darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Graph)
[personal profile] darkemeralds


In a long and thoughtful comment on my recent post about the new disciplines I'm undertaking, [personal profile] tehomet raised some important points about my decision to lose what I consider to be excess fat. (I won't try to summarize her ideas here--her comment is well worth reading.)

I was discussing some of the Fat Acceptance and feminism ideas that [personal profile] tehomet mentions with [personal profile] kis yesterday, and she said a couple of things that I hadn't been aware of:

One, that my writing style on this blog has a Voice of Authority quality to it that might make it seem as if I Speak For All when I'm really only speaking for myself.

And two, that I never actually described the food-related discipline that I've decided to undertake, so that it's easy for people to misinterpret what I'm up to as "dieting" in some commonly-understood and rightfully-maligned sense.

So, to address [personal profile] kis' first point, I really am only speaking for myself. I'm excited enough about what I've undertaken to want to write about it. I do my best thinking in writing anyway, and I'm still thinking: everything on this subject is provisional, experimental, and still open. I'm way too old to believe that I've found the Answer--especially the answer that applies to anyone else--but I move forward by means of enthusiasm, by embracing new ideas, running with them, talking about them, living them; and that's what I'm doing here. That's all I'm doing here.

And to address her second point, here's what the heck I'm up to:
  1. Carefully and accurately counting the caloric content of what I eat
  2. Deducting the calories I burn with exercise
  3. Keeping the total as near to 2000 per day as I can, averaged over a week
Why 2000? Because if I weighed 175 lbs I would need 2000 calories a day to maintain that weight.

(How do I know that? A sedentary 55 year old woman's body metabolizes between 11 and 12 or so calories per day per pound of body weight. 175 x 11.5 = 2012.5)

Why 175 pounds? That's a harder question. It's a working hypothesis, and subject to change, but I needed a number and 175 seemed about right. It will probably result in 25-28% body fat, which is a healthy range according to both my experience and the data I can find. Plus, I liked my appearance and felt good the last time I weighed 175 lbs.

(And yes, this is about my appearance. And my comfort. And my feet. But there is a large body of medical evidence supporting the unhappy notion that excessive fatness is a health risk, one which increases with age. I understand that not everyone agrees with this body of evidence, but I have chosen to give it credence.)

So how will I get there? In a way, I'm already there.

Here's what I mean. Arithmetic ahoy.

If I weighed 255 to start with, which I'm pretty sure I did, I was eating about 2925 calories a day to maintain that mass. So cutting down to 2000 calories a day creates a 925 calorie a day deficit.

A pound of fat contains 3500 calories, so in (3500/925) days (3.8), presumably, I've lost a pound of fat--about 1.85 lbs in a week. I know, I know: there are variables. But stick with me.

That means that at the beginning of the second week, I weigh 253, and now my slightly smaller body needs slightly fewer calories a day. I'm still eating 2000, but the deficit is smaller, and I'll lose a little less this week than last.

If I keep eating 2000 calories a day, the weight-loss curve that started off steep soon flattens out, slowing week by week until it just...stops. It flatlines at around 175 lbs. In about December, 2015. Yes, five years from now.

Chart showing the curve of projected weight loss over time

And in all that time, I won't have really made any food behavior changes. I made the one change on October 17, 2010, and that was it. No "weight loss diet" versus "maintenance diet". No "prancing around with a trophy for a few days" (as [personal profile] kis vividly put it) when I Win The Game and then stop playing.

In theory, I've effectively already made all the changes I need to make, and I'm on "lifelong maintenance" from the get-go.

So far, I'm doing pretty well. (Note--the calorie counts are before exercise.)

Scatter Chart showing my daily calorie intake since October 17, 2010

...but that is a VERY SMALL DATASET and I know it. I could revert tomorrow.

The big trick, of course, lies in not reverting tomorrow, but in managing to do the same thing every day, every week, pretty much for all the days.

I have never tried this before. I've tried every "diet" except the one where I commit to the kitchen scale, the bathroom scale, the measuring cups and the teaspoons for the rest of my life.

I might fail spectacularly. I might fail modestly. I might just say "fuck it" tomorrow and get back to those yummy nearly-3000 calories a day I was enjoying.

But I might succeed in forging this new (neural) pathway, and I've decided that I want to try, and to marshal all the resources available to me to bolster my chances of success.

One of those resources is writing about the journey here. I'll keep it behind cuts for easy skipping, but I certainly welcome comment and discussion.

(no subject)

8/12/10 02:26 (UTC)
karen_jk: Melissa (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] karen_jk
I think your plan sounds very sensible and reasonable. Do you have a doctor you feel comfortable conferring with if you start feeling unwell?

One of my close friends just found out she has colitis, which means that she needs to minimize the amount of meat and oils she eats and maximize the amount of fruits and veggies. Just knowing about this has made me eat less packaged food and fewer cookies and stuff today. I eat quite healthily, but I'm going to try to make veggies, grains fruits a bigger part of what I eat and packaged food a much smaller part.

Maybe I'll put it on my Joe's Goals. I am inspired by the way you are taking such a logical approach to your goals, and I'm trying it out myself.

(no subject)

8/12/10 11:03 (UTC)
alex_beecroft: A blue octopus in an armchair, reading a book (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] alex_beecroft
It was health issues which made me finally decide that I needed to lose weight too. I didn't want to get diabetes, and I already had swollen ankles and foot problems, and felt cumbersome and tired all the time. For me, though, I'd tried counting calories 10 years back, and after two years of dealing with ravenous hunger every single day I decided that was not for me. So I'm doing the Slimming World diet, the principles of which aren't exactly clear to me, but in practice seems to involve eating as little fat as possible, lots of vegetables and carbohydrates and no sugar. The result is that I have to cook food from whole ingredients, which is a lot healthier, and I lose weight while never needing to go hungry. It's working for me :)

(no subject)

8/12/10 11:49 (UTC)
scribblemoose: (never give up)
Posted by [personal profile] scribblemoose
I've nearly replied to a couple of your weight loss posts but needed some time to properly formulate my thoughts, because this is something I've struggled with for decades, and while I'm pretty clear what my issues are, it's always wise not to assume that's true of everyone.

I would say this, though - goals and goal tracking is an excellent way to improve anything, including the self, BUT - only if you treat yourself kindly.

There's a fine line between healthy discipline and self-punishment, and I have wondered if you're really asking too much of yourself all at once? I know that's something I do a lot, so I'd ask you just to do a quick check that you're not doing that?

The more exercise + less calories = weight loss equation sounds so simple, and yet it's so not, especially if you're aiming for steady weight loss. For one thing, it's a lot easier to burn calories when you're heavier - as a fitness instructor pointed out to me once, it's like you're doing everything with weights permanently affixed to your body. Also, different kinds of exercise have different effects on your metabolism: some burn fat, others burn sugar and some even burn lean tissue, so it's important to get the right kind of exercise at the right time, and always to mix exercise into your program; if you only control food without increasing exercise you'll just fuck your metabolism even more.

But the most important advice I've ever been given (by that same fitness instructor) was that it's pointless trying to control food intake and exercise by will power alone. It doesn't last, or if it does it has a terrible toll because it requires a strong streak of compulsive behaviour which isn't healthy. (The only exception to that rule, she suggested, was for people who are naturally fit but have got out of condition due to some externally imposed factor, like injury.) The first thing to do is to work out why you aren't fit already. The first question, if you eat more than your body needs, is 'Why do you want to eat when you're not hungry?'

Because that's where the problem really lies. The human body is designed to regulate itself to its own healthy weight. It's the mind that causes the trouble. And while you can change things with grit and determination, you can change things more permanently and healthily by changing the behaviours that got you into trouble in the first place.

Paul McKenna has exploited these theories to good effect with his weight loss programme - it's horribly hyped-up and commercial and ugh, but it's based on very sound principles - it includes things like tapping to help ward off cravings etc., but it comes from that principle that if you are kind to yourself, only eat what your body really wants (not what your mind wants), and get yourself out and being active, the rest takes care of itself.

I've lost about 15 lbs that way - it's hard at the moment because I can't exercise, and food is difficult with Ste's illness, but I haven't put back on what I'd lost. Previously I lost about 28lbs with calorie/fat control and exercise through a slimming class, but it all piled on again, and more, when I finally cracked and couldn't take the discipline any more.

I hope that's helpful. Whatever you decide is the best route for you, make sure you're being kind to yourself, okay? *hugs*
Edited 8/12/10 11:52 (UTC)

(no subject)

9/12/10 14:11 (UTC)
alex_beecroft: Damian O'Hare as Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath (Damian - hat)
Posted by [personal profile] alex_beecroft
It does make sense that we should have found something that works from two different directions :) One of the things that struck me reading about food rationing in WW2 was someone saying "we never went hungry, because bread and potatoes were not rationed" but things like butter and sugar were. I think a lot of the blame for the so called 'obesity epidemic' these days can be put on the shoulders of the makers and retailers of convenience foods. It's so hard to go out and find anything at all that doesn't contain lots of fat and sugar. People are probably eating about the same amounts as they always have, but the foodstuffs themselves are that much more fattening than they used to be and need to be.

And yes, I can see that 2000 calories wouldn't be a problem in the long term. My problem with calorie counting came because I wanted to lose 2lb a week, and I was therefore on 1300 calories a day, which was a whole main meal less.

(no subject)

9/12/10 21:09 (UTC)
alex_beecroft: A blue octopus in an armchair, reading a book (SG1 - out of chocolate)
Posted by [personal profile] alex_beecroft
I think so too, but of course it's safe to have a strong natural preference for rich and sweet things when rich and sweet things are difficult to come by (as they are if you're hunting and gathering.) If the government really wanted to tackle the problem they could do it much more easily by regulating the kinds of food available than by suggesting that everyone should crack their sugar addiction by sheer willpower. Particularly not while they are surrounded at every turn by shops offering them chocolate bars and pastries and very little chance to choose a healthier alternative.

(Sorry, I think I'm bitter that my local Starbucks has stopped stocking fruit salad, which means that it's now a choice of about 20 different types of fattening pastry or nothing at all when I go in there. It's a situation I find myself in often when I'm travelling.)

(no subject)

8/12/10 13:13 (UTC)
erda: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] erda
I find this all fascinating. I've tabbed a bunch of stuff from your conversation with [personal profile] tehomet to read later today. I can't really decide where I stand in all this, somewhere in the middle I guess. I've never had any trouble with my weight despite eating loads of junk food, but recently, since I've slowed down due to health problems, I have put on a few extra pounds. My husband, however, has had a life long struggle with his weight, and dieting. I've noticed he tends to be much less active than I am, but I think a lot of my lack of weight problems is due to having an extremely anxious personality. Anxiety burns calories as well as reducing appetite, and may I point out that high levels of anxiety are not conducive to good health.

Anyway I love quantifying things, so I will be following your journey with great interest. Also I wanted to thank you for the link to Joe's goals. I'm enjoying that immensely, though as you pointed out, I will probably tire of it after a bit.

(no subject)

8/12/10 16:17 (UTC)
erda: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] erda
the basic laws of physics don't change.

I totally agree. If you burn more than you take in, you will lose weight. I also agree that we are programmed biologically to tend to eat more than we need.

I was just trying to say that some people, outside of actual exercise time, tend to move around a lot more than others, in my case due to high levels of anxiety, and so will burn more calories than naturally calm types like my husband.


On Joe's Goals and other tracking tools: usually I find that when the allure runs out and I wander off, I've still gained some lasting change from the experience. I expect it will be the same here.


Yes, I think so, too.

(no subject)

8/12/10 13:53 (UTC)
executrix: (chcolate critter)
Posted by [personal profile] executrix
I know it sounds silly, but Jonathan Bloom's excellent book "American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food" quotes a study that people ate 22% less if they had 10" rather than 12" dinner plates.

(no subject)

8/12/10 15:31 (UTC)
executrix: (ganache)
Posted by [personal profile] executrix
The wake-up call for me was that if I just don't BUY so much stuff, I won't have to discard the unwanted amounts either by mouth or by trashcan. He also reminded me of the Vegetable Soup Meme--i.e., combining the bits of things into a pot of soup yields not only good food, but one that contributes to weight loss because by the time you heat up and eat the soup, you won't be as hungry for your main course. MFK Fisher recommended that you keep the stock from steaming vegetables "in an old gin bottle in the refrigerator" and then pour it into the soup pot.

Although cooking fresh food does take more time and effort than getting take-out, sometimes I think that "food contacts" rather than "eating" can satisfy cravings.

I do not habitually have empty gin bottles around, but I bought a couple of bottles of a posh and not very good French soda just because it comes in triffic glass bottles with cage stoppers--I use them for the rest of the three-liter olive oil bottle that isn't in the green glass bottle on the kitchen cart, but one is getting empty and could be recruited for vegetable juice patrol.

And, in conclusion, salad forks!

(no subject)

8/12/10 15:47 (UTC)
executrix: (veradress)
Posted by [personal profile] executrix
Meat stock that gels would probably work too--the olive oil solidifies in the fridge (which is why I only put it in there if I have a lake of it!) but can be poured in a goop state when removed from the fridge; you could let the consomme warm up a little and then pour it.

(no subject)

8/12/10 15:57 (UTC)
executrix: (satanklaus)
Posted by [personal profile] executrix
When I become Princess of the World, EVERYTHING will have to come in sturdy re-usable containers, so everyone will have access to them whether or not peanut butter fits into their dietary.

The icon name is "Veradress": Vera has been dressed up to go Someplace Nice.

(no subject)

8/12/10 16:46 (UTC)
emungere: (o catching tigers)
Posted by [personal profile] emungere
Good luck! I find your math really fascinating. You are roughly 1000x more organized than I was when I tried this. *g* Also, though I suspect you do not need one more thing to make your life even busier, I cannot help but recommend tai chi. It's made such an enormous difference in my life, and I wasn't doing it while I was losing weight, but I wish I had. I think it would've made the change of lifestyle easier.

(no subject)

8/12/10 16:53 (UTC)
emungere: (sh prey)
Posted by [personal profile] emungere
PS: lego bento boxes! just in case you feel the need for one:
http://en.bentoandco.com/products/block-bento-new-colors

I work at home, so I have no excuse for buying one, alas.

(no subject)

9/12/10 01:12 (UTC)
emungere: (o catching tigers)
Posted by [personal profile] emungere
Man, I am not even sure what to say about tai chi. It's changed my awareness of my body, if that makes any sense, and after years and years of dance and martial arts it's not like I wasn't aware of it to begin with. It's corrected the way I walk so that I find I have far less knee and back pain; it helps, in some bizarre way I can't explain, the tendinitis in my wrists. I can balance on one foot with my eyes closed! Harder than one might think. Idk, this all seems really vague, but in conclusion: it makes my body work better.

Weight loss: I lost about 70lbs ummm...almost ten years ago? Eight? Something like that. Part of it was kung fu, which is what I was taking then, before tai chi. Part of it was cutting out dairy, corn, and most soy due to food sensitivities. The rest? I am honestly not sure. I'm just happy I haven't had a problem keeping it off. Sorry, I know that wasn't terribly clear, and you're welcome to ask questions if you want. :)

(no subject)

10/12/10 04:21 (UTC)
emungere: (o catching tigers)
Posted by [personal profile] emungere
I guess in high school, and then more in college, lasting until...maybe two or three years after college? So maybe 8-10 years. Something like that. Not all my life though. I was a pretty skinny kid. I wouldn't say it was due to illness or injury; mainly it was due to eating a whole lot of crap, lol. Also, I think stress really does make one (or maybe it's just me?) hungrier.

It was seldom a case of eating when I was full, more of just being really damn hungry, more than other people. Which is why I tend to think losing weight wasn't just about losing weight for me, but about a change of life as well. Hope this is helpful in some way. :)

(no subject)

10/12/10 15:45 (UTC)
emungere: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] emungere
Also! Here is a book I found helpful, even though I followed basically none of his advice:

http://www.amazon.com/Philosophers-Diet-Weight-Change-Nonpareil/dp/1567920845/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1291995614&sr=1-1

And you might find this guy interesting. He's chronicled his whole weight loss saga and is so far keeping it off, despite his job as a food critic, which is pretty impressive:

http://www.seriouseats.com/tags/Ed%20Levine%27s%20Serious%20Diet

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