Monday, March 28, 2011

More = Less: Thoughts on Women's Weight Loss

This is a muumuu.

I recently taught a community nutrition class, and there was a particular student in the class who kept proclaiming with gusto that she ate every 2 hours every day.  I kept thinking to myself, 'That's silly and unnecessary.  Why would she do that? What a waste of time.  Why doesn't she just eat more at each meal and have breakfast, lunch, a snack and dinner like any normal human being should?  She must be even more strapped to her kitchen than I am, and that's, like, impossible.'

Through our eight weeks together, I wondered why she kept saying it.  Every single class.  And then she'd qualify it by explaining that her body was like a car and that it needed gas all the time, etc., etc.  I thought that maybe she should try putting more gas in her "car" every time she filled it up instead of putting 5 dollars' worth in her tank at every gas station she saw.

Through those eight weeks together, I also was continually gaining weight.  I gained about 5 pounds over a 3 month period, despite my continued efforts to not only work out more, but to eat less like a good little weight-loss drone should do.  My favorite jeans wouldn't fit.  I found myself wearing clothes that looked more like muumuus than professional attire.  You know how it feels: no, you're not "fat", but it sure feels like it because you're so uncomfortable.  Despite my efforts following Shaun T. through his Insanity workouts 5 days a week, climbing 4 or 5 times a week, and hiking 5 days a week, I was slowly gaining.  It's not just about looking good, either.  I have a climbing trip to Kentucky scheduled for this Friday and then another one to Spain in May; I need to get my ass in shape and lean out so I can climb well.

Anyway, I was confused, befuddled, at a loss.  I thought, 'I'm a nutritionist!  Why can't I figure this out?  I eat well, I don't eat too much, and I work out.  I think my thyroid must be broken.  I'm getting on thyroid medication.  Maybe my adrenals are blown out - I should get on corticosteroids.  Or maybe my hormones are going crazy and I need to be on the pill.'  It's in these moments of desperation that I start looking at the Google ads on the side of my screen wondering what the "secrets of belly fat" really are...

And then my boyfriend sat me down for a talking to, and said the word "calories".  Oh no, you didn't, Seth!  I'm a nutritionist - I don't eat too many calories.  There's something WRONG with my body!  How dare he question the amount of food I eat.

So, of course, I spent the entirety of the next day on my computer, hashing out exactly the number of calories I had been eating.  And it was approximately twice the amount that I should have been eating.  "I wondered about that half pound of pork sausage you were having every morning," he murmured when I told him the news.

Now what?  I cut down on my calories and STARVE to death every day?  That's going to SUCK and I won't be able to do it.  Cut out all things delicious that I recently added back to my diet?  Stop eating carbohydrates?  Yeah, that's sustainable...  Wait, I could eat every 2 hours just a little bit and then I won't feel hungry or have blood sugar crashes!  Wait.

So I've been doing just that for about a week and a half now and it's working.  Yes, it is already working.  She was right.

I think that for some people whose blood sugar has been damaged from years and years of sugar abuse, this is the plan that will have to do, at least for a while.  I knew this, but I didn't believe for one second that I was one of those damaged people who needed this kind of treatment.  Nevertheless, my blood sugar is benefiting from constant feeding.  Because I'm never hypoglycemic, my body never believes it's starving to death, and therefore it doesn't hold on to body fat just in case.  Eating every two hours keeps my brain functioning better all day because I'm not hypoglycemic between breakfast and lunch anymore.  And I'm eating all of the foods I want to eat - just not as much of them.  In one week I lost half of those 5 pounds. 

The moral of the story is that I am not alone in eating too much, and I am not alone in having messed up my blood sugar through the years.  This could easily be you.  You, too, could need to be the idiot who stops at every gas station for a little dose of fuel because your car is confused about how to handle a lot of gas at once.  This isn't the way we are evolutionarily supposed to be, though!  We should be okay with a little starvation sometimes, just like our ancestors were so often when the game was scarce.  But then I remember that the women of hunter-gatherer tribes were walking around collecting food all day, probably eating little bits here and there.  Maybe we evolved differently, men and women.  I don't know any guy who gets as "hangry" as I do when I don't eat.  I've never had one male client who sees little flashing lights and almost passes out after skipping a meal; it's almost always women who are like this.  So maybe the guys are more equipped to be running around with empty stomachs all day, chasing down the big stuff while we women are better off eating little bits here and there.  Just a thought...     


  1. Neely, I have certainly found this to be true for myself! Eating something, ie., a couple of bites of dark chocolate with a few slices of chicken breast and a satsumi orange, every 2 - 2 1/2 hrs. is what makes my body hummm along smoothly. No energy dips and no huge hunger meltdowns where my brain gets fuzzy and my temper sharp as a razor.
    Thanks for this post...I need my husband to read it!

  2. Hi Neely. Found your blog via the current womens' weight loss solution event. This is a very interesting post - do you still agree with this line of thinking, that women may need to eat little and often? I do find that cutting out the "bad/non Paleo" carbs makes me hungry between meals which I think is why I'm struggling to make this transition to Paleo work for me :(