Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Question du jour

First, thanks for all your comments and congratulatory notes, about the 5K and about yesterday's weigh-in. You keep me running! (You're welcome for that earworm.)

In yesterday's comments, Hils asked:
It sounds like you are one of the paleo people who also keeps track of calories--and I was wondering, how did you figure out what level to keep your calories at while eating paleo? Thanks! 
First, are there other paleo people who track calories? I'd love to be reading their blogs. Do let me know of any. Thanks!

I've been using LoseIt! to track my food since the spring of 2012. I haven't logged every bite, every day, but have been pretty consistent with it, and have been religious about it this year. Having the app on my phone really makes it easy to add items throughout the day.

Just ask my husband: He says the phone is attached to my body.

But I digress.

When you create your LoseIt! account, you set goals for both your weight and your rate of loss. If you'd like to end up weighing 140 and you want to lose two pounds a week, LoseIt! will calculate the number of calories you need to eat each day to make it happen, and will estimate when you can expect to see the magic number.

Sounds simple, doesn't it? What LoseIt! doesn't account for is the individual quirks inherent in each of our metabolisms. I ate at or below the recommended calorie level from January to March of this year and lost 7 pounds. At that time, my plan was to lose a pound a week. So I wasn't doing as well as the program predicted I would.

As noted in yesterday's numbers post (and Kitten, your comment cracked me UP!), I ended up GAINING 1.5 pounds in March. Enough was enough. At that point I was well and truly frustrated. I'd been faithfully counting calories and walking nearly three miles daily. AND I WAS GAINING WEIGHT!?!?!

Enter Whole30. I downloaded and read the free materials (I wasn't going to buy the book until I knew how I would tolerate the plan), went shopping and made the decision to continue following LoseIt!'s calorie recommendation.

Most primal/paleo folks don't count calories. Most primal/paleo folks have, um, more normal metabolisms than mine apparently is. Or maybe mine is normal under paleo conditions, but not while eating the Standard American Diet.

Whatever that is.

I thought I was eating healthfully last winter. I cooked from scratch, ate whole grains and healthy fats (but not too many!), used artificial sweeteners. My biggest treat was a McDonald's sugar-free French Vanilla iced coffee every once in a while – 120 calories for the large size.

I'm at a point where I would love to stop journaling my food, but I'm pretty compulsive about it, and plan to continue doing so at least until the end of this year. The calorie target right now is pretty low – 1149 per day. I honestly don't have any trouble staying below it, though, and am frequently well below it.

Here's the thing: Protein and fat are more filling than carbs. Doesn't matter what kind of carbs. Doesn't really matter what kind of protein and fat, either. My protein is largely animal-based, and my additional (other than what's in my bacon or chicken or ground beef) fats are mostly plant-based – olive and coconut oil, with an occasional pat of butter made from grass-fed cow's milk.

But who cares if one macronutrient is more filling than another if you graze all day?

And that's the biggest difference eating primally has made for me. I don't think about the next meal/snack/eating occasion as soon as I'm done with the last one. My bacon and eggs last all the way to dinner sometimes.

As both of you know, I'm now 62. Older people need fewer calories than you young whippersnappers do. 1149 might be way too low. But I'm satisfied, am rarely hungry (when I am, it seems to be at the appropriate time, i.e., when I wake up or if it's been several hours since my last meal) and I'm losing weight.

My big question is this, and if you have any experience with it – or if you know of a blogger who does – I'd love to have it answered:

Would I lose more if I ate more?

The BMR calculator over at Fat 2 Fit Radio suggests a moderately active 5'2" 62-year-old female with 40% body fat (I guessed at that number) who wants to lose 25 pounds should be eating 1925 calories per day.

Since we are all our own science experiments, the only way I'll know the answer is to do it.

But at this point, being in the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" camp, I'm pretty unwilling to try. 

So, Hils, aren't you sorry you asked? You got the War and Peace answer, when the Reader's Digest version would have sufficed: I'm following LoseIt's daily calorie target.

I'm really glad you asked, though. Obviously I need to keep thinking about the right answer. For me.

8 comments:

jen said...

Are you pretty much just doing low-carb? I remember you said you don't eat many veggies.

jen said...

What I'm asking here -- realizing that it's not really clear -- is whether there is much difference for you between this plan and eating a low-carb diet.

It also seems that your calories are much lower on this plan. I am working on a review of a cookbook and wanted to talk about how it would work for paleo-followers and was sort of wondering how people who do endurance exercise fuel themselves while following the plan.

Debbi said...

I'm not specifically trying to eat low-carb. I eat plenty of fruit, and always have some kind of vegetable with lunch and dinner. Usually leafy greens. When I look at the reports, it looks like I'm eating a high-fat diet more than a low-carb one. But I'm not really paying much attention to macros on a day-to-day basis.

Debbi said...

There's a big difference, in that I'm not eating dairy. Those I know who follow a low-carb plan eat cheese/yogurt. Calories are significantly lower ... not eating dairy or starchy carbs probably contributes to that.

I'm finding hydration is more important than fuel when I do a long walk/run. And I'm just not buying into the traditional philosophy that you have to eat carbs in order to run. Or at least I don't. A banana before a walk is plenty – high-carb fruit, but not too heavy.

It seems as though primal/paleo followers also do plenty of exercise, although maybe not specifically endurance activities. I haven't made the leap to bodyweight training. Yet. Unless you count yoga once a week. Heh.

Hils said...

Are you kidding?! I love War and Peace answers! Thanks for the detailed follow-up to my question, Debbi.

Re: Other paleo/primal people who count/watch calories, I know Karen P (Garden Girl) often does. She lost 70 lbs and has been in maintenance for a year and a half now, and there may be some months where she no longer tracks, but I know she has used MyFitnessPal as a tool throughout maintenance. I believe she keeps her calories around 1400. She is also on the "petite" side, like us (I'm 5'3), and I think she's in her mid-40s. Her blog is fantastic.

Here's her blog: http://gardengirlkp.blogspot.com/

Debbi said...

A blog called Garden Girl? I'm on it, doggone it! Thanks for the recommendation, I'm adding her to Feedly and will spend some time in her archives. First look at the blog has me hooked already!

wendy said...

I have found through experience that the quality of my training/workouts is much more important than diet when it comes to endurance. I've followed paleo/primal for almost 20 months. When I was doing interval/crossfit style workouts, my endurance wasn't particularly good. When I started to do longer workouts (up to half-marathon distance), my endurance improved gradually, just as it did when I trained for a marathon eating a diet that included grains, pasta, potato, etc. The difference for me, has been, that I feel a lot better overall.

And, I am unwilling to refer to paleo/primal, as a low carb diet. On average, I probably consume about 1800 calories per day, of which approximately 35-40% are from carbohydrates. That generally includes about 3 servings of fruit (one of which is a banana) and probably 7 servings of vegetables (based on FDA/food label servings).

How is that for a treatise :)

Audrey Humaciu said...

Debbi, I agree with you that everyone is different. I especially love the line "we are all our own science experiments". Sometimes, there is no way to know what will work for us until we actually do it. What works for me, may not be for others and vice versa.

Even though running and Paleo aren't in the cards for me, you are an inspiration for me to find what works for me.