Friday, September 18, 2009

Am I Doing This Wrong?

One of my readers asked me a perfectly harmless question and it provoked me to do a little research to provide a fuller answer, and now – with what I have discovered – I am really scared that I have been going about this journey the wrong way! I don’t know what to do. I am having some serious doubts about whether I am causing more harm than good to my body and I am wondering if I should scrap my whole plan!

So far I have been eating every one and a half to four hours and I am concentrating on whole foods. I have not felt hungry, nor have I felt deprived since I will give in and have a treat if the craving is big enough or if I just feel like I want to. I have not been counting calories, really limiting my portions, nor denying myself anything that is reasonable. I have exercised every day to a variety of different levels and with a somewhat broad scope of activities. I feel much better, and I am experiencing higher energy levels than I have had in a long time. I have been listening carefully to what my body wants and needs.

But, after looking at the nutritional tally of my food intake yesterday, I have found that I am far below the daily recommendations in almost every category! What does this mean? Have I been making vast mistakes this whole time? I am really upset about this! It actually took me a couple of hours to even get myself into a place where I could post about it. What am I supposed to do? I feel like I have been eating intuitively and far, far healthier than I have in years – probably better than I have in my entire life!

I haven’t found these changes excessively difficult and I was thinking that they were definitely things that I could continue doing long term. I was proud of what I have accomplished so far and truly believed that I was doing it right. Now I just want to cry and… I don’t even know.

Unfortunately, I live a sedentary lifestyle. This is why I put on the last thirty pounds that got me up to my heaviest weight. I wasn’t moving around very much, but I never altered my eating to reflect that. In all fairness though, I actually think I eat much more often now that I ever did before; back then my meals were just all composed of the wrong choices. At any rate, even now – because of my current living arrangements, job situation, etc. – the exercise that I list in my posts are more or less the extent of how active I am (getting around throughout my day excluded, of course).

I wonder if this is why I don’t feel like I am depriving myself even though the figures suggest otherwise? Is it because my lifestyle cannot naturally support a normal number of calories that I have found success with such an apparent decrease? What I mean by that is, am I actually eating the right amount when taking my lack of activity into consideration? Or am I just being completely delusional and messing up my body?

The last thing that I ever wanted was to be going on some type of diet; I wanted this to be a natural, healthy, and sustainable way to lose weight. I am feeling really distraught about this whole thing! I know there is a learning curve to making such huge changes, but I still – even after seeing the numbers – have a hard time convincing myself that I have been making poor choices. But, now the doubt is there and I am utterly confused. Does anyone have any advice?


  1. Hmm, *I* don't know the answer. 900 calories does seem pretty low, though, although 2000 calories seems a bit high for a dieter of our weight. I hope someone can proffer some comforting advice.

  2. I think you're overthinking it. I don't count calories either. I just try to make sensible choices, control portion sizes, slow down my eating and really examine what I'm eating and why I'm eating it. That and the exercise does the trick. The way you're going about it is not starving or depriving yourself at all. If it feels good, keep it up.

  3. Oh geez, I feel guilty, that was me! The question was not meant to mess with your head. Honestly, if you're feeling well and not hungry or deprived, I agree it's hard to believe that you're hurting your body. Everybody is made differently. It's possible that yesterday was unusually light, and that other days your calories are higher. Calorie counting is an inexact science at best. Anyway, my advice, if you want it, is this:

    Don't worry so much. It's all trial and error, we all figure it out as we go. You feel great and that's your best indicator.

    You are losing weight fast--20 pounds in a month= a roughly 2300 calorie deficit a day, assuming that stuff works the way it's supposed to. So if you need roughly 3300 to maintain and you're eating 1,000, that'll do it. If it were me, I'd do a little (unpanicked!) research-- think about how quickly you're comfortable losing the weight, and how you want to eat when you're at maintenance. I've read that you should aim for 1% of body weight a week but then I don't know how that number was chosen. In my case I don't have the option of choosing your rate of loss because I'd just get too hungry. It's kind of a nice plus for you, when you think about it!

    I think the maintainers should offer advice. My thought would be to add in more beans or vegies or fruits to up the fiber content, but I am hesitant to recommend for somebody else. Other advice?

  4. It can be frustrating and confusing. I'm trying to get my protein and fiber up, lower the carb intake. It's hard at first. Have you ever talked to a nurtrionist? You're body needs more calories to sustain itself. The 900 would be too low by many standards. If you aren't sure what to be eating and how much, please do yourself a favor and seek out professional help. Your body can start resisting anymore loss if you don't get enough.

    We'll all stumble on this journey. Please don't give up, you having been great!

  5. I have to admit, I was kind of wanting to ask you about this too. It just kept seeming like you weren't eating enough! I don't pretend to know anything about this other than what I've read on the oh-so-reputable internet, but from what I've read, you lose weight by eating less but if you don't eat enough then your body will eventually go into starvation mode (because it assumes you must be starving) and your metabolism will shut down and you'll stop losing weight. That's what I use to guide my own journey (trying to eat enough but not too much) but you definitely should not take my word for it or my entirely uneducated parroting of random internet knowledge. From the way you describe how you feel about what you're doing, it sounds like you are certainly on the right track, but I agree with Laura, a nutritionist could definitely give you more educated information about any tweaks you might want to make. And if you do talk to someone, I'd love to hear about what you find out, just for my own benefit. :-)

    Don't let this get you down!! You'll get it figured out, one way or another, and we'll be here to support you.

  6. It sounds like you are doing things in a very similar way that I am. I don't worry too much about calories and when I put in a 12 hour shift at work I am sure I eat too few (around the 800-900 mark) but on other days it's around 1400 (never as much as 2000).

    Here is the formula I found to figure out my calories 655 + (4.3 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years)

    If I put in my current weight I need 1800 calories a day, if I put in my goal weight I need 1400. So I try to keep my calories under 1400.

    The fat number also seems very high, that is 30% fat... I aim for more like 15-20% fat in my diet, which is about 15-20g of fat a day.

    It feels right to me, I am rarely hungry (except during those 12 hour shifts but then it's more about having time to eat) and I have lots of energy to be active.

    Are these FDA recommendations? I have always heard that it's more of a limit than a recommendation... no more than 65g of fat.

  7. You guys are all great, but I'm afraid with so much conflicting opinions and information I'm still pretty confused. I doubt I'll have much luck seeking professional assistance to figure this out during the weekend so I think I will stick with what I have been doing for the next couple of days and then try to find someone qualified to talk to about this.

    Larkspur, please don't worry about asking your question... I'm so glad you did. I am happy that it has given me a different perspective on something that I didn't have before, one that may be very important in the long run.

    If other people have thoughts, please feel free to share them still. I don't think this issue is going anywhere right away.

  8. I agree with other posters on the fact that you should see a professional, though, they all have conflicting views as well.

    I was told a long time ago that eating under 900 calories a day was considered anorexia. I know that is NOT the truth, but to this day, when I see numbers as low as yours it freaks me out thinking - OMG,SHE'S GONNA DIE!

    But the truth is, you're not gonna die :-) You're perfectly fine. If you feel good and satiated... what else could you want?

    My advise would be, keep up with the awesome workouts, and up your calories by about 400 a day. Thats easy! Just add another meal in somewhere! I think that would help fuel your body just a little bit better! Because I feel like, if you continued with calories so low when you hit a maintenance weight.. you might just continue to lose, and that could be unhealthy.

  9. If you haven't already, you should check out I have been on WW almost a year, and just recently discovered the Spark site. It's amazing how it helps you track your calories, fat and proteins. It gives you a report at the end of the day of the things you did good on and the things you need to work on, and it explains why meeting these nutritional goals is important. It doesn't replace the advice of a professional, but it might help you get a grasp on eating the right amount of calories and still lose weight. AND it's free!!! I just use the nutrition tracker, as it helps me to be accountable for all my daily noshing. Hang in there! I wish you continued success! Good luck!