Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Why do I care about 100 calories?

So I'm entering this blog carefully.  It may be triggering for some, so please click out of this post if you can't deal with "diet talk."  I will be talking about food and calories and weight.  I'll be trying to talk about it from a bad science and I-don't-actually-know-shit kind of perspective though.  I am just curious about some things so I thought I'd throw this out into the universe and see what kind of responses I get.  Respectful responses only, please.  Unnecessary hater comments will be deleted.  Useful hater comments will be allowed.  

Yes, I really am trying to embrace Health At Every Size.  That is, I do believe that thin people aren't automatically healthy and fat people aren't automatically unhealthy.  I don't believe that anyone should be treated like they are a second-class citizen because they are overweight.  We all deserve respect.

However -- yes, I am going to be THAT person -- I don't believe THIS current weight is working for ME.  I have VERY QUIETLY been tracking my calories and exercise for the last week and a half, and after sticking to all the "calorie rules" and doing some kind of activity every single day....drum roll please...I have gained a pound (I got it, it's only a week and a half, but when I used to do Weight Watchers, everyone would lose 5 pounds their first week -- you know, all that water weight!).  :-D  Please don't tell me it's muscle.  Yeah yeah.  I get it.  Diets don't work.  Even "lifestyle changes" are just a marketing ploy so you won't realize you're on a diet.  I am a compulsive eater.  I have to be sooooooooooooo careful when choosing to modify my eating because it could very easily trigger a binge that could throw another 20 pounds on me in less than a month.

Since injuring my foot, I have put on about 10 pounds over a year.  Hey, not so bad considering how limited I was in my activities.  I was actually kind of proud of myself.  I did some math today.  Ten pounds over a year.  3,500 calories equals a pound, times 10 pounds equals 35,000 calories.   Divide that by 365 days.  That equals 96 calories.  So only an extra 100 calories per day will make me gain 10 pounds in a year.  Shit.  I don't even BOTHER with those 100 calorie packs because they don't contain enough food worth eating!  Bring me a 500 calorie piece of cake or bring me death!  So then, I guess I need to find out how exactly many calories my body should be eating every day.  I've written about this subject before...and you can check it out HERE

I am well aware that "calories in versus calories out" is NOT an exact science.  However, I have to start somewhere.  In order to determine how many calories I should eat, I first went online to determine my Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). 

According to THIS calculator.  My BMR is 1952.2.  That is, my body burns that many calories just existing every day.  If I would like to get up and out of bed that day, I will burn more.  Therefore, if I tried to eat 1952.2 on a regular work day, I would be very hungry.  So, now to figure out my daily caloric need, I need to determine how active I am.  Sedentary?  Maybe I'm being a little hard on myself.  Let's go with lightly active.  I might be able to make an argument for moderately active, but I don't want to go crazy yet.  I take my 1952.2 and I multiply it by 1.375.  My daily caloric intake to stay at a steady weight is 2,684.3.  

According to Scooby's calculator, which you can find HERE, the numbers are identical.  BMR is 1953.  My daily caloric intake to maintain is 2,686.  (And a 5% reduction in calories to lose fat would be 2,551.) 

My Fitness Pal is slightly more generous, giving me 1,985 as my BMR (2,729 calories to maintain).  THIS metabolism calculator is even more generous, estimating I can eat 2,734 calories and maintain my weight.  The Tap & Track app on my phone, however, is EXTREMELY stingy, and only allows me 1,842 calories per day, even though I asked that it calculate my caloric needs based on no weight loss.  Lame.

Anyway, the point of all of that was just to point out that there is no exact way to calculate TO THE CALORIE, how much I should eat every day to lose weight.  I don't think any single person in the world can give me the mathematical equation to figure out MY exact BMR. 

I find that if I DO choose to modify my caloric intake and my exercise, it is not so difficult to remove 250 calories from my diet and work out to burn about 250 calories more.  The result is a 500 calorie deficit that SHOULD cause a one pound weight loss every week.  


My daily caloric goal right now is 2,192 (and according to Scooby, that number is pretty low).  When I add exercise calories to my daily limit, I estimate VERY low (meaning, I tell my handy little app on my phone that I did 45-60 minutes of light yoga when I may have done 75 minutes of moderate yoga).  If I go back to the paragraph above where I talk about simply burning an extra 250 calories, I really burn way more than 250 calories in any workout I do -- pole dancing, yoga or cycling.  Any of them easily provide me with 400 to 800 calories burned in an hour.  Therefore, if I do the math, I should be losing at least two pounds per week based on the calories I am eating and the calories I am burning. 

So how is it I follow all the "rules" and gain a pound?  And if 100 simple calories can lead to a 10 pound weight gain over a year, then the website I choose to follow can mean the difference between gaining and losing this year.  Plus, we haven't even gotten to the problem of medications and metabolism.  I feel like I must be at least slightly genetically different than my siblings as I am the only fat one.  I mean, if I have a "slow" metabolism (very possible considering all the dieting I've done over the years), that might mean I don't get to have 2,684 calories to maintain my weight.  Maybe my body requires 2,300.  How will I know?!  

I have been playing the calorie game for a very long time, so I KNOW about how much I can eat to maintain.  But then I try to lose a little weight and it doesn't happen for me.  If I eat too much, I gain.  If I eat too little, I gain (or at the very least, I don't lose).  How does that work?!

It is a very frustrating game.  No, I don't eat perfectly every day, but I have been making sure I don't go over my calorie goal.  Yet, I didn't lose a fucking thing.  Oh yeah, I didn't lose weight because I was too busy gaining.  Even IF the calories I chose were still slightly high for me, I have cut a significant number of calories from my work day by removing snacks from my desk.  That alone should have resulted in a weight reduction.  It just reminds me of a post I wrote about people's diet advice.  "If you just gave up those vitamin waters...or those cookies...or cupcakes, you'll drop weight like nobody's business!"  Yes, I post a ton of cupcake photos, but you'd be shocked to learn I don't actually eat cupcakes every day or even every week!  And actually, when I was at my lowest weight and in the best shape, I ate Dove chocolate every single day. 

I am trying very hard to be upbeat about the health benefits of eating well more often than not and working out every day regardless of whether I lose any weight.  But yeah, if I am busting my ass, it is a bummer when I don't lose weight.  And no, I don't want to follow some crazy fad diet or exercise craze.  I know the minute I stop, I will gain it all back (plus some).  Been there, done that.  So I am trying to eat normally every day and exercise regularly.  

Last time I lost weight (post-gastric bypass), I did it mostly by exercising twice a day.  That isn't healthy.  I didn't lose it quickly either.  I averaged one pound of weight loss per MONTH.  And the minute my life changed and I couldn't do it anymore, the weight started creeping back on.  I would rather maintain some as-yet undetermined higher weight than get back down to an un-maintanable weight.  So how do I choose that number (both weight and calories)?

I don't know yet.  I really don't know.  There is SOME number of calories that my body needs to eat to be a healthy weight.  I don't believe I am un-worthy of the HAES movement by admitting that I don't want to be THIS weight.  I don't have dreams of being some ridiculously small size either.  I just want to take a few pounds off and let my back and feet have some relief.

So, please feel free to comment with your theories about calories.  I don't want any diet advice.  I'm carefully navigating that scene on my own.  I don't believe I have a gluten intolerance.  No, I don't want to try Atkins.  I won't take any diet products and won't follow any nutty diet plans, so please don't pitch them here.  But do please tell me about how YOU think calories in/calories out works with different bodies and how YOU determine the number of calories that your body needs to survive.  

Bam!  My big ol' body just did that!

15 comments:

  1. First Off, I don't' think anyone but you can determine what will ultimately work best for you and your own health. It's great to get knowledge from professionals and read stories about what works for others but we are unique and our bodies don't all work the same when it come to processing food.
    I can empathize a little to your frustrations about doing all the work and not seeing results.
    Last February I decided I needed to get my health back on track as I was half heartedly exercising and my eating, while decent wasn't ensuring that I was getting all the nutrients my body needs to do the things I want to do. I started making small changes to improve the health and balance in my eating and I was working out 2-4 times a week between the gym and pole. I was very proud that I was able to maintain this for several months. But Every-time I check a scale it says I'm the same or that I have gained 10 pounds. And yes I know muscles does weigh a lot as well but naturally I was frustrated that in making healthy choices i put myself into the overweight BMI category (which is total bs but still annoying)
    I have maintained this lifestyle since febraury and am planning on doing my best to keep it going. The scale still isn't showing me any benefits but on good days I think my body is getting to a place that I'm more comfortable with. But it's been Insanely slow. I have had several small breakdowns in frustration of 'doing all the right things' and not seeing 'any of the benefits'
    It sounds as though you know what you are doing and you know what works for you to be healthy and work towards your own goals. Trust yourself, keeping on track and you will get where you want to. Sadly it just may take more time then we want it to.

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    1. It's hard in the Facebook world especially because the second you mention you want to lose weight, every crack pot idea comes out of the wood works. I definitely do know what works for me, but I have also been in a bad place mentally, which is why I wasn't ready to implement any kind of "diet" plan. But I feel like I have let it go long enough and I will get there. I've done this before. :) I am going to get a DXA scan, which will tell me about my body fat and the calories my body actually needs.

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  2. Alright, now I can obviously only talk from my own experience, and my own experience will obviously be very different from yours. That being said..

    I lost 35lbs in 6 months about four years ago. I did high-intensity workouts for about 150min/week, and took long walks for about 6h/week. I cut out all chocolate and chips and candy and the "bad" foods, but I still ate a fairly normal diet. I had bread, I had juice, I had a lot of the stuff people recommend cutting when trying to lose weight. And it worked. Really well.

    Now, my BMR is 1418.25. I have tracked my eating and exercise for a couple of weeks at least twice a year since I lost the weight, to make sure I'm staying on track. And I eat about 1600-1800kcal/day. That's with eating 5-6 meals a day, lots of healthy snacking between meals, and a ton of water. But when you add on the fact that I do pole for 4-8h/week, the numbers don't add up. If I go by math alone, I am only getting about my BMR every day, and if that was the case I should be losing weight like crazy. And I'm not. I've been the same weight (give or take five pounds) for over three years now, even if the math says that should be impossible.

    So I guess what I'm trying to say is don't trust the numbers. If your calorie intake/output says that you should be losing weight, and you're not, you might wanna try adjusting it down a bit. Listening to your body - do you feel hungry or not, are you feeling more tired than normal - is much more important than what the numbers say. Another thing I see a lot when people focus on numbers is that we all tend to under-report what we eat, and so you might be getting more calories than you think, since there are so many hidden calories in everything from coffee to fruit that we often forget to count. So yeah, screw the numbers.

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    1. Yeah with the gastric bypass and everything, I know my body doesn't work like the "normal" body anyway. Although I was told I'd eat 1,000 calories every day for the rest of my life and I maintain on more like 2,500. I am going to get that DXA scan soon!

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  3. It's really easy to miss calories when you're counting- stuff like greasing the pan, or the toppings on your salad... I personally like this system for performance, but I have no idea what it does for weight loss. I've never tried to lose weight, so I'm a bit useless. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XG6jlqto5O0

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    1. I'm pretty good about catching all those little extras...and I try to over-estimate my food and under-estimate my exercise. But still...the weight never just slides off of me. Ever. :-/

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  4. I've unintentionally gained 20 LBS this year. So now I have 40 LBS to loose before I am near a reasonably healthy size.

    Lori, I am up the same shitty, thick, confusing, disheartening, dramatic creek without a paddle in fucking sight. The frustration of weight is a particular kind of hell to be stuck in. People assume that my outward persona indicated that I am without a care about my weight or, holy shit, I might be proud of the way I look. Nope. It only gets worse when people disregard my true hurt and lack of self esteem as nothing but playful banter.

    I have no diet advice (that you haven't heard). I have no exercise advice (that you already don't know). I have no genius theory about calorie math. The only thing I have is blind faith that I can come out on top. It easy to remember that when you're winning, but damn near non existent when I fuck up for an entire year of not working out and trying to eat my exhaustion away. I don't know if it will make any difference or mean that much, but I have faith that you can wade your way through this dirty bog of sludge. I have the same faith in you that people have in me being a pole star.

    I don't think inner strength is the only thing that gets people through challenges like this. I question everyone's belief in me and why I am valuable, so you can do that if you need to, too. Just don't let it go.

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    1. And I look at everything you do and think, I wouldn't care if I weighed this much as long as I could do all that stuff. But it does bug us, huh. That fucking number on the scale. :-/

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  5. I've never viewed calories as a serious measure of food. The concept even seems slightly absurd to me personally! But to give some context, I also find that calorie-counting is generally not a big thing in Asia.. no one I know really counts them either. The 2 main trends here are 1) to choose foods that are healthier ie: not fried, less oil, less sugar.. lots of local food stalls include little signs that say 'you can ask for less oil/salt/sugar'. We're also big on the 'food pyramid' that recommends 5 servings of fruit/veg a day. 2) portion control. Most of my girlfriends just cut down on the rice/noodles that come with your average Asian dish when they're trying to control their weight.

    About the daily calorie needs, I have no idea how many calories my body needs to survive but I'm not concerned with the number. I just make sure I eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm full, and snack all through the day. More often than not, I make an effort to be continuously eating to avoid feeling too hungry as it makes me irritable and I don't function well. (Haha my pole buddies are all familiar with this!)

    Also, if I work out a lot and don't eat enough, I start to lose curves and look skinny which I don't like. So I generally eat a carb every 2-3 hours, though I admit that they're not very healthy snacks cos I have a very sweet tooth. But it works for my body!

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    1. And all the Asians are tiny! I must move there and become Asian! :) It is interesting how "naturally" thin people really don't have to think about it. That's why I feel like being overweight like I am is really a brain issue. My brain is done fucked up.

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  6. I recently became a person doing 80/10/10 (otherwise known as high carb low fat raw vegan--the opposite of atkins), which basically means I eat a fruit based diet, of most fruits, vegetables nuts and seeds. I know it might sound nutty, but it is basically the most common sense thing in the world--everyone knows fruits and vegetables are the healthiest things for you so why not eat a lot of them. I got into it through watching freelee the banana girl and durianriders videos on youtube. Everything they said made so much sense. Their calories theory is that calories simply mean energy…but the kind of calories you eat is really important. fruit is an extremely low fat food but it has a lot of calories, so if you fill up on fruit you will be getting a lot of energy and enough calories to fuel you but very little fat, which is good because fat is stored very easily as fat in the body. I know you didn't ask for diet recommendations but this is one of those diets that seems nutty to some people but is actually a lifesaver for so many and not at all crazy when you think about it. Check out this video which really inspired me to go fruitarian http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=908Rr85nmHY --she was able to lose 100 pounds eating 4000 calories a day from fruits and vegetables (4000 calories that were extremely low in fat). It makes a lot of sense, but people just assume it is crazy. Anyway I have been doing this lifestyle for a year and I feel amazing. I have lost probably about 2 dress sizes, and I was very into health at every size before too, feeling like I needed to just accept that I would never succeed at losing weight. I hope this doesn't offend you, but I totally get your frustration and thought it might just help.

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    1. No way, this doesn't offend me! Is this Sean Michael??? lol. I love fruit...I need to look into this. If I could eat watermelon all day, every day, I would!!!

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  7. I'm trying to lose weight and what I have realized is that I don't eat enough. To lose weight I need to maintain 1200 cals a day. Once I started tracking only my food (no exercise recorded) I average a 500 cal a day deficit!! Hello weight gain from my body storing food! That is one valuable thing I've learned, over or under it still makes a detrimental impact!

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    1. That's is definitely a problem as well! Our bodies are very sensitive machines sometimes. :-/

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  8. I'm trying to lose weight and what I have realized is that I don't eat enough. To lose weight I need to maintain 1200 cals a day. Once I started tracking only my food (no exercise recorded) I average a 500 cal a day deficit!! Hello weight gain from my body storing food! That is one valuable thing I've learned, over or under it still makes a detrimental impact!

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