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Eating the Food

December 24, 2013

Weight LossFat HealthFat ScienceExerciseMy Boring-Ass LifeDiet Talk

Trigger warning: Discussion of diet and exercise, as well as a site that ostensibly includes weight loss information.

I’ve had a kind of eye-opening epiphany in the last week.

I don’t eat enough.

I can hear the Reddit trolls now, having a field day over that admission. A 350-ish pound woman who doesn’t eat enough? No such animal, right?

Except. Except. I don’t eat enough.

I don’t eat enough, even though a nutritionist told me I wasn’t eating enough when I visited her after being diagnosed with hypoglycemia last year; even though I’ve been a voice against dieting for years. I’m going to be brutally honest right now: I was pretty proud of myself for being able to “admit” to eating 1,800 calories a day. A good fatty is fat despite not eating too much. I never really articulated that thought, but it was there. Always.

I’ve struggled with this not eating enough thing. I want to run and lift weights and be an athlete, but my body doesn’t manage recovery very well. After a few weeks of working out, I hurt so badly that I can’t move easily. In 2011 I ran nearly every day. But by the time I quit, I couldn’t stand up without help.

I went to a nutritionist around that time. She told me I should be eating at least 2,400 calories a day. I honestly think that number bounced off my brain and out into the atmosphere without making an impact.

I didn’t make a conscious decision NOT to follow her advice, I just kept eating 1,800 calories and never thought about it again. I started eating more protein and I stopped running (because, I’m not kidding about the hurt). And somewhere inside I felt virtuous, like I was proving something about not being on a diet every time I logged into SparkPeople to track my calories for a few days.

Earlier this week, I came across a website called Go Kaleo and my mind was blown. Wide open.

You know how you can know something and you can hear about it and you can believe it, but sometimes you just don’t internalize it? I’ve been a believer in Health At Every Size® (HAES) for three years. A major believer. A true believer. I KNOW diets don’t work. I KNOW that weight is not an indicator of health. I KNOW that how much or how little I eat has nothing at all to do with morals.

I believe with everything in me the principles of HAES and Body Acceptance. But it wasn’t until I found Go Kaleo that something clicked in me. Holy shit. I really haven’t been eating enough. At least, not usually. I eat plenty of calories on the days when I eat an entire bag of peanut butter cups in one sitting. For the most part though, not only do I not eat enough, but when I decide that I’m going to start exercising regularly, I eat LESS.

I take the occasion of increased motivation to exercise as a motivator to get my eating in order. I start tracking my food. I make a double effort at that 1,800 calories a day thing. Even when I go over, I land somewhere around 2,000. I eat LESS just as I’m asking my body to do MORE.

How does that even make sense? How in the hell does eat less, move more make even a tiny bit of sense? So, I went here. And I figured out that my body needs about 2300 calories just to maintain a basic function. That’s breathing, digesting, heart pumping, lungs expanding, etc. Add in the calories needed to maintain my weight at 350 or so pounds, and my body needs an estimated 3,163 calories.

That means that if losing weight was as easy as calories in/calories out, eating 1,800 calories a day should mean losing half a pound or so a day. I can promise you that I have not lost a half a pound this year, including during times when I was tracking my calories at 1,800 a day AND burning as much as 1,000 a day in exercise. If you’re following along, that’s basically surviving on about one-third of my body’s daily caloric needs or less for maintaining weight.

Go Kaleo (a tongue-in-cheek play on paleo and kale diets) has a lot of information about the process of starting to eat enough. There’s a very active, informative, friendly Facebook page that goes hand-in-hand with the blog. Be forewarned that there is some weight loss talk. Amber, the woman who runs the site and the page, lost 80 pounds and has pictures of her weight loss as the banner for her website.

The focus is on Eating the Food, or ETF, which is basically eating slightly less than what your body needs to maintain it’s current weight (for me, that would be something like 2,800 calories a day). It isn’t the weight loss that interests me. (Not really, anyway. Remember what I said about intellect vs. emotion?) It seems that eating enough can help with problems like edema, insomnia, hair loss, joint pain, back pain, mood swings and more.

Eating is the only way to control hypoglycemia — there’s no medication for it like there is for diabetes. My mantra since I started this Body Acceptance journey has been “I want to feel good.” It’s my battle cry. It’s what I’ve said to doctor after doctor after doctor when I tried to find out why I was so tired, why I hurt all the time, why my hair was falling out, why I was barely functional for six years after my youngest child was born.

Being diagnosed with hypoglycemia was a big step in figuring out how to feel good. Now it’s time to see if eating enough will help me get the rest of the way there. I’m going to document ETF for 100 days. My only plans are to eat about 2,800 calories a day and to eat protein at every meal to help manage hypoglycemia. I’ll keep at daily journal on my Tumblr, and keep you guys updated every two weeks or so here.

My goal, as always, is to feel good and keep my blood sugar under control. I’ll be paying attention to recovery after exercise, how much energy I have every day, hunger signals, and how I sleep. I’m committing to not weighing myself for 100 days. I know my starting weight and just for the hell of it, I’ll weigh myself again at the end. Just for kicks.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. vesta44 permalink
    December 24, 2013 11:50 am

    Damn, I used one of the calculators she recommended, and my BNR is a little over 2,400 calories, and what I should be eating in a day is 4,600 calories. I’m lucky if I hit half of the BMR in daily calorie intake, let alone half of my recommended caloric intake. If I tried to eat that many calories in a day, I’d be eating all day long (with a mutilated digestive system, I can’t eat much at one time and it takes me a while to eat that small amount). Maybe that’s why I’m so tired all the time and have no ambition.

  2. December 24, 2013 12:32 pm

    Vesta, some days it feels like all I do is eat. I’m not used to eating so much. One thing that helps is eating full fat things. Like whole milk or yogurt instead of skim or low-fat. Also, adding olive oil or butter to things adds calories without bulk. Starting out with eggs and a carb (oatmeal, toast, grits, whatever) helps. If I skip breakfast, forget it. I can’t eat enough during the rest of the day to make it up unless I eat a pint of ice cream. Seriously, just eating meals a day has been a revelation. You can try hitting the 2400 calories a day, at least–since that is what your body needs to function. You don’t have to jump to that all at once, either. Add 100 calories a day for a week, then 100 more for the next week, and so on. My BMR is 2300 and my TDEE (what I need with my activity level, which is not much since I spend hours a day on my computer) is 3100 or so. So I aim for 2500 and I don’t worry about how much I eat beyond that (it’s never much, unless it’s Christmas cookie baking day. Then all bets are off! LOL)

  3. December 24, 2013 1:49 pm

    One thing I’ve noticed is that if I don’t eat by the clock, every three to four hours, I really notice the difference in mood and ability to concentrate. It seems a little counter-intuitive that as a HAES-practicing fat woman I need to eat more regularly than many thin or ordinary-sized people, but there it is.

  4. Elizabeth permalink
    December 24, 2013 2:05 pm

    Super post! The book The Diet Cure is very good about making sure one eats enough. You’re so right, Shaunta, about eating full-fat foods, but if people have had WLS or gallbladder removal, they might have trouble with this. I feel much better if I eat sufficient protein and fat, and am much less likely to get hypoglycemic or hungry. Docs see fat people and assume high blood sugar, and if they discover you have problems with low blood sugar, then assume you are on the road to high blood sugar. I’m hypothyroid and hypoglycemia is a classic symptom, and has no relation to eventually becoming diabetic.

  5. December 24, 2013 3:57 pm

    As far as actual body sensations go, I know I’m going to be feeling like gnawing my own leg off by mid-afternoon if I eat a lunch that doesn’t involve carbs *and* protein. I think I’m safer going by how I feel than trying to calculate calories at all – I still find all that stuff pretty triggering. (I shouldn’t have even looked at those calculators, dammit.)

  6. December 24, 2013 7:09 pm

    I was afraid that counting calories was going to be triggering to me, too. I’m a data junkie and I can really fall pretty deep into that stuff. But I’ve found it shockingly freeing to know, for certain, in the late afternoon, for instance, that I still have 1000 calories before I even hit my minimum for the day. Or that if I eat a substantial breakfast, I still get to eat a substantial lunch AND a substantial dinner. I always got to, this is just the first time I haven’t felt an underlying guilt about it.

  7. LittleBigGirl permalink
    December 24, 2013 10:42 pm

    I am worried about getting the nutrition I need right now, never mind the actual calories. Thanks to my medication side effects I have zero appetite – forget zero it might as well be a negative number! My stomachs growling but I’m staring in the fridge and I’m NOT hungry. Guess I need to start making protein shakes (I have the powder and I make it with greek yogurt). Maybe I’ll make a quiche this weekend…

  8. December 25, 2013 6:40 am

    Here’s my idea for an anti-diet book: eat whatever the hell you want, exactly when you want it. Forget about calories, fat grams, fiber content, etc. Be guided by your intuition. When you have freed yourself from all that calculation you can achieve something of genuine importance. That “something” might possibly involve persons other than your “self”. Or perhaps not.

  9. Mich permalink
    December 25, 2013 2:34 pm

    Wouldn’t a food diary to reach your caloric goal be as bad as a caloric diary while dieting?

  10. December 25, 2013 3:32 pm

    Harry, I agree. But in three years, I haven’t been able to do that. And I’ve tried. Really tried. i don’t care about fat grams, fiber content, etc. Making sure I eat ENOUGH calories (so at least 1500, not no more than 2500) has finally helped me get to the point where I’m able to eat entirely intuitively. Mich–I think it would be if I was telling myself that 2500 is all the calories I get in a day. But since I’m just making sure I get at least that many, and not worrying about an upper limit, it hasn’t have the same effect at all. And I’m a calorie counter from way back.

  11. December 27, 2013 4:07 pm

    Discrepancy between self-reported and actual caloric intake and exercise in obese subjects.

    The failure of some obese subjects to lose weight while eating a diet they report as low in calories is due to an energy intake substantially higher than reported and an overestimation of physical activity, not to an abnormality in thermogenesis.

  12. December 28, 2013 1:34 pm

    Since I haven’t been tracking calories lately, I agree that it’s possible that I was under-estimating how much I was eating. I’ve tracked calories on and off my whole life, and I think I’m good at it (not that I particularly want to be good at it, but I am.) When I have tracked calories over the last couple years, I’ve been in the 1800 calorie range. I am willing to admit though, that it’s possible I’ve been eating a little more. Definitely eating more on days when I binged. Regardless, I am definitely eating significantly more now on a daily basis than I was then. And, while I’m estimating 2500 or so calories a day now, it goes to reason that if I was under-estimating 1800, I’m under-estimating 2500, too, right?

  13. jackie permalink
    July 12, 2015 11:29 am

    Dear PBPB…..I do not care what that stupid study reports..I am proof that not eating enough stalls your metabolism…I was not obese but overweight…restricted due to gastro problems.I was eating so little it was very easy to know how many calories I was consuming….most days under 500..never over 1000…not one doctor was concerned that I lost 25 pounds in a month….nor were they concerned that my weight stayed exactly the same for months….no one believed me when I told them how little I was eating because I was not skinny.Probably they were going by the same sort of info in the link you posted….people do not have to be underweight to be malnourished..

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