Freaking out, need help, is it fat or muscle?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created March 30, 2013 at 8:25 AM

So long story short, I used to weigh around 300 pounds, in 10 months I dropped to just a bit under 170 pounds. This was January 2010 to October 2010, it was limiting my caloric intake on a diet plan I found to about 900-1100 calories a day and I was doing calisthenics almost every day for an hour. So pounds dropped fast.

In December of 2010, I found CrossFit and have been doing it since then. I'm a Male, 29, 5'11" - 6 ft. I'm now 185 pounds.

My dilemma has been that while my strength had gradually gone up, it didn't go up enough because everyone kept saying I needed to eat more calories (because I was scared to eat more calories after a huge weight loss, it messes with your mind being fat forever and then dropping pounds like crazy). Basically, eating not enough food while doing CrossFit, I could get through the workout in amazing times but not really going anywhere aesthetically with my body becoming more muscular although it started to but not by much.

I finally gave in and thought what could be the worst that could happen if I ate more, I would just get looking better and strength. So I have been, but now I'm worried. I feel like maybe I'm getting fat. I try not to, but I weighed myself and now I'm 185 pounds. I have weighed myself over time and it just goes up gradually.

I'm worried that my face is "filling out" more and other areas because I have delt with loose skin, I can't tell what from what anymore. I am active, I CrossFit 5-6 times a week. I just have been eating more, a Paleo'ish approach.

I usually have like 5-6 whole scrambled eggs with an avocado for breakfast and an apple. I will have generous amounts of almond butter with an apple or by itself. I do sweet potato's like 2 times a day. Basically I have upped my fat with nut based foods, avocado, meats, and I do probably anywhere from 70-130 grams of carbs a day. I do beef, chicken, pork. I do eat veggies.

When I did Paleo before sustained on just protein and fat and some veggies as my carbs even doing CrossFit, I was CONSTANTLY hungry and starving, like really bad. I eat primary sweet potatoes for carbs and an apple or 2 a day now. I should be taking in around 3000 calories a day, and before it was hardly that, afraid of eating in fear of gaining weight.

So, I don't know, I'm concerned that eating a diet that is Paleo of chicken, beef, pork, avocado, nuts, nut butters, mainly sweet potatoes and some veggies, I am gaining fat. To me when I lost my weight before CrossFit, I looked trim, I looked fine in my eyes (with loose skin), but now my face looks fuller and I feel "bigger". I have a bigger chest so it's more pronounced, just the way I'm made, and when I lost my weight, stomach/belly region caved in so I looked starving. Now it's coming out. I'm so concerned I'm thinking of going carbless again but I know it will suck, especially after a CrossFit WOD. I admit I have somewhat of a Body Dysmorphic Disorder so I don't know what I should look like and it scares me.

All I know is this, if I don't eat, I can't grow, and if I grow, I can't distinguish if what I am eating is making me fat, more muscle, or both. I just liked being thin, thin when I lost the most in 2010.

I don't mean to make a spectacle of myself, it's just that when you feel you have searched the internet for everything and nothing feels right for YOU, you feel hopeless and turn to places like this website in hope of finding people that know how to get on the right track.


on July 15, 2013
at 03:55 AM

This is good advice, and I'd echo the recommendation to look for hydrostatic testing or the bod pod. I don't know how reliable the caliper method is, but I know that those bodyfat-measuring scales (electrical impedance) are insanely unreliable.

  • E77cb92d4222cef2430eaaf44b1ca8fe

    asked by

  • Views
  • Last Activity
    1426D AGO
Frontpage book

Get FREE instant access to our Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!

4 Answers



on March 30, 2013
at 12:25 PM

Dave-I can understand your fear. Because you were overweight before, you know that you probably have some insulin resistance, and you are perhaps worried that this isn't completely fixed, and that eating again will put the weight on. I am a person who gained the most significant weight in my life while eating "healthy," so I totally understand. (Of course that "healthy" was beans, rice, vegetarian stuff).

My suggestion would be to have your body fat measured so you have some hard data to help you put aside the fear. I am not sure how calipers work when you have a significant amount of loose skin. However, they also have machines (one is called the Bod Pod) where you sit in it and get zapped (Air Displacement Plethysmography). If you live near a university, they usually have them and will do a scan for $20 or so. Then plan to remeasure in 6 months (or 3 months if you need reassurance) and see if your lean body mass is going up.

You're right, it's hard to do crossfit without carbs! I don't eat a ton of carbs, but I do eat a potato the night before a workout (I workout mornings) and some blueberries about an hour before working out. The rest of the day I eat non-starchy veggies.


on July 15, 2013
at 03:55 AM

This is good advice, and I'd echo the recommendation to look for hydrostatic testing or the bod pod. I don't know how reliable the caliper method is, but I know that those bodyfat-measuring scales (electrical impedance) are insanely unreliable.



on March 30, 2013
at 11:19 AM

ok, slooowww down a sec :) First of all, congrats on the weightloss, dietary changes are difficut to make in any case. To be honest, what you're doing sounds quite good to me-thinner is not always better. If you feel vital and strong, (and to be honest if eating natural foods you physically should be) you're going to look vital and strong. :) your main problem is your self image. You've gotta realise that every single person is built differently and that food is something that is there to improve and maintain your health, and that is your main goal. If you aim to be healthy, you will look good no matter what (the paleolifestyle provides you with good skin, hair, etc) so the fact you're "fillng out" may not be a bad thing. If you have to eat a certain amount a day, eat that amount and stop worrying. I think you hould try to become more comfortable in your body, so maybe spend time in nature to remind you of what you are. watch how you talk to yourself also :) Try to be encouraging and kind, because there are pleny of people that are gonna be nasty to you in life already, you don't need to be oe of em :) Goodluck :)


on March 30, 2013
at 12:35 PM

Don't be afraid to get professional help. Body Dysmorphic Issues are real problems that can be handled. I'm not saying that's what is or isn't going on with you, but it seems possible from your post.

You've worked hard, you deserve to enjoy the results, not be plagued with anxieties of failure.


on March 30, 2013
at 12:37 PM

I had a similar experience to you, though I didn't lose as much weight. I am 6', I went from about 230# to about 203# and lost about 6-7 inches off of my waist on a combination of Paleo and Crossfit. But while my appetite was easy to control during this time, when I hit 203#, all of a sudden I was starving all the time, especially for carbs. I was surprised by the sudden increase in appetite and over time all I could do was give in, so I started to have safe carbs (sweet potatoes, plantains, etc) after workouts.

This satisfied my appetite and after a few weeks of this the hunger cravings went away, but my weight had crept up to 210#. But my waist didn't change, which is my main metric in my progress, and I don't think I was noticeably fatter or anything. Obviously the weight went somewhere, but I do have noticeably more muscle in many areas (especially the upper body), and I think I still look fine.

Now it is easy to maintain this weight, I'm back to pretty low carb Paleo, and the workouts are fun and satisfying, and I'm adding in more lifting. Basically I think I went below my body's ideal/target weight, then bounced up to that weight, and now it's easy to maintain at that level.

In my mind I wanted to get below 200#, was hoping for 190#, but my experience was so radically different at 203# than it was at higher weights that I am not sure what I could have done. I do have some cheats, primarily wine and some chocolate, and generally I do like to eat and have fun and don't want to be 100% dedicated to my diet. For example one of the super studs at my Crossfit gym eats a very strict diet without even any seasonings on his food (I don't totally get that), no alcohol, no sweets, etc. He is in great shape but I guess I'm just not willing to be that dedicated just to lose a few more pounds. Basically I'm happy with the progress that I made and if I had to keep this weight and size for the long term, but be able to eat basically whatever I want within certain parameters, that would be ok.

You may have also gone somewhat below your body's ideal weight, especially with all of the exercise, then maybe bounced up to a slightly higher weight. Crossfit is a good way to lose weight for a while but it will also add weight (muscle) the more you do it. Look at the height and weight of the serious competitors and the weight range is generally 175-220# for men. If you think about it, eating 3000 calories per day and Crossfitting 5-6x per week including some lifting is not exactly a weight loss diet, it would make sense to put on some weight, probably primarily muscle.

If you are really concerned about the weight though, you could consider cutting back on both calories and exercise, try to work in some fasting and long walks in exchange for some Crossfit. I think it is good to take a break from it every now and then, I missed 4 days of workouts recently due to travel, and my first workout back was the best I can remember.

Anyway good luck.

Answer Question

Get FREE instant access to our
Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!