Archive | February, 2014

Calorie Counting is a Bummer, but (Un)fortunately it Works

16 Feb

We’re 1 week into my calorie counting experiment and right on schedule.  I felt pretty hungry during the first couple of days, even though I was eating up to 1700 calories.  After a couple of nights of attempting to sleep on a fairly empty stomach, and sleeping terribly as a result, I started to add a snack before bed even if it meant going over my daily calorie goal.  Sleep is probably THE most critical factor in my fibromyalgia flares.  Without sleep, I’m toast.  Anyway, after 5 days I couldn’t resist the urge to weigh myself, because my work pants got noticeably looser.  I had already lost 2 pounds.  I only meant to lose 1 pound during the first week, so I loosened up on my calorie restrictions, aiming closer to 2000.  I would rather lose weight slowly and NOT be hungry all of the time.  It makes a lot more sense to me. 🙂  This morning, I weighed 132lb which is just where I want to be.  By the end of this week, I would like to be at 131lb.

One problem with calorie counting is that you are often making an educated guess based on ingredients.  If one source says that an egg has 70 calories and another says it has 80, these slight variations can mean a lot over the course of a day.  Also, the definition of “moderately active” is a bit subjective.  It is my belief that these 2 inconsistencies are what lead to my hunger and subsequent rapid weight loss after those first few days.

Calorie counting feels a bit like being in a secret club.  After mentioning my current experiment, I had several people either tell me about their experiences with the process or come at me like moths to a flame.  What are you doing?  Could I do that too?  I really should do something to lose weight…  I even calculated calorie needs for 2 curious coworkers.  The universal language among American girls is that of body dissatisfaction.  Even the most intelligent, low-maintenance women in my life have made comments to me about what they would like to change about their appearance.  Often, rather than clinging to a stick model ideal, they yearn to be where they once were.  If a woman knows they can and have been at a lower weight, they strive to get back to that magical place: when I was in high school…; before I stopped playing softball…; before I got pregnant…; before gaining the freshman 15…  It looms over our everyday thoughts: one of these days, I’m gonna buckle down and lose this weight.  When one woman takes the initiative, others stare in awe and want to jump on the bandwagon.  There’s definitely a “we’re all in this together” vibe whenever a woman brings up her weight goals.

I am not in the market to be a public service announcement but rather view this trend from an observational perspective.  We’ve been exposed to propaganda since birth about how we should look.  Even though we may be smart enough to see that it’s propaganda, our desires are the same.  We want to look good.  Looking good often correlates with feeling good (in theory), and who doesn’t want that?  Many psychological manifestations show up in very different behaviors/compulsions but often stem from similar causes: the desire to be in control.  Controlling our diets is one  way of feeling powerful in a world in which we often feel powerless.  If I can’t change the world, at least I can change myself.  Weight loss is an intoxicating fantasy to work toward, a distraction from the everyday blahs.  When these concepts are taken to the extreme, an understanding of eating disorders is pretty straightforward.  Some people NEED to turn a light switch an even number of times and some NEED to see a specific number on a scale.  Finding a balance between control and obsession can be tricky for some, but it’s where healthy weight loss often lies.


Appetitie Awareness Training Wrap-up and Calorie Counting

9 Feb

The last week of AAT was pretty uneventful.  Truthfully, I ditched the forms and switched over to mental monitoring.  Things were going so well that I had decided to only write down any unusual circumstances, such as binges or non-effective emotional eating episodes.  That never happened.  I was always mindful enough to determine whether or not a choice would be worth it.  When I knew it wouldn’t be or would mean stuffing myself, I didn’t eat it.  I’m not going to pretend this is how things will be FOREVER now that I’ve completed this program.  The idea is to come back to it whenever I find myself slipping back to my old habits.

After 1 month of utilizing this method, AAT accomplished the goals I had in mind.  I wanted to make myself more accountable for my food choices and dump mindless eating.  During this experiment, I willingly ate high FODMAP foods when I knew the discomfort would be “worth it”, but I also stayed tuned into my tummy during every meal and almost always conceded when it told me “ENOUGH!”  I learned to question my victim approach to “trigger foods”, realizing I had more power over my eating choices that I was giving myself credit for.  I had fallen into the mindset that my environment was more responsible than I was.  I know that I am more likely to give in when the situation makes it easy, such as having a whole pie in my freezer.  However, I also know that I can choose to eat just enough to feel non-deprived rather than tell myself “I should probably hurry up and eat all of this, so it won’t be here tempting me tomorrow!”  My black and white thinking has started melding into gray.

Yay healthy relationship with food!  The trick will be to keep it up while I attempt to make diet changes.  I wasn’t restricting ANY foods during my AAT, making success fairly easy.  Binging is the most seductive while restricting.  A person only has so much willpower.  However, there are further elimination trials I want to try in effort to reduce my fibromyalgia symptoms.  On an (almost) daily basis, I suffer from one/more of the following: neck pain, brain fog, tension headaches, dry eyes/eye pressure, post-nasal drip/cough/stuffy nose, shortness of breath, depression/anxiety (though mood disturbances have become less common since I started eating & sleeping better!),  & body aches.

I have certain diet ideas in the works for March but wanted to use the last 3 weeks of February for a different experiment: calorie counting.  I have never tried using the calorie counting approach for any extended period of time in the past.  It’s a pain in the butt for someone who doesn’t eat a lot of prepackaged foods with the nutrition info plastered right on them.  When you eat mostly homemade items made with real food, there’s a lot more measuring and headaches involved.  Calorie counting is not something I would ever do long term and doesn’t work for everyone with underlying health/hormone issues.  BUT since this is the method dietitians recommend to average folks trying to lose weight, I thought it would be interesting to give it an official try.

After the first week of AAT, I lost 2 pounds.  I didn’t lose any additional weight but managed to keep those 2 off, so I’m calling it a victory. 🙂  I am currently at 133 pounds.  The goal is to be at 130 by March 1st.  This is slow progress, which I prefer.  I was always taught to encourage people to lose weight slowly, because they would be more likely to keep it off.  However, a 2010 study of over 200 obese middle aged women showed that those who lost weight at a faster rate lost more weight overall and kept it off longer.  Perhaps for people with a lot of weight to lose, 1 or 2 pounds lost after a week of hard work is not going to impress them enough to motivate their continued efforts.  Whatever the reason for these results, I intuitively feel like slow and steady wins the race.

So, what am I doing exactly?  I used the Mifflin St. Jeor ( & Harris Benedict ( formulas.  These were the equations taught to me during my dietitian studies.  You only need to use one of them, but they are slightly different, and I wanted to find a calorie range to work with.  I calculated my BMR (basal metabolic rate).  This is the rate at which your body burns calories just to function.  Basically, it’s the fuel that’s required for you to maintain your weight while lying in bed all day.  Then, I multiplied my BMR by a moderate activity factor (explained on the Harris Benedict site linked above) of 1.55.  This gave me the number of calories I would need to consume per day to maintain my current weight.

Since there are 3500 calories in a pound, the logic goes that I need to deduct 500 daily calories through diet & exercise to lose 1 pound in 7 days (7X500=3500).  Since I need approximately 2100-2200 calories per day to maintain my current weight, I will be aiming for 1600-1700 calories per day.  As an alternative option, I could eat 1800-1900 calories on the days that I burn 200 calories through exercise.

I’m on day 2 and only slightly annoyed, more by the calorie counting process than the calorie restriction itself.  Wish me luck!


Food Hangover…and in other news, AAT Week IV: the Finale

2 Feb

I helped a friend celebrate her 30th birthday last night.  I don’t drink very often, so my way of joining in on the festivities was letting all of my FODMAP rules go out the window.  I indulged in onion rings, hummus, and wheat.  So how do I feel today?  Like I may as well have drank a 6-pack all to myself…

Week III recap:
I didn’t binge at all nor did I find myself sliding down the “what the heck” slippery slope.  I haven’t since starting this program.  AAT identifies the “what the heck” obstacle as allowing yourself to binge, because you already “failed” by eating something “forbidden”.  I already ate those 2 Oreos, and I was going to cut out all processed foods.  I might as well finish off the package, so I can start over tomorrow.  I used to struggle with this all of the time, but I’ve come a long way.

If I ate something just because it would taste good or satisfy a craving, I stopped eating it at moderate fullness.  I have learned to keep (mental) tabs on my reasons for eating.  Anti-deprivation eating was a big driver behind choosing to eat so many FODMAP rich foods in the name of celebration.  The philosophy behind Anti-deprivation eating is that you eat just enough of whatever food you are craving or want to eat for emotional reasons to stifle any post-deprivation inspired binges.  If you never give in to your cravings, they can build into a giant beast who convinces you to eat a whole pint of ice cream, because you didn’t get to have that doughnut that one time.

What’s on the Agenda?

I am going to combine the next 2 chapters into 1 final week: Effective Emotional Eating & Food Awareness Training.

Effective Emotional Eating:

Step one: Rule out biological hunger

Step two: Rate intensity of desire to eat (1-7)

1-3: Try distraction

4-5: Try distraction or urge surfing (observing your craving without acting upon it)

6-7: If urge is strong or persistent, don’t fight it.  Eat the food that you want slowly and mindfully.  Stop at moderate fullness.

If you are doing this correctly, you should feel better NOT WORSE afterwards.  Binges will always make you feel worse and are never worth it.

*Keep track of the emotions that make you want to eat

Food Awareness Training:

Instead of labeling foods as “good” and “bad”, try this instead…

Main Goal: balance taste against how you will feel later in the day, and make an informed decision based on this analysis.

I will be writing down what I ate and whether or not it was worth it.

The idea is to use this gathered data to create “Personal Food Guidelines”.  While I already have a pretty good idea of which foods will and will not be worth it for me, these foods and whether or not I perceive them as being “worth it” will continue to change as time goes on.


Craighead, L. (2006) The Appetite Awarness Workbook: how to listen to your body & overcome bingeing, overeating & obsession with food.