Friday, September 25, 2009

It depends on what your definition of is is

Well, actually, it depends on what your definition of morbidly obese is.

The most common definition, and probably the fairest, is a BMI greater than 40. However, there is another, alternate definition "100+ pounds overweight." Yesterday, no matter which way you cut it, I was firmly in the morbid category. Today, not so much.

Weight: 244.8

Normal weight for someone my height tops out at 145. This means I am no longer 100+ pounds overweight! As of this morning, I am a mere 99.8 pounds over a normal weight. Ah, the things we can rejoice in when we're as far gone as I.

Seriously, even though I think the 40+ BMI definition of morbid is more valid, today marks a substantive milestone for me. My weight loss goal is no longer in the triple digits. And 11.8 pounds from now, I won't be morbid by any definition. Good stuff.

In other news, last night I decided that I was going to stop messing around and make sure I get to 1200 calories every day, even if I feel like I don't really need the last 250 or so.

Now, conventional wisdom in the dieting world is pretty definitive on the "You must eat 1200 calories a day or BADNESS." The badness they most typically threaten people with is that if you eat fewer than 1200 calories a day, your body won't lose as much weight as if you eat just at or slightly above this mark. There's also some shebang about how it's bad for your body and how you need nutrients and whatnot. (The last point is one I mostly agree with, although I'm not entirely convinced of it's importance. Losing weight is self starvation, an inherently unhealthy process. The result is healthy, the value of shedding excess pounds makes it healthy on balance, but the self starvation part still pretty trying on your body. I'm not, for example, 100% convinced that the value of getting things done more quickly--thus spending fewer days starving yourself--isn't worth more than the value of getting perfect nutrients along the way.)

But okay, my real objection is with the idea that if you go below the 1200 calorie low bound, your body will go into "starvation mode" and that you'll lose less weight than if you were above it. It strikes me as absolute nonsense that one would lose less weight at 1150 than 1250 a day, or less weight at 900 than 1200.

The first thing that bugged me about it was that it clearly broke basic rules of physics. Diet industry, meet Conservation of Energy. You see, my buddy conservation is a rule. A real science-y rule, not one of your made up diet ones. That said, I do understand that bodies are complex organisms, and that going below a certain point could trigger your body to do other things that conserve energy, but it's not going to be enough to make up the difference. I'd absolutely 100% buy that because of your body's response there are decreasing marginal returns as you cut more calories (for example, that going from 1800 to 1700 would be worth more than cutting from 800 to 700, even that the cut from 800 to 700 only produces as much bonus weight loss as going from, say, 1800 to 1760), but decreasing marginal returns does not mean the effectiveness stops all together.

Besides, there's absolutely no way that all those people who are out there in the world starving are really just doing so because they're hitting 1300 calories a day, and if they only ate 1100 they'd be unable to lose weight. Ridiculous.

And then there's the fact that when you get into more medical settings, they do use sub 1200 calorie diets with great success. The 1200 calorie rule isn't just nonsensical in theory, it's flat out wrong in practice. Gastric bypass patients, for example, will be on a 600 calorie diet for a few weeks post op. Physician supervised very low calorie diets do exist for rapid weight loss.

So, all that, but: I'm committing to myself to hit the 1200 calorie mark every day for the next two weeks. This is tough for me. I enjoy heterodoxy for its own sake and I hate doing things that I can't independently make sense of. But after seeing my bugg burn values for the past few days (3527 Wednesday and 3172 yesterday), it occurred to me that relative to burn, the extra 220 or so calories I save on sub 1200 days just aren't worth it. I'm better off spending my mental energy pushing myself to get off the couch again to go for a walk than questioning whether or not I really need miracle whip on my daily sandwich (30 calorie difference), and is picking turkey over ham or roast beef (15ish calorie difference) really worth the decreased enjoyment.

Don't get me wrong, I still think diet is more important than exercise in terms of weight loss. And the difference eating 2000 and 1200 calories a day is huge, but right now, for me, it makes sense to stay in the 1200-plus club. For these next two weeks, I'm going to hit 1200 even if it means stuffing down an extra cottage cheese before bed. After that, I'll see where things are, and decide where I want to go from there.

I'm still a little in shock from how much I poured out in yesterday post, so apologies for the overshare. I've now officially told you guys a whole heck of a lot more about me than I ever intended, and even shared a few secrets I don't tell people in real life. But that's blogging, right?


  1. You did share and I think it was great!

    WTG on hitting the milestone. In 5 more lbs. I will only have double digits to lose too and I am REALLY looking forward to it.

    We are gonna do this Hadley and I am glad to have you along for the ride :-)

  2. I have a blog post about the term MORBIDLY obese. I am now just obese. But like 20 lbs ago i was "seriously obese"...I don't know why but it makes me laugh. Anyways I feel you on the getting the calories in issue. I hate to feel like i am eating TOO MUCH so sometimes I eat too little.

  3. You know, the origins of BMI are ridiculous. It was invented by a man who wasn't even an expert in health care. It was based on a ridiculous assumption of weight to height, not considering muscle versus fat. Most top athletes are overweight and obese on the BMI scale! I'm very athletically built and when I'm a size 8, I'm overweight according to BMI. Right now, I wear a size 14 at 5'8" and am considered "obese." What??? I made my own weight range to know when I'm in a healthy weight. It wasn't my thinnest weight (when I modeled). It was my weight when I felt confident in what I wore and completely able to get around without any breathlessness, could look down and see my "privates" without pushing my stomach in, and was a size 8. That's my goal weight. Confident and healthy, but not rickety thin and starving. You know how you feel in your body, so you'll know when your weight is still too much or feeling much better or feeling awesome. I don't use BMI, it's a bogus scale. You're not just short of morbid, you're just short of awesome--keep it up!

  4. Enjoyed this post - I, personally, DO need to stick closer to the 1200 mark, but mostly for blood sugary-energy-mood reasons. It's my personal threshold for feeling fueled and feeling ookey. And ookey is bad. Seriously, I learned that in college.

    Enjoyed yesterday's post too! Love getting to know my BBFFs better. It does make you feel a little exposed, though, doesn't it?

  5. girl...your doing a fab job on the loss!!

  6. Great job on getting down below 100 to go!!!
    I don't know enough about calories to know whether the "starvation mode" thing is true or not. Maybe it has to do with a steady rate of loss. So if you eat below 1,200 per week, you might still lose, but it would be slower because your body is holding onto fat??

  7. Good golly, I cannot imagine how freaking hungry I would be...and how obsessed I would be over every bite, if I did less than 1200. Heck, I average around 1600 right now & all the so called 'experts' & calculators I've found say I should be eating more calories than that to lose...but I just can't wrap that around my brain. I know the type of calorie/food we choose is most important, but I still can't "get" that if I ate more than I am now that I'd lose more so I get what you're saying.

    I'm not 100% sold on the BMI thing either. I'm such a many years of working in medicine I guess. lol

    As far as worries. You felt okay when you posted it or you would have deleted before clicking 'publish'. If it feels right to you then it is right.

    BTW - I was going to email you but couldn't find an address...your comments come up as "noreply". Anyway, if you decide to go the cinnamon route - you can buy capsules if that is easier. I get mine at Walmart - 2-3 month's worth for around $10 or so (? I think - it has been awile). From losing weight, staying off sugar, a few eating tricks I've learned & taking the cinnamon I'm 100% regular and have been for almost 2 years. I had crazy cycles for about 10 before that.
    You *can* control many of the PCOS symptoms. The Acanthosis Nigricans on the back of my neck is gone. Acne I only have a very small flare up each month.
    Trust me - you can make some of this stuff go away!

    Have a great weekend!
    ibrakeforbooks (at) gmail (dot) come

  8. Really great post. I also don't get the BMI thing - but I have set my goal weight to be at the "normal" BMI, so there you have it.

    A great way to make up some extra calories but still be healthy? Add more fruit. Not that you asked for advice. But, maybe that would be less painful. I try to stay around 1300-1500, and I think the fruit really keeps me full, and I feel like I am doing something positive for my body.

  9. I think that not going under 1200 calories is smart for a couple of reasons. The most important one for me is sustainability. If you get accustomed to eating 600 - 800 calories a day and are successful at getting to your goal, do you really know how to maintain it in a healthy manner?

    I personally think that you will be happier at a few more calories and find yourself able to maintain that weight for a long, long time. Does that make sense?

    Congratulations on the weight milestone!! I'm not a big fan of BMI, but it is a useful tool.

  10. It may be a little off topic but I have to tell how much I valuate your posts. Maybe it's because I can sense in your entries that you're an economist and how you approach different topics and how you draw the conclusions. It's really some added value you create here. I wish I could implement my thoughts on the fat media like you do but I feel the disadvantages of using 4 different languages in my life daily. It really can mess with the head and I found myself developing a constant confusion on my self expression. In fact I feel so embarrassed whenever I post anything because it must sound like a 12 year old. (:

    Btw, congrats on the loss!!! (:

  11. Hello,

    Try eating an apple and drinking a glass of milk for dinner, it's light but filling. You will cut out a lot of calories by doing that. I make lunch my largest meal because I workout really hard everyday. My lunch is very healthy and filling. Protein and Carbs. Dinner has become an after thought. Keep up the good work.

  12. I have thought SO much about this, just as you have. I think it's a bogus rule too - I HATE it when people say "if you eat under 1200 calories a day, you won't lose weight." Uh, wrong. To give an extreme example - anorexia. Anorectics eat well under 1200 calories a day, usually, and they most definitely lose weight.

    Bah. I could go on and on and I just don't have the time right now - but suffice to say, I know what you're talking about. Good post =)

  13. Good job!! What a fantastic milestone to reach.
    I loved your last post. It's stuff like that that let's us get to know you better.
    How was the dentist??

  14. First of all - woot! Congratulations on reaching a milestone!

    I agree with your point on diet being more important than exercise, but they are both crucial parts to a good approach.

  15. Congratulations on getting under 100 lbs! That is fabulous. And I used to try to go under 1200 calories every day, but I soon found that I had a tendancy to want to overeat after I went to the gym at night- I wasn't eating enough food for my workouts. It was a nice change to make! Have a great weekend, and again, congratulations on your success!

  16. Just a thought, the reason you want to be careful with how low you go in calories, is because your body will think it's starving and will slow down your metabolism. Then when you start eating normal again...your metabolism will take those extra calories and put it on as fat, because it now works more slowly.

    Obviously in starving countries, it's hard for them to get enough to they try to get calories any way they can.

    But when we're losing weight we want to also be and look healthy which is why you want to balance your meals with the proper nutrition.

    I love how you pick everything apart, Hadley. You are so fun to read. And good job, by the way on gettig below "100 over your goal weight."