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Eating the Food: Two Weeks

January 2, 2014

Weight LossFat HealthExerciseEating DisordersMy Boring-Ass LifeDiet Talk

Trigger warning: Discussion of a personal diet (as in eating) plan and previous commitment to caloric restriction.

I’m two weeks into my 100-day Eating the Food Adventure.

To recap, two weeks ago I decided to start eating at least 2,500 calories a day. That’s a minimum, not a maximum. After years of studying Health at Every Size® and intuitive eating, as well as struggling with binge eating, I’m finally giving up dieting. For real. I’ve wanted to give it up for three years, but it just. hangs. on. You can read more about what I’m doing here. You can also follow along daily for 100 days on my Tumblr.

Today I want to answer a couple of questions that came up in the comments here and on reddit to my original article and give a two-week update.

Someone pointed out in the comments here (and on reddit) that it’s possible I’ve been underestimating my calories the last three or so years (and I suppose my entire life) when I’ve thought I was eating about 1,800 calories a day. Of course, they then went on to insist that either I was lying or a freak of nature, but whatever. You know what? It’s true that I might underestimate my intake. I haven’t tracked what I was eating with any consistency. I do have a long history of calorie counting (like 30 years) and I think that I can do it pretty well — but it is possible that I’ve underestimated my daily calories. There have also been days when I binged. On those days, I definitely ate far more than 1,800 calories. On occasion, I track what I eat and it always comes in at 1,800 or so. But I’m willing to concede that I both sometimes ate more on purpose and unwittingly.

What I can tell you for sure is that I’m eating significantly more now than I have in years. Maybe ever. And it goes to reason that if I was underestimating 1,800 calories, I’m also underestimating 2,500, so I think it all comes out in the wash.

There were also comments on my last posts about just eating whatever I want, whenever I want it, and being guided by intuition. My answer to that is simple: I’ve tried to be guided by my intuition for three solid years. I needed more help giving up restriction. Desire to stop dieting wasn’t enough to overcome a lifetime of conditioning. For me, making sure I eat a minimum number of calories that is a couple hundred more than what my body needs just for basic functioning (my BMR, or base metabolic rate, is about 2,300 calories).

Can I tell you something? Tracking 2,500 calories, and knowing (and believing) that it’s a minimum not a maximum, is like Christmas every day. Someone on a Facebook page I belong to compared it to paying all your bills and having plenty left over for fun stuff. YES. It’s just like that. Sometimes I log into my tracker (I use myfitnesspal.com) just to see all those yummy, beautiful calories waiting for me to eat the next day.

Do you know about spoon theory?

The main benefit I’ve received from eating enough for two weeks is more spoons.

Two weeks ago, I was so used to running out of energy at 3 or 4 in the afternoon that I never planned anything for later than that. My husband knew better than to ask me to do something at night with him. I rarely went out after dark. I also knew I had enough spoons to either work out OR go shopping in one day, but not both. Ever. And maybe not even both on two consecutive days.

Two weeks in, my energy is lasting until 8 or 9 p.m. I still have a crash — that moment when I’ve definitively used up all my spoons — but it’s happening significantly later in the day. I shopped and lifted weights yesterday, and still didn’t crash until 8 p.m. That might not seem like much to you, especially if you’ve always had adequate energy. To me, it’s huge.

To me, it feels like healing.

To me, it means that eating more is a big, fat win. It’s enough. Even if Eating the Food means gaining All the Weight (that hasn’t happened so far, by the way). This isn’t about my weight. It’s most definitely not about weight loss. My clothes still fit. I’m pretty sure my weight hasn’t changed substantially one way or the other.

Know what’s gone, though? Edema. For the first time in years, my feet and hands aren’t swollen.

Know what else? Insomnia. I’ve gone from using a sleep aide several times a week to falling asleep easily and sleeping through the night, then waking up rested. For the last several nights, I haven’t even woken up when my husband, who works an overnight shift, came to bed at 3 a.m.

And one more thing: headaches. I haven’t needed to take Tylenol in a week.

I still have some residual restriction-brain thought patterns. Every once in a while I have a familiar twinge of fear. “What if I fail again? What if I can’t do this?” Then I remind myself that all I’m doing is eating enough. Far more than I’ve ever consciously eaten before.

I want to make something clear. I’m tracking what I’m eating right now because I want to make sure I’m eating enough. I have a history of restriction and I need something, right now, to help keep me from slipping into old patterns. I have not been able to turn the idea of intuitive eating into something that I can just do. My goal is to be able to eat to my hunger cues and eat enough without needing the extra support.

For the first time in (most of) my life, I’m not on a diet or trying not to be on one. I’m just eating. And it feels amazing.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Twistie permalink
    January 2, 2014 11:52 am

    Different things work for different people to obtain the same result. It happens. This is clearly working for you, so more power to you!

    It seems to me only reasonable that after twenty or thirty years of active calorie restriction some people would need to actively track a caloric increase along the way to trusting their bodies with food. You’re obviously doing what’s right for your body, which is why you have more energy, are sleeping better, are having less headaches, and generally doing better. And isn’t that what it’s all about? Finding what works for you and then doing it?

    • January 2, 2014 12:42 pm

      Yes. That’s what it’s all about. I know there are some people who can just eat intuitively as soon as they get the notion, and that’s it. They don’t have to think about it anymore. It’s taken me a long time to get here. For the record, I don’t think eating enough is something that just works for me. I think it’s universal.

  2. January 2, 2014 11:58 am

    All the best, Shaunta! I’ve had similar experiences when I gave up dieting and started eating to nourish my body and support what it could do, rather than punish it for not being conventionally beautiful. I found that I gained at least a few extra spoons, too. I wish you joy and a full silverware drawer 🙂

  3. January 2, 2014 6:22 pm

    I started my path to lifestyle change on September of this year, after consulting with a dietician, and at first I was horrified at how much food I was supposed to eat in a day. I always thought, the less you ate, the more weight you lost. Turns out, the more you eat, the more you burn off. Who knew? It’s a long road, and I still find myself conflicted about why I am “really” doing this (to look better? to feel better? to prove that I can?) and freaking out if my portion sizes seem “too big”, but I just have to remind myself that it took me over 30 years to get to looking the way I look now. I can’t expect to change my mental and physical state overnight.

    Looking forward to taking this journey with you 🙂

    • January 2, 2014 6:53 pm

      Elana, it’s so great to hear about other people who are on the same path. Feel free to email me (anyone can feel free to email me) at shauntagrimes@gmail.com. We got this!

  4. January 3, 2014 2:02 am

    I think what you are doing is incredibly brave. Keep reporting back!

  5. Lindsay permalink
    January 11, 2014 10:21 pm

    This is so awesome – I am so glad to hear you are feeling better and enjoying eating this way!

    When I entered recovery from bulimia my treatment center used calories instead of exchanges (which is fairly rare) and i did very well with this approach. I was also put on 2500, and though I was afraid of the number I felt great and my metabolism caught up with it quite quickly. I eat intuitively now but I do think a structured approach was what I needed for a really long time because my body needed time to become regulated.

    Best of luck to you – you have my support and well wishes 🙂

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