*Caveat: If you have an eating disorder, for God’s sake, don’t read this. It won’t help you. If diet talk bothers you, same, same. You’re fine the way you are, and don’t need this.*
I did that because I want to talk about some things that might be triggery to people with eating disorders and I don’t want to do any real harm to people with problems or goals that are very different from mine.
I am trying to take off body fat as an aid to bringing up my swimming speed. I want to be able to swim a mile in 40 minutes, so that certain open water swims are safe to do. Right now, my body shape creates more drag than I can reasonably overcome with strength and technique.
Depending on how body fat effects my swims in colder water, I may or may not take off enough to bring my body to what society calls “normal.” That’s really going to depend more on what I weigh when I can comfortably make swim times. Open water swimmers do tend to carry more body fat than other athletes, but it is only the Lynne Coxes* among us who need to carry much, and that’s not where I am going with this.
So, diet. It is my goal to manipulate my shape to make it more hydrodynamic. Yes, that’s going to involve taking off body fat and increasing lean muscle.
I’ve always thought that I have the World’s Worst Metabolism. That I could just LOOK at a piece of chocolate and I’d gain weight. That I’d have to go on a thousand calorie a day diet to lose weight.
In really crunching the numbers, I’m not so sure. I’m eating about 1700 calories a day and losing a bit over a pound a week, tracked on a ten-day weighted average. (The human body weight fluctuates from day to day. Yeah, I’m gonna smooth out that curve so I know the real trend) A diet, yeah, but hardly extreme for a fat, middle-aged yo-yo dieter.
When I say I am eating 1700 (overall average of 1672 in the past six weeks, but what’s 28 calories, right?) calories a day, however, keep in mind that’s not a *giggle, giggle* “I won’t count this piece of chocolate,” or “Oh, that looks like about a cup of pasta.” After a lifetime of dieting, I’m pretty good at eyeballing volume, but I’m doing an experiment, so I want more accurate data.
I’m talking a food scale, measuring cups and the whole nine yards, here. I logged every piece of Halloween candy I ate. (And yes, I ate it and it was good and it made me happy.) I’m going to do the same for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The half-n-half that goes into my coffee gets measured. So does the butter I use to cook the pork loin for dinner.
The reason I’m doing it is because before I claim I have to eat 1200 calories a day to be able to lose weight, I need to KNOW that’s true.
Do people ever have really bad metabolism disorders? Oh very yes. They’re real. They’re very real, which is why I’m doing what I am doing. I’m trying to rule that out as a possibility. I can only do that with extremely accurate measurements. (Well, as accurate as it can be. Caloric content in food really is a bit of an approximation, believe it or not)
You know the old standby about eating an apple ’cause it’s so low calorie and healthy? How big was the apple? No, not small, medium or large. Do you know the criteria for that? I don’t. How many grams was it? That is a much easier question to answer. (Especially this time of year when the Granny Smiths seem to be Frankenapples) And it’s a real one, because you might get as much as a hundred calorie difference between the apple sizes.
I’m not encouraging this level of tracking as a way of life. I think it’s unsustainable. I think it’s good when you are going for baselines, or need to make intake adjustments.
But, it was pretty comforting to me to find out my metabolism isn’t as bad as all THAT and I don’t face 1000 calories a day if I want to become more hydrodynamic, either.
*Ms. Cox’ optimum body fat percentage for her extreme cold water swims is about 36%. Female Channel swimmers tend to carry more like 24-29% — much higher than the Hollywood standard of 17-19%, which is part of why marathon swimmers have a hard time getting corporate sponsorships.