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High fat, but low calories - help? advice? anecdotes?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created August 07, 2013 at 3:55 AM

I'm wondering about the effects of a diet that is high fat but still very low calorie, about 1300 give or take. What the effect would be on body composition, weight, maybe even hormones?

I upped my fat intake about two weeks ago. I did so consciously because I discovered via calorie counting that I have been chronically under eating for the passed three years. For two of those years I was a "recovered" anorexic, meaning that I gained enough weight to put me back into a "healthy" range: 125-128 with a 16-17% body fat. Right now I'm sitting at 130=133 lbs and probably 18-20% body fat (educated guess) and I've found myself in the middle of a relapse. I'm seeking help from a therapist and in two weeks I'll begin sessions with a dietitian, and she and I will work out a meal plan.

However, I'm concerned that my metabolism is in pretty rough shape. I work out six days a week and I'm hungry all the time. From counting calories (using myfitnesspal) I discovered that I was eating between 800-1000 calories a day. Mostly from carbs (fruits, veggies) and lean proteins. So for the past two weeks I've made an effort to get in more fat. I've also adjusted the amount of carbs I consume: I've cut out most fruit (expect blueberries), sweet potatoes and oatmeal (I know I know!). So now my day looks like this:

Breakfast/Post Workout: 3-4 eggs, 1 cup blueberries, 6 oz non fat greek yogurt (yeah, I know)

Lunch: Salad of romaine, tomato, celery, cucumber, 4 oz of (lean) meat/fish or three eggs, 1 tbs olive oil or 1/2 avocado. OR three hardboiled eggs, 1/2 avocado and about 5 celery stalks.

Dinner: Same as lunch.

I'm 23, female and 5'5.

And then! Because that still only puts me at, oh, 800 calories, I eat about 3 oz of unsweetened chocolate and one container of full fat greek yogurt that puts me up to 1200-1300 calories. This is an improvement over the binging that has accompanied my restricting: carb/sugar/processed food, but I still feel guilty afterwards. About 50% of my calories are coming from fat, with protein and carbs being split at 25% each.

And I just want to make clear my intentions: I am NOT trying to lose weight or lean out. My goal right now is to get my metabolism and the rest of me back to a healthy, functioning place. I'm posing this question because I want to know what to expect should I continue with this macro breakdown (I'm trying to boost calories overall). Or if another combination would benefit me more. I do want to be fit and lean but I am aware that goal is in conflict with getting me to a healthy place at the moment. I know my diet isn't 100% paleo and I could probably do with a little less chocolate and yogurt, but, from a mental health/deprivation standpoint, I don't think that's a good idea, again at the moment.

50a12c595436b7620224676a2ae4acb9

(128)

on August 08, 2013
at 02:32 AM

Wow, these are really wonderful suggestions, thank you. I'm especially curious about the raw dairy that you and others have mentioned. I do tolerate dairy well, that's why I've been including the greek yogurt. Where would I find these items, generally? Farmers Markets? I don't know if WF or Trader Joe's would carry such products. I'll look into GAPS and talk to the dietitian.

59b1fb3c808957039f9ddf6fb341c05c

on August 07, 2013
at 11:45 PM

Paleo pretty much 99% of the time, if I have to try something because it doesn't look right or I simply cant take a students word for it, it is just a flavour test and I can usually spit it out, weird I know! Ive been cooking for 20yrs, so ive gotten pretty good at knowing what im making without having to try it all the time when I was younger! And ive definitely gotten used to working around lots of food without wanting to eat it all the time, you definitely get sick of being around the same food day after day...if cooking is a passion of yours, try some cooking classes, it could be fun!

1f9b52f29960095986234231d91e1967

(529)

on August 07, 2013
at 10:55 PM

You might also try looking at the GAPS(Gut and Pstchilogy Syndrome) diet if you're very concerned about your metabolism. // Suspect soups or broths or meaty meals might help with reintroduction of regular satiation if the norm has been being "hungry" for awhile.

1f9b52f29960095986234231d91e1967

(529)

on August 07, 2013
at 10:50 PM

Ah, just read the "unsweetend chocolate" bit - apologies.

1f9b52f29960095986234231d91e1967

(529)

on August 07, 2013
at 10:34 PM

(particularly grass-fed ghee, or raw grass-fed butter if tolerated). You might also try some raw milk cheeses (if tolerated), or aged hard raw milk cheeses (which are often tolerated more and contain some form of K2, perhaps similar to ferments). Could also try making stocks or broths regularly for healing the gut.

1f9b52f29960095986234231d91e1967

(529)

on August 07, 2013
at 10:30 PM

In terms of gut health(& metabolism), try making ferments, or sauerkraut & consuming on a regular basis. If there is access to ghee or coconut oil, those can be consumed or placed on veggies/meat to the benefit of overall health as well as more energy intake. (Fats in general can help with higher energy intake & health repair). // If possible, the oats may or may not cause very similar-to-gluten effects on metabolism/health in general -- try a true sourdough or soaking/sprouting/souring some other grain, perhaps, if grain-like substances are a must.

1f9b52f29960095986234231d91e1967

(529)

on August 07, 2013
at 10:26 PM

Quick note -- you could try some raw milk yogurt (if available, it would probably have a much better effect on your gut health). Also, raw organic 100% chocolate with high quality raw honey could be a healthier alternative if the chocolate has soy lecithin, cane sugar, etc.

B5141236ad924674a96803ee1ccccaf1

(485)

on August 07, 2013
at 07:00 PM

yoga is great, and cheap (often free). definitely not cardio, but not simple stretching either. It is a great balance of exercise and mobility that is hard to over do even if you do it every day

50a12c595436b7620224676a2ae4acb9

(128)

on August 07, 2013
at 04:07 PM

I hope so, dance (ballet/modern and jazz) used to be my only exercise but it was intensive training. I used to be pretty flexible too, now I'm anything but, although I don't think crossfit would help with that. I mentioned in another comment I'm trying to crowd out some of my cardio with pilates and dance. Maybe yoga would benefit me as well.

B5141236ad924674a96803ee1ccccaf1

(485)

on August 07, 2013
at 03:39 PM

my gym has a big gymnastics focus! it is pretty expensive, but i do i work trade once per week with them. That could be an option, does not hurt to ask, i came from a yoga background that helped a lot. i am sure dancing would have alot of carry over skills to.

50a12c595436b7620224676a2ae4acb9

(128)

on August 07, 2013
at 03:11 PM

I'd like to try crossfit, there's a gym close to my apartment and a girl I work with does it but it's so expensive and I'm on a student budget. One day. From what I understand, there are different "styles"? Weightlifting, obviously but I've seen some stuff that looks a lot like gymnastics. I come from a dance background so I'd be very interested in that.

B5141236ad924674a96803ee1ccccaf1

(485)

on August 07, 2013
at 02:06 PM

i did not seek any professional help, though in hindsight a little counselling might have speeded me along. What did help was work and crosssfit, everyday i saw people getting stronger and living happily while indulging in paleo diets and exotic cheats (raw macaroons,raw sheep cheese, gluten free or raw vegan cakes). Eventually i learned i could do the same and thrive

50a12c595436b7620224676a2ae4acb9

(128)

on August 07, 2013
at 01:57 PM

I can relate to this as well. I'm no chef but I love cooking and have toyed with the idea of culinary school (Irony for dayyyss....). Are you paleo 100% of the time or does your job require you to be a little more relaxed? Thankfully I have never had to go to the hospital (was very, very close though), but I am truly sorry about your friend.

50a12c595436b7620224676a2ae4acb9

(128)

on August 07, 2013
at 01:51 PM

Granted, it's only been two weeks so I haven't noticed much change in appetite haha! I was curious if since my body thinks it's starving with the low calories but getting a lot of fat, that it's getting mixed signals and I'll actually put on weight. Thankfully I'm at a healthy weight, but my mind is still very much anorexic, so yes I do need to find a life outside of food. I'm trying out different forms of exercise and trying to "crowd out" some of the cardio with pilates, dance etc. Six days is actually more "progress" for me, I used to workout everyday eek!

50a12c595436b7620224676a2ae4acb9

(128)

on August 07, 2013
at 01:44 PM

Hi Sean, thank you for this response. When I dropped down to my lowest weight I was pretty much vegan, except I ate canned tuna occasionally. You last year sounds a lot like me for the past three years (and now) so you've really given me a lot of hope. I agree that calorie counting is unreliable with whole foods, but I think I need it right now to make sure I get enough. Did you seek any outside help to get better, or did you do it on your own?

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3 Answers

1
B5141236ad924674a96803ee1ccccaf1

(485)

on August 07, 2013
at 04:58 AM

have you heard of othorexia, it is an eating disorder characterized by an obsession with unhealthy foods and eating a perfect diet.

I suffered from this to the point of becoming a fruitarian. I am 6'2 male 26 yrs. One year ago my weight dropped to 126 lbs.

i would fool my self into thinking i was eating loads when really i was running a caloric deficit, i was sabotaging my own progress with calorie counts and fake large meals (big salads with out much protein/fat are great sources of nutrient and poor sources of energy).

Gradually i got real about the amount of food i needed to eat and the amount i needed to exercise, today i am a lean 145 lbs, i hope to reach 155. i try to eat about 3000 cals a day, but i dont count them. I went paleo to stop counting calories.

I eat meals, breakfast lunch dinner. Three hard boiled eggs is a snack, two eggs an avocado salad roasted sweet potato and 1/3 pd ground beef, that is a meal suitable for after i get back from a morning crossfit workout. 4-5 hours later i am hungry again, so i eat again.

I do cross fit 3-4 days a week, i eat big and i am finally getting stronger, with exercise less is more. With whole foods calories are unreliable. I used to be hungry all the time, this was because i was under eating all the time haha. Now i eat enough, food is still a stressor for me, and I feel like i eat way to much some days.

But the next day i am stronger... not fatter, stronger.

best of luck,

B5141236ad924674a96803ee1ccccaf1

(485)

on August 07, 2013
at 03:39 PM

my gym has a big gymnastics focus! it is pretty expensive, but i do i work trade once per week with them. That could be an option, does not hurt to ask, i came from a yoga background that helped a lot. i am sure dancing would have alot of carry over skills to.

50a12c595436b7620224676a2ae4acb9

(128)

on August 07, 2013
at 01:44 PM

Hi Sean, thank you for this response. When I dropped down to my lowest weight I was pretty much vegan, except I ate canned tuna occasionally. You last year sounds a lot like me for the past three years (and now) so you've really given me a lot of hope. I agree that calorie counting is unreliable with whole foods, but I think I need it right now to make sure I get enough. Did you seek any outside help to get better, or did you do it on your own?

50a12c595436b7620224676a2ae4acb9

(128)

on August 07, 2013
at 04:07 PM

I hope so, dance (ballet/modern and jazz) used to be my only exercise but it was intensive training. I used to be pretty flexible too, now I'm anything but, although I don't think crossfit would help with that. I mentioned in another comment I'm trying to crowd out some of my cardio with pilates and dance. Maybe yoga would benefit me as well.

B5141236ad924674a96803ee1ccccaf1

(485)

on August 07, 2013
at 07:00 PM

yoga is great, and cheap (often free). definitely not cardio, but not simple stretching either. It is a great balance of exercise and mobility that is hard to over do even if you do it every day

50a12c595436b7620224676a2ae4acb9

(128)

on August 07, 2013
at 03:11 PM

I'd like to try crossfit, there's a gym close to my apartment and a girl I work with does it but it's so expensive and I'm on a student budget. One day. From what I understand, there are different "styles"? Weightlifting, obviously but I've seen some stuff that looks a lot like gymnastics. I come from a dance background so I'd be very interested in that.

B5141236ad924674a96803ee1ccccaf1

(485)

on August 07, 2013
at 02:06 PM

i did not seek any professional help, though in hindsight a little counselling might have speeded me along. What did help was work and crosssfit, everyday i saw people getting stronger and living happily while indulging in paleo diets and exotic cheats (raw macaroons,raw sheep cheese, gluten free or raw vegan cakes). Eventually i learned i could do the same and thrive

0
59b1fb3c808957039f9ddf6fb341c05c

on August 07, 2013
at 08:46 AM

Sean, I found your answer brutally honest and very heartfelt. Its not often you hear of men with these kind of issues but it is very real. I myself have had plenty of crazy food "relationships", and as a chef/chef tutor, I have often found myself in a "tug of war", fighting food and justifying large salads. Now I just do paleo, eat when Im hungry and live my life.

And to Micaela, well done for overcoming something as strong as anorexia, my best friend as a child has been battling it for 20 yrs, and will most likely die in the hospital she resides in. Food is like a drug, we can let it control us, or we can control it. Its what we choose that counts.

59b1fb3c808957039f9ddf6fb341c05c

on August 07, 2013
at 11:45 PM

Paleo pretty much 99% of the time, if I have to try something because it doesn't look right or I simply cant take a students word for it, it is just a flavour test and I can usually spit it out, weird I know! Ive been cooking for 20yrs, so ive gotten pretty good at knowing what im making without having to try it all the time when I was younger! And ive definitely gotten used to working around lots of food without wanting to eat it all the time, you definitely get sick of being around the same food day after day...if cooking is a passion of yours, try some cooking classes, it could be fun!

50a12c595436b7620224676a2ae4acb9

(128)

on August 07, 2013
at 01:57 PM

I can relate to this as well. I'm no chef but I love cooking and have toyed with the idea of culinary school (Irony for dayyyss....). Are you paleo 100% of the time or does your job require you to be a little more relaxed? Thankfully I have never had to go to the hospital (was very, very close though), but I am truly sorry about your friend.

0
6fece842bd1bcf5724f458a302a2156e

on August 07, 2013
at 08:31 AM

You are my height, although I always whatever diet I follow manage to eat more than I need so in some senses I am the opposite of anorexic and I have weight to lose.

If you eat a lot more fat you will simply lose weight so I am not sure that is a great plan for you as it will kill your appetite. If you are hungry all the time just eat more of the foods you like.

If you want to keep your weight stable and you are not losing weight but your main issue is you feel hungry all the time then more fat should help that but it might make you lose more weight. Cutting out fruit and sweet potato is probably not going to help you very much and could just make you lose more weight. What you really want is stability - a diet you like for life which does not make you feel hungry all the time, but makes you feel good, happy, healthy and very full after your meals. You are a healthy weight, not anorexic (to the extent anyone ever can cease being so) and I suspect part of the answer might be not lokoing too closely at food or eating at all ever - trying to think of other things than food and health so you don't even know your ratios or foods eaten, to stop food being something you think about much at all - new hobbies instead and although exercise is good of people my feeling is if you've been anorexic you might be better just going for a walk 2 or 3 times a week and not doing 6 day a week intense exercise.

50a12c595436b7620224676a2ae4acb9

(128)

on August 07, 2013
at 01:51 PM

Granted, it's only been two weeks so I haven't noticed much change in appetite haha! I was curious if since my body thinks it's starving with the low calories but getting a lot of fat, that it's getting mixed signals and I'll actually put on weight. Thankfully I'm at a healthy weight, but my mind is still very much anorexic, so yes I do need to find a life outside of food. I'm trying out different forms of exercise and trying to "crowd out" some of the cardio with pilates, dance etc. Six days is actually more "progress" for me, I used to workout everyday eek!

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