A tape measure wrapped around a fork.

How I Involuntarily Gained 20 Lbs By Setting The Wrong Goal

The road may dip before it climbs.

*I’m not a doctor. Nothing I mention here is medical advice.*

Eat less, move more. That was the nutritional model I followed for nearly a decade. And when I was serious about it, it worked. When I exercised frequently and counted my calories, I lost weight. Not a ton. Maybe one pound a month. But over a span of years, that adds up. I didn’t always take it seriously though and so my weight fluctuated.

In the recent half of the decade, however, it became part of my lifestyle. And so, I finally started to both lose weight and maintain that new threshold. In total, I lost something like 35 pounds and have since kept it off. That is, until 2020.

Starting in January 2020, my weight began to increase with each passing month. My skinny jeans and slim-fit shirts all started to hug in the wrong places. What was happening? Sure, in the big picture there was a lot going on. But my dietary life had remained for the most part intact. I still counted my calories, exercised, took cheat days, and all that. Yet standing on the scale was something I now dreaded.


The goal that lead me astray

After nine or so months of confused weight gain, I was up 15 lbs. It was then that I came across a book that criticized the calorie model and instead extolled the virtues of a low-carb approach. Makes sense to me. I’ll give it a shot. After completing that book (and another on the same topic), I set a new goal: Consume X or fewer grams of net carbohydrates a day at least X days a week.

I use X as a placeholder here because I changed the goal so many times, desperately trying to find the right fit. 50 grams a day, 25 grams a day, 10 grams a day. Five days a week, six days, seven. It was like I was a hacker trying various password combinations in hopes of finding one that would work.

I never did quite find the right combo though. Instead, over six months of doing low-carb I gained an additional 20 lbs. To date, I’m up 35 lbs in total. The first 15 came from things that had worked for me in the past. The other 20 came from the new goal that seemed so promising.


A plate with a sad face on it.


Why the weight gain?

What was the culprit? What was going on? Maybe I could chalk it up to the stressors of 2020. Or maybe I had gotten lazy, opting for walks instead of runs. Perhaps my metabolism was slowing down. Or still further, it’s possible that my cheat days were more extreme than those in the past. Maybe… or… maybe it was the medication I started taking at the end of December 2019. Just weeks before my inexplicable weight gain started to appear.

It was in December 2019 that I was diagnosed with anxiety (as well as the O in OCD) and started taking medication for it. Medication that, I learned just a week or two ago, has as one of its possible, though rarer side effects, weight gain. Here I was, trying to be healthy and the deck of fat was potentially stacked against me. I was possibly fighting a losing battle. What was I to do?

The medication’s been a literal life changer and I certainly don’t want to stop taking it. Plus, its impact on my weight is questionable, even if the timing is suspicious. That said, the calories model doesn’t work for me any longer. And I found low-carb to be too restrictive; on particularly low days, I would gorge on whatever refined carbs were within my immediate vicinity, thus likely counteracting the effects of my non-binge days. The science was sound, the books were well-written, but I couldn’t make it work for me.


My new goals (fingers crossed)

I had both failed at doing something that had worked in the past and doggedly pursued a new goal that was doing more harm than good. I was unwillingly up 35 lbs and actively looking for solutions. And a solution, or at least what I hope is the solution, is what I found. Recently, I came across some books that make sense. And as of this writing, I have new goals in place. One of which is: Complete at least three 24 hour fasts each week.

I’ve done fasting in the past and found the process to be both relatively easy and rewarding. And so, with new information at my disposal, I’ve taken what I learned about refined carbohydrates and am applying that knowledge to my new system. One that involves:

  • Quality sleep;
  • Intermittent fasting;
  • Intense cardio;
  • Eating unrefined, unprocessed foods;
  • Strength training;
  • And more.

You can see my new goals in their entirety here and you can follow along with the progress of those goals in my monthly goal reports here. As a reminder: I’m not a doctor. Nothing I mention here is medical advice.


A person doing a kick at sunset.


Setting the wrong goal and getting back on track

When you set a goal for yourself, you have the best of intentions. You want to increase the levels of fulfillment, meaning, and purpose in your life. It’s a noble cause. However, sometimes the steps you take can lead you astray. Can lead you down into a dark forest instead of to a bright mountain peak. That will happen. Especially when pursuing something new.

The thing is, though the path before you is dark and ominous, it gradually gains elevation. It slowly becomes less densely packed and more open. The sun peaks through increasingly until you find yourself bathed in light. And then, suddenly, you’ll be there. At the top of the mountain.

Personal growth is challenging for a number of reasons. One of which is: sometimes you feel like you’re going the wrong way. And maybe you are. It’s up to you to continually learn, iterate, improve. To read new books, talk to new people, keep trying. To find the way out of the forest.


Moving forward one step at a time

My low-carb goal didn’t get me the weight loss I desired. I didn’t quit though. Instead, I took another step forward. I researched, I learned, I applied the old and the new, I made changes. Will my new system and goals get me to where I want to go? It’s too early to tell. Either way though, regardless of if it does or doesn’t, I will eventually find what works. I will get to the top. And so will you.

The road to goal success is long, winding, and filled with strife. But the alternative is to sit at home. And no one ever became the hero of their story by sitting on the couch. So get up and take a step forward. Your efforts may lead you down some dark roads, but so long as you keep moving, you will find your way to the mountain peak.

I’ll see you there.


PS: Let me show you how to achieve your goals.

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