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Easier to give than it is to receive

April 28, 2009

Let’s say someone told me that they recently (as in the past month or so) had started a job at a bakery where they were on their feet and moving for 35 hours every week. For shits and giggles, let’s also say this person told me they lifted weights 3 days per week and did cardio on non-lifting days. And let’s say this person, who was trying to lose weight, had tracked their calories recently and they were eating even a little less than before due to no longer working as a nanny where they were in a home and trying to encourage kids to eat throughout the day. And, totally hypothetically here, let’s say that this person’s weight had been all over the place ( up then down then up – although slowly trending down) for the past month.

What would I tell this person?

I would tell them that since they were probably moving at least an extra 20 hours per week, their energy needs had gone up. I would tell them that since they had been dieting for a while without a break perhaps they needed a break to help normalize hormone levels and avoid too much metabolic slowing. I would suggest, at the very least, they add a few hundred calories to their diet every day. Probably, I would suggest eating at estimated maintenance (which is different from ‘the number of calories I eat where my weight doesn’t change’) for at least a week. I would also tell them to relax a little bit and maybe to retire the scale for a little while.

So why can’t I do it? Each day I think that maybe I’ll start an official diet break where I eat my estimated maintenance calories. I think about adding an extra snack or making one meal larger to compensate for the sudden jump in my activity levels. Instead, I continue to eat at the same deficit I did when I wasn’t on my feet and moving for 7 hours a day.

To be clear, I’m not going around hungry. I’m not punishing myself, but, despite knowing better, I keep avoiding the course of action that is most likely to get the results I’m after.

I hate my brain.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 28, 2009 9:37 am

    Oh, man. I feel your pain on that one, I really do. I recently upped my calories after reading a CRAPLOAD of research on why I should. I upped them fairly significantly (an extra 350 a day or so), and have been holding my breath ever since. But it’s been about 3 weeks now, and my weight finally stabilized. It’s not going down yet, but it’s not going UP either (which it had started doing – I tend to gain weight when I eat too little, and I figure it’s my bodies’ self-protection mechanism from starving myself all those years ago).

    ANYWAY. It seems to be working. I just added exercise back in, so we’ll see what that does to the equation. But I TOTALLY get where you’re coming from.

    • April 29, 2009 7:49 am

      That stabilization process is probably what is keeping me from acting. I mean, it’s so stupid to just keep doing to the same thing while not getting good results, but changing it is scary.

  2. April 28, 2009 9:53 am

    I can see how this would be a conundrum. If you think this might start getting you the results that you want, you might be able to convince yourself to slowly ease into it. For me, since I don’t count calories and don’t really know if I’m at maintenance or not (except by how I feel, which seems to work okay), I might eat an extra salad, or more fruit, or things that are unlikely to cause weight gain no matter how much I eat. That’s if I was actually following something long term, I’d start there. Comfort levels, and all…. I do think it’s good to shake it up a bit occasionally, with an unusually heavy or fatty meal, but that’s not for every day. I’d be nervous about giving up the scale, since I at least want to make sure my weight doesn’t go up-but that’s just me, and I’m generally okay (maybe occasionally annoyed) with non-movement on the scale.

    • April 29, 2009 7:47 am

      The scale thing is just so I can’t wig out if I have a sudden jump. I mean, even if I was eating several hundred calories over maintenance, I couldn’t actually gain a full pound of fat in a week, but it still would make me a little panicky.

      I think it’s a good idea to start adding extra healthy food. I think a lot of people use a diet break to eat a lot of junk which isn’t an eating pattern I want to get back into. Just adding a banana and a small salad each day could give me an extra couple hundred of calories.

  3. April 28, 2009 9:57 am

    BTW, I realize that we may somewhat disagree on whether one can gain weight eating oranges, collards, etc. I’m not sure that I’m right here, but I think calorie for calorie, high fiber high water food will discourage excessive consumption, unlike Cheetos or cake. It certainly takes more energy to digest.

    • April 29, 2009 10:23 am

      I don’t disagree that it’s a lot harder to gain weight on foods that are more filling and less energy-dense. In fact I think it’s a good strategy to increase consumption of those foods before (or instead of) thinking about lowering calories for anyone who wants to lose weight.

      I just have an issue with anyone who claims that the *only* way to gain weight and/or be fat is to eat unhealthy foods. If you eat a fair amount of healthy foods that are also high in calories (like avocados or even a lot of whole grains) it’s not hard to eat enough to maintain a fairly high weight.

      Of course it would be hard to eat thousands of calories worth of oranges though.

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