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What I’ve Learned From HAES and Eating the Food

May 27, 2014

Weight LossFat HealthExerciseEating DisordersMy Boring-Ass LifeDickweedDiet Talk

Trigger warning: Discussion of calorie counting, healthy behaviors, weight loss and eating disorders.

I’m halfway through the second 100 days of my Eating the Food experiment that started in December, back when I felt half dead.

The experiment itself is pretty simple: For 100 days at a time, I’m eating above my Basal Metabolic Rate and exercising at least 10 minutes a day. This has settled into eating between 2,500 and 3,000 calories a day and swimming or lifting weights 30 to 60 minutes five or six days a week. On top of that, because I have more energy, I’m just more active in general than I was in December.

I didn’t know what to expect back in December. I only knew I had to do something. What I got was an incredible increase in energy, a drastic decrease in pain, the end of edema that had plagued me for years, and I don’t have insomnia anymore. And I’ve lost about a pound a week. That last one? That’s the one that I’ve been indoctrinated to care about. That’s the one that as a society we really, really focus on. It’s the least of the benefits though, for me. I still weigh about 340 pounds. I still wear a size 26 dress. Am I sad I lost 20 pounds? Nah. But it is so clear to me that the other benefits are way, way out of proportion to that small weight loss.

So, I’ve learned a few things in the past five months, and I’d like to share them with you. Some of them might make some of you do what my third grader does when I say something obvious.

Others might come as much of a surprise to you as they did to me.

  1. I’ve been squeezing myself into clothes that were too small, for a very long time. It’s shocking to me that I’ve lost nearly six inches from my waist, and have not lost a clothing size. Instead, the clothes I’ve been wearing forever fit me so much better. I wasn’t conscious of refusing to go up a size, but it’s clear to me now that that is exactly what’s been going on.
  2. Tracking calories helped me stop obsessing about food. You’d think that taking the time to put everything I eat into My Fitness Pal everyday would make me spend more time thinking about food. I know that I went into this expecting that I might have my eating disorder triggered. Turns out, though, that I think about food way, way less now than I did in December. Part of the reason why is that tracking has helped me move toward intuitive eating in a way that I’d never been able to before. Part of the reason is because I’m not binging or worrying about binging or feeling guilty after a binge, and I’m not feeling hungry while trying to convince myself not to eat. All of those things take up a lot of mental real estate. Or they did. Not anymore.
  3. “Healthy weight” doesn’t mean what I thought it did. Here’s what I’ve learned: eating mindfully, eating intuitively, not binging, and not eating past the point of being full, plus a reasonable amount of enjoyable exercise, have allowed my body to do something that it was designed to do: regulate my weight. I was not at a healthy weight in December. I wasn’t exercising — hell, I was barely getting out of bed. I was not eating intuitively. I was binging some days  and eating only half of my Total Daily Energy Expenditure (the number of calories my body needs to maintain my weight) on other days. Since starting to really follow Health at Every Size® (HAES) (instead of just thinking it would be a really good idea), I’ve consistently lost about a pound a week. For the first time in my life, I don’t have a goal weight (or an ULTIMATE goal weight) in mind. I trust that as long as I keep eating and exercising in reasonable amounts, my body will get to a healthy weight, whatever that might be.
  4. You can be metabolically healthy and still feel pretty damn sick. I might have had a healthy blood sugar, and blood pressure that was close enough to normal to not be alarming (just moving into pre-hypertension, though, which was scary for me), but there is no mistaking the fact that in December I was not well. Health is a holistic thing. It’s not binary. It’s not a destination. And I’m not sure it’s something that can be measured with a few metabolic tests. It is possible to have a measure of health, and still feel like hell.
  5. If you start where you are, you can do things that seemed impossible. In January, I sat down and wrote out swimming workouts that would bring me from 150 meters to 3,000 meters. When I got about halfway done, the sets seemed so impossible that I started to question my sanity. I’m at that halfway mark now. I can swim 10 times farther today than I could in January. In March, I could barely do a body weight squat. Today, I’m squatting 85 pounds, and more every time I lift. I’m stronger than I thought I could possibly be in this short time.
  6. People lose their shit when you do what they think you should, but not in the way they think you should do it. By people, I mean Random Internet Strangers. Not even all Random Internet Strangers, because some of them are incredible. Just the ones who don’t understand HAES and are confused by someone who doesn’t fit into their mold. Some of them are waiting for you guys to get mad at me for losing weight. Some of them are bent out of shape because I won’t call HAES a diet or weight loss plan. But you know what? It’s okay. I’m not doing this for them.
  7. Daily blogging has been an incredible experience. Whenever I’ve had a day where old, tired self-hate-y thoughts creep in, I’ve been able to work those thoughts out through my blog. It’s helped me to remember where I started and how much HAES has improved my health. It’s helped me to remember that this isn’t about weight, which has helped me to continue to get stronger and to recover. It’s also connected me with a bunch of you in a way that I couldn’t have otherwise.
  8. I’ve done a lot of damage to my body. I’m not fat by accident. I’m not fat because I’m genetically predisposed to weighing more than 300 pounds. I’m not fat because of some condition or medical factor. I’m fat because I have a long history of eating my emotions. I’m fat because I had a traumatic childhood that ended with a full-blown eating disorder that I’m only just now fully recovering from. I’m fat because I gave up on being an athlete when I was a teenager and became sedentary. I’m fat because during each of my pregnancies I lost 40 pounds and, during the first three months after my babies were born, gained twice that much. Three times. I’m fat because I do have the genetic predisposition to be a larger person, and on top of those three pregnancies, I fed that predisposition a LOT. And I’ve hurt myself. That self-harm culminated in December with me weighing 360 pounds, so lacking in energy that I could barely move, hurting so much that my husband had to help me put my pants on, and stressed to the breaking point. I can’t take off my fat suit and leave it at home, but I can unwind that damage day by day by practicing healthy behaviors. — especially by eating mindfully and exercising. HAES is literally saving my life.
  9. It is possible to love yourself and your body, and still want to change. My wanting to change wasn’t so much about the size of my body as the state of it. I loved myself enough to know that I didn’t want to continue down a path that I truly believe would have ended with me losing mobility. Loving yourself, accepting yourself, doesn’t have to mean that you never want to change anything. It can be that acceptance and love that is the catalyst for the adoption of healthy behaviors that bring about real, positive change.
  10. I love you. I mean that with all my heart. You guys have been here for me through this weird, little experiment, through the healing process. You’ve let me be open and honest about what I’m doing and how I’m feeling and how it’s affecting me, without judgment. Fierce Fatties is my home, and I’m so glad I get to share it with all of you.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Twistie permalink
    May 27, 2014 10:55 am

    Those are some damn beautiful lessons, Shaunta. Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us.

  2. Duckie permalink
    May 27, 2014 11:30 am

    I love you, too. Thank you for sharing your powerful journey with us!

  3. May 27, 2014 12:59 pm

    You are an inspiration. Thank you.

  4. Oxymoronictonic permalink
    May 27, 2014 2:20 pm

    : )

  5. Laura permalink
    May 29, 2014 11:35 am

    Thank you for sharing, Shaunta. Wishing you health and happiness always.

  6. venuspluto67 permalink
    May 30, 2014 7:14 am

    Yes, doing what makes it possible for you to function, take care of yourself, and feel like a worthwhile person, is a lot more important than what a bunch of misogynist Dawkins-fanbois on think.

  7. Happy Spider permalink
    May 30, 2014 12:02 pm

    Huh, I have no energy. Maybe if I tried what you did then I would have energy. I am so sick of not having energy.

    It seems dangerous for you that you talk about weight loss. That subject has that evil gravity. Whenever people get anywhere near it, it reaches out and drags them in and they end up stuck in bad thoughts. I appreciate that you take that risk in order to get a clear understanding of what is going on in your body. It’s hard for anyone to understand anything when they don’t know what is really going on. I hope you’re able to smash the scale if things start going sour. It’s so easy to end up in the frog in boiling water situation. At least for me it is.

    • June 9, 2014 10:31 am

      That’s what would worry me, too, HS. (I’ve mentioned before how leery I’d be of starting to count calories. “Evil gravity” is right. Stealing that.)

      But I’m still really glad to read that Shaunta’s experiment is working so well for her.

  8. Jessica permalink
    June 15, 2014 4:16 pm

    I used to hate running with a passion. Biking, swimming and general kid shenanigans were fine. The day we’d do the dreaded “mile” run I’d pay a king’s ransom to be anywhere else.
    Fast-forward past major body changes, and I’m at a physical. Working on healing from the ED, enjoying exercise, taking vitamins and eating more fruits/veggies…I thought the doc would be thrilled! Nope!
    “you should go running”. I had shin splints, and she tried to tell me that everyone gets leg pains when they run. I still hated running.
    Fast forward, changed doctors (yay!), established a routine, and by not running, made my shins happy and splint-less. Now that the weather’s gotten better, I found that I am starting to like running.

    No defined goals for distance, except for adjust mileage carefull/don’t go too far too quickly. Absolutely no concern towards calories expended. Do I feel good? Are my legs okay or screaming bloody murder? That helps me decide how long/far to go.

    I find that at night, the music and rhythmic movement of my legs somehow get the very busy ADHD/Asperger brain to settle, even just for a little bit. It’s me time, and probably one of the most ADHD-friendly types of meditation.

    When I was on my last diet…exercising was usually a painful “have to”. Now it’s a “want to” (still getting used to getting bitten by the “wanting to run” bug). I agree that our bodies seem to respond better when we actually, um, give them enough fuel. 🙂

  9. August 17, 2014 6:27 pm

    I’m so glad someone linked me to your posts about this. I’ve been trying to make small, mindful changes for my health since January and, while I’ve been noticing a lot of improvements, I’ve been finding it hard to maintain the changes I’ve made.

    And I just realised. Literally the only changes I’ve made have been about increasing the amount and variety of exercise I do. I’ve done nothing to check my calorie intake whatsoever – I stopped even thinking about calories years ago to avoid triggering myself into starvation cycles (hunger pain stimulates my SI addiction). I’ve been afraid to think about that. I do know breakfast is something I struggle with.

    Maybe I need to try what you’re doing. Maybe this will help give me the energy to be able to consistently manage my new exercise regime without crashing out every couple of weeks.

    The only thing is… as part of my avoiding-triggers thing, I have no idea what I weigh any more. I don’t own a set of scales. Do you think I can get away with guesstimating my weight based on what other people my height/shape/size wear as a means of figuring out a very rough BMR? I really don’t feel comfortable with the idea of using public scales like at the pharmacy, or buying some to keep in the house.


  1. What I've Learned From HAES and Eating the Food | Fierce … | Know What You Eat

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