[Weight-loss talk ahead. Just FYI.]
So I had this great theory that if I ate 1500 calories a day and burned off 300 at the gym, I had a nice little “do-not-drop-below” line for my food intake. So if I burned 600 calories at the gym, I’d eat 1800, and if I burned 400, I’d eat 1600. See how that works? I was always coming in at a 300-calorie deficit, but I wasn’t really hungry.
But somewhere along the way that 1500 number became the be-all, end-all of my calorie intake. In other words, I got mixed up (as I sometimes often do) in my head about the difference between “what I’m eating” and “what I’m burning.” So, armed with the (inaccurate) idea that 1500 calories was all my body needed to run on, I decided to start cutting a few more calories – I mean, hey, if I burn 500 calories a day, that’s a pound a week, right? (Except it doesn’t work that way, really. At least not for me. And I’m already losing at about that rate, anyway, or at least I was until the whole Grandpa debacle. I just wanted to lose faster.)
Do you see the problem with my math here? I’ll wait.
Yeah. A thousand calories a day is NOT ENOUGH TO EAT. And the problem is, since I’ve stepped up my exercise, I don’t get hungry. I mean, I get hungry right after a workout, although it’s a “be careful” kind of hunger: there are specific things I can and can’t eat if I don’t want to toss my cookies (so to speak) right after I work out. But as the day wears on, I just don’t feel as hungry. If I don’t work out, 1500 calories feels like it’s almost (ALMOST) not enough. But if I do work out, that same 1500 calories (which works out to a net intake of 1000 calories) feels like PLENTY – too much, even.
Truthfully, that was how I stayed thin in college: I worked out a lot, usually right around lunchtime (so I wouldn’t be hungry for lunch), and I’d end up eating a piece of fruit or something for my midday meal (fruit makes the “food-that-does-not-make-me-hurl-post-workout” list). I ate a normal dinner, but still small portions. I’d guess that my average daily intake was around 1400 calories – but I was burning off 500-700 a day in exercise alone.
So lately, I’ve been eating less. Some days a LOT less. Not out of any neurosis or anything (or at least not out of a CONSCIOUS game of “who can eat the least?”), but just because I’m not that hungry. Then again, at the same time, I’m contributing to that not-hungry, not-eating-enough phenomenon (why, HELLO THERE, Neurosis!). An enormous bowl of broccoli with garlic, salt, pepper and (maybe) a little olive oil doesn’t REALLY have that many calories (although it is damn tasty), and that’s what I’m eating for dinner these days. (Well, the vegetables vary, but you get the idea.) I’m guessing that’s something like a 200-calorie dinner. (Three hundred if I add olive oil.) The obvious solution is to add protein to dinner, but I’m just not that freakin’ hungry, especially because I’ve been trying to eat bigger lunches.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
ANYWAY. Clearly 1000 calories is not enough. Even if I don’t feel hungry (and I wonder how much of that might be because of all-broccoli dinners, which themselves might actually be a product of unconscious neuroses), I need to eat more than that. And that is the flip side: when I looked at what I burned off today, and tallied up what I’d have to eat to hit a baseline net intake of 1200 calories, it just seems like SO MUCH FREAKIN’ FOOD. (It’s not, really: it’s about 1800 calories, because my body is – and has always been – good at burning calories during a workout.* But 1800 SEEMS like a lot.) I feel a little panicky: how am I going to eat that much? What if I go over the 1200? What if I don’t hit the 1200? Will I fuck my metabolism even more? Ack, ack, ack! (If I had a Chicken Little .gif, I’d insert it here.)
*sigh* I seem to be good at the extremes: too much food or not nearly enough. It’s this whole moderation thing that kills me. GEEZ.
*Disclaimer/clarification: I burn a lot of calories when I work out because my maximum heart rate is high. Like, really high. Probably around 210 or 215 (when conventional wisdom would currently put it at 188). It’s been really high ever since I can remember. I’d be worried about hitting 185 on a regular basis (which I do), but had a doctor once tell me that as long as it came back down really fast when I stopped moving, it wasn’t anything to worry about. It usually takes me about a minute to go from 185-ish to 130-ish, and another 2 minutes or so to get back under 100 (my resting heart rate is about 55). The big upside to a heart rate like that is that when I work out hard I burn calories like CRAZY. (Actually that same doctor figured that my heart was likely larger than average because of all the dancing from such a young age: the muscle gets really strong and literally bulks up, just like any other muscle, which in turn means it works less when at rest, and is capable of working a lot harder when it’s . . .well, at work. Apparently it’s not that uncommon in kids who are really active starting at a young age.) So no worries about an abnormally high heart rate or anything. Frankly, the thing I have to worry about is overheating – even before my heart rate gets high or I get out of breath, I tend to get hot (and again, always have). THAT part sucks. 😉