Eat more to lose more?

The fitness board I hang around on has this group of people who follow the “eat more to lose more” theory. I know it sounds a bit backwards from what we’ve always been taught, but I have to admit that I adhere to this theory myself, mostly because I find it to be completely true for me. I’ve gained and lost weight throughout my adult years, and I’ve found what works best for me is to exercise regularly, eat well most days, and drink water. I think the drinking water thing is helpful because my sodium intake tends to be fairly high, and it’s something I’m working on. If I don’t exercise, I tend to stay at a stable weight, or gain weight, even if I seem to be getting the food part right. But what surprised me most in all my years of yo-yo dieting is this – if I eat too few calories, I may at first lose weight, but then the weight loss stalls and sometimes even goes the other way. If I eat more than the “standard” calorie intake of a dieting female – which is around 1200-1300 calories – I lose weight.

Now before you go getting all excited and stock up on chips & cookies, let me explain how this works for me. The first thing to note is that on a really good day, I will eat between 1800-2000 calories and most of those calories will be decent choices. A typical food list on a day like this would be an English muffin with three slices of bacon and a small serving of hash brown potatoes for breakfast, a sandwich wrap with low sodium ham, a salad, and a yogurt for lunch, and fish tacos with fresh pico de gallo and a sprinkle of cheese for dinner. I then fill in between breakfast and lunch with a handful of almonds, and between lunch and dinner with a banana and perhaps a light string cheese stick, and for dessert, I might have a Weight Watchers fudge ice cream bar (one of my “guilty pleasures”). And I exercise – for example, walking up nearly 30 flights of stairs. The food logs in just over 2000 calories, but all that stair walking burned nearly 400 calories, and I’m in a deficit for the day.

I could eat 1200-1500 calories a day and lose weight, at least for a while. But the truth is, I will be miserable doing it. I’m going to feel like I’m being deprived of my favorite foods, and then it’s going to send me on a binge that will last for days, if not weeks. That’s just the way I’m built, and I know it. When you KNOW something doesn’t work for you, why continue to try? As we all know, the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again but expecting a different result. Simple common sense will tell you it’s just not possible.

But frankly, I still struggled with weight loss throughout my adult life, primarily because I never felt like I got enough to eat. You’d think that 2000 calories could satiate a girl, but apparently not. At least, not when 300 – 600 of those calories were going toward the consumption of Dr Pepper. Yep, I’ve been a Dr Pepper fiend for most of my adult life, and it ain’t pretty. In fact, I am fairly certain that my ever increasing Dr Pepper consumption was the driver for my weight gain over the last 15 years or so. I didn’t want to give it up, I wasn’t ready to give it up, and I couldn’t imagine going for the rest of my life without ever having a Dr Pepper again – in fact, I flat refused to consider it. Well, that’s not entirely true.

Back in 1999, I gave up sodas for over a year. I was doing really well, and felt pretty good about it, but I missed it. It was never far from my thoughts about how I would like to have just one more taste of a Coke or a Dr Pepper. I work in a highly stressful field and when things would get rough, I would crave soda. After more than a year soda free (and having survived the nightmare of a week-long withdrawal from caffeine), one day I cracked at work and popped open a Coke without even realizing what I was doing. And I drank it, and it was fabulous. I’d like to say that satisfied me and I didn’t drink another, but it would be 12 years before I would even consider setting aside sodas again.

In June 2012, my husband was diagnosed with diabetes. It was pretty bad; he was in the hospital with blood sugar somewhere in the 500’s at the beginning, and we knew that a major contributing factor to his problem was regular sodas. Understand that he is a very large guy, and with good reason. But on that first day when he was admitted to the hospital with diabetes, he made immediate and permanent changes – the first being a switch to diet drinks from regular sodas. We’re both aware that sodas, even diet, are not really good for a person, but it was a first step. And even as he lay there in a hospital bed, so sick he could hardly sit up, I clung to my Dr Pepper. I just couldn’t give it up … could I?

In October, he persuaded me to give diet drinks a two week chance. I didn’t enjoy it … I wanted SO BADLY to drink a regular soda. They tasted bad, they were disgusting, and they gave me headaches (or so I thought). But at the end of two weeks, I had adjusted. I knew I had crossed the line when one day, I took a sip of a nice cold Diet Dr Pepper and thought, “Oh my gosh, that is sooooooo good!” And that is when something clicked for me. I didn’t try to “diet” or change my eating habits, but just the reduction of the calories from the regular sodas caused me to lose 15 pounds between the first of November and the end of December. I began to think that maybe I could lose weight, something that had seemed so impossible in the past.

Once the holidays were over, and January arrived, I made a commitment to be more proactive in my weight loss endeavors. But I was still only half-heartedly doing it. I think it was the sugar hang over from the holidays – I managed to mostly maintain my weight loss over the Christmas holidays (which for us, started on December 15th), although I fluctuated two pounds throughout (not so unusual though, right?). Now that the sugar is out of my system for the most part and my yogurt and fudge bar satisfy those cravings, I think I’m going to be ok. But last night, Chris and I started talking about taking a vacation in the fall. We haven’t made a final decision, but what struck me was this – if we do go on vacation, I don’t want to be tired when we’re checking out the local sites, and I don’t want my back to hurt the whole time either (chronic back pain has been my burden ever since I gained so much weight). Then I realized that I’m sick of the back pain, the shoulder pain, the aching knees, and all the other little aches and pains that I am fairly certain are exacerbated, if not caused by, the excess weight I’m carrying around. So I made a decision and set a goal.

I need to lose 105 pounds from where I am right now. There, I said it. I am more than 100 pounds overweight. I’m sure that people who see me know that I have a lot of weight to lose, so I’m not sure who I’ve thought I was fooling when I would say I have “some” weight to lose. That is seriously a 13 year old! But you know, I’ve already lost a toddler, so losing a teen shouldn’t be difficult, should it? 😉

So, my ultimate goal is to lose 105 more pounds – that will be 120 pounds total. I don’t have a specific time frame for this goal, but it would be nice if I could get it done by the end of 2014. That’s a bit more than a pound a week, and I think it’s doable. My interim goal is to lose 50 of those pounds by the end of October. I would be THRILLED if I could lose 10 of those by March 18, when I will likely have to do a week of travel for work, and that should also be doable.

The fact that I need to lose enough weight to make a whole other person sort of freaks me out, I won’t lie. But now I have all of the tools, all of the knowledge, and the drive to make it happen. And it all started just because I took one small step and gave up regular soda.