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Eating the Food: Six Weeks

January 27, 2014


Diet TalkWeight LossFat HealthFat ScienceExerciseEating DisordersMy Boring-Ass Life

Trigger warning: Discussion of calorie counting in order to eat enough food to meet daily caloric requirements.

I’m writing this on day 42 of my 100 day Eat the Food adventure.

Six weeks ago, I decided to start eating at least 2,500 net calories a day. That’s at least about 200 more than my base metabolic rate (BMR), or the number of calories my body (based on height, weight, age, and gender) needs to keep my organs functioning without activity. Net means that I eat back any calories I burn through exercise. So, if I swim and burn 300 calories, I eat at least 2,800 that day.

I’ve been blogging daily about my adventure on my Tumblr.

My goals are to improve my sleep, reduce pain, and get rid of residual disordered eating patterns that have kept me from truly following a Health at Every Size® (HAES) lifestyle.

As with my other updates, I’ll answer a couple of questions that have come up from readers and I’ll give a follow-up on how things are going so far.

Someone on Reddit asked what calculator I used to determine my BMR. I used one that utilizes the Harris-Benedict equation for BMR. Rather than link to a calculator with weight loss talk that might be triggering, I’ll give you the equation. If you want a calculator, there are plenty out there — just Google it. But be aware, please, that I could not find one that did not talk about weight loss on some level.

For men: BMR = 88.362 + (13.397 x weight in kg) + (4.799 x height in cm) – (5.677 x age in years)

For women: BMR = 447.593 + (9.247 x weight in kg) + (3.098 x height in cm) – (4.330 x age in years)

To calculate your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure, or the number of calories you need to maintain your current weight), use the following chart:

Little to no exercise Daily kilocalories needed = BMR x 1.2
Light exercise (1–3 days per week) Daily kilocalories needed = BMR x 1.375
Moderate exercise (3–5 days per week) Daily kilocalories needed = BMR x 1.55
Heavy exercise (6–7 days per week) Daily kilocalories needed = BMR x 1.725
Very heavy exercise (twice per day, extra heavy workouts) Daily kilocalories needed = BMR x 1.9

Okay. That was a lot of math.

I’ve had a lot of questions and comments about the fact that I track my calories. I know that’s a big, fat trigger for a lot of people and I’m aware that for that reason it wouldn’t work for everyone. I have had no problem switching from the traditional “eat no more than” dieting mindset to an Eat the Food mindset of “eat at least this much.” Despite years of trying, I have not been able to eat intuitively. For the first time, I’m getting there.

Intellectually, I’ve known since starting on my HAES path three years ago that food doesn’t have morality. No good food and bad food, just food. Emotionally, I could never quite get all the way there. Tracking has helped me finally do that.

Six weeks in, I’ve started to notice a lot of small things. Like, my fingernails have stopped breaking. School started for me this week, and I have to walk half a mile and up and down three flights of stairs to get from my first class to my second. I was able to do that this week without any problem. I drink less diet soda, not because I don’t love it anymore (because I do), but because my body doesn’t need as much caffeine as it used to in order to keep going until the end of the day.

I’ve had one unexpected problem. I’m so used to crashing at 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoon, that I forgot what it felt like to just be normal tired at bedtime. I have to make myself go to bed on time. Once I’m laying down, I fall asleep without a problem. The quality of my tired is just very different. Instead of feeling like I’ll die if I don’t lay down at 8 p.m., I still have some energy left at midnight.

Edema was such a regular problem for me that all of my shoes are wide width. Some of them don’t fit me anymore, because my feet are no longer swollen. My legs aren’t swollen anymore, either. No more deep pits if I press a finger into my shin. My hands look and feel different to me too for the same reason. I’m sure I’ve lost edema from wherever I had it, but my hands, feet and legs are where I notice it the most.

Six weeks ago, I was in nearly constant 4- or 5-, sometimes 6-level pain. Sometimes even worse. My neck and shoulders were stiff. My back hurt so badly that it was hard for me to get out of bed in the morning or up from a sitting position if I didn’t have arm rests. My feet hurt, my head hurt. I was taking painkillers daily. I’m so happy to report that most of my pain is gone. One of my shoulders still feels a little stiff and I can still feel my lower back, but maybe a 2-level of pain and not constant.  I haven’t had a headache in weeks.

A side effect of the reduced pain in my back and shoulders is that my posture is better.

I’m less cranky.

The part of HAES that has always eluded me is the part that says if you allow yourself to eat what you want, the urge to binge on “bad” foods will disappear. I would eat ALL the Resse’s Peanut Butter Cups, then decide they wouldn’t be allowed in my house again. Until the next time they were, and then wash, rinse, repeat. For the first time in a long time, like since I was in the third grade, I feel zero guilt about eating. I eat what I want, when I want it, and until I don’t want to eat it anymore. The idea that I can literally eat anything I want, and as much of it as I want, and truly believing that, has finally taken root.

I’m cultivating this rebel attitude that I kind of love. I’m over being a good fatty. I’m over being able to hold up “I only eat 1,800 calories a day” and my 125 cholesterol as banners of my virtue. Fuck that. I eat what my body needs to not just function but THRIVE. A happy little side effect of having a thriving body is that the size of it stops mattering. The amount of space my wonderful, thriving body takes up has started to feel like the amount of space it deserves. 

I have this theory. Fat people often spend their whole lives trying to lose weight. The meme for losing weight is: eat less, move more. That’s such an oxymoron. No wonder fat people often feel like crap. But instead of blaming how awful they feel on not eating enough and moving too much, they blame it on being fat. And it’s a vicious cycle. Tornado-to-Oz level. A cyclone cycle.

Six weeks in, I feel like a cycle-busting, rebel bad ass. And I’ll take it.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Marilyn permalink
    January 27, 2014 1:20 pm

    It sounds like your experiment is a success. Best of luck on continuing to make process in feeding yourself.

  2. Twistie permalink
    January 27, 2014 1:37 pm

    I’m a big believer in using the method that works. Sounds like this was precisely the method you needed, and I’m delighted for you.

    Also, I kind of love that fat Wonder Woman. She’s badass!

  3. Nof permalink
    January 27, 2014 2:00 pm

    Wow, doing that math I should be somewhere around 2,600 calories. That is a big number. I don’t know if I’ve hit that in years.

    Glad your experiment is working so well!

  4. January 28, 2014 3:56 pm

    emotionally, Im not where you are….all I can think of is how much weight did you gain?

  5. Oxymoronictonic permalink
    January 29, 2014 3:54 pm

    I’ve been following all your eating the foods posts, I am so happy for you!

  6. February 4, 2014 2:22 pm

    I’m curious: what is the research, exactly, behind BMR? I figure at the end of the day it’s all an approximation, but I wonder how exactly it’s been arrived at. My Google-fu is failing me at the moment, but maybe you guys have done the heavy lifting already. (Atchka? Dr. Deah?)

    I’m happy to hear that you’re feeling better, Shaunta! Reading some of your later posts inspired me to come back here and crunch my own numbers, hence posting here.

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