The weight loss industry is often slyly hidden between the blanket of “health and fitness”, when in reality the two couldn’t be more contrasting concepts. I think this is where I first went wrong in deciding how many calories I “needed” to get me through my day. In a world filled with contrasting ideologies, a media that bombards you with mixed messages with the sole aim of earning a profit and glossy magazines that claim to change your life, I was left more confused than ever.
Most websites prescribed by Dr Google will slip in the health warning that any calorific amount below 1200 calories is “dangerous” yet once you hit those four magic digits you are greeted with messages that told you that you will “look and feel great” eating this amount.
Although you may not be fainting in the grocery aisles, 1200 calories is by no means enough to allow your body to function. However, after years of living with an eating disorder my perception of normality in terms of food was excruciatingly skewed; I read page after page of articles plastered with pictures of glowing celebrities who claimed survival off of this measly amount and in my disordered view I equated their glowing skin and toned bodies with the concept of “health”.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
For years I let myself be influenced by my disorder and grew used to the scarcely functional intake that I deemed “normal”. Of course I knew that the recommended daily amount for a female was no less than 2000 calories a day, yet I let myself believe the lies that both my head and my internet search results had fed me. “I’ve damaged my metabolism too severely. If I eat anymore I’ll simply expand.”/ “ I’m practically sedentary- bare minimum calories for bare minimum activity” , “I feel fine…If it ain’t broke- don’t fix it!” , “I used to eat WAYYYY less than this- surely if i’ve improved then there’s no need to eat more…” The list goes on…
But after years of succumbing to these thoughts and beliefs I knew something had to change. I couldn’t live a life that was fulfilling when I still let food restrict my experiences; too many parties had been passed up, family dinners avoided and excuses made and I knew that in order to relieve the control that Anorexia had on my life I had to up the anti.
So here’s what I discovered…
Preconception: “Years of restrictive eating has caused my metabolism more damage than I can repair, I’m bound to gain weight.”
I’m not going to lie… I was petrified. Each day as I upped my portion sizes I kept thinking of the impending doom that awaited me once I stepped on the scales.
On week one I tentatively increased from 1200 to 1450 calories. With the pure certainty that I had inevitably gained and that this increase was nothing more than a “futile experiment”, I stepped on the scales.
My weight had gone DOWN.
WHAT!? I had maintained on my scarce 1200 previously, so how on earth did more food not equate to weight gain. Now, in all honesty, my weight hadn’t exactly plummeted; it had dropped a minor 100 grammes but regardless this minimal loss had proved my preconceptions wrong and I decided to take the plunge and further up my intake.
Week two and I increased to 1700 , weight went down a FURTHER 500g. In all honesty I kept thinking that my scales must be broken, but after clarifying on a different set of scales- it seemed that all was as it seemed!
Therefore, I hit increase number three.
A month after my initial increase, I am eating 800 calories more and consistently maintaining my weight.
Effect on Mentality:
Preconception: “Eating more is only going to make my thoughts worse. I’m bound to just feel constantly guilty”.
I’m not going to lie; week one was HARD. I absolutely HATE uncertainty and tend to spend my life basing my experiences off of evidential basis (hence why I’m writing this blog post!), so in the first week I definitely second guessed my decisions at least 5 times a day but as the days went on I became more confident, the guilt lessened and I started noticing the benefits of my increased intake.
Perhaps it it that my brain is now getting enough nutrition to think more logically but in the past months I’ve actually noticed that I am LESS preoccupied with food related anxieties than I was before!
SOOOO, if you’ve been convinced by the increased energy, better concentration, more positive attitude and more logical mindset that accompany adequate nutrition then take a look at my 3 Points for Increasing Calories:
- Consistency is key:
I used to embark upon one day of bravery and up my calories only to freak out before the sun set that evening and revert back to old ways. Be brave, keep going and I promise that you will reap the benefits.
Make sure to consistently reach your calorie goal on a daily basis; this way your body learns to trust that it will be sufficiently fed and is less likely to cling onto water weight.
2.) Ration your weigh ins-
When making a drastic change in intake it can be tempting to jump on the scales on a daily basis for “reassurance”- DO NOT DO THIS. Fluctuations in weight are inevitable and in order to succeed with this it’s better to weigh yourself not more than once a week (unless medically advised otherwise). This will give you a more accurate representation of your weight.
3.) Plan WHERE you will increase:
By deciding “I’ll add in 100 kcals at lunch , 100 att dinner and 50 at each snack” (or whatever you decide) you are less likely to find yourself “making up calories” in the evening. Furthermore, by eating enough at regular intervals you are avoiding the blood sugar highs and consequent crashes that are commonly associated with low mood, fatigue, dizziness and binging.
Hope this helps!
If you have any further questions please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lauren A Houston