Saturday, October 19, 2013

Why 2000 Calories?

I've had several comments and emails asking me why I chose 2000 calories as my calorie level this week... my first week of counting calories again. After all, I was eating about 900-1000 calories a day on Medifast AND was much more active, walking 9,000+ steps a day, and was barely losing at all... just a couple pounds a month. So why? Why, if I wanted to go off Medifast and calorie count, would I DOUBLE the amount of calories I am eating and expect to lose weight? Especially when I have this injury and am really almost completely sedentary, unable to walk without crutches, my only exercise being upper body weights and floor exercises? Why?

My first answer was that I picked 2000 because maybe the people who think I need *more* calories are right. Lots of folks have suggested that I need to "heal my metabolism" because something is obviously not working right. I mean, how can you eat so little and not have the weight flying off? I dunno, but I am not the only person this has happened to. There are lots of people who've stalled out on weight loss and only started losing again when they *increased* their calories. Sure, it's only anecdotal evidence, but I thought it might be worth a shot. Yet I am not comfortable eating 2500 or more calories as some suggest, so 2000 sounded like a good starting point to me... one where I probably wouldn't gain super rapidly but I could get plenty of nutrition in. I can adjust my calories up or down over time.

But there is another answer. Yes, that one is a real answer, but with so many people asking me about this, I stepped back and looked at my reasons again. I tried to openly feel my true feelings and ask myself:

Why 2000 calories? Why not 1500 or 1300? Why so high to start?

And that is where I found my other answer... just as true as the first, but more touchy-feely and less "fact" based, I guess.

I am coming off three years of mostly restrictive dieting. I am coming from a place of reactivity to food. I was having strong emotional reactions to silly things like an acorn squash, or cream, or a breadstick. I was also having some anxiety about the possibility of further restriction... of going back again to being unable to eat a raspberry or seeing a cookie as a NEVER NEVER AGAIN food. I think the whole thing was just messing with my head and emotions too much. Aside from not losing much weight even when eating only 900 calories a day, that is the reason I finally contacted Medifast and told them I needed to be done. I struggled with that for a long time, because they've been more than generous with the products and support. And there was this pull of "OMG, I can get this expensive plan for free, and I know it works (worked for me before), and I just HAVE to try again and get this to work!!" When my box of free meals arrived this month, I sat and looked at it and I knew... I just KNEW I could not keep taking it and trying over and over to make myself stay on it. I was sick and off plan, eating soup and drinking juice, and I just finally decided it was enough. It is done. I don't blame the plan at all. It works and has worked long term for a lot of people. People who don't regain the weight they lost. People I respect. But I had to accept that maybe I have some issues with food that are not going to be resolved by continuing to try to restrict for YEARS.

I needed to fix my mindset. I needed to calm down about food, not feel pressured or restricted or worried.

That is why I chose 2000 calories, and not 1500 or 1200. It is not about some magic number. It is the fact that to me, 2000 sounded very generous and non-restrictive and relatively easy to stick to. It sounded like a number I can handle, that lets me choose what I want to eat within reason, that gives me some wiggle room. And I wanted to have a successful first week back at calorie counting and staying within my guidelines.

I want to eat acorn squash and raspberries and not feel bad about it. I want to eat a bowl of oatmeal or have some beans in my chili and not have guilt over it. I want 2000 calories of good nutrition, but if it turns out to be 1700 calories of good nutrition and 300 calories of not-as-healthy indulgences, I am okay with that. I am re-learning to be moderate, and not extreme. That's a tough thing for a person who spent a decade eating upwards of 3500 calories a day with the occasional 12,000 calorie binge, and then spent 3 years at least *trying* to eat 900 calories a day. It's time for something in the middle... long term.

So that's where I'm at, and I'll weigh tomorrow and make some choices about what to do with my calorie level. But whatever I decide, it's not going to be extreme. It'll be moderate, and considerate of my health.


Anonymous said...

Bravo! Well said.. by george, I think you've got it! lol WTG

Anonymous said...

I hope you're prepared to gain another 10 pounds in a month and then maintain around 230 forever.

Anonymous said...

Why have any set "number" in mind? Follow something realistic like South Beach and eat good-fuel-food when you are hungry. I honestly believe that in your case this is very much an issue of the mind and nly when you learn how to eat properly will you Escape From Obesity.

Lyn said...




Well, according to several online calculators, I'd need slightly over 2000 calories a day to maintain at my current weight (links in the last post's comments). Of course, I've never really followed what most online calculators say, but if you're basing your calculations on math, you should check out those figures.


I did that already. Without any limits on amounts, I overeat and gain. Calorie counting is just a way for me to keep a handle on how much I am eating.

LHA said...

Anything you want to try and that feels right to you, I am in favor of! The main thing is you are continuing to try new things. Whatever happens you will learn something, and it might be something wonderful.

I came to the same conclusion about food a couple of years ago. It is only food. A lima bean or an apple or even a piece of birthday cake is not the end of the world, and it doesn't have to be the end of weight loss either unless you let it be. It is freeing to say "I can eat that if I want it. Now, do I want it?" It sure takes the urge to binge away.

Lyn, I wish you the very best of luck as you continue on your journey. Thank you for keeping us informed via your blog.

Anonymous said...

When you say you stuck to around 900 calories a day for three years, did you do that most of the time or did you eat more than that regularly? I seem to recall you saying you "gamed" the system in one of your posts.

Even if you had a couple of days of eating more that would alter the 900 calories per day average.

In regard to a permanently damaged metabolism, there is little medical evidence to support that.

One's metabolism will slow down if one starves but there is no permanent damage unless you have thyroid problems etc.

I'm nearly 50, have lost and gained significant amounts of weight more times than I care to remember, and I've had a serious eating disorder for decades which I only now have under control and my metabolism is not shot.

Anyway I wish you well, I think being happy and mentally healthy is far more important than living up to society's expectations of being thin.

Lyn said...


thank you!


I mean that for the past 3 years, most of the time I was on Medifast. There were a few months when I went off and did Primal, a few weeks of calorie counting, some times I got frustrated and just went off ANY plan (did not binge, but did not count anything). I know I did not average 900 calories a day over the past 3 years, but most of the time I was either on Medifast or trying to get back on Medifast. There were long stretches, especially at the start, when I stuck to the plan 100% for months.

Gaming the system, as I posted not too long ago, is about trying to fit things into the plan that really aren't. Like, convincing myself that it is okay to eat some full fat cheese instead of low fat, or higher fat meat instead of lean meat, or telling myself I could use bacon as a condiment. I still lost weight while I was doing that... for awhile. But then it catches up to you, because everything really *does* count. I am a believer now in 100% on plan with Medifast, because for me, having an extra snack or sugar free Jello or whatever really did matter.

But my point remains the same: I am coming out of a mindset of restriction, and want to feel calmer and more relaxed about food in general... not stress as much, but still eat healthy and count calories.

Lyn said...

oh, and I almost forgot...

I agree, I do not believe my metabolism is permanently damaged. Bodies are very resilient.

MargieAnne said...

I'm cheering for you.

2000 calories sounds just right at this stage.

This is a great way to start an n=1 experiment on yourself. We are each incredibly unique and while there are some general principles in the finish we have to understand how our own body reacts to various foods and balanced nutrients.

This shows me how much you have matured in your attitude to food.


Anonymous said...


If your BMR is about 2000 calories to maintain, then when you were dieting on Medifast with 900 calories you should have lost about 3.4 pounds per week. You were averaging 1 pound a week, which is a calorie deficit othef 500 calories a day. Which makes me think your BMR is around 1400, or your calorie count was off.
If your BMR is 1400 calories, then you will experience approximately 1.2 pound per week weight gain on a 2000 calorie per day diet.
The best thing you can do is to increase your muscle mass, so keep up the weight lifting !!! That will increase your resting metabolic rate.
My BMR is around 1600, and I can't lose unless I eat less and exercise a lot. Good luck, and keep at it. I understand about not wanting guilt about eating fruit !! It's crazy what we do to ourselves to lose weight ! But
the healthy diet with lots of veggies, fruits, and lean protein is the way to go!!!


Anonymous said...

so sorry, instead of BMR I should have said "calories to maintain" . It's too late!!! :)


Anonymous said...

it's true, our body is a machine that need to be tricked to re-trigger weight loss. But I also agree with you on 2000 cal, as Buddha once said "if you tighten the string too much it will snap!"


KansasSunflower said...

I applaud your weight loss goals for several years! That takes a lot of perseverance, especially since sometimes you work so hard to see the scale go up.

I know you are explaining why you chose 2000 calories, and it is totally valid. I am 5'6", weigh 130 pounds (and yes, trying to lose weight as well), but 2000 calories would make me gain weight every week. Maybe a pound or more.

So you don't want to eat things such as a breadstick and not feel guilty? Well, that's my reality, trying to lose weight or not. Just to not GAIN I have to do all the things you said you want to do but feel guilty about.

I'm so sorry you can't exercise! I had a hysterectomy in April and was incredibly sedentary for months, having to depend on my husband for meals, and they were disgustingly awful and high calories, very unhealthy. He runs about 25 miles a week, but for the most part, he eats whatever he wants. Men are so lucky that way! What he doesn't KNOW is - the dinners I make at night are cleverly low-cal, yet still taste good. He used to draw the line at anything wheat instead of white flour, but now he realizes in most things you can't tell the difference.

What works best for me? Running (which I know you can't do) and zero sugar or flour. But's not a diet for me, it's a lifestyle change. I've given up diet fads a long time ago - they just don't work for me and leaves me feeling deprived.