Monday, March 22, 2010

More Calories Out than In? It's Not that Simple.

I wrote the following sometime last week, and decided not to post it because I figured maybe folks were getting tired of my talking about my diet and exercise thing. However, I ran into this and now I can’t resist. In the comments section a lady talks about her experience:

I invite you to come and spend a week with me, while I weigh and measure and record every GD thing that goes in my mouth; while I walk, swim laps, or ride my bike and also do resistance training WITH a personal trainer (who is also a nutritionist) EVERY DAY EXCEPT SUNDAY (that's the day I do a spring water fast).
I also invite you to observe my weekly weigh ins, which, sadly, produce nothing in the way of LOSS--which confounds my trainer, but even SHE is slowly coming to the realisation that NO, you can't just necessarily change your body with sheer will power and self control--something she and I argued about a lot our first couple of weeks.


But, as this woman mentions, when an overweight person says this, we are assumed to be lying. No matter how healthy we claim our diet is, it is assumed that we are like the guy in the song “Junk Food Junkie” -- presenting a pious face to the world while secretly pigging out on Ding-Dongs. So, here’s my take:

Everybody knows the drill about weight loss, right? You have to burn more calories than you take in. One pound equals 3500 calories that you’ve not used and stored away in that spare tire around your middle. To get rid of it, you’ve got to exercise more or eat less -- preferably both.

Now, I’ve been working on this for the past few years -- initially, I was quite successful and took off 30 pounds, and to date, have kept them off. I’m still, however, medically obese -- which is a lot thinner than what is generally thought to be “obese”. I’m not, nor have I ever been over 230 pounds. I’d have to get down to 170 to be medically just “overweight”. (Just picture me shouting “Hooray! I’m overweight!”) That’s a weight I haven’t seen since my mid-20s.

According to Nutrition Data (which I really like and recommend), a woman of my age, size, and activity level is burning between 2300 and 2600 calories a day, depending on what exercise I happen to get done. I eat between 1600 and 1800 calories per day, pretty consistently. That means, if the formula of “burn 3500 calories to lose a pound” works that I should be losing a pound a week, at least. I’m not; I’m stuck in the same 5 pound range I’ve been going up and down in for the past three years. This is not the notorious “diet plateau” -- this is the weight I’ll stay at, unless I start going to starvation level calories. The depressing thought that torpedoed dieting in my youth -- that in order to be thin, you have to eat like a Third World famine victim for a lifetime-- turns out to be actually true. And who but an obsessive-compulsive would voluntarily starve themselves for longer than a few months? My husband thinks I’m already obsessive enough. .

However, every number other than the one on the scale is great. My last blood sugar test results were “excellent”, according to my doctor. My blood pressure and cholesterol are down where they should be -- with the help of medication. (The blood sugar I control without meds.) Nutrition Data, which tracks your actual nutrition as well as calories, shows me that I’m eating a very healthy diet, chock full of protein, vitamins, and minerals -- and where there are gaps, I supplement. (I’ve discovered one reason you see 2000 calories as a standard is that it’s almost impossible to get all the RDA of your nutrients from food alone unless you eat that much.) I almost never go beyond the recommended amount of fat, and seldom go over with carbohydrates. I really can’t eat healthier than I’m eating right now.

When it comes right down to it, I don’t think any of the diet or nutrition experts really know all that much about weight loss. My doctor once told me, in another context, that if you have a dozen remedies for a disease then it’s a sure sign that nothing really works. God knows there’s more than a dozen contradictory theories about what will make people lose weight permanently.

So, maybe a little kindness is in order. I get a little resentful of the “just stop stuffing your face and get out and exercise once in a while” attitude you get from the obsessive types who think that if you don’t run five miles a day and totally renounce any form of dessert you aren’t really trying. My injured back muscles won’t take running for five minutes, and I‘m working on healthy ways to satisfy my sweet tooth. Even when I eat something “bad”, I’m very careful to have only a small portion. In fact, one of the major changes I’ve made is that I never “pig out” any more.

But I’m not losing weight. Nor will I, unless I eat a diet that is less healthy than I eat now.

6 comments:

karen said...

sorry I just recently start blogging my angry thoughts so I was googling to see if my name comes up first in google. I was happy it didn't :D. I accidentily stumple onto your site because it has a title that is almost the same as mine.

I think you are right. IT is more important that you are healthy. I have a hard time convincing my mum that I'm fat not because I eat too much but because of all the stress I go through as well as the limited activity I do.

Because I'm a university student I have to study in order to suvive andbecause I'm the eldest in my family there is a lot of MENTAL weight on my shoulders. I have very little time and when I do have time I want to take a break and relax not go running around the block coming home and rest for another 20 minutes. If I do that I have very little time for studying and I'm not that smart. I need all the study time I can get.

MY mothers solution is to eat less. this is also the same women that told me she wants me to do well at university. I listen to her and try to eat less but because I'm so hungry I can not concentrate, I couldn't study. I also listen to her and went eat only veggies for whole day. I ate like 3 bowls of a chinese vegetarian meal and in a few hours I was so hungry I nearly hit a car while driving. After having one hungry jacks burger I was more alert and less fainty.

Eating less and eating ONLY vegetable did make me feel slimmer but at the price I nearly crash and fainted while driving.

Before I began my first stressful exam in 2000 (year 10) I was 45Kg. But had a little bit of belly fat. by the time I did my university entracne exams in 2002 (year 12) I was 47kg. By the time I started university I was about 48-49kg. Still my mum says I should go on a diet, which I did. IT was successful except my assignment and exam got harder than I needed all the time I can to study. I need the passing grades.

It was a stressful time. I needed the good grades and so I couldn't excercise. My mother's solution is to eayt only boil rice 3 times a day and no meat. I always started a lot of argument with her. I have tried and found that it wastes my time plus I do feel fainty. I had really hard projects to do at the time too and some of the time I went without food like for 9 hours. By the time I got home I'm stuffing my face with food. Still comments from mum because she came home from work. Cafeterias were close I didn't have any food for 9 hours and I'm doing it for the grades.

I also later found that my activites and goign without food for so many hours has caused me to gain an extra couple of kilos. So by 2004 I was 51Kg and with more body fat. But I still look good and I still have nice curves and yet still comments from mum regarding the fact that I eat too much macdonal and beef and meat. Still trying to tell her that my life style as a university student is the main cause of it. My irregular eating pattern my lack of time to move around.

By 2005 I gain even more weight When I had university and had to do many things for the family because my father had cancer. I weigh myself in 2006 and it was past 55kg.

Since 2007 I have gain more weight from stress and lack of physical activities, helping my mother's business, still studying and father's death. I haven't weigh myself and don't want to. I just know that my cholestra level is mid range and so is my glucose level. However I'm low in salt and iron. So I do need meat and food.

So I agree with the comment that its not necessary how much you eat that cause the weight gain its many factors such as
- the health of your legs
- family commitments
- study
- other priorities

karen said...

comment cont....

I use to be able to eat protein shakes and excerise and still lose weight. But these days protein shakes kills me. This happen after my many hours without food. I don't do it deliberately but if you have a hard assignemnt and have to use the lab outside hours it can't be helped.

Tell you the truth I'm worry that I can't lose weight or slim down my body but I will be more than happy just to make legs and spin stronger. Due to the sudden lack of physical activity and long standing time my legs has cramped alot. I'm not greedy I will be just happy to make myself more physically healthier. Because of my irregular eating patterns for so many years I now can not eat less to just deliberately lose weight. IF i go without food for too long I actually end up with stomach pains and diarrhoea, even after I eat something. That is how bad my health is now. And now I will start hours long arguemnt with mum if she complains about me eating too much or eating too much meat. I eat way less than my brother and sister. Most thin and healthy people would look at the portion that makes me full and will think thats not enough food. I don't eat too little and too much I try to eat the right amount all the time now because my health has gotten so bad that eating too much or too little will give me stomach pains.

For some reason I crave sugar and without it I feel fainty. But after recent blood and some other tests (that is too shameful and degrading to mention) have shown that I'm fine I just lack iron and salt.

Sorry for writing so many personal thoughts in your blog. I started off by seeing if my angry thought's blog will appear if I look it up in google and your one was the first to appear. And I feel I can relate to it. And I start having all these thoughts in my head.

Right now the only diet I doing is what ever I can do to ensure I don't get those painful stomachaches. And excersing is not my priority. I don't even have the time to moisturise my face. I already wrote too many stuff I don't want to go on why moisturising my face is so hard at the moment.

I hope you don't find me intrusive

Anonymous said...

Great blog.

Karrie said...

I can empathize with you.

I've been on Weight Watchers a multitude of times since 1972, Nutrisystem, The Atkins Diet, The Scarsdale Medical Diet, The T-Factor Diet and nearly all of Dr. Irwin Maxwell Stillman's 60 quick reducing diets from his book "The Doctors Quick Weight Loss Diet."

I'm tired of drinking gallons of water and eating "free" vegetables until I'm green. My past experience with losing weight and exercise is the less I weigh the less I get to eat and I have to exercise more hours to maintain my weight.

My main problem is that I'm hungry nearly all day and many nights or very early morning (1:00 am to 4:00 am) I wake up hungry and I usually eat some protein or toast to ward off the hunger before returning to bed but it doesn't always work. Eating during the early morning hours isn't good for losing weight or my teeth.

It is discouraging to say the least.

Karen said...

Karrie, it sounds like you're having a rough time of it. I'm not a big believer in diets, with their single-minded focus on the scale. At least, they don't work well for me and just cause me to be frustrated. I've found that making small, sustainable changes towards a healthy lifestyle is better. And I've experimented with a lot of different things, finding out what works and what doesn't.

Any system that leaves you hungry all the time is not the right one for you, because no sane person is going to live that way. If you're hungry, you're body is telling you that you need something -- find out what that is.

What I've found -- at least for me -- is that including healthy fats (like olive oil) is a real help in maintaining keeping the hungries away. Yeah, olive oil has calories, but it's worth it to give you that full feeling.

Karen: Sorry I took so long to get back to you. Your brain needs energy to work properly. I always need something sweet in the afternoon, if I'm working. My blood sugar is lower after a day of teaching than it is in the morning! I figure my brain just burns it up. If you're a college student you need to take care of yourself. It's stressful -- eat as healthy as you can, get enough sleep, and a reasonable amount of exercise. Take iron supplements -- I've had anemia, too, and it's not fun.

And tell your mom to leave you alone about it. (And I'm the mother of and 18 and 20 year old.)
People don't realize just how much pressure it is, just going to school. And then, you're father passing away, too. I'm sorry, but I think your priority right now needs to be your *emotional* health. You need some relaxation time, where you can put your worries aside. If you can't, there is usually some sort of psychological counselling available at most colleges -- it might help just to be able to talk to someone.

Karen said...

Karrie, it ounds like you're having a rough time of it. I'm not a big believer in diets, with their single-minded focus on the scale. At least, they don't work well for me and just cause me to be frustrated. I've found that making small, sustainable changes towards a healthy lifestyle is better. And I've experimented with a lot of different things, finding out what works and what doesn't.

Any system that leaves you hungry all the time is not the right one for you, because no sane person is going to live that way. If you're hungry, you're body is telling you that you need something -- find out what that is.

What I've found -- at least for me -- is that including healthy fats (like olive oil) is a real help in maintaining keeping the hungries away. Yeah, olive oil has calories, but it's worth it to give you that full feeling.

Karen: Sorry I took so long to get back to you. Your brain needs energy to work properly. I always need something sweet in the afternoon, if I'm working. My blood sugar is lower after a day of teaching than it is in the morning! I figure my brain just burns it up. If you're a college student you need to take care of yourself. It's stressful -- eat as healthy as you can, get enough sleep, and a reasonable amount of exercise. Take iron supplements -- I've had anemia, too, and it's not fun.

And tell your mom to leave you alone about it. (And I'm the mother of and 18 and 20 year old.)
People don't realize just how much pressure it is, just going to school. And then, you're father passing away, too. I'm sorry, but I think your priority right now needs to be your *emotional* health. You need some relaxation time, where you can put your worries aside. If you can't, there is usually some sort of psychological counselling available at most colleges -- it might help just to be able to talk to someone.