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Q and A: Hunger and Maintenance

Posted Nov 10 2009 10:00pm

Hi Kelly-
This is kind of a two part question, and I’m not sure if that’s allowed, but here goes!
I am 5′6″ and recently hit my maintenance weight of 128 pounds by eating an average of 1,700 calories per day. When I started my maintenance eating routine, I increased my calories to 1,800 per day and immediately gained weight. What gives? I work out every day (I run an average of 25 miles per week and do at least one day each of yoga and weight lifting per week), and according to my nutritionist I should be eating about 2,300 calories per day to maintain my weight. The other part is that when I eat intuitively (I’ve been trying to get rid of the calorie counting mindset), I eat only about 1,400 calories per day and feel satisfied, but then one or two days per week I feel absolutely famished and end up binging (e.g., eating about 5,000 calories per day). Why am I not so hungry some days and, despite eating to my satisfaction, famished others?

Food is weird. and the way our bodies respond to food is weird.

Your maintenance weight isn’t really the weight you decide you are happy at, and stop actively trying to lose. Your body has its own maintenance weight, usually referred to in magazines as “happy weight”, so your true maintenance weight is going to be a compromise of those two. 128 might not be the weight your body is naturally happy at.

That doesn’t mean that you have to weight more than that, because this is still a healthy weight, it just means you are going to have to work at it- guessing and checking and upping and lowering your intake- not drastically, but you are going to have to keep an eye on it to make sure you dont gain or lose weight.

Your “immediately gained” comment kinds of signals me that you went up a pound or two- anytime you change your routine, your body is going to react, and if you kept at the 1800, you would probably have gone right back down a day or two later. Rationally, adding a measly 100 calories can’t possibly cause you to gain fat, since one pound of fat equals 3500 calories.

If you are binging, I would be more likely to point the finger at that for any weight gain.

Binges dont have anything to do with hunger. Being hungry might spark one, but no one is truly hungry for 5000 calories worth of food (Im thinking this issue might be why you have a nutritionist?) I naturally eat a lower amount of food when I go by hunger instead of numbers, which is why I always have to do mental checks to see if I ate enough (and honestly, I think its fun when I haven’t had enough and get to have an extra intentional snack.) I think this is pretty much true for everyone. If you binge, its for a reason, and part of that reason is probably because you get hungry. When you allow yourself to get hungry, you are compelled to eat, like a normal person. But people with binging issues cant stop and continue to eat. You are hungry because you arent eating enough, but the reason you binge is something else entirely and to find the answer to that you are going to have to look at a lot of other factors besides food.

It sounds to me, and of course I can be wrong because I never get the full picture from these questions, like you have issues with food which is why you are so preoccupied with calories one day, but then can binge on over 5000 calories the next. My focus wouldnt be so much on maintaining your weight, it would be getting your eating under control, and coming to healthy place where it isn’t a constant struggle for you, and then you can safely manipulate your calories to worry about keeping a specific goal weight.

Don’t forget to sign up for the Costa Rica Health and Fitness Retreat!


EAS Myoplex Strength Formula shakes (these things are good)
Bugalug hair accessories (random, I know- I write for a parenting site! and I guess you could wear them yourself? Come on- its free!)

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