I wrote this post weeks ago in a huff of frustration and realization then let it languish in my Drafts, unsure of whether or not I should click Publish. I’m not afraid to share, it just seems silly to post something that other’s might take as… guidance? I’m very much a work in progress so I’m hardly an authority on matters diet and exercise related, so I hesitate to share too much. Jules at Pancakes and French Fries shared a post this morning that made me reread mine. Our posts are barely related, but she indirectly got me to finally share this. Jules is an accomplished and inspiring writer – I highly suggest you check her out. I’m just here ranting the facts about my progress.
I owe an update on my Livefit progress, but I’ve struggled with how to explain the changes that have taken place in the past few weeks. First of all, I read this article on Bodybuilding.com and had a light bulb moment – THAT is me, without question. I don’t weight 185lbs, so scale everything up a bit, otherwise that has been my life for years now. I suppose this requires a bit more background information.
I’ve never not been fat. I got fat as a child through poor nutrition and my quiet bookworm nature. I continued to get fatter for the same reasons. I started living alone at 15, although not for the negative reasons you may assume. My dad switched jobs and my parents moved, but they didn’t want to take me out of the advanced high school I was attending. My brother and I lived alone starting the summer after my sophomore year in high school. We had an apartment together for my junior and his senior year. When he graduated and left for college, I lived alone. My parents are amazing – they didn’t abandon me and I wasn’t neglected by any means, but I did live alone. I ate out, I cooked my own meals. I had no idea what I was doing. I continued to be overweight and started my terrible habit of only eating once or twice a day. In college I bounced between the dorm salad bar and late night Taco Bell binges. We at a lot. We drank a lot. I gained weight. I went to the gym and spent 45-60 minutes on the elliptical. I walked everywhere. I was still fat.
Over the summer after my freshman year of college I moved home and worked at the mall. I lived on 750 calories a day, consisting of slim fast bars and spinach salad with boiled chicken, mandarin oranges, and pineapple. I lost no weight. I was always hungry. During my sophomore year of college I joined Jenny Craig and had reasonable success on the plan, but felt like I was eating constantly. At the highest calorie tier, I was required to eat all the supplied food along with a strict schedule of additional food. I ate 6 times a day. I lost 50+ lbs and felt pretty great. I eventually partied too hard before one of my Saturday meetings and skipped it, which made it much easier to just continue skipping them. Once again, I started eating out with friends, skipping meals, drinking heavily (btw, I mean in a college student way, not an alcoholic way) and I gained all the weight back plus more.
This is the story of pretty much every fat girl, right? Here’s where things get confusing.
After college I decided to get serious about my weight. I embraced whole foods and started cooking at home. I avoided packaged food and learned about low fat vs. sugar free. I brought my meals to work. I went to the gym 4-5 times a week for anywhere from 45-120 minutes. I thought I was doing everything right, but I never lost weight. I tried Weight Watchers literally countless times, but every time I restarted, I was continually frustrated by how much food I had to eat.
Wait, what? To quote a favorite saying from the WW Community Boards, no one ever got fat by eating too little.
Unless… maybe that’s sort of true?
In all my years on WW I never ate my activity points and I never ate my weekly flex points. I was quite literally afraid of them. On most days I struggled to eat all my points and would end the day with at least 20 surplus points. I want to walk through some math. Although not an exact conversion, it’s generally considered 1 point is right around 50 calories.*
20 x 50 = 1000 calories under per day.
If I earned 10 activity points, that’s another 500 points 4-5 times a week.
WW also gives you 35 flex points every week, so 35 x 50 = 1750.
Add it all up: (1000 calories per day x 7 days) + (500 calories x 4 workouts) + 1750 calories = 10,750 calorie deficit every week, bare minimum, on a plan that’s already designed to give you a calorie deficit to lose 1-2lbs per week.
I wasn’t in a safe zone of cutting calories, I was continually in serious calorie deprivation. I had no idea. To be fair, WW does not advocate this type of eating, of course. You are required to eat all your daily points and encourage to eat every weekly and activity point. This is not a flaw of WW, it’s a flaw of my brain and the continual pressure to eat less.
Going back to that article — As I mentioned earlier, Alan and I routinely skip breakfast. Around 3pm we have a big lunch, then we don’t touch anything until dinner, which could easily be as late as 9pm. We don’t snack, we don’t graze. After reading the article, I took a break from the Livefit food schedule to see where my natural, intuitive eating falls. On an average day, eating the exact same food I’ve eaten since we moved here, I eat between 1,300-1,800 calories. Let’s be clear on something yet again, I realize I’m being very cryptic by not sharing my weight, but I’m not ready to put it out there. I do not weigh 135lbs, where 1,800 calories would be perfectly suitable. Double that, then add some more to it and you’re approaching my range.
Using MyFitnessPal and a few other calculators, I also did a very crude estimation of my workouts. Every source I’ve found says that MyFitnessPal is actually a low estimate for weight training. Their calculators put my current workouts (weights + cardio) at 650-900+ calories burned (again, very importantly, this is because of my weight). If I’m eating 1,300 calories a day and I’m burning 900, my body is existing on 400 calories a day. I have been starving myself and had no idea.
How many times have we all heard the mantra – eat less, exercise more? This was my life motto. Eat less then eat even less. Eat once a day. Barely eat at all. I didn’t feel hungry, because I’ve eaten this way for so long, but I was constantly thinking about food. If we decided to get ice cream, it became an obsession of what flavor to get and what size and omg how long can I make it last?! Full of sugar and fat, ice cream was something I never allowed myself to have with any sort of regularity, so the idea of it became much more of an obsession than the reality of actually eating some.
So how have things changed? As I discussed before, I’m still making efforts to eat multiple times throughout the day. Once I had this calorie realization and metal breakthrough, I stopped eating the LiveFit plan because, even though plenty of people claim it’s “a lot of food”, for my body it’s actually very little food. When I first started LiveFit, I claimed how it was far too much food to eat. So what is WAY TOO LITTLE food for me feels like WAY TOO MUCH food for me. It’s been a mindfuck, guys. I cannot say it any other way.
These days I’m tracking my food on MyFitnessPal. I have my profile set at a weight loss of 1.5lbs per week. When I workout, I try to eat those calories as well. Obviously I’d prefer to lose much more than 1.5lbs per week, but because I struggle to consume all the calories I need, I still often come in under my daily target. If I set my ideal loss as 2lbs per week, my calorie count would be low, which I would then eat under, and I’m back in the cycle of not feeding my body the calories that it needs.
Adjusting to all this food has been hard. Because I can’t sit down and stuff my face quantity wise and because I don’t want to consume those calories exclusively in pizza, I’ve added in some super calorie heavy protein shakes. I’ve used protein shakes for years, especially when I tried to starve myself on an all shake diet, so I was already familiar with a few brands. My body felt like shit from the protein shakes for the first few weeks this time around. Without totally going overboard, let’s just call it gastrointestinal distress. I settled on GNC Lean 25, similar to their previous GNC Lean mix, but with extra protein. It is delicious without being disgustingly sweet. For breakfast I have a shake made with 3 scoops, one banana, and 2% milk. In the past – see this post – I would eat 1 scoop mixed with water because I was terrified of calories. In the evening I try to have another with 2-3 scoops, 2tbsp peanut butter, and 2% milk. This is so many calories it physically scares me. I bring my breakfast shake to work along with some other bit of food, ideally protein. I eat lunch with Alan lately, because I no longer fear that a lunch out is a lunch with too many calories. Remember, our town is small, so “lunch out” doesn’t mean fast food, it meals lunch at a small local restaurant with home cooked food. We eat dinner together and I have my second protein shake in the evening. I’m eating 4-5 times a day, bare minimum. I track everything.
Once I got into a rhythm, I started feel a shift in things. I no longer daydream about meals. My body feels genuinely satisfied for the first time in years. I find myself stopping half way through a meal because I’m done. Instead of eating until the plate is clean, I have it packed up to eat as a mini meal later on. If I’m hungry, of course I still finish my food, but I’m shocked when I can feel my body speak up without this underlying chant of eat less eat less eat less. Although I’m absolutely eating more – more food, more calories – my brain has swung the other way and I’m finally content with the food that’s in front of me. When I was eating so little I’d find myself hungry and craving a burger AND chili AND pie AND a coffee drink. This is nothing we don’t already know – if you deprive yourself and get too hungry, you’re more likely to make wildly irresponsible food choices. Now that I’m consistently satisfied, my general interest – obsession – with food has waned.
I am not fixed. If I stop counting and tracking, which is what I need at the moment, I immediately fall back into the rhythm of caffeine for breakfast and one large meal. Someday I would love to be able to eat like a normal person, but right now I need structure. I’m still enjoying the gym and sticking with my workouts, but I’ll update those in a separate post.
*We could argue this for ages. Points are actually based on fiber, calories, fat, how “whole” the food is, and more. Still, it’s an approximation.