weight loss, due to it's propensity to spike blood sugar (and thereby promote the body to store more fat than usual).
So, we realize all of this stuff...but will it change anything?
How fast will the bottle be back in our hands?
Can we maintain the regimen planned of trying to mimic the general composition of the meals they've been providing, only drink alcohol on Friday and Saturday night, and coffee on Saturday and Sunday mornings?
It seems daunting work, yes...but there's a weight loss goal on the docket...and not reaching it would...suck.

Other than that, it'll be...nice...being back at home again for a few weeks...probably.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Diary of the Guinea Pigs: Day Nine

<< Day Six

The wireless signal in this building is literally driving me nuts. And turning the smartphone into a hotspot is often pointless since there's so much steel and concrete surround this building that the signal is weak in most spots. This is not making research projects very easy, as it's a ridiculous feat trying to get the campus library website (where there is student access to a plethora of peer-reviewed journal articles for writing papers) to load. It's like 56k dial-up. Flashback to the 90's when you could get up, make a sandwich or go to the bathroom and return to a page that is almost done loading.


So, this is day six. Sunday was the same food Thursday (dubbed "pasta day") and the day was over just in time. Isolation is fine, but they have the doors here locked 24 hours, and they escort you out, and have to let you in when you come back, so it's not like going for a nice walk over the weekend was even an option. Additionally Sunday was another 2 hour sessions of breath bags every 15 minutes after each meal. Six hours of breathing into a bag 24 times. They'll be doing that again on Friday and Saturday this week...

Monday it was nice to get out, but after about six hours it felt like time to crawl back into the little carpeted oasis that is the room we've been staying in since last Wednesday.

With all of this free time, it really should feel like more homework is getting accomplished, but for some reason there's no sense of achievement. Oh well. At least we're not drowning in it anymore.

Today was salmon day again...only one more meal of that left before going home for the two week break. Pretty sure we're going to miss being here. We get up in the morning, provide a "breath bag", get weighed, provide a "breath bag" right before eating breakfast. Get served breakfast. Get ready for classes. Take the lunch that was packed by the kitchen staff, go to class, go to work, come back, get dinner served at one of the meal tables, go to the room, do homework, go to sleep. Of course all of this is punctuated by "breath bag" on the hour, all day long, but it seems worth it.
No cooking. No cleaning. No commute. No having to think about meals, or cats, or anybody. Less stress.

All in all this has been a great experience. The early bedtime has been surprisingly easy to adapt to. Sobriety has been more painless than imagined, mornings go by without a thought of coffee. It'll be interesting to see if that sustains once these feet hit the threshold of home.

Oh, and the shedding of, now, five and a half pounds, since last Monday, is a great catalyst to a good mood. :-)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Diary of the Guinea Pigs: Day Six

<< Day Three

Day Four, Five and Six

Day Four
Finally feeling human again. Minimal to no headaches, felt great not having all of that food in the belly like a damn lead ball. The diet restriction for this two week session is a 40% reduction. It's perfect. Not feeling hungry, but peppery and healthy. It's a diet amount more in line with the usual calorie intake we are used to, so the portions are manageable. Forgot to label two of the breath bags today, so the woman who mans the desk in the a.m. is going to start writing the times on them. #fail.

Day Five:
Have requested a different bed. The one in the room causes severe pain in the hip and legs. It's too hard. Luckily it's long enough, a twin XL (meaning it's longer). Totally missing the king sized bed at home, and the density of the mattress. They put a second mattress outside the door during the day, so now it's a two mattress high affair. A little Princess and the Pea-ish, really.

Day Six:
Saturday. All day has to be spent inside. After each meal they are taking breath bag samples at 15 minute intervals for two hours. Then it's back to the room for studying until the next meal. Repeat for each meal until Monday morning. It's not so bad, after the meal we just stay at the lunch table where the wireless internet connection is superior (back in our room it's akin to dial up. MADDENING) and submit homework assignments and study.
Going without coffee has gotten easier. Once we're released for the two week break it's not likely we'll go back to it right away, just to avoid the terrible headache and slumps, that resulted from the cold-turkey caffeine adventure this past Monday, for the second half of the study.
Gin? It's missed, now if only because it's the weekend, and if only because, well, drinking is fun and it eases the back pain and joint pain. It makes this brain feel warmer, and quicker. Which, yes, is probably an illusion...alcohol is supposed to dull brain function, theoretically.
Officially lost over 4 pounds this week. Two on the regulatory days, and two on the 40% less days. It would be awesome if the weight kept coming off the same way, but it seems like once the body gets used to the calories it will probably taper off. What we wouldn't do for a visit to the gym (exercise is not allowed during the study).

All-in-all it's amazing the difference between the calories amounts makes, as far as mood and a general feeling of health go. While it's only 4 pounds (and incidentally over 7 inches lost from between the waist and the thighs), it results in such a better feeling. A physically happy feeling, even if it isn't always translating mentally.

The isolation isn't so bad. It's actually preferred.
The room we're in reminds us of our old apartment, a big wall length window facing the street and a cushy carpet on the floor. The bathroom is better than the ones at home, mostly because the shower is in better shape and there is enough counter space to put out the makeup brushes and other accompaniments...and no cats to chew on them all. And the lack of commute...heavenly...even though it doesn't feel like it's resulting in extra time, but that's probably just because the required bedtime of 10pm, and the lights out by 10:30. Brutal - that's an hour and a half earlier than generally used to...and on the weekend?  Fahgettaboudit.

It'll be nice to cook again, and eat apples, and cheese (other than the shredded cheddar that is the only cheese used in any of the meals that include cheese)...and tend to the garden, and drink the gin...oh, the gin...

 Only seven more days to go...

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Diary of the Guinea Pigs: Day Three

<< Day One

Day Two/Three:
Yesterday the caffeine headaches started. Pain medications (over the counter or otherwise) are not allowed in the study (they negatively impact metabolism) but being accustomed to headaches and not using pain medication, it was manageable. It was a strange headache though. It seemed to start in the middle of the skull and then sort of rotate out towards the edge and then travel around the brain in a circle.

There was a lot of food again. The scrambled eggs at breakfast were not the greatest, but with a little salt and smashed between the whole wheat English muffin, it was okay. It could have used ketchup. Mmmm...ketchup (none of the meals include it).
Stepping out of class to do breath bags (or worse yet, doing them in class) is a bit embarrassing and a hassle, and yesterday we forgot to label the time on three of the breath bags. Guinea pig fail.
Got home late (9pm) from a long day of classes, followed by a mandatory student organization meeting, and then had to pack for the eleven day stay at the facility. Exhausted, bedtime came immediately.

Got up and checked into the facility by 6:45am, had breakfast and unpacked everything so the room felt more like home. Found out there is a whirl pool tub here, so totally going to try to take advantage of that (there's no bathtub at home...yet). Then headed to class. It's only a few blocks away. It would have been awesome to be able to buy a house in the city near the campus, instead of so far away. Oh well.
Around 10:45 am got hit by a MASSIVE HEADACHE...and holy shit...the level of tired was unreal, lasting from the final class of the day (Wednesdays that means noon) - where staying awake was ridiculously difficult - all the way to getting in the car after work to get to the facility in time for dinner and to officially begin the in-house stay. No naps allowed, even if there was time for one.

Today's food was...meh. Peanut butter and toast for breakfast, with the perpetual container of yogurt/sugar/oil. The slick on the surface getting no more appetizing. Lunch was a ham salad (with greens, cucumber and tomato), heavy on the ham, with bread and, of course, the yogurt and fruit. Perhaps some of the persistent sleepiness this afternoon had to do with the massive calorie hit trying to be digested. This body is just not used to all of that food at once...but tomorrow is the first day of decreasing them (either by 20% or 40%), least digestively speaking things may return to normal. Still all of the wheat and milk though. Ugh. The glass of milk at dinner tonight was GIGANTIC. Do adults actually drink this much milk with meals? Dinner was salmon and brown rice with peas. Not so terrible. But after about four more meals over the next week and a half, and then again for the second part of the study, it'll be awhile before salmon touches these lips again, to be sure. Tomorrow is back to the same menu eaten on Monday, by the second full round of meals this will be tiresome. Bacon would be nice. And eggs with ketchup. or hot sauce. And apples. Apples are greatly missed. And celery. Who knew celery could be a thing missed...?!

While it would be nice to have a nice double gin on the rocks, at this point if it was between coffee and gin, and only one was allowed, coffee would win. The only thing about this study that sucks is the lack of those two things. But whatever. It's all of 4 weeks (total) out of life, and it's worth it not to have to pay loans on a Semester, which would take a whole hell of a lot longer than 4 weeks, and cost money, instead of save money.

The interesting thing though...
Since Monday, when the daily calorie intake got ramped up by this "regulation" period before they start the "real" part of the study, this body has shed three pounds. A pound a day. This makes no sense from the preservative of what "they" tell people about how calories work. By any measure the amount of calories being eaten should be a maintenance amount, unlike the next ten days, when it will be a weight reduction amount. But hey, beggars can't be choosers.
The woman who is in charge of the program sits at the table during breakfast, and we've asked her about the whole 'too few calories vs too many calories' thing, and she has an interesting perspective on how the body decides when and how to use calories, based in DNA, and works much the same way animals DNA works to dictate when to eat and get ready for winter and lean times, and when not to. Additionally, the lines between too few calories (which puts your system into starvation made and makes you gain weight), the right amount of calories to lose weight, the right amount of calories to maintain weight, and the amount that causes weight gain, are very narrow in many cases. And varies so much from person to person based on fat versus muscle composition, age, gender, weight, height, activity level; so many factors that, while a calorie intake of 1800 (which is a maintenance recommendation for women, generally) is helpful as sort of an idea about a good calorie intake, it is clearly highly variable. No easy answers.

*deep sigh*
Well, that was a bit of a tangent, wasn't it. There wasn't time for that. There are textbooks with bookmarks, sitting on a shelf, flapping their pages in this direction.

Tonight bedtime is at 10:30pm, no exception, no tv, no electronic devices...just laying there until sleep arrives. The only allowance for leaving the bed is for bathroom visits (there is a full bathroom attached to the room), other than that, no leaving the bed until they knock on the door in the morning at 6:30.
All of this control from an outsider makes it feel like being a kid in military camp or something. Or being in a psychiatric ward...

To tomorrow, may it be headache free and may what little pep that exists in this step find its way back to these feet.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Diary of the Guinea Pigs: Day One

As previously mentioned, in order to pay the remaining tuition for this semester it was decided that we would take part in a research study (like this past June so we could take a trip to Toronto) ... this one, however, is much larger, and longer, and requires some significant sacrifice. But pays a substantial amount of money.

It's a 26 day study, broken up into 13 day stretches, with two weeks in between. Of those 13 days, 11 days require living at the facility (which works out great because it is campus adjacent - no commute!). Leaving the facility is only allowed for work and school, and one of the weekends leaving is not allowed at all, and also the Friday and Saturday the following week. However, guests are welcome.

Now, to the point. Keeping a record of things, how we feel, what the day is like, etc. seems like a good exercise, and what better place to keep it than here. So, you get to go on this journey of what it's like to take part in a scientific study, and we get to do warm-up writing for all the upcoming papers now until December. Seems win-win.

Wordle: DietBack to the study.
The thing they are measuring is carbon output, (and given the daily weigh-in, its relation to weight loss), so before each meal they "capture" our breath in a strange little bag made for capturing breath (it's totally the scientific name...). Then we eat, and it all has to be consumed within 30 minutes. Following that, breath is captured again 30 minutes after eating, and then an hour and 30 minutes after eating. This happens three times a day, at strict hours of the day. The weekend operates differently, but you'll read about that in updates.

They did the DEXA scan like they did for previous studies, and also 20-30 minute breath capture during pre-screening, the first to determine muscle/fat ratio, and the second to measure how much energy (calories) this body burns at a resting rate (laying completely still in a dark room after laying still in a dark room for 20 minutes prior to get the body into a true resting state). Based on the last study, and very little weight change, the calories this body needs just to pump the blood, complete respiratory function and all the other things a body does, is 1874 calories a day. [This body is a furnace, apparently]. They take that number and multiply it by some activity factor to determine how many calories you need to do things like go to work, think, etc.

The amount they came up with for this body in the last study was over 2400 calories a day to maintain weight. It seems like an utterly ridiculous number (way too high) and as we use the FatSecret app (a great app, by the way), we know that that's almost double our daily intake (which includes alcohol).
So they are packing our first three days of meal at a whopping 2400ish calories. It's a lot of damn food. Disgusting amount. Following this, which is the "balance day", they will decrease the calories by either 20%, or 40% - whichever that don't do will be during our next intake two week following the completion of this one, where it all happens all over again, with the same meals and everything.

So, here we go.

Day One:
Had to get up at 5:20 this morning in order to get to the facility and check in by 6:45 (the commute to this city is at least 40 minutes). Fasting started at midnight last night, which was no problem. Couldn't have any breakfast this morning OR coffee. That's right. No coffee. There will be no coffee for about 13 days (so far there has been no headache on day one, only sluggishness and an slight difficulty taking notes in the first class of the day). The only thing allowed for drinking is water (unlimited)...and the milk they put with breakfast and dinner (gag).
They affix an activity monitor on the arm, which is only allowed to be removed during showers, so they can monitor your sleeping and daytime body stats.

Had breakfast at the facility this morning at 7am. Breakfast for the next 13 days will be at 7am sharp. Lunch at noon. Dinner at 6pm, When we check in Wednesday night bedtimes will be at 10pm, and wake times at 6:30am.

Yeah. Bedtimes. The deal is that they take over the eating and sleeping portions of the life of the subject. As was mentioned. Sacrifice.

So, breakfast was okay food, but at least three times the calories and quantity of food we generally have for breakfast (small-medium apple, slice of sharp cheddar and coffee), and not too far from a breakfast we'd eat on the weekend, save the cereal and milk. Yogurt is served with every meal, it's apparently the control device. In any case, they add sugar and oil to the plain yogurt, which turns into a type of oil slick on the top...appetizing, hey? They will be changing the sugar between HFCS, beet sugar and cane sugar. It's plausible that they are testing how each different sugar effects carbon burned by the body. After doing some light research today it became clear that carbon is a big factor in weight loss, as in the body burns it and what you eat may or may not affect how much you burn. And therefore carbon output, like urine, sweat and...the other waste...are how the fat leaves the body. So, carbon output, and low carbon-output foods become important to weight loss.

You can almost hear a new line of diet foods being created, can't you?

Lunch was again literally three times as much food as we usually consume, very tasty but hard to get down in 30 minutes. Also, a selection of foods that we'd never eat for lunch, or at all really. Like a portion of a Hershey chocolate bar, and a giant turkey taco salad. Usually lunch is just spring lettuce mix, tomatoes, cottage cheese and a small bit of something like cranberries and almonds. By the time lunch was over the milk from breakfast hit full force. Lactose intolerance and all its glory.

Usually the day is punctuated with snacks (celery or snap peas between breakfast and lunch, and plain yogurt with berries, or pineapple between lunch and dinner). But now there's no snacks. So far it's not a problem because all of those frickin' calories just stick.

Dinner, 6pm on the dot. A pasta casserole dish. Ugh. Pasta isn't a normal part of our diet. It doesn't much of the same thing as lactose does once it hits the inside of this body. Not only is it a pasta dish. It's a GIANT amount. Oh, and more milk. A tiny carrot and spinach salad that would have been better without the dressing...but eating everything is required. Licking out the dishes is encouraged. Everything is measured down to the tenth of a gram.

Each meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner) is on a set rotation, so what was eaten today will be eaten again on Thursday, on Sunday, next Wednesday, and next Saturday. Oh joy.

After slogging through the last half of the pasta, and forcing down the yogurt, it is declared a day. There's only one more breath bag left for the day and then there's nothing left to do. Homework, maybe. But no drinking.

Yeah. NO ALCOHOL. Given that nightly drinks have been a very regular thing since moving back to the states three years ago (holy fuck, three years?!), it's going to be interesting to feel 14 days sober.
Fourteen days sober and caffeine free.
It sounds like hell.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Closed For The Season

Hopefully once we get caught up we'll have time to dedicate to writing again...but for the meantime extracurricular blog writing is curtailed to mere "soundbites", if anything at all...and here's why.

Fall Semester 2014:
These are the required books for the classes, all of which have to be read and mentally processed into class discussions, assignments and essays, from now to December 10th...

14 books to read...

  • 15 Annotated bibliographies (of outside texts, none of which are these books, meaning we're going to have to read, or at least heavily scan 15 other texts enough to write annotated bibs and use them in an essay)
  • 5 Essays with due dates starting October 28th (4 of which need at least three outside sources that aren't required class texts), plus 1 Midterm essay
  • that's 30 sources (peer-reviews texts and/or books) IN ADDITION to the 14 required texts)..
  • 1 graphic design final exam project
  • Various tests and exams
  • Weekly writing assignments
  • Weekly graphic design assignments
  • Plus contributing found news articles for two separate classes each week.

Plus...we'll still be working (part-time) until at least Halloween, if not Thanksgiving...(they decided to keep the position seasonal after all).
Though the continued income would be nice (not to mention essential), hopefully it's only until Halloween, because it turns out that 18 credits (6 classes) [12 credits/4 classes is considered full time] are overwhelming on their own, never mind cooking and cleaning and essential errands, plus a 40 minute commute twice a day to school/work...

Of course there's always a little time for a bit of Twitter...gals need to relax and have some fun sometimes, yes?

So, we're closed for the season, as it were (shared school-related writing and assignments not withstanding, and a probable final garden report).

Have a beautiful Fall, and may Winter greet you with gentleness. Or may it all rip you apart. It just depends.