One of the other…

One of the other patterns that's been bugging the hell out of me is the gaining weight pattern. Although maybe that's not really a pattern, exactly. Fine, it's been depressing me that I have not only not lost the pregnancy weight, but I've actually gained another pound in the last two months. I had lost a bit before Christmas, then gained it back at Christmas, so I was even for a while there. But January and February, I just ate a lot, and didn't exercise at all.

Now, I have a lot of smart friends these days who are strong advocates of fat acceptance, and proponents of Healthy at Every Size (HAES). Lots of them claim that diets don't work, that people who lose weight dieting almost all gain it back again within five years, so trying deliberately to lose weight just makes you crazy and miserable for no good reason. I'm still trying to figure out what I think about all that, especially because I also have lots of doctor friends who seem to still believe in the old calories in / calories out equation. And after all, when I cut my daily calorie intake down to 1000 calories a day (or 1300 + burning 300, even better), I do steadily lose weight, about 1/2 pound to 1 pound a week. I've done it before, and lost about fifteen pounds that way, and then kept most of it off for a couple of years, pretty much until I got pregnant. So it's hard for me to believe my friends who say 'diets don't work.' That one seemed to work. I don't know.

I do know, though, that cutting back those calories was truly miserable. I was a little bit hungry all the time. I decided it was worth it then, a short-term sacrifice in exchange for the hopefully long-term weight loss. But I'm hesitant to try it again, both because so many folks whose opinions I normally trust are telling me that diets don't work, and because I feel like I'm stressed enough at the moment as it is -- I don't really want to cope with deliberately added unhappiness.

That's why this whole intuitive eating thing sounds so appealing. I'm not sure it would work well for me -- among other things, if there's some food I really like in the house, I tend to just keep eating it, over and over and over again, and sometimes a ridiculous amount of it. Not because I'm hungry, but just because it tastes so good. There's been more than once where I've made a pot of beef and potato curry, for example, and put some on a couple slices of bread, and it's so yummy, so I have some more, and in the end, I eat through an entire damn loaf of sandwich bread, plus all the curry that goes with it. That can't be good. I always feel sick afterwards too.

A lot of January/February was like that. Oh, no entire loaves of bread -- I haven't done that in a while. But seconds on dinner (even occasionally thirds), just because it was tasty. And then feeling too full afterwards, not to mention mad at myself. A bad pattern. I ate what I wanted, and what I wanted wasn't good.

But I think with intuitive eating, you're not really supposed to do that. You're supposed to forget about 'bad foods' and 'good foods' and eat what your body wants, to assuage your hunger. When you're not hungry anymore, I think you're supposed to stop. Or at least pause. (If I actually put the food away, I'm much less likely to keep eating. Weird, huh?) So when I had some rice and curry for breakfast this morning, that was okay. Ditto the rice and curry for lunch. And maybe even the little bit of curry and bread for a snack? And when I found myself craving a cheddar/ham/honey mustard sandwich for dinner, it's okay that I made myself exactly that? It did taste incredibly delicious.

I don't know. I don't think I have the energy or the brainpower to spare right now, to start counting calories and undereating again, making myself a little hungry and a little unhappy all the time. Maybe in a while. But right at this moment, maybe I'll just try this intuitive eating thing, see if it feels good. I really do want to lose the pregnancy weight at least, especially if we decide to have another kid. I'd like to lose the weight from one pregnancy before I gain weight from another!

HAES folks are big advocates of exercise, and I did also finally start exercising again -- yesterday, I took Ellie for a longish walk, and today, while Kavi was napping, I jumped on the treadmill for 20 minutes. Nothing too strenuous, but I got my heart rate up to 130 and kept it there for a while. And I read a book while I was walking (Persepolis 2, loaned to me by one of my students, very good) so it wasn't too tedious, and I felt great afterwards, really energized. Hopefully that part, at least, I'll keep up. If I can find the time.

9 thoughts on “One of the other…”

  1. Have you read the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch? It is fantastic. I also thought “Mindless Eating” by Wansink was a great book to read when you’re trying to change your eating patterns.

    Having said that, I’ve found that if I exercise regularly and have that be my focus, I find that my eating choices straighten themselves out.

  2. I’m trying to figure out how to say something useful here without posting a book’s worth.

    As you point out, I’m a huge believer in size acceptance and health at any size. My personal impression is that the tension between “diets don’t work” and “calories in/calories out” is actually false. Most people who restrict caloric intake can lose 5-20 pounds, and most will keep that off if they continue to restrict caloric intake, though they may have to restrict it more to stay the same weight because of things like set-point change and metabolism. So it (usually? often?) works for someone who wants to lose a small percentage of body weight, and is willing to live with the restrictions.

    Mathematically, however, this is clearly a disaster if you want to lose 50 pounds and keep them off.

    My wish for you is that you could learn to appreciate your body at its varying sizes and make your choice without feeling that one is so clearly “better” than the other.

    (Let me know if this is helpful, or not, and if you want more, or not.)

  3. Debbie, I hope you don’t mind if I take your comment as a springboard for my next post — I think I need to write this all out a bit more for it to make sense in my head. If you have time, would love to have your comments on that as well.

    And Stacy, I haven’t read any books about nutrition, dieting, etc. and so on. I think I should start, but I’m not sure where, and I also am a little wary of getting obsessed with the whole subject and thinking about my food too much. Maybe that’s silly.

  4. It seems very, heh, intuitive, to me that calories in vs calories out would be true, in that if you’re taking in more calories than you’re putting out, those calories have to be going somewhere. I don’t know much about set-point change and metabolism, though.

    But, I also agree that this isn’t necessarily a point against “diets don’t work” — isn’t the main problem with diets that they’re hard to stay on? For me, anyway, I found that if I exercised more and ate less, I lost weight, but that my non-hungry food cravings made it hard for me to do this. I wouldn’t chalk that up to “diets don’t work”, though.

  5. My personal experience agrees with Stacy’s. If I am exercising regularly, the food part just seems to take care of itself. You should be able to eat reasonable amounts and not feel hungry all the time.

    Cutting your calorie intake down to 1,000 calories/day is inadvisable. That puts your body into starvation mode, which makes it cling more tightly to the weight you want to get rid of.

  6. Hi, Mary, I read this last night and have been thinking about it ever since.

    irilyth, the problem with calories in/calories out is that the body doesn’t function quite so simply. If it WERE just a simple equation, it truly would be easy to lose weight. Unfortunately, metabolism being what it is, some people can actually GAIN weight on incredibly low caloric diets.

    You said yourself that eating 1000 calories a day made you miserable. Were you still restricting your intake before you got pregnant? If yes, then you weren’t really maintaining that weight. And, with the pregnancy (congrats on the offspring!), there really is no telling if you’d have been able to keep it off longterm – which is more than 5 years.

    I’m not trying to be a downer, just trying to put some of that past “success” into perspective.

    As for Intuitive Eating itself, yeah, eating to the point of discomfort isn’t really the point. Though I think we’ve all certainly done it. In fact, when I began IE, I did that all the time. I didn’t want to stop because this was the only time ever that I was going to have [fill in tasty thing here]. Except, you know, it wasn’t. Eating too much (in the discomfort sense) was one of those psychological things I had to work out with myself – it had nothing to do with hunger. And knowing that if I was hungry I could eat whatever I wanted really took a lot of emotional pressure off and made it easier to say, no, thanks, I’m done.

  7. There are a couple of things that I have read recently about compulsive eating when one is not hungry, and I have experimented with them. They definitely work for me.

    One is MSG. Apparently it is well known that if a biologist needs fat animals for an experiment, lab animals can be reliably fattened by adding it to their foods. When I eat it, I have a very difficult time stopping eating even if I am uncomfortably full.

    The other is carbohydrates, especially low glycemic starches like potatoes, pasta, and bread. Rice seems to be OK.

    I don’t eat these often, but to experiment, I have tried them and they also take away my sense that it is time to stop eating.

  8. Irilyth, I *think* the people saying ‘diets don’t work’ aren’t talking about them being hard to stay on — they’re saying even if you’re rigorous about following them, they still don’t work. Unless I’m misunderstanding them?

    TR, thanks for your comments — they help clarify the Intuitive Eating thing! See my next posts for more details (way more details) on my intake, but no, I wasn’t doing much reduced intake for the period of weight maintenance, I think.

    David, that’s interesting about the MSG and bread. MSG gives me a headache, so I avoid it, but I do love me some bread, and it’s true that bread is what I’m most likely to overindulge with. Although Cherry Garcia might be a close second.

  9. I guess I see two different things here:

    * On the one hand, reducing calories doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll lose weight — for example, your body may decide that you’re starving, as someone suggested above.

    * On the other hand, if you’re burning 1500 calories a day, and eating 2000, it seems pretty likely that you’re going to gain weight; and that (perhaps gradually) either increasing the output or decreasing in the input will help.

    It’s obviously not a simple thing, but it also doesn’t seem like total nonsense, in the way that “eat nothing but cabbage soup and you’ll lose weight and never gain it back again” is in fact total nonsense.

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