So there I was: fresh out of the fall semester and ready to get my weight down. I wrote up my plan of low carb and cardio with a head full of hope. But then, after a week or two of long-distance running and a daily intake of 1,200 calories — I found my first stretch mark EVER on my inner thigh. Instinctually, after a short-lived bout of denial, I panicked. "What could have done this?" I asked myself, "This wasn't here during finals week." The day before, when I was unbearably emaciated from a microscopic carb intake, I had eaten a banana. I remembered the strange, bubbling vibrations I had felt in my inner thigh soon after and knew I'd found my source. To add insult to injury, when I had weighed myself after this discovery, I had found that I GAINED weight! Although it's painful to admit it, I cried. It was hard to stand, as I wavered in the mirror. My arms were so numb that I rested them on the edge of the sink.
I had worked tooth and nail, and this was the result. Several nights that week, I had laid awake, unable to sleep because I was so hungry. I had told myself it'd be worth it. It wasn't.
Refusing to quit, I searched for the answer— and found it. My body was in starvation mode.
Throughout human history, mass starvation would level town populations. So, in order to survive this devastation, the human body evolved efficient ways to conserve energy. Often referred to as starvation mode, this state of being occurs when there is a sudden, extreme, and extended period of food absence. One's metabolism slows dramatically, so that they are weak. Any food consumed, rather than used, is stored. That explains the stretch mark. The more I searched, the more I read anecdote after anecdote of runners eventually cutting out all carbs and over-training to the point of fainting.
Since this episode, I've learned first hand that a moderate calorie deficit is key. Now, I eat about 1500 calories with at least 150 g of carbohydrates and do cardio for around 30 minutes. Not only has my weight been decreasing steadily, but I sleep like a baby. Now, whenever I catch the sight of my stretch mark, I think back to that day and am thankful that my body had warned me loud and clear that what I was doing was hurting my body.