Counting Calories

A large sector of our country’s population struggles with excess weight. If you’re serious about weight loss or maintenance, you might ask yourself – how many calories am I supposed to be eating every day? Seems like a simple enough question. Yet, the answer is really highly variable.

Let’s try an experiment.

I asked Google for calorie calculators. I used the first ten entries that came up. All the websites were live and working. I gave each of the calculators my gender, age, weight, height and activity level and looked for the weight maintenance result. The most variable entry is activity level, but I tried to keep this as constant as possible and used each calculator’s definitions to best fit my lifestyle.

Here are the results:

Freedieting: 2066 2064

Precisionnutrition: 2557 1651 2677

Healthline: 2326

AmericanCancerSociety: 2682

CoachCalorie: 2102

SuperSkinnyMe: 2069

LifeSpan: 2356

Average of the above results – 2250 calories per day. The real outlier is who targets far fewer calories than everyone else.

The reality is that I’m consuming right around 2000 calories a day plus or minus maybe 100, and maintaining or very slowly gaining weight. It seems the average calculators think I should be eating more. I don’t know what’s up with that.

This only serves to highlight the difficulties people face in dealing with weight loss. The best guide is to observe and listen to your own body. If you count your calories and you’re not losing, or still gaining, then eat less.

In my case, with all my digestive issues, my struggle has been more with holding onto weight. Last year, when I was relying heavily on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and fruits had turned against me, I was basically eating chicken, beef, carrots and squash. At one point, I was consuming 3000 calories a day and still losing weight! So, it’s not always about what goes in, or comes out, it’s about how your body uses it. Since then, with the help of some supplements from my doctor, I stabilized my weight and started gaining some back while dropping to a more sustainable calorie intake.

Ignore the calorie calculators and pay attention to your body’s needs.

Spoons and Buckets

You only have so much energy to go around. I’m sure you can all relate to this.

There is something called “spoon theory” that Wikipedia defines as “…a disability metaphor and neologism used to explain the reduced amount of energy available for activities of daily living and productive tasks that may result from disability or chronic illness.”

Those of us with visible or invisible illnesses, whether mental or physical, all understand that illness drains your body and mind in excess of what people without such illness experience. The drain may be constant for chronic illness or intermittent for acute flare ups. Either way, sometimes you don’t have enough units of energy, what we call “spoons,” to get done what we want or need to accomplish.

There are those days when you need to carefully plan how to use your spoons. If you use them up too quickly, you’re done for the day. Rest, relax and wake up tomorrow with more spoons.

Sometimes, particularly when recovering from a food allergy flare up, I’m feeling better, yet fail to realize that my spoons are still running low. I burn up my spoons before I understand how few I have. I’m having one of those days today, so I really know the feeling of being done for the day.

Why did I also mention buckets in the title of this blog? It’s the other metaphor I deal with.

One way of visualizing my body’s response to inflammation, whether allergenic foods, supplements, physical or mental stress, lack of sleep or anything really, is as a “bucket.” My bucket has a fixed capacity. Inflammatory things fill it up. Anti-inflammatory things, or the removal of inflammatory things, empty the bucket. When the bucket overflows, I get sick – as in a full body response – upset stomach and bowels, headaches, cramps, sore gums, vertigo, fatigue, brain fog and body aches. Once that happens, I’m sick for a week or two with variations of these symptoms, even though I removed the source of inflammation. The older I get, and the more often it flares up, the longer it takes to recover.

The interesting thing is what can cause the bucket to overflow. It can be a very allergenic food I eat in a small quantity just once. It can also be a minimally allergenic food that I eat too much of for too long. This is why people with food allergies are supposed to practice a rotation diet. Unfortunately, I don’t yet have enough “safe” foods in my arsenal to practice rotation. I simply partake of limited amounts of almost everything I can safely eat every day. That usually works. However, I recently overdid it by eating too many servings of grapes for several days in a row. It overflowed my bucket. I went back to only two servings of grapes a day and the level of inflammation in my bucket went below the brim and I felt better.

So, yeah, my life is metaphorically filled with spoons and buckets. The trick is to not use up my spoons and not overflow my bucket. It’s always a delicate balance.