I'd be looking at the composition of your diet, not the calories per se. You said you saw a diet doctor, was that doc impressive? Because it seems to me he should have been talking to you about fat content, carbs, the kind of carbs, the kind of fats, in other words, a whole lot about what kind of nutrition you're getting. Calories alone don't explain much.
I would definitely chase this down; 28 pounds (while fighting it) is a lot of gain in only what, four years? It's not like you're 50 or 60, when doctors do sort of shrug and say maybe it's nature's way, etc. You're not drawing a picture of that being the reason at all.
I would re-check the thyroid measurements, but also would bend every effort to find a really good dietician with a natural bent, who can tell you the difference between white rice and other more esoteric grains and why that matters, and how much of one category of food and another category you should be eating, and like that. People sometimes say "I'm eating x calories a day" assuming people know that they mean in a balanced and natural diet, but often they really aren't thinking of anything besides the calorie count. If I were to eat 1400 calories a day but get 500 of it from candy bars, my total calorie count would look fine for losing, but the sugar would put a kibosh on that pretty fast and in no time I would have a tummy, too. Has your diet changed in the last 4 years, even if just by adding one thing that you don't think is significant? (Sometimes, getting into regularly drinking a particular soft drink, sport drink or even sweet tea, is enough to up your weight gain.)
Anyway, I think you sound too young to give it up as your metabolism slowing with age. See if you can find a good doc. Ask at the local health-food store, they should know some dietary advisors.
I agree with having a recheck on the thyroid; it's one of the main controllers of metabolism and can really slow it down. Make sure when they test, they are doing the right tests. They need to be testing Free T4 and Free T3, not just TSH, which many doctors feel is the gold standard for diagnosing a thyroid problem. It would also be a good idea to have thyroid antibodies tested to determine whether or not you could have Hashimoto's, which is an autoimmune thyroid condition. One can have Hashimoto's and and of its symptoms/effects before actual thyroid hormones go out of range.
There are other hormones that can affect weight, as well. Cortisol, which is a stress hormone is one and is noted to add weight around the waist. Nutritional deficiencies can also have an effect.
Although many of us do gain weight as we age, I've read numerous articles stating that age isn't the sole reason this happens. The reason it happens as we age is because our behaviors change as we age - we exercise less/differently, we eat more/differently, etc. There are many people who age and don't gain weight.
I agree that it's difficult to get a really accurate adrenal test due to constantly changing levels caused by unlimited variables of daily life, as well as elevated cortisol in the case of those with anxiety. However, simple tests will accomplish that for our purposes.
On the other hand, it's known that when the thyroid isn't working properly, the adrenals will kick in and try to take up the slack by over-producing cortisol.
"Because it originates from the amygdyla (sic) in the primitive brain when it is issued in response to stress, it's been a difficult thing to get a handle on, as the primitive brain is very difficult to understand in it's interaction with the later evolution of the cerebrum." It isn't necessary to get that technical. The purpose of the suggested 24 hr saliva test isn't to try to get overly scientific and try to figure out a person's brain function, etc; brain function would be for a neurologist to determine.
Although brain function could be a factor that would take much more sophisticated testing than I can possibly suggest. For our purposes here, we're dealing with the relationship between thyroid and cortisol, with the understanding that there could be, but usually isn't something deeper and it would take a neurologist or psychiatrist, which none of us is, to determine brain function.
I absolutely agree with the use of herbal adaptogens to help control cortisol levels. First, one needs to have an idea what might be happening.
Here is an article I found fascinating, it's a good take on the new awareness that "counting calories" is often ineffective and why. It's a long article, but maybe you will appreciate the frustrations described. I think the findings described in the article are really important.
I'm going to ask Emily tomorrow to delete the link to the first article, it's not nearly as useful as the second one. For one thing, it keeps talking about calories as though they are a useful measure, and it mentions eating a low-fat diet as a good thing, which is by now a debunked approach. I had both articles in a row in my bookmarks, and posted the first thinking it was the second.
The article I do recommend, and the one I found compelling, was the second one. Link:
Both articles are pretty good, but I agree that the second is best. Not very far into the second one, this hit me like a ton of bricks: "Dieters the world over will be familiar with Camacho’s frustrations. Most studies show that more than 80% of people regain any lost weight in the long term. And like him, when we fail, most of us assume that we are too lazy or greedy – that we are at fault."
It's not particularly true that *I've* felt like it's my fault; instead, that's the way my doctors and other people make it seem - or, at least, that's the way I feel, from the way they talk. It feels like they're talking down to me, always criticizing, simply because I'm not losing tons of weight when I eat the way they tell me to. It's automatically assumed that I've done something wrong i.e. I've eaten too much of the foods I wasn't supposed to eat or I didn't exercise as much or the way I was supposed to - one way or another, it had to be my fault because their program couldn't be flawed.
Further on in the article, it states: "He went back to items that he’d long banned himself from eating. He had his first rasher of bacon in three years and enjoyed cheese, whole-fat milk and steaks."
I can vouch for this method of eating, losing 26 lbs after spending a year on a doctor recommended "high protein" diet that cause a 20 lb gain. There's also a lot of research being done regarding the gut microbiome and its relationship to overall health and weight. If we don't have the right bacteria in our gut, digestion can't take place like it's meant to. There's a really good book out called "The Missing Microbe" by Dr Martin J Blaser... It really goes into the microbiome in depth and talks about how an out of balance gut can mess up the entire body. I know from my experience with H. Pylori how true this is.
"A US Senate committee report in 1977 recommended a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet for all, and other governments followed suit. The food industry responded with enthusiasm, removing fat, the most calorie-dense of macronutrients, from food items and replacing it with sugar, starch and salt.
I've read many articles in regards to how the sugar industry went out of their way to convince the public that sugar was "healthy" and we all know that when fat is removed from foods, something has to replace it or it won't taste good and nobody will buy it.
These are good articles.
When we're younger, we probably handle the lack of sleep and extra stress better than we do when we get older, and of course, we all react differently to it. There's that old hormone, cortisol, that gets produced when we're under stress and the more we do it to ourselves, the more cortisol we produce. The longer that goes on, the worse it is.
During sleep is when our bodies do a lot of the repair work, so again, the more we go without sleep, the repair work doesn't get done, which in turn puts more stress on the body. It turns into a vicious cycle. So yes, it probably was the drastic lack of food that kept your weight in check, along with whatever activity you engaged in - keeping in mind that it's easier to maintain weight before it's gained than to lose it.
Fortunately, your law-school days were limited so when they came to an end, your body was able to return to a normal state again.
Well, it's certainly more complicated than it's been made out. My husband, though he's read the latest stuff, still will choose one item over another at a restaurant because it's "low calorie" without any kind of balanced assessment of the food value.