Eating the Food: Twelve Weeks
Trigger warning: Discussion of calorie counting in order to eat enough food to meet daily caloric requirements, and subsequent, modest weight loss.
The twelve-week mark for my 100 day Eat the Food experiment came and went a couple of days go.
Just as a reminder, I decided twelve-ish weeks ago to eat above my base metabolic rate (BMR) for 100 days. BMR is calculated based on gender, age, weight, and height. It’s the number of calories your body needs to keep your organs functioning if you lay in bed all day. If you don’t eat those calories, your body will metabolize your fat and lean tissue to get them. Total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) is the number of calories your body needs to maintain your weight, taking your daily activities into consideration. My TDEE is 3,100 calories. I used this calculator to figure out my BMR and TDEE.
For 100 days, I’m eating AT LEAST 2,500 calories. That’s the minimum, not the maximum. And that’s net, which means that I eat back the calories I burn through exercise. I’m blogging about my experiment daily.
Today I’ll answer some questions that I’ve been asked and let you guys know how it’s going otherwise.
So, my ten week post caused a bit of a rumpus.
I want to make a couple of points, to be sure that they are absolutely clear.
- Fat people’s bodies burn more calories than their thinner counterparts. That means that their TDEE is higher. At 5’9″ and 340-ish pounds, mine is 3,100 calories. That’s the number I need to eat to maintain my weight, assuming a sedentary day. On days that I swim, my TDEE goes up to about 3,800 calories. It’s important to know what your TDEE is because eating too far below it is uncomfortable. Notice, I didn’t say that you will die instantly, after your organs suddenly stop working if you eat way below your TDEE for a day. Your BMR is a good counterbalance to your TDEE. It gives you a window. If you aim to eat between these two numbers consistently, you may find that you have more energy, you sleep better, your whole body starts to thrive in a way that you didn’t even know was possible. That was my experience, anyway.
- Some people got upset because my experiment involves making sure I eat at least 2,500 net calories a day without talking about an upper limit. I can only assume that they believe that fat people are like a dog I once had who would eat until his belly popped if I gave him unrestricted access to food. Like “Fat lady is letting herself eat whatever she wants with no limit to her calories, she must be eating her body weight in cake everyday (and that’s a lot of cake because OMG she’s huge).” Turns out though, that by letting go of limiting what I can eat, I’ve finally been able to stop binging. When I know that I can eat as much as I need to, I actually have found that I just want to eat as much as I need to. I don’t have the urge to eat an entire bag of mini peanut butter cups or every bite of a restaurant meal. I’m still healing, but switching my focus to making sure I eat enough, from trying to make sure I don’t eat too much, has been a life changing experience for me. Not limiting your calories is not the same thing as going on an all-day-every-day-for-the-rest-of-your-life binge.
- When it comes to Health at Every Size® (HAES), people who consider themselves anti-HAES are woefully misinformed about what HAES is. HAES does not claim that everyone on earth is already healthy. HAES advocates for taking a proactive approach to health in a weight-neutral way. You don’t get kicked out of the club if eating intuitively and getting some exercise causes weight loss. You don’t have to turn in your HAES card if you hope that happens.
Okay, that’s off my chest. I feel better.
I’m closing in on the end of my 100 day experiment. I didn’t have any real idea that it would be this successful when I started. I hoped to have some more energy and improve my sleep, and maybe not hurt so much. I added ten minutes of exercise a day to my goal because that was honestly all I could manage in December.
This week I made it to 1,100 meters toward my goal of being able to swim 3,000 meters. I am consistently sleeping eight hours a night with no sleep aid. Since December, I’ve added to my days school first; then the edits for my book; increased my non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) by ten-fold at least; plus an ever-increasing amount of exercise, and my energy level has kept up beautifully. When I’m tired at the end of the day, it’s the good kind of tired — not the “system crash” kind of exhausted.
I think that eating consistently at a level that is below my TDEE, but above my BMR, has been a big winner for me. I have a steady, even level of energy throughout the day. I’m positive that a lot of feeling better has come from having the energy to exercise in a way that I really enjoy. It’s all a nice, little, self-propelling cycle that is so much better than the restrict/binge cycle I’ve lived with most of my life. There is no wagon to fall off because all I’m doing is eating enough and exercising moderately.
I started this experiment not wanting to focus on weight at all. During Le Rumpus, I found myself repeating over and over that what I’m doing works because I have lost about a pound a week during it. I sort of regret that now. Not because it isn’t true, but because I don’t think that going from 360 to 345 pounds (or 350 to 335, depending on which scale I use — 15 pounds, either way) is the real proof that eating above my BMR and getting some exercise has been a successful endeavor. The benefits I’ve received so far outweigh the amount of weight that I’ve lost, it almost doesn’t even feel reasonable to credit weight loss for any of it.
I still wear the same size clothing. I’m still the fattest person in the pool when I go swimming. I still have a BMI in the high 40s. But I have no more pain. I have no more sleep problems. I have no more 3:30 pm total body system crash. I’ve gone from being able to barely swim 150 meters to swimming a nice, strong 1,100 meters. Those 15 pounds are the very least of the benefits that have come from the last 88 days.
I am not sorry that I’m losing a little weight. It just feels like another way my body is adjusting to getting a consistent amount of food and more exercise everyday. HAES is not about wanting to be fat. It’s about accepting your body the way it is. In my case, it means accepting my fat body and not waiting for thinness before I start showing it some respect. Eating well and exercise and body acceptance. I have been blown away by the results of truly practicing all three.
I’ll be starting another 100 days on March 25. If you’re interested in joining me, you’re more than welcome. If you’d like to receive a weekly newsletter, drop me a line at shauntagrimes at gmail or follow along on my personal blog. I’ll be posting journal prompts every day. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them.