Sorry for not responding, I didn't get any notifications for this thread for some reason.
In any case, for those who are curious....I think it really was fat gain, which was just shocking to me. Christmas eve was 4500 calories but I'll fully admit Christmas, 12/30, and NYE all could have been more like 8000. That is definitely quite a surplus. But still I guess I assumed I wouldn't have gained more than 1lb of fat per day there and therefore my 20 days of extreme dieting (at the time of making this thread) would have been enough to offset it. I suppose it's possible each day was more like 1.5lb of fat in which case I would have gained close to 5lb of fat and that could take a while to lose.
....and so it did. I am now FINALLY below 180 but it took extreme efforts this past month to get there.
I used to use thyroid hormone while dieting. This year is my first year not doing so since 2011. My current bloodwork shows my Free T3 to be significantly below normal (1.9 on a scale of 2.3-4.2 and that was several weeks ago so now it's probably even lower). I suppose I took for granted how much taking prescription thyroid drugs could off set cheat days in the past. I still think one day at a time is fine but I suppose the 3 days in about a week really screwed me over more than I could have imagined.
I have a 7-night cruise coming up in 4 weeks. Thankfully I am done dieting this week so I will have 3 weeks to get metabolism back up and hunger back down before then....but I know the trip will still result in quite noticeable fat gain