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Calorie Confusion

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created March 20, 2013 at 5:40 AM

I suppose I should provide stats first.. Female, 17 yrs old, 5'3, 135 lbs, 34-28-36 I have two hours of softball practice 6x/ week, do relaxing yoga 2x/week, run 4-5 10 min miles 1-2x/week, and take a 45 min spin class at least once a week. I also weight train upper and lower body, usually upper body 1x/week and lower body 1x/week.

I ate pretty low cal and low carb (900-1300 cals /day, probably 50g carb/day) and exercised for several months in an unsuccessful attempt to lose body fat. Although I would still like to lose body fat, I am trying to focus on maintenance- on enjoying delicious Paleo food like the starchy vegetables and yummy fruits and nuts I avoided for so long, all cooked in some delicious coconut or grapeseed oil, and training as hard as I can. I hope that eating this way will allow me to continue with Paleo for life with fewer cheats, provide me with more fuel to exercise, and if I get lucky, help me to lose weight.

So my question is.. I fear I am overeating, because I feel so deliciously full. According to my tracker, I eat around 1700-2000 cals /day, which sounds very high to me. I feel immense guilt when I eat a few strawberries (like, 4) or a Lara Bar or two squares of 85% chocolate. Even sweet potatoes and avocados give me a guilty conscience. How can I justify eating sugars and carbs when I think my legs are chubby?

Worst of all, it seems like the more I eat, the hungrier I am. After a 2000 cal day, I vow to eat less the next day but never really do. Note- in the last week of eating like this, I have not gained weight.

To sum up- 1. Is 1700-2000 cals too much to maintain my weight? 2. Is fat loss impossible with these numbers? 3. Should I eat less on days I do not exercise a lot? My appetite is strong regardless lately 4. Any tips to eliminate the guilt? 5. Should I keep tracking calories? Don't want to become obsessive but do want to be self-aware

4f828fd11d2d1d595a1653baa5e3e77b

(421)

on March 20, 2013
at 12:20 PM

I've been doing Tim Ferris' Slow Carb Diet- but after the first few lbs, I stopped losing. That's why I began exercising. Then, somewhere along the way it stopped being a chore and more of a passion. Thanks for all the advice, def a lot to think about

72cf727474b8bf815fdc505e58cadfea

on March 20, 2013
at 06:05 AM

Also, though I'm not an expert on diet, I have sadly had a lot of experience with eating disorders. I beg you, don't go down the road of feeling intensely guilty about every little bit of food you eat. Even if your concerns are valid right now, it's easy for them to get out of control (at least for some people), and after that it can be very hard to turn back.

72cf727474b8bf815fdc505e58cadfea

on March 20, 2013
at 06:01 AM

I'm not an expert, but 1300 Cal/day sounds like a starvation-level diet, the kind that will actually stall weight loss. That might be what some CRON people eat, but even they say you need to up your intake to account for exercise, and you're pretty active.

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1 Answers

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F291857fa12a0291688ea994343156dc

(720)

on March 20, 2013
at 07:24 AM

Sydney-

Of course your desire & decision to lose weight is yours..but based on your numbers it doesn't seem like you need to lose much fat. People talk about "losing weight" but the real objective should be to lose body fat & maintain or increase muscle mass. Don't worry, you're not going to get muscles like a guy... it just won't happen.

I suggest that you run your numbers at http://home.fuse.net/clymer/bmi/ and compare the results to the information provided. It will provide some realistic perspective by showing how your body compares to other women. Your waist to height ratio is approaching that of a college swimmer.... not bad at all.

Your basal caloric need is about 1450 calories per day not considering the running, lifting, softball, etc.

The fact that you are consuming a much higher level of calories and NOT gaining weight proves that your are in a fine balance to maintain weight...no worries.

When a was a bit older than you, I was running 5 miles per day & rowing for a couple hours... 5 days a week. Also lifting 3 days a week. I was eating 5000+ calories per day and not gaining an ounce, nor was I losing.

If you want to lose body fat (not that you have a great deal to lose) you need to dial back on the exercise. I know that seems counterintuitive. At your higher level of calories combined with the fairly heavy exercise ...your body has no desire to lose body fat, it's probably worried that you're trying to starve it to death.

To answer your questions:

To sum up-

  1. Is 1700-2000 cals too much to maintain my weight? >>>Obviously not since you;re maintaing just fine.

  2. Is fat loss impossible with these numbers? >>Yes, exercise is preventing fat loss.

  3. Should I eat less on days I do not exercise a lot? My appetite is strong regardless lately. >> If you can BUT you might be in catch up mode.

  4. Any tips to eliminate the guilt? >>> Yes, read a lot. And talk to someone who can provide perspective. There should be no guilt in eating.

  5. Should I keep tracking calories? >>> Yes, of course, but don't obsess. Consider a smartphone app, makes things really easy.

You have to pick your priority... your current athletic endeavors or fat loss? Since softball is probably a school sport, you're committed for now. I suppose it is possible to adjust your diet to attempt to lose fat AND still perform well in all your athletic efforts. I'm not sure how I would approach this.

I'd knock off a lot of the exercise & concentrate on behaviors to lose fat.
I recently used the techniques of Tim Ferriss - 4 Hour Body to lose fat (but I had a fair amount to lose). His techniques seem to work better for guys.

Unfortunately you need the calories to support the exercise, so cutting or minimizing carbs is probably not a great idea. I prefer the "one thing at a time" approach but in your case, difficult to implement.

cheers

4f828fd11d2d1d595a1653baa5e3e77b

(421)

on March 20, 2013
at 12:20 PM

I've been doing Tim Ferris' Slow Carb Diet- but after the first few lbs, I stopped losing. That's why I began exercising. Then, somewhere along the way it stopped being a chore and more of a passion. Thanks for all the advice, def a lot to think about

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