Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Counting Calories: My new hate/love relationship with food

Odd things are happening to my relationship with food. I used to not think of calories at all, or when I did, in a vague "ooh, I probably shouldn't eat this" way. Even as I was losing weight, I made myself think about healthy food choices and moderation, not calorie counts. That was a couple years ago, before I started cycling, then running. Even a few months ago, I was focusing on food choices and variety, not diet and weight loss.

But now that I'm playing outside (don't think of it as workout - too much fun) five or six times each week? I think about calories and food constantly.

My normal calorie intake for age, weight, and sex at a "normal" rate of activity should be in the 1650-1800 range. To offset the running and riding, I need to average 2,800 per day.

That's an extra 1,000 per day! I don't eat fast food. I don't load up on sweet coffee drinks with whipped cream. My idea of a good snack is a handful of almonds, or a couple fig newtons. That's nowhere near enough calories. So, I spend time each day thinking:

How much do I need to eat today?
I should probably grab some chips to eat with my veggies and hummus.
These miles mean how much extra food?
Will tossing avocado in my salad be enough?
What if I use the whole avocado?
I forgot my mid afternoon snack. Gotta eat.
Ugh. This yogurt's only 140 calories. What can I add?

It's exhausting. It's also necessary. After being in a very comfortable little range for almost one year, I've dropped weight fast this month. In the last six or seven weeks, almost 9 pounds. I think I might have just hit a point where my body was done at a certain plateau, and had decided it was okay to kick the metabolism up, since the increased exercise and food patterns were established. The body fat dropped by a full percentage point, so I think that seems reasonable.

My rings are loose. My clothes, other than running/cycling gear, are loose. My face seems different, too. I can see in the mirror which collarbone was broken when I was 12, and that bugs me. I feel pretty good, and have plenty of energy. (Not today, but that's normal girl stuff).

I'm still well within the healthy BMI, but am starting to grow a little concerned. It's probably nothing more than my body reshaping itself. I could keep researching online, reading the food discussions at Runners World, and pick up a couple books... I think it may be time to talk to a nutritionist. Build a good plan for the next several months. Between the half marathons this fall, then starting an official multi-sport training plan over the winter (duathalon - I'm a lousy swimmer), I'm not sure this is a time for me to stick with my normal trial & error methods.

Speaking of food, it's noon. I'd better go and grab some lunch, right now. Be a shame to ruin my appetite for that three o'clock snack.


RedGypsie said...

Oy! I feel your pain! This is what I'm dealing with too. I just had my "eat week" and I dropped three more pounds! But my fish and veggie intake has risen and that good protein always seems to restructure my body a bit. I'm trying to ride it out. But I know from the past that I don't look very good another 5lbs down from now. I hate thinking about food all the time cuz you're right...it's tiring!
Thanks for the good suggestions for iron; I'll give that mollasses a try asap.

Jett said...

There's a couple of things I've found that help me not obsess over food: 1) when you're exercising, your body's set point moves in a good direction and you crave the right things, and 2) it's easy to tell when you haven't been exercising. You'll find that you can trust your food choices when you exercise regularly.

Eating frequently evens out the blood sugar levels as long as you stay away from high-glycemic foods that cause the insulin to spike up and thus make your blood sugar plummet again.

I've also found that I get better utilization of my calories and vitamins if I consume them at the same time. V-8 juice with oatmeal isn't what you would call appetizing, but my blood sugar stays at a good level longer than when I consume them 1 hour apart. Diversity of diet is underrated and under-appreciated, but if your body can't make good use of the calories, it stores them the best it can and that may not be optimal.

I'm not sure if this is a factor for you, but eating right after extended workouts (2 hours or more) helps you recover faster. On weekends I will ride a bike 3-4 hours and will consume a 1000 calorie smoothie as soon as I walk in the door.

Feel free to discount my comments for one of several reasons: 1) I average above 3500 calories a day, 2) I'm the same weight as I was 25 years ago, 3) I'm a guy, 4) what works for me doesn't necessarily work for everyone else, 5) insert your own observation about my comments ;-).

mappchik said...

Jett, you make some excellent points. You're right about exercise spurring the cravings for more food, but still healthy stuff.

I think there's probably something to the smoothie thing. Earlier this year, I was downing a soy latte, fruit smoothie w/added protein, or something like that right after a long ride. It was easy, as I'd get back to my car, and either pull a drink I'd prepared ahead from cooler, or stop by coffee shop on the way home.

I think the riding out from home base may actually be bad for me, from this standpoint. I come home, and instead of making a smoothie, I'm instantly pulled into normal Mom duties. It can end up being an hour or more before I get anything more than water.

I think I'll try fixing ahead, and keep a couple protein shakes in the fridge for when I roll/run in. See if I can make it just as convenient as the little cooler of goodies waiting for me at the trailhead.