Energy in less than energy out = weight loss…
We’ve talked about the meetings, about the shame and humiliation of facing someone else’s scales – but what about just our own bathroom scales?
How much do they impact us, and what conscious and unconscious efforts do we make to control the figures they show when we put both feet tentatively on the surface?
One way that as proven popular for many-a-year with women, in particular, is to control the food we consume by assigning it a number, better known as ‘Calories’.
If you go to your search engine of choice (mine is Google) and type in ‘How to lose weight calories’ you will get this or similar as a result:
“If you want to lose weight, you’ll need to cut caloriesfrom your maintenance mode to see results. “One pound of fat is around 3,500 calories, and safe fat loss is one to two pounds per week,” says White. To lose one pound of fat per week, you’d need a 500-calorie deficit each da” .May 17, 2016
Sounds simple, right?
So why are we, as a majority, still struggling with our weight in the Western World?
So to get started we excitedly download one of the new crazily popular apps like My Fitness Pal (no shade, MFP, you’re just the one I used personally).
Go take a look at your App/Play Store and see how many you can count.. Tip of the iceberg, people.
Once it’s installed all we need to do is ask it to deduct 500 kcals from what we need to eat daily to maintain our current weight. You can rest assured that the MFP app knows your body and will definitely have all your macronutrient and calorific needs correct in its estimation. Yes, it will definitely get you all worked out simply by having you enter your height, weight and general activity level- fascinating!
Remember, you don’t need to worry or even consider specifics like the composition of fat vs muscle in bodies being different for every individual or anything like that. Nope. None of that is relevant. (Eye roll).
Who knew humans lacked body diversity so badly, eh? Science.
So I put my weight in and height and my weight loss goal of a lb a week (being modest is always best, right?) and I wait for the magic to begin. Once the app has done its number game, we’re good to go, thin-dom here I come.
Little naively optimistic thoughts stir in the back of my mind as I begin another weight loss venture. Things like “I’m finally done being out of control around food now I have a calculator on hand to use to help me eat” or “Everything will change now that I have a comprehensive guide to misery (complete with barcode scanner)” right through to the downright ludicrous ones of “Is breathing considered burning calories?”.
The night before I begin computing my food data for the calorie Gods, I complete my usual ‘last supper’ ritual of eating everything not bolted down.
I finish up the evening by sliding myself into bed, tormented with acid reflux. I let out an over-filled sigh and try to sleep without beating myself up about the extra pounds I no doubt just gained. I rationalise with myself that it’s fine that I ate seven croissants because tomorrow it all ends… Again.
It’s the morning of day one and I’m pumped. The promise of the dream body and subsequent life of perfection is still fresh to me. Even though this is at least my nineteenth attempt to get to 140lbs, the faith is strong.
I bounce out of bed with enthusiasm and excitement. Today is definitely the start towards a better, healthier Siobhan. (Sigh, sidenote: I wish I wasn’t sad because I once believed it with such earnest).
I scout around the cupboards looking for breakfast. I settle on a slice of toast, dry, with a boiled egg. I make sure the egg is definitely no bigger than medium as to only take up 70 of my 1550 daily allowance. I skip margarine. My coffee, ordinarily white and sugared, would be black this morning – it was practically zero this way.
No, it really does not matter than the bread tastes like fortified carboard or that I actually dislike the taste of coffee minus sugar or milk; this is the life I should be living. The one that every other thin person lives. It’s fine!
I get to work and sit down at my desk. I notice more today, with disdain, the way my body feels in my clothing and I console myself that it won’t be long before everything is different. If I can just learn to eat to the numbers MFP has gifted me, I’ll soon be fixed.
I sip on black, sugarless coffee throughout the morning as various members of staff around me chow down on cereal bars and bacon sandwiches. I scorn them silently in my mind “Fat bastards”. I focus on that as they’re eating and I’m not. I comfort myself with the superiority complex as it tells me they’re only dooming themselves to become the unthinkable, the scariest fate of all – overweight.
Lunch time crawls around. By now my stomach is howling inside me and the black coffee just isn’t cutting it anymore. Everyone at work announces that they’re going to the potato stall to get food. The thought of it makes the corners of my mouth wet and I reach for my phone excitedly.
I try to find ‘jacket potato with beans and cheese’. The topping has always been a staple favourite of mine and I scroll eagerly through the results. The lowest one I can find comes in at around 600kcal… I can’t do it. I tell my colleagues I’ll see them back at the office.
I sigh, sad, but I shake myself out of it. This is for the greater good, my mind rattles off to itself as I lethargically drag my feet into town. I find myself in M&S checking the back of the packs of salad and I finally settle on one. I leave with a ‘Bean and Feta superfood salad’. The packet tells me that it’ll keep me fuller for longer and to boot it has only 322kcal. I’m sold.
On the walk back I look at my Fitbit. It lights up to tell me I’ve done 3454 steps today. ‘Not bad’ I muse to myself as I drag my now shaky, sweaty and hangry body back up the stairs to my desk.
I get back to the office and my colleagues are already tucking in. The smell of cooked potato wafts under my nostrils and makes me feel nauseated with hunger. I open the window near my desk for some air. I empty my carrier bag and stare down at the 15cm by 10cm box of green and white. It’s so cold outside, and the potatoes look so warm. I look up at the guy who sits across from me and frown. I glower silently “…and did he have to get beans and cheese? Arsehole”.
I pull out my salad and avoid eye contact with the rest of the room as I eat it in silence. I come to discover that I don’t actually like Feta, but I’m so hungry that I inhale it. I chug down half a bottle of fizzy water, hoping the bubbles fill me up. I just need energy. I need it now.
It’s home time. I grab my things together and cast a glance at the salad box sitting in my waste basket. I got there, though, didn’t I? I survived the day without the jacket potato and the woman who’s body I covet most in the office ate every scrap of hers… I feel insidiously happy about it. I’d ended the afternoon on 578kcals, meaning I had just over 600 left for dinner. The excitement bubbled out of my hollow-feeling torso into my throat.
I remember with a heavy heart that I’d packed my gym clothes in the car. I check my Fitbit again, this time it reads 5342. I make a dissatisfied face and accept that I should probably go to the gym. I’m never going to look like the slender-woman-who-scoffed-potato if I don’t start motivating myself, I berate my inner fat woman.
I get to the gym and get on my leggings and shirt. ‘For the greater good’ I tell my angry and empty stomach as I pat it and walk towards the treadmill. I turn up the incline and speed and I start to run. I sweat, and I ache and my knees are sore; I watch the calories on the dial go up as I run and I accept that even though it’s hard, I need it. It’s meant to hurt, I conclude -that this is my punishment, after all, for letting myself get this way.
I manage forty-five minutes and I have to resign. I’m starting to feel faint. I don’t log my hard earned calories in my app… I distinctly remembered reading that you shouldn’t eat back exercise calories, so instead, I’ll pretend I never earned them. Genius.
I get showered quickly, making sure to hold the curtain across with one hand so that nobody mistakenly or otherwise invades my personal and very nude space. I take a minute to look down at myself as the water cascades over my lumps and bumps, and I want to cry. Why isn’t it gone, already? Fucking belly. I wonder with waning optimism and now sore joints just how long it’ll take surviving days like today before I’ll look like potato-woman in the office.
I get home and dump my bag at the door. I go straight to the kitchen. I know I’m allowed in the 600 range to eat and the excitement is mounting. I pull out the rice and tofu and do some magical actions including a barcode scanner and the app and suddenly my 600 are gone. I edged the amounts of food up by the gram until I had used all of my calories until I had zero.
I measure out the rice and as I’m doing so, realise I’d forgotten to make allowances for the oil… I reluctantly scoop 20g of rice or so back into the box and measure out a tablespoon of oil for the tofu to sizzle in. I stand beside the hob, mouth filled with drool, head light and wait for the food to cook. Each minute feels like an eternity and I can only stop myself from bingeing on dry bread by reminding myself every twenty seconds that this is what my body needs, it’s how it has to be.
The food is cooked and before I even reach the table I’m bolting down spoons of rice. I’m not chewing, I’m inhaling again. I stop to breathe, I was eating so quickly I’d given myself indigestion and my chest felt tight. I let the rice and tofu settle some before scarfing the rest of the plate. It’s 8 pm and I’m left with zero calories, and I’m angry with myself because I’m still hungry. I clear away the food dishes and tidy the kitchen.
It’s 9.30 pm and after a quick surf of social media; I sit down in front of the TV. “Maybe some light entertainment will help” I flick through the channels and end on watching an episode or two of Alan Partridge. I’m restless, so I decide to make myself a black tea, no sugar. It tastes of nothing, but it’s warm and somehow brings me a little comfort. I sip it both hands clutching the cup. My body feels cold, tired and empty. I decide it’s time for bed. I can’t settle and I need to be up early tomorrow, anyway.
I brush my teeth and stare at myself in the mirror. I pull at my face, looking for wrinkles and pull the fat back from around my jaw. I did this often, to see what I’d look like if I woke up skinny. I twist my reflection to either side, observing the displeasing shape of my body and scrutinising each feature “Fat arse” I sigh, wobbling my thighs.
I congratulate myself with a smug smile for staying within the parameters given to me by the holy-grail of My Fitness Pal today. I tell myself I’m so ‘good’ to have resisted the jacket potatoes and I reason with myself that if I managed today and I didn’t binge or eat chocolate, then tomorrow should be easier still.
I climb into bed and feel my body sink into the mattress. I close my eyes and will the loud gurgling of my stomach to just give me peace “I don’t have any calories left, give it a fucking rest”.
What an uplifting experience, I say to myself as I pull the quilt up over my shoulders.
I am so glad I get to do this for the rest of my life.
Over and out,