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.

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