I was hungry last night.
Or at least I thought I was; maybe I was just bored? See, I’m calorie-counting again — MyFitnessPal is what I use; it’s a great database and pretty reliable — because, see, I’m trying to take off some of this fat I’ve put on over the months I’ve been injured.
Let’s back up.
First: I don’t want to call myself fat. I mean, there’s a lot to unpack there, and I don’t think this is the post for it. But when I think about myself and fat, it isn’t because I’m large – I’m an underwhelmingly average size 8 – it’s because I’m lumpy: I mean it literally, my body is fat, my arms have fat on them that I don’t liker and my belly carries lots of fat on it that I don’t like and my thighs are dumply fat areas too. I am not slim or small and I won’t ever be because that’s not the body I have, but I am made of more fat than I would like. I would like to not feel like such a gushy ball of dough when I put on clothes. I neither want nor need to be smaller – I know it won’t happen – but I would like to be stronger, more trim, more fit, more muscular (I would say more “toned” but I know that’s a loaded word, especially for women). I want my body to be less fat.
Second: I live in the grey area between able-bodied and disabled. I am really reluctant to claim the term disabled, because I feel like that’s unfair — I can mostly make it through a day without any serious issues. That means I’m not disabled, right?; I want to leave the term for the people who really need it, rather than clouding it with my vague unclear situation. But then I think about all of the things that I deal with every day – the fact that I’m constantly in pain, for example! – and the things I can’t do. I started a good friend on running and he’s now so much faster than me we can’t even run together. I started another good friend on weightlifting on the simple machines at our apartment complex, and she’s now cruising past me in dumbbells and pushups. I’ve got a herniated disc, arthritis everywhere, asthma that’s triggered by exercise, inflammatory issues, torn ligaments in both ankles, insomnia, hypoglycemia — they’re all decently minor problems that I can mostly deal with, but at what point do I cross the line where I say to myself: yes, I am kind of disabled? It becomes doubly significant when I start looking at fitness and the things I can do – and the things I’m limited in doing. I can’t run well, I can’t really do high-impact exercises or high-intensity intervals, I can’t lift heavy and have to be careful lifting intermediate: all the things the other blogs tell you to do to see big changes, I can’t do. Does that qualify as disabled? Or just unlucky?
So. Since I’ve got a tentative green light from my pain management doctor to return to exercise – it’s maybe more like a yellow light? – basically, exercise and movement is encouraged; as long as it doesn’t hurt me to do or too much afterwards it will be a helpful part of helping my body and muscles remember what it feels like to be not completely jacked – I’ve been living in my body a little bit more. Does anyone else do that? When you’re just so sick, or injured, or sick-and-injured, or just so tired of pain that you kind of… detach from your own body? It’s just a thing. With stuff. It moves when you need and it gets you places but it generally hurts and is annoying and doesn’t do what you want. You just stop… caring about it, in a way: you’re generally not interested in sex, or in food, or in what you wear, or how you look, or how active you are or aren’t, or how healthy you’re being. Or I am, anyway; it’s like I’m mad at my body for being such a fucking jerk, but I know punishing it will only suck more for me, so I kind of just… detach. I stop being so connected to it. Anyway, since I’ve got approval, I’m starting to slowly work exercise and fitness back into my schedule, and I’m realizing… coming back into this body, this abandoned shell I just couldn’t deal with for a bit: damn, there’s some fat here I don’t want, and I want to get rid of it.
And there’s an interesting intersectionality here, too – one I’ll save for another post, really, because this was supposed to be about me being hungry last night – about my body, and accepting my body, and liking how I look vs accepting how I look vs working to change how I look, and it’s tied up in self-image and feminism and all kinds of complicated things; now is not the time, but I want to acknowledge that this is the muddiest of grey areas here and I’m really only speaking for myself, only me: this is a self-centered post, not a judgment.
Anyway. Part of the path that I have chosen to get my body where I want it to be includes adding fitness back in; another part of it includes going back to calorie tracking.
I realize calorie tracking is a complicated and intense issue, and is problematic for some; again, I’m only talking about me.
I’ve used MyFitnessPal before. I actually really like it as a program; I find the interface both easy and helpful, the database extensive and usually accurate, and the fact that I can hit it from my phone, my iPad, or my computer convenient and effective. If you’re looking for a program to use, I definitely recommend it. I’ve heard the myfitnesspal.com community is great as well, although I don’t really use that as much myself.
I want to point out a couple things. The first is that I try to do calorie tracking “right”: I’ve had my basal metabolic rate (BMR) measured/estimated by an actual (oxygen-measuring) machine; I know it’s about ~1450 calories, and my “maintenance” level based on activity is ~1950 calories. I’m not taking a recommendation from the internet, and I’m not assuming that 1200 cals is a useful daily target; it’s based on research and actual data. The second is that I’m equally as interested in my macros – relative amounts of macronutrients, fat/carbs/protein – that I eat every day or every week as I am in calorie counts. The third is that I don’t really try to “limit” myself all that much — I’m mostly trying to increase my own awareness of what I’m eating, with a focus on the macros and on an average calorie intake, over the course of any given week rather than in a 24-hour period. I think all of these things are healthy, responsible ways to approach calorie tracking.
So here we are back to the beginning of this story. I was hungry last night.
And I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to eat or not.
There were a lot of things going on. I wasn’t sure whether I was just hungry or is I was bored; if I was actually hungry or just wanted a taste of something; if I was hungry for a snack or if I wanted something substantial. I’d already hit my ~1900 calories for the day – I’d actually gone over a bit: I’d only had a protein shake for breakfast because I knew it was safety meeting day, aka donut day; I’d had an unhealthy lunch courtesy of work (and work schedule and meetings and free lunch and, you know, that kind of thing) and because of it I’d had a salad with a homemade veggie burger in it and one Lean Pocket for dinner (it’s what sounded good, okay). So I was at my calorie count after a day of very strange, mostly bad eating, and I’d compensated it with a decent dinner, but then I couldn’t tell whether I was actually hungry or just — just thinking about food because of the day, because of my fat belly, because I couldn’t get it out of my head.
And I got stuck there, in this circle of thinking: I had freaking donuts and Wendy’s today, I shouldn’t eat anything else … but I’m hungry, and I should listen to my body … one day of poor eating of excessive calories won’t ruin everything … but I didn’t work out today (I’m on an every-other-day plan right now while my body is healing) … well, I’m under on protein as usual, so if I eat anything it should be a protein shake … but I had a protein shake for breakfast, I don’t like having that much processed protein powder in a day … I don’t feel like protein … I don’t have any good protein snacks … I feel like a glass of wine … but I shouldn’t have freaking wine on a day I’m already struggling with my food … who cares, don’t stress out about it … but I’ll never get rid of this belly if I don’t take this seriously …
It was honestly a vicious circle. In the end I ate a granola bar and went to bed. Of course today I am ~400 calories below, due to much healthier eating and a 40 min swim, but that doesn’t matter.
What matters is that I think that’s a dangerous mindset to get in — but I don’t really know which side to fall out on. Because really, sticking to a healthy eating plan is a more effective way to trim yourself down / affect your body size / distribution / composition than working out: “abs are made in the kitchen”, etc. You need to be able to feed yourself correctly or you’ll never really get all that far. You need to control what goes in to control what happens. However, I also am a strong staunch supporter of the theory that the anxiety, the pressure, the negative feelings, the stress that can be brought on by trying to stick to a “diet” of whatever kind of just as unhealthy and bad for you as not eating entirely right — I think there needs to be balance in all things, including moderation. I think you need a lifestyle that has room for Wendy’s and ramen if that’s what makes you happy. And yet — and yet.
So where does that leave me?
With a granola bar, I guess.