Is My Body Afraid to Lose Weight?!: Unconscious Starvation

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    Apr 04, 2008 2:19 AM GMT
    Edited after a Few Great Thoughtful Replies:

    I've spent a lot of time now trying to really understand my caloric and nutritional needs. According to BMR, I expend about 1800 calories laying stock-still, while Cron-o-Meter, the calorie counting software I use suggests my caloric intake should be somewhere around 2600.

    Thanks to vince (see below), my previous assumptions were confirmed that BMR is simply the body's metabolic rate at complete rest, and really, for someone my age, with at least a lightly active lifestyle will be burning quite a few more calories during the day.

    I'm worried about overestimating the calories I might be burning however, considering I'm still trying to get into exercising--I'm very much a complete novice, and not athletic whatsoever--and am not really able to burn as much of it through working out just yet. My workouts so far have been a few sets of pushups, lunges, bicycle crunches, squats with some stretching and just jumping around to music to keep myself up and at 'em, and so far my arms and chest have been so sore I can't really do much else.

    I'm also daunted at the fact that I may have to eat that many calories, as I seem to eat relatively well already and definitely don't seem to come near those numbers, especially if I focus on eating healthy.

    My goals: I want to lose my excess belly and chest fat, while building some lean muscle. I know I can't simply work the fat of my stomach--especially with it being the last place fat deposits are used, but overall, I just want to get my torso lean, so that I can really work on building muscle.

    Perhaps all of my goals might be a little counter-intuitive--definitely help me out here, guys! Thanks!
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    Apr 04, 2008 1:37 PM GMT
    I would recommend that you listen to your own body and observe your own progress and process. If I ate the number of calories that everyone told me to eat (my doctor, my friends, former trainers), given my age, my weight and my activity level, I would still be 60 pounds overweight. So I've found general recommendations useless, and even well-meaning people seem to mindlessly parrot certain truisms that have somehow gotten into popular gym culture about eating too little.

    In my case, after 20 years of training for long-distance cycling with a big endo-meso bodytype, I have to restrict to a very low level level (average 1000 calories a day), really monitor my carbs, and after a lifetime of cycling, add into the mix a very high level of cardio activity, walking and hiking (2-3 hours per day). Moreover, my body goes through 3-5 day cycles during weight loss--3-5 days of no change, 3-5 days of daily drops of 1-2 pounds. And during maintenance, I really only eat about 2/3 of the general recommendation and if I stick to that, I've maintained a normal lean weight of 180-190 for many years. That's just how my metabolism is. Also, I cannot use my own subjective experience of hunger as a guide, because it is unreliable, but I can use my experience of general fatigue as a sign that I need to fuel up. My long-term cycling buddy has a very different metabolism and body type, and though his activity level is similar to mine, his diet is very different.

    Everyone's metabolism is different, everyone's actviity level varies, everyone's body uses up body fat in a different pattern. If you are creating a calorie deficit through upping your activity level and through restricting your diet, you should be losing body fat regularly. If you are not, then, yes, something needs to change. I personally think it's better to raise the activity level before restricting calories further and see what happens, but it may be to get as lean as you wish, you will have to eat considerably less than the general charts tell you. If you are eating a varied and healthy diet and are feeling well-fueled, then I would continue to do what you are doing for a month and see if you get leaner. If not, then yes, you'll probably have to tweak something to create more of a calorie deficit. But only your experience can tell you what you need to do.
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    Apr 04, 2008 2:59 PM GMT
    2600 calories sounds high to me and definitly seems like a maintainance number of calories for someone your size, if not a little high - especially if its for sedentary activity.

    A rough calculation I have used effectively is to multiply my weight by 10 to find a number that has me losing about a lb a week with no activity (so you need to compensate with more calories if you are active) and multiplying by 13 to find a maintainance number of calories. You can tweak the number up or down to fit your metabolism once you have a week or two of results.

    The other thing that has helped me to put on muscle and shed fat is to keep my ratio of macronutrients to 50% protein, 30% carbs, 20% fat (roughly). However, when I'm maintaining my weight I take in 60% carbs, 25% protein, 15% fat (roughly).

    On the exercise end of things - interval training seems to help me burn fat and maintain muscle. And, I regularly strength train.
  • vince_the_cyc...

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    Apr 04, 2008 3:52 PM GMT
    TorenJacobs saidAfter taking a look at a few online Basal Metabolic Calculators, they all suggest around 1800 calories. This is a pretty huge difference--who should I believe?

    The Basal Metabolic Calculator only measures how many calories your body uses just to keep it's essential systems running. If you laid in bed all day and night, without so much as standing up, your body would burn about 1800 calories. A guy of your size burns at least 2300 calories a day just moving around (without any working out).

    Eating as few calories as you are, you're keeping your metabolism burning at a pretty slow rate. At 1300 calories your body is preparing for famine, and holding onto as much fat as possible so that it may be used as energy in the event your food supply completely runs out (think early humans, and how inconsistent the food supply was compared to what we're used to today).

    If you want to gain muscle you'll need at least 2600, and probably a lot more than that. I spent 2 years lifting weight without much progress, and didn't start seeing any serious muscle until I started eating 3500 calories!

    What are your fitness goals? What are your workouts like?
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    Apr 04, 2008 8:29 PM GMT
    Toren, I'll restate my advice I gave on the other thread:

    Change one thing at a time.

    You've just started working out. Be patient. This will change your caloric burn rate to some new unknown. Wait a few weeks to see what happens and put away the books and calculators and the Interwebs for a while!

    Weeks are the units you count to check changes in the body, unless you're doing radical shit, which always boomerangs.

    Patience my boy! You're overthinking stuff! Check back with us in a few weeks after you've been working out REGULARLY. And I don't want to hear about how "you had to go on this trip, then there was this exam, and blah blah so I really couldn't work out consistently"!!!

    (* puts hands on hips, makes frowny face *)


    Just trying to motivate!

    Let your body adjust to working out regularly first. Then take the next steps with diet and/or cardio after you see how it reacts.

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    Apr 04, 2008 8:46 PM GMT
    Yuo are partly over complicating it and also you are not looking at a full equation.

    Yuo say you are expending this doing nothing yet on that assumption then thats 800 calories surplus over and above what you would require to maintain weight as it is.

    2600 seems high when you look at your current weight but factoring your age and height seems to be a realistic ballpark but without knowing your body shape and measurements thats about all it can be.

    The level of exercise you indicate you are doing doesnt seem like it will make much of a dent tho into that fat you want to rid and therefore you have two choices:

    eat less but dont just drop down or up the anti and the way you work out which currently will do very little to preserve lean muscle mass yet alone build.

    the only way you will lose fat and build muscle is if you strictly monitor what goes in and what deficit you create by exercise and training. Whilst its not impossible you are setting yourself up for failure as its a hard task to master.

    So I would say decide your goal. All the jumping around shows that your primary goal is to drop weight (not necessarily fat) first of all get that right. Maintaining lean muscle mass requires increasing stimulation of the muscle.
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    Apr 05, 2008 7:12 AM GMT
    So what do you suggest? If I decide my primary goal is getting rid of this small spare tire first and foremost, how do I go about it? Iguana says workout, but will that build muscle under the fat, not necessarily burn it away? BFG1 says (at least in regards to the midsection) it's all about the diet.

    This is where I feel everything completely contradicts itself. While I want to take Iguana's advice and just workout first, it seems as though that doesn't address getting rid of this fat around my stomach. Even here on the forum, everyone has a different perspective. If it's this individualized, how long is it really going to take to understand what works for me and what doesn't?

    Here's the idea--if I just cut out my calorie counting for now, still trying to get in a little healthier variety than I have been (I mean, seriously, it was a cheeseburger and fries for lunch almost every day), and build up a workout, can it be agreed that this is a decent direction to take? I mean, I've already noticed a change in the two weeks, but as Iguana has said, I guess I don't really know if this is from increased activity, controlled calories, or both.

    I'm going to be honest--posting to the forum has left me a little discouraged. I feel overloaded with information, hearing one focus against another, and frankly, it's no wonder we all have such a difficult time taking care of ourselves--every turn we take seems to be looked down upon by someone.

    I know my workout doesn't seem like a lot, but my arms have never been more sore. When I say beginner, I mean beginner. I want to be flexible, I want to be healthy, and I want to be happy. Trying to figure all this out--and I'm overanalyze everything--is not leaving me feeling any of these things, except that I know I have felt better taking charge of myself for a change, and doing some things that are actually good. They may not look right, but they're doing something.
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    Apr 05, 2008 9:07 AM GMT
    First. Have a cocktail.


    OK. Now...

    Just to be clear. My point was that the body stores calories as fat when the ratio of calories in to calories burned is too high. You can adjust either end of that equation.

    On the calorie burning end, you can walk more. Move to San Francisco and deal with the hills. You can do cardio. You can also lift weights at the gym. All of these increase your caloric burn, at different rates (everyone will be different in how much each of these burns).

    You just started working out. You're changing your caloric burn rate. It will take a few weeks to see what effect that has on your body. Sure, that will help to build muscle (along with a lot of other ingredients), but I didn't suggest leaving other factors alone cause you're building muscle. I suggested just waiting a few weeks to see what your new caloric burn rate does to your body.

    Again, it's not about building muscle (altho this may happen). It's about increasing your burn rate.

    Step at a time!

    You already seem very motivated. You don't have that big of a problem. And you started working out. You are taking action. You are awesome!

    You just seem a tad impatient to me icon_smile.gif

    Have another cocktail!


    PS Oh, you asked a question that I didn't answer. Yes, I obviously agree with your proposal to hold off on the serious calorie counting for a few weeks to see what the gym is doing for you. You will definitely eventually change you diet. Everyone does. But doing one thing at at time is just a simpler approach, and will let you know what works and doesn't for you.

    There's plenty of time to try all sorts of things. But trying them all at once will leave you very confused about what is happening, and frankly, in my opinion, that kind of "flailing around" trying everything at once, for a beginner, is a recipe for discouragement and eventually giving up. I've seen it over and over. A guy spends a decade ignoring his body. Then tries diet, cardio, lifting, yoga, some new sport, and Indonesian shark cartilage or some such, and then after a week, he says "nothing is working and I'm tired and frustrated, and I'll never improve. I quit." And he spent a grand total of a week. After a DECADE of doing nothing. A week vs a decade.

    I'm not saying this is you at all Toren, I'm just saying: don't be this guy! icon_smile.gif
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    Apr 05, 2008 9:20 AM GMT
    I use a software package called Diet Power, which is essentially a diary of your food intake, exercise, and weight. It does start you out with a generic baseline based on age and weight, but adapts your calorie budget to your specific metabolic rate over time. It has a huge library of foods already and can be added to in order to include foods and activities it does not already have. It has worked very well for me.
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    Apr 05, 2008 9:52 AM GMT
    I don't want to talk about the mathematics of calories and metabolism. The truth is that the title of your thread is profoundly important to whomever struggles with body image issues (and I would say those issues are overweight, underweight, muscular armor, or defenselessness).

    "Is my body afraid to lose weight?"

    My answer is ABSOLUTELY

    To me there is an undeniable material connection between what stands between my soul and the world at large. I know that no one is going to defend me. At the end it is I who am the keeper of my soul, the keeper of my conscience, and the defender of my body.

    Whatever stands between me, the essential me, and the WORLD (and all of the little worlds that are its constituents) is simultaneously my projection and my defense.

    It only stands to reason that the mathematics and biology of diet and exercise are fundamentally manageable. However, those biomechanics aren't sufficient to explain the motive force of the mechanism that drives me to whatever extreme.

    Losing weight is TERRIFYING. Achieving a goal is a little death, what next? Where do I go from here?

    What is going to happen when that six pack is EXPOSED (known in mathematics as the Dolce Gabbana Lurex Bikini Conundrum)?

    I would summarize it like this. Since the universe is composed of "visible" matter and "dark" matter it is impossible to take its true measure without understanding the sum of both. However, "dark" matter remains unknowable (maybe not for long).

    I posit that there is a corollary (or better a reductive fractal representation) in us.

    If I take the law of conservation of mass (mass can neither be created nor destroyed only changed) plus the law of conservation of energy (the first law of thermodynamics) (energy can neither be created nor destroyed only changed), and the third law (Einstein's) that (the amount of matter and energy in the universe are constant and in relation), then I can extrapolate an idea:

    Dumbass Texan's Theory of Why He is a Lardass

    For every kilo of matter (fat matter) that I transform into energy (kinetic energy) there is a correspondent kilo of "dark" matter (emotional matter) that I must transform into "dark" energy (emotional energy). Furthermore both kinds of energy must be transferred into something outside of me. The kinetic energy might go into a treadmill or a sculling shell while the emotional energy might go into a punching bag or writing this bullshit online.

    Because the physical world gets really pissed off at imbalance, I need to recognize that dealing with the visible might actually be creating a vacuum in the "dark" matter of my soul, unless I am prepared to deal with that too.

    Because nature abhors a vacuum, there is a huge risk that this hole can and will get filled back up with fat and gooey old emotions. I simply cannot afford to tempt fate by dealing with calories and leaving emotions aside.

    Because this "dark" matter is "dark" it is a feeling-exercise to manage it (like Pilates but worse). All the more reason to go slowly and to work first to achieve equilibrium. Doing it all gram by gram reduces the risk of seeing the whole thing ripped apart by centrifugal, gravitational, or wtf ever other force(s).

    I know this is an obtuse and abstract answer and it might not make a lick of sense to anyone but me. My apologies for introducing the infinite and the cosmological to arguments that are extremely personal and private.

    However, I do know this, losing weight is TERRIFYING and it is at best only half mechanical.

    If losing weight was merely mechanical and not equally about emotional health and physical health then we would all look like Chizzad (who seems very health emotionally and physically, so I choose him as my poster boy) and we could skip right to the giant RJ Orgy.

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    Apr 05, 2008 11:11 AM GMT
    and all I am saying is yes there is one way to get rid of the fat eat normally but healthy and use exercise to burn off the fat or dont eat the 500 calories a day you never needed and let exercise retain the muscle.

    Its quite correct to assume to carry on as yuo are there will be body compsotitional changes and these will be an improvement on where you are but thats not what you asked.

    You asked amongst other things am I overestimating the calorie burn from my exercise. The simple answer to that is yes.

    Will it achieve the goals you have set no.

    Wetehre to run or to eat less the choice is yours as to what you prefer there is little difference. What is a given is that weights need to be progressive
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    Apr 05, 2008 2:37 PM GMT
    OK, I definitely appreciate that answer Iguana! I think I can definitely take off from there--haha once my body gets acclimated to all this new stress. Any good advice for muscle soreness? I already know rest is the best medicine, and I know I might seem impatient Iguana, but I know when to push myself and when not to. I'm just ready to really get going, and for a while it has seemed like it was going to take longer to sift through the information than it was to actually lose the weight.

    Ursa--so essentially I should find my Lagrange point between the invisible mass of the increasing dark matter as it replaces the burning physical matter, right? Haha, perhaps weight loss leads into greater synchronicity with the universal unconscious--becoming less massive within the physical realm translates the body into the ephemeral, leading to greater harmonics with the universe--a tighter binding with the vibrating strings of reality's (in)existence. Thanks Ursa--I'll try my best to keep the darkness within my own consciouness, perhaps the archetypal Shadow, from replacing the increasing void I have returned to physical space.

    BFG--I believe I now understand why I didn't understand your first reply. I wasn't suggesting that I had even attempted to calculate the caloric burn of my exercises. My first post was merely trying to understand the discrepancy between my BMR--essentially what my body would burn if I stayed in bed all day, and the calorie needs my calorie-counting software suggested, which supposedly is more accurate, because it is caloric burn over a day of normal activity for a person of my age, weight and height. I was confused at why these figures were so different, except when I realized that I would have to be completely still to only burn 1800 calories, but, (and again I understand that this might be a little high and if I decide to adjust my diet, I will try to obtain a better estimate) in reality, during my usual routine of getting up, getting dressed, walking to classes, studying, doing homework (essentially sedentary activity), I might be really burning 2300-2600 calories. I was worried at first that I might be sabotaging myself already by cutting my calories so low that my body would actually hold on to the fat.
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    Apr 05, 2008 5:28 PM GMT
    Toren: Woot!

    Ursa: I agree completely. But Toren responded better than I ever could have.

    BFG: I don't think any of us disagree with you either. It's just a question of what when. My only opposition to your posts is that I think Toren would be better off with a step by step approach. I could be wrong.

    OK. Back to my 10am cocktail.


    PS What, you guys don't have a morning cocktail? Or three?

    PPS LOL. I kid.

    PPPS Or not.
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    Apr 05, 2008 5:35 PM GMT
    iguanaSF said
    OK. Back to my 10am cocktail.


    PS What, you guys don't have a morning cocktail? Or three?

    PPS LOL. I kid.

    PPPS Or not.

    Nah, I stick to coffee, and I take it intravenously. Saves time.
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    Apr 05, 2008 8:18 PM GMT
    Advice for muscle soreness: Enjoy it! It's your muscles being destroyed and rebuilt.

    And make sure you keep drinking water along with the rest you already know to do.


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    Apr 05, 2008 10:00 PM GMT
    Don't forget to stretch too!
    Warm up your muscles properly before weights with light sets, or light exercise, or core work.
    Then once you're finished with weights, stretch the muscles you used! In my experience, stretching after doing weights (or cardio even) lessens the soreness the day after.

    Like Iguana said though, enjoy it! The more I work out, the less I get that soreness, and the more I wonder how much I really pushed myself icon_smile.gif
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    Apr 06, 2008 12:53 AM GMT
    iguanaSF said
    BFG: I don't think any of us disagree with you either. It's just a question of what when. My only opposition to your posts is that I think Toren would be better off with a step by step approach. I could be wrong.

    I know what you were alluding to but disagree as getting results is what keeps you going and achieving not knowing and guessing wont help understanding.

    But each to their own just trying to save ya time an get you your results