Eat more to lose more…

I just keep learning more and more about effective and healthy weight-loss, and I am kind of loving it. Finally, I think I actually might understand it.  I have chipped away at that fossilized 1980s fad diet mentality, and I think I might now see scientifically-sound daylight.

If you don’t know about eating at your BMR or under your TDEE, and you are interested in losing weight, please continue reading. If you are totally hip to all this, or are a lucky bastard with no weight to lose, just skip to the bottom and cheer for my weight loss. :)

The most important thing I’ve learned is to always eat at, or above, your BMR. Your BMR is your Basal Metabolic Rate. Go on, click it. Calculate your BMR. It’s kinda fun. It’s almost like checking your horoscope, only less full of shit.

Okay. Got it? Now, never eat fewer calories than the top number on that calculator. Why? Because your BMR is the rate at which your particular body burns calories every day just by being alive. If you were bedridden in a comatose state, your BMR represents the minimum number of calories it takes to keep all of your internal organs functioning during a single day. Eating below this number is risking sending a “famine” alert to your metabolism, and thus setting weight loss in slow motion.

Another important number to keep in mind is your TDEE, or, Total Daily Energy Expenditure. If you use the calculator I linked above, you should also have the means to calculate your TDEE (the bottom number). It is based on your typical daily activity level. This number is the total number of calories you burn on an average day doing your average activities. If you work out every day, factor it in. Every other day? There’s a way to adjust it. Hours spent sleeping, standing, walking — factor all of it in.

For weight loss, some folks like to subtract 15-20% from their TDEE number and eat that many calories per day. Some folks like to eat at their BMR number (like me). Some slightly above it.  The key is to never eat under your BMR, and to not eat over your TDEE. If you are looking to maintain your weight, you eat at your TDEE number.

As you lose weight, your BMR number lowers, as well. So, you need to go back and recalculate your BMR every 15-20lbs lost or so. When you start a diet by eating at your BMR, this allows you to have steady, healthy weight loss every week, with a much smaller chance of plateauing as you begin to encroach on your goal weight. You are eating well the whole time, and hunger really stops being an enemy. It’s kind of extra-awesome.

Weight Watchers’ Points Plus system is based on the BMR/TDEE method. They just came up with a convenient way to allocate calories by using the points. They are the only weight loss system I know of that actually sets people up for healthy, steady weight loss.

Okay. I’m done lecturing and being a boring assface.

I lost 4 more pounds since my last post.  But, I’m not getting excited, because I’ve had a terrible food and exercise week. Felt quite under the weather for most of it (thanks uterus!), and I half-way expect to gain something. We’ll see. In any case, as it stands, I am 5lbs away from a big personal milestone. It can’t get here soon enough.

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Doing it wrong…

Yep. I’m doing it wrong.

I have learned some very interesting, preconception-shattering, eye-opening facts over the past couple of days. I am a diet failure, and here’s why:

First of all, the website caloriecount.about.com is where this all began. I had used it a few times to find out nutritional information of foods, but eventually I realized that this website had all of these wonderful dieting tools available, free of cost.

So, I started plugging in my information. I obtained my personalized daily calorie intake goal, I was able to calculate how many calories I burned at rest and with exercise, and was given a realistic goal date with which to achieve the goal weight I had entered. Really good stuff. But it gets better.

The food log: You enter your meals into the food log, and it calculates all of the caloric and nutritional information of those foods, then gives you an analysis of your progress so you know throughout the day what nutrients you need to eat more or less of, as well as how many more or less calories you need to eat.

The activity log: It lets you select your exercise type, the intensity and duration, and then calculates how many calories you burn. Once you add it to your daily log, it then integrates that information with the rest of your totals.

The forums: This place is jam-packed full of knowledgeable health nut/weight-lifting/personal trainer types.  Really friendly, really helpful, really supportive environment. I have had every question I’ve asked so far be answered by multiple people — clearly, succinctly, and with compassion. There can be lots of varied opinions, especially about exercise routines, but those really come down to personal preference, anyway. The important thing is that the mainstays of fitness are universal, and the forum is all about doing things the right way for health, not quick results. I like that.

So, after logging my food and exercise for two days, I began to realize that I was falling way short of what my recommended calorie intake is. I was befuddled by this. I kept checking my numbers and recalculating to make sure I was getting the appropriate suggested daily calorie intake amount, and I was.

Pointedly, the analysis interface displays something called “Daily Net Cals”. I had no idea what that meant, so I opted to ignore it completely, and naively hope it didn’t pertain to me. It then became clear that I should be very concerned about this number after a quick peek in the forum. It is important, because in order to maintain steady, healthy weight loss, one should aim for a deficit of -500 Net Cals a day. Anything more than that, and you are basically making your body think it is starving, and it will start conserving fat stores instead of burning them. Your metabolism slows way down, and your energy levels drop off.

A mere -500 Net Cal deficit every day for a week will consistently result in the loss of 1lb a week, because the body requires 3500 calories to be burned in total for 1lb of weight loss. Obviously, hitting -500 Net Cals on the head can be difficult, so a slight variance is okay, say, -400 to – 700 or so is ideal.

So, why am I doing it wrong, you ask? Because I’ve been cruising around with Net Cal deficits of -1200 to -1500 every day for nearly 2 months!!!!! My metabolism is probably non-existent right now, and my weight loss has been tapering off due to this huge oversight on my part. I really had no idea I was not eating enough. I never felt hungry, and I thought the less I eat (within reason) and the more I exercise, the better the results. So. Stupid.

Now, bizarrely, I must eat more in order to lose more weight. It seems counter-intuitive, and everything in my body and mind is resisting this new information, but the facts are quite clear and the science is irrefutable. The funny part is that I don’t even know how to eat any more than I already am! I apparently just need to find good calorie-dense foods that are still low on the Glycemic Index (for the Diabetes part).  I’m struggling to sort that out as we speak.

This also leaves me in a lurch in terms of my exercise routine. I will have to eat even MORE to make up for the exercise calorie burn in order to maintain a -500 deficit. I have the option to stop exercising until I figure things out, but I would really not prefer to do that.

Had I known I could gorge myself daily and lose weight like this I would have done it years ago. My brain was still stuck in some 1980s low-fat fad-diet time capsule of misinformation. It really doesn’t work that way, and I am so glad to have been shown the light.

Because I like numbered lists..

Just a small update on a few things:

1. I only lost 1 pound this week, and that makes me a little sad.

2. I have been doing something on my bike called interval training, and I love it. It totally kicks my ass every time.

3. After educating myself about a few things, I am no longer working out twice a day, because that was ridiculous and my leg muscles were screaming like.. like.. screaming things. Once a day is plenty.

4. I discovered that I have been underestimating the portion sizes of a lot of foods. I bought a digital kitchen scale, and my world has opened up a bit.

5. I have way more things to write about than I originally thought, but I will still keep this short.

Despite having only lost 1 pound this week, I have somehow managed to lose 4 since my last update. So, my official total to date is 25lbs. I kind of don’t understand how that happened, math-wise, but I’ll take it.

 

Frustration…

I’m having a bit of a frustrating day, and I really just need to write right now. I know I said I’d only post if it was important stuff, but my sanity is also sort of important, so, here we are.

I bought a scale to go along with my bike, and I am addicted to stepping on it. I haven’t had a scale in my house since I was a little kid. I am realizing that weighing myself every day is a terrible habit to get into, and I am trying hard to resist the urge lately. I feel like I am not losing weight quickly enough. I want it to just keep plummeting, like it used to do when I was dieting in my 20s. I lost 30lbs in a month once, and all I did was stop eating bread and didn’t eat after 7pm. No exercise, no special foods. I fear that due to my age, those days are long over, and it is a difficult realization to accept.

The rational part of my brain knows that slow and steady is the way I should lose the weight. I tell myself that I should be happy as long as the numbers are dropping, no matter what the increments might be. It is healthier and it will be less stressful on my body. The emotional part of my brain is disappointed when I see the same numbers on the scale every day. I have anxiety about a week going by with no change in my weight. I fear that scenario. This week may be that week. I am keeping a weekly weight loss log, going from Sunday to Sunday, and right now, on Thursday, I am exactly the same weight as I was last Sunday. Me no likey.

As a result, as of today, I am beginning to exercise twice a day. 25 minutes in the morning, and 25 minutes in the evening. I’m not sure if this is the answer to my problems, or if I’m just looking for too much too soon, but I need to do this in order to assuage my fears. I felt a lot better about things after tonight’s work out, so perhaps I will see the results I am striving for on Sunday.

It is actually really strange that I am even having thoughts about any of this. I feel like I’m on the threshold of obsessing. And if I am, I am not sure if that is a bad thing. This is so unlike me, really. I do NOT obsess about my weight. In fact, I used to opine endlessly about my disdain for diets, weight control, and the societal fixation on being “fit”. I was too cool for skinny. I felt pity for people who spent their days worrying about counting calories and avoiding temptation. I felt like I was above the need to conform to society’s expectations and guidelines. And I still do feel these things, but I’ve realized that my core motivation doesn’t depend on meeting those societal pressures. Living a full, healthy life is what motivates me. Getting out from underneath the stigma and ramifications of diabetes motivates me. The change in the way I feel already is what motivates me. I am just so scared that feeling will evaporate too soon.

Embarrassing secret:
Recently, sometimes I’ll just be sitting here, and I will be overcome by this intense feeling of restlessness. The craziest thoughts come to mind. Thoughts about wanting to travel, working full time — even going to Disneyland. Thoughts I haven’t had in a very long time. My depression and poor health have been hanging over me for so long that all of those things seemed either totally uninteresting or just physically undoable. But now, I feel like I am waking up inside, like I have finally found the light-switch and flicked it to ON. I feel a shift happening, and now I have to figure out how to start picking up the far-flung pieces of my life and get moving in that direction. I am instantly overwhelmed when I think about what all I will have to “fix” in order to become fully functioning again, but what I do know for sure is that my days of lethargic apathy are over. I want to live, and I want to live fully enough to make up for all the time I’ve spent sitting here trying to avoid my life.

First weight update…

I’ve been slacking off a bit since my last post. I was posting almost daily for about a week or so, and I felt I was perhaps blowing my proverbial wad on the small stuff. I am writing this blog for my own use primarily, but I also don’t want to be an insufferable bore to anyone else. So, I have decided to only post when:

a) I have a major revelation of some sort.
b) I am updating my weight loss progress or reach a milestone.
c) I encounter a setback of some significance.

As for my photos and whatnot, yes, I’m absolutely stalling. Temporarily wussing out. Buckling under the weight of my own embarrassment, etc and so forth. It will happen, I promise, but I really need to sort my head out a bit more first.

On a positive note, I have been working out every single day on my recumbent bike for the last week or so now. I started with 20 minutes a day, and I am increasing it by 5 minute increments each week, which has me trying for 25 minutes per day currently. 25 minutes may seem laughable to some of you, but for someone who has led a very sedentary lifestyle for the last 3 years (and let’s face it, most of my life), it seems like plenty.  So far, I am really enjoying it. I feel better in many ways, and I am looking forward to being able to build the kind of stamina I’ll need to reach my goal of 40 minutes a day. The only problem I can foresee right now is that I may eventually grow bored of the bike. I really need to come up with a convenient exercise alternative for when I do finally get burned out with pedaling and need to switch it up a bit.

I know I said I wasn’t going to count the weight I had lost before beginning my exercise regime, but I changed my mind. I am going to keep count from the beginning of my lifestyle change, which was approximately 6 weeks ago.

As of today, I have lost 21lbs, which is pretty badass, if I may say so. Unfortunately, I can’t really tell except that my pants now need a bit of tugging up from time to time.  Perhaps the next 21 will be more noticeable. :)

OH, and I almost forgot.. I went to see my “doctor” yesterday, and my blood pressure was 118/82!!! Which is like, perfectly perfect (120/80 is “optimum”). I am still refusing to take the blood pressure medication I was prescribed, and I am SO glad I didn’t. Cutting down my salt intake and exercising every day seems to be doing the trick on its own. I do love sticking it to The Man. Now, if only I could get off of this Metformin…..