There is this common fallacy that still lingers on although it has been proven time and again to be wrong and that is this: if I eat less calories, meaning under 1200 calories, I will lose more weight. At the initial glance, it seems to be correct but it’s not. All we have to do is look at nature and see how mammals that hiberate during the winter purposely store up fat so that they can live off of that during inactive periods. Movement equals calories burned. So, if you want to lose weight, the better way is to move more not eat less. If you want to gain or retain weight, move less, even with consuming less calories, and you will either maintain your existing weight or even gain weight, depending on how efficient (or inefficient) your body is.I have also heard it another way. Every time we eat it forces our body to burn that fuel for energy so if we deprive our body the fuel to burn it will burn muscle, when needed. It is a lose-lose situation.
I tried that “eat only when I am hungry” until I had also read that most of us chronic dieters and/or obese people have eaten when we are not hungry to the point that we would have to go without food for a couple of days before we really understand what true hunger is and even then we might only be thirsty. In other words, our natural appestat is broken after years of chronic dieting and overeating. So, unfortunately, to tell us to trust something that doesn’t work any more is like telling someone it is okay to drive a car with a flat tire. You can do it but not without some residual damage to the wheel rim and the supporting framework of the car. We’re no different!
Right now, I am eating within 1800-2100 calories, based on my weight. It won’t always be that range because as I move down the scale my body size will need less calories to maintain itself and therefore one of the “downfalls” of losing weight is that we will need less calories to do what we were able to do before. I I think, at some point, we are all tempted to eat less so that we can see a bigger weight lose. It is interesting that we weren’t in any rush to lose weight when we were stuffing our faces before but suddenly when we do decide to do something about the extra weight, we want to lose it and lose it fast. This is uncomfortable, it is even sometimes painful and yes it is definitely frustrating, so we want to take the route and pull the Band-Aid off in one fell swoop; no inching it off for us.
Now, I eat half of my meals every day when I am not hungry or even mildly hungry. I do not even try to undereat on purpose. This is one of the benefits of logging my meals as the day progresses. If it looks like I have some calories that I haven’t used this might be the time where I decide to follow the 20% “off plan” and eat something that is 20% of my daily calories. Right now, that could mean anything that is approximately 400 calories. I don’t do it every day but I have done it. It might seem like I have my feet in both camps right now but there is a “method to my madness”: I want to someday eat like a “normal aka thin” person. For me, that will mean learning to trust myself with food. This has not been a linear process either. I have periods where I do really well and periods where I don’t but when it works, it is a beautiful thing to witness. OA defines a normal eater as someone who can have “just one cookie”. That is my end goal. Someday….. and, yes, someday, I might actually be able to eat only when I am hungry but it is not now. I think that would be something better left for maintenance.
I know that it is more conventional wisdom to pre-plan your meals but I honestly need a little more flex room. When I have days like that where my hunger doesn’t seem very strong or “loud”, then I try and eat something that has a lot of flavor in it so that it “awakens” my taste buds. When I hear people say that they are not really “all that” hungry, I think what they really mean is that they are bored with plain tasting (maybe even dull) food. I experienced that also. My remedy was twofold: one, I learned to cook differently than I had in the past including trying foods and recipes that I would never have considered before, ie; Jamaician food! me from the meat and potatoes farm belt?, and to up the ante with how I “spend” my calories each day.
I like the “surprise” of deciding at the last minute what I am hungry for. First of all, in order to do that, I keep a “clean” kitchen. I don’t routinely have a dessert at the end of every meal any more. I have since learned that fresh, ripe fruit does what high calorie, overly sweet carbs used to do. Even when I feel like binging, unless I bring it into the house at that moment which is unlikely unless I order pizza in, it doesn’t exist in my kitchen. Granted, I could actually bake something but we all know that the definition of a binge is that it is impulsive and somewhat out of control. So, if I am feeling a binge coming on, I might end up having a no sugar fudgsicle when I am craving chocolate or sugar free instant pudding. I am also learning to stock up some modified former “binge foods” like pizzas in the freezer so even that is covered.
Binges used to frighten me because of the lack of control at the epicenter of them but as I learn more about my reaction and relationship with food, I realize that an occasional binge is okay because it takes me off the stress and tension of ongoing discipline that eating “on plan” demands…even if it is only for a brief period. It is sort of venting steam. It is an emotional release. Now, that I am beginning to understand what triggers a binge for me, I am no longer as afraid of it as I once was. So, in a sense, I have even learned to prepare for a binge happening so it doesn’t throw me into a tail spin when it happens because as much as we would like to be “perfect” about our food plan, we aren’t!
Another benefit of logging my food as the day progresses is that if it looks like I have a lot of calories left for the day then I will “splurge” and have something that will really be flavorful. For me, that could mean vegetarian pizza, chili, tacos, homemade burger. It can even sometimes mean having something I used to eat when eating out. When that happens I have a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. Yes, it might look like I am back to rewarding myself with food but it is still different. It means that the results of my planning and keeping a “clean” kitchen is that I can, within reason, enjoy a restaurant meal out without eating a salad as my only choice!
I think a lot of the times when we want to eat out is because we miss the heightened flavor that is associated with the foods. We can still have those kinds of foods at home , just modify them to lower the fat, salt, etc. I have to say I have learned how to make a mean tasting homemade burger including a meatless version. I make awesome chili and my homemade pizza ain’t half bad either! This is how I stay interested in my food plan and keep losing weight steadily. Somewhere, one of the diet experts advised not to drop below 1400 calories and that is exactly what I plan on doing. Of course, what that means is upping the exercising but if I am at the place where my calories are at that range I “should be” working out at least 60 minutes a day anyway. (stay tuned… I’ll let you know how I will adapt to that)
This reminds me of the very first lesson I learned in how to drive a car when it goes out of control. When I took behind the wheel driver’s training as a teenager, one of the first things my instructor had me do was go on a parking lot that was iced over during the winter ( I so happened to be taking driver’s ed then). She told me to purposely put the brakes on hard which will automatically cause most cars to spin out of control. It is a terrifying feeling but the next step is crucial.
Our “instincts” is to grab the wheel and jerk it the opposite direction of the way the wheels are going thinking you will jerk it back to being straight but actually the way to get out of a skid or spin out is to turn the wheels in the direction of where the car is going not the opposite way. Going into the spin doesn’t seem to be logical but it works and it slows the spin down and the car corrects itself.
So, how does that fit with calories? We think that eating less will get the results that we want: which is weight lose, but, in fact, it has the opposite effect. We need food to fuel our bodies so that it works properly. Eating less puts our bodies into a hiberation phase and it basically conserves whatever calories we are eating.
The key to weight lose is finding that balance where you are eating just the right amount of calories that keep our engines stoked, give us enough energy to do what we need to do but also burn off so we see a drop in weight. Some of us burn calories more efficiently than others. It could be we are “lucky” but most people need some help in teaching their bodies to do that. This is why it has been repeatedly said that losing weight is a science.
to have science work for you. All you have to gain is weight lose. That is not a bad deal. Not at all!