Adjusted Reality

“Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.” – Mark Twain

An Eater’s Manifesto

Deep thoughts by Quix time.  This post has been welling for a while.  Charlotte started it, and then reminded me about it again.  And I’ve been ridici-busy so I have been posting the facts about the new project: maintenance weight, but not much of the feelings.

I am, in quite a few areas of my life, a control freak.  In certain instances, I do just the opposite – for example, I like going into interviews (where I am the interviewer, not the interviewee) without even a glance at the resume.  I find that I make better character decisions having no preconceptions about my subject.  I never run race courses or even study them before the fact, because I find I run better without knowing what to dread.  It might have bit me in the ass for the Austin Half, but with my illness, I might not have had it in me to run up those hills even if I would have run more conservatively.

However, in general, to borrow a catch phrase from a friend’s live journal, I am the girl with a map and a plan.  I derive as much pleasure from plotting the course as traveling it, and probably even more than actually being there.  I feel like I missed out on an awesome part of the experience if things are too spontaneous.  I spend days and days searching for the optimal flight times, best hotel for the price, and the best days to go on vacation.  Zliten is perfectly happy just to nod his head, put in for the time off, and hop the plane with me.  Same with my weight loss.  I enjoy making a plan down to the itty bitty details, the mental toughness and process of following through with it, and arriving at the end as expected.

I love exercise because it’s very black and white.  Sure, there are the grey areas of “well, I planned to run 6 miles but only ran 4”, but they’re rare, and it’s even rarer that I end the week with significantly less calories burnt or training completed than I expected.  It’s generally go or no go.  If I’m sick, an emergency comes up, injured, or very very occasionally just poop out and need an extra day off, I don’t go.  Otherwise, I go and do what I’ve set out to do.  It’s not an issue for me anymore.

Eating – for some reason this is my Achilles heel.  Workouts are 45-90 mins of my day.  Eating is something I have to be conscious of every waking moment.  I enjoy eating.  I enjoy eating both healthy food, and unhealthy food.  I plan my meals out for the week, but I also find that I incur personal resentment and also the resentment of others if my eating plan takes away the ability to engage in spontaneous opportunities of socializing.  So sometimes even though I had planned to eat that fish, brown rice, and veggies dinner, I find myself somewhere else, needing to pick from the lesser of two evils.

Therein lies the rub.  Sure, I know there is the option to go socialize without overdoing.  Every Wednesday (well, every Wed when we can) we go to trivia night.  Said night is at a beer/wine bar that serves delicious food.  My compromise with myself is that if we grab something quick at home and I get up early to get in a workout to burn some calories, I can have a few glasses of wine.  I’ve come to terms with this, but I still drool over everyone’s food at the table while we play because a) it looks good b) I’ve shortcutted myself calories to drink wine because to make it there by 7 and already be fooded, I can’t get much of a workout in unless I’m up before the crack of 8am.

However, since it’s a planned thing, I deal.  And it’s totally worth it because it’s fun.  Now the problem lies when it’s a random “hey, let’s go out for dinner and drinks tonight”.  I am able to keep a semblence of a social life and wanton care and regard for calories only due to PROPER PLANNING.  If I know I’m going out (aka, last nights chicken fajitas, chips, and margaritas), I do the lean and mean thing the rest of the day (700 cals for breakfast, lunch, and snacks).  When that’s sprung on me, I don’t abide well.  I try to eat more during the day because it makes me happier and feel better.  If I’ve eaten a big healthy lunch and then I have to go out and watch people chow on things that look great while I push around a salad, it does not make me happy (or a fun person to be around).

I used to be better at it.  It was much more urgent to me before to be strict with myself.  At first it was to get my life back.  Then it was to finally feel hot and look good for once in my adult life.  The problem is twofold now – there isn’t this urgency all the time in my brain to eat the right thing.  It’s so hard to really care about this 10 lbs every moment of the day like I used to.  Sure, it bugs the crap outta me when I’m getting dressed and I have two pairs of jeans I can’t wear anymore and a few shirts that seem to have shrunk (!).  While I know I need to care, it’s HARD on a daily basis to feel it is such an emergency that I need to deny my hungries.  Also – eating more doesn’t just make me happier, it gives me the ability to excel more at this newfound “being an athlete” thing.  When I create a deficit in my calories, I also see the ability to go faster/further than before get a lot harder.  I know it has diminishing returns (I’ll hit a certain point where I’m carrying more weight and it will in turn slow me down) but it feels GOOD just to give myself permission to properly nourish and feed my body what it wants.

I think the problem is I’ve tasted the freedom.  I spent a good chunk of 3 years feeling that losing weight was an urgent task and priority – an emergency if you will.  I then spent some time without focusing on that.  It’s like finally finding a shoe that fits you perfectly.  Sure, you thought those other ones were fine, but after walking on air, they might as well be 6 inch stilettos that pinch and wobble.  Walking these miles in my old shoes has not been fun.  I hate the mentality that I just “want to lose the weight quickly so I can get back to real life” but it’s there.  I’m not doing anything totally drastic or unhealthy to do it, but I am restricting.  It’s not as if I’m clamoring to go back to 3 meals of fast food a day – but just the ability to nourish my body completely.

The main problem is – I feel like I can’t eat the kind of food I used to, like I have to be super careful now.  I used to get by just fine on most of my meals being restaurant and take out.  We were lucky to have a few dinners at home per week and EVERY lunch out.  Now, when I have more than a meal or 2 out in a row I see it on the scale and feel it.  I have a few standbys that fit into my life (sandwich shops, salad bars, build-a-burrito places, chinese buffet near our house loaded with veggie dishes, etc etc) but I think I’ve trained my body too well over the last year or so.  It wants good quality lean meats, mass quantities of vegetables and fiber, sufficient portions of carbs, way more fats than I used to consume (and I’m still on the low side of normal), just enough calcium (no cheese used to be a standby on my weight loss tactics), and tons of fruit.  There is just not much room in there for junk food, or I feel deprived nutritionally.  And if I can’t enjoy junk food occasionally, I feel deprived in my soul.  It’s a catch 22.  Intuitive eating has bit me in the ass, my friends.

Basically, my problem is I can’t pick at food like I see my friends do.  You there – I just don’t understand how a plate of food is in front of you and you’re not just nom nom nomming it down?  How are you picking at it and leaving half and just not all consumed by the experience and the pleasure and the taste of that which is in front of you?  How do you make do with so little nourishment in your body?  How much of my hungry is mental and how much of it is actually my body crying out for food?

Now, I’m not saying I’d like to develop eat-like-a-bird syndrome all the time.  I’d just like to be able to go to a restaurant, order something small, and know that LIFE WILL BE OK.  Because right now, it’s not.  I eat restaurant size portions at home of big, lovely, wonderful healthy food.  And it’s ok.  My problem is my body does not cope well when we have to have itty bitty meals (which are the same amount of calories) when we go out.  When we eat at friends’ houses.  Is it possible that I just chew through more nutrients than the average person even though the weight loss has been PAINFULLY slow and even more PAINFUL to facilitate with tracking each bite, making sure not only to get enough exercise but on the proper days, and now I have this crazy limitation that everything has to be healthy because I now require crazy volumes of food?  ARGH!

To provide reference: yesterday I had a 20g protein 200 calorie breakfast bar, an 8 inch turkey sandwich with cheddar (470 calories), an orange (70 cals) and an asian pear (60 calories) for snacks.  I had some  almonds when I got home (100 calories) and then worked out, then 6 oz mahi mahi, 3/4 cup brown rice, and veggies (500).  I also had a treat of 2 marshmallows (carmel marshamallows just a little warmed in the microwave) and 2 hershey kisses (100).  I found myself table-knawing hungry before lunch, before my snack, and DEFINITELY before dinner.  It doesn’t help that Zliten has the opposite reaction to me most days after work and either works out or has a beer or 2 (both which take away his appetite and then we end up eating around 9pm).  Lots of good healthy food – right?  And this was a particularly good day.

The problem lies when I have to get out of my comfort zone – say Wednesday when I was saving up calories for cinqo de mayo festivities.  I got chicken fajitas w/ corn tortillas, which would have been pretty lo cal – but I was TOO HUNGRY to leave the beans, rice, and tortilla chips alone.  It wasn’t that they were there and I was eating them because of it…I was geniuinely hungry.  I knew I should stop eating at about half the beans and rice but I was not yet full.

I definitely know my appetite has changed because Zliten and I can sit down to a meal, and I’ll finish mine and he’ll stop partway through sometimes.  Or we’ll both finish and he will complain how full he feels and I’m just like READY.  For example, last night, I polished off a serving of chips, the ENTIRE plate of fajitas, all the rice and beans, and felt satisfied.  I could have probably immediately gone out for a brisk walk or slow jog.  Zliten ate about 3/4 of what I did and felt so full he was going to DIE.

My theory is that long distance running had some semi-permanent change to the way my body processes calories that is JUST NOT GOING AWAY this time.  I noticed that I rarely ever feel that 8-10 on the hungry-full scale, my food settles way faster and I’m ready for activity sooner, and I just require MORE MORE MORE.  Wonderful if you’re training for a long distance race.  Bad if you’re trying to lose weight and stick to a calorie count.

The saving grace is that even through all these issues, I am actually making snail’s pace progress.  Even though I loathed to admit my weight had crept up to 163.0, I’m glad I was honest so I know that I’ve lost just under 3 lbs, even if my weight is STILL in the 160’s most days.  Even if it’s a fight to the death with my appetite and body, I can still do this safely and slowly.  It’s just taking a LOT longer than I had hoped.

I’d continue on but I’m too hungry.

Now please – share with me.  How do you cope with the hungries?  Do you think this is in my head?  Have any suggestions for me?  Natural appetite suppressants?  Horror stories to share?  Please hit me up and tell me I’m not the only one…


The Drill Sergeant or The Mommy


A Sack of Air


  1. Divinari

    I wish I could share some of my eating habits with you. Between the two of us, we’d be good!

    I cannot manage to eat enough. I just can’t. If my tummy is upset, my brain learns “food equals pain, we don’t like pain, if we’re not hungry, then we don’t have food, which means no pain” so I don’t eat. Or the “you’re overweight which means you eat too much, so it’s okay to feel hungry, because you shouldn’t be eating that much anyway” mentality I keep coming up against.

    Dear gods, if being hungry meant losing weight, I’d rock it every day. But it doesn’t, for me. I’ve been trying to make it work for the last 15 years, like I’d always been told, which is why that little mental bugger is so hard to get rid of.

    Then, of course, there’s the matter of not being able to eat a normal variety of foods.


    I think you’re right about the long-distance running thing shifting things in your metabolism. Personally, I think you’re restricting your calories a little too much. You’re trying for 1200 cals a day, right? Maybe that really is just too little for your body. Maybe try 1400-1500? It’s still a deficit, just not as big a one as you want. But, what you’re doing now it’s giving you the results you’re hoping for anyway. I’d guess you’re pushing too far into starvation and your body’s freaking out.

    I also suspect part of the problem with eating out, and how your body handles it, is simply the sneaky extra salt and sugar. Even if the calories are correct, those things can rock you a bit. They do for me. After eating out, I can count on being 3-5 lbs above normal for at least a few days. And since we get take-out that lasts 2-3 days, I’m bloaty girl for 5 days at least.

    I wish I had the magic solution for you. 🙂 But eating a little more, of good things (hell, even of bad things) will help you.

  2. Just a clarification – I try for 1200 AFTER exercise. So I generally eat around 1500-1900 cals per day but make sure I workout and burn 300-700 to arrive at 1200, so it’s just over a 500 calorie deficit per day overall. Perfectly healthy from what most research says. And on rest days, I cannot keep it to 1200 so I’m more like 1300-1500 which brings my average up a little.

    The thing that kills me I used to do the eating out all the time and it didn’t affect my weight loss. At all. I steadily lost 1-2 lbs per week and I never remember being this hungry and my calories were MUCH lower. Frustrating, it is…but I’ll get through it.

    I don’t envy the food allergies and sensitivities. Sometimes it might be tempting to think “hey, maybe that would make it easier not to eat so much”. For me though, I don’t know that it would matter. I’ve eaten a 2 lb bag of carrots in one day. I’ve chewed through 3 cups of snap peas in a sitting. I now eat TWO fish portions from the costco bag because one isn’t enough. All very healthy and lo-cal food but just the quantity I seem to need is frightening.

    I guess we should all be thankful that we have an abundance of food and not starving but sheesh, it makes it COMPLICATED. 🙂

  3. I don’t think it’s in your head – as you can tell when you are truly hungry and when you are not. I have heard that there is a difference between appetite and hunger.

    When I’m hungry and I’m trying to lose weight I tend to drink a hot drink before I eat anything. Often times that helps me get through until the next time that I’m supposed to eat.

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  5. Yay, you posted about this! I’ve been waiting to hear your take on all of this:) What I’d really love is to sit down in some coffee shop and hash this all out with you as you know I’ve had many of the same struggles. (Oh the hungries! Try exercising like a maniac AND nursing. I could eat you and Zliten together under the table.) And the hunger makes it nearly impossible to lose weight. Plus, it’s like you said, the sense of urgency isn’t the same as it once was. I’ve been reading Women Food & God by Geneen Roth – have you read that one? She’s the intuitive eating lady. She has an interesting take on this whole thing. Unfortunately her major premise is you have to trust your body to know what it needs and I don’t know that I can do that….

    Thanks for your post – you’ve given me a lot to think about.

  6. The frustrating thing is that I can trust my body to maintain during the course of normal living. I simply cannot intuitively lose weight and apparently I cannot intuitively eat during major heavy training.

    I’d really consider seeing a professional nutritionist for advice, but there is always the worry that they’ll know less than I do with all the research I’ve done on the subject over the last few years and be a waste of a lot of money. 😛 I even considered to start taking some classes but that’s damn expensive too. Le sigh. If only I had a money tree and a way to add more hours to the day, I’d be set.

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