Reminder: I am NOT advocating that anyone reading this relate to their own body weight in any particular way.
If you have met me face to face, you have probably noticed that I am a physically energetic person. If you’ve only known me in recent years, you may not believe that I am cooling down because you may not be able to imagine that I once used to be even more energetic. If you knew me as a teenager, then you know that was particularly hyperactive compared to other teenagers, and if you met with me in person today, you would probably be able to confirm that, yes, I have cooled down. (For a while, my mother had a theory that I was so energetic because I was ace – i.e. since I put no energy into sexual activity I had more energy for everything else). So yes, I am gradually becoming less energetic as I become older, and I accept that.
But since having lots of energy is my normal, a rapid decrease in my physical energy that doesn’t have an obvious explanation (such as an unusually high amount of physical exertion) is often a sign that I am sick. When I caught whooping cough as a teenager, my physical energy levels collapsed, and my demeanor became unrecognizable, especially to myself. (Now I started thinking about whooping cough, and looked up articles like this one, and it occurs to me that I almost certainly wasn’t included in the official statistics of who caught whopping cough in the United States because I never got tested or even officially diagnosed; we consulted a doctor by phone, and after hearing about my symptoms he was so certain that I had whopping cough that he didn’t think a formal examination was necessary. Thus, I strongly suspect the official statistics are under-counting whopping cough in the United States).
In the beginning of my 1800-calories-per-day-more-or-less-usually-more regimen, I didn’t notice any change in my energy levels. However, shortly after I figured out that eating more protein banished the pangs of hunger, I noticed a drastic dip in my energy levels. And by far the most plausible explanation for my new lack of energy was the calorie restriction.
(Come to think of it, since I was sticking to 1800 calories per day, and then weeks later I increased my protein consumption, I must have decreased my consumption of fat and/or carbohydrates, probably both. So maybe it wasn’t that it took 1-2 months for the calorie-restricted diet to smack down my energy levels; maybe it was a drop in carbohydrate consumption so I could increase protein intake within my ‘calorie budget’ that did it.)
Believe or not, I have sometimes wished that I was less endowed with physical energy. There were times when I was thinking about how I had less energy than I’m used to, and I thought ‘this is nice. It’s nice to be chill like this. If I had known that restricting calories would calm me down like this, I would have started it a long time ago.”
But there were also times when I was worried. Remember, in my life experience, a major drop in physical energy levels is usually a sign of sickness. I sometimes wondered if this drop in energy meant that calorie restriction was bad for my health in general. Was this calorie restriction thing hurting me?
As I vacillated between ‘maybe being mellower is a good thing’ and ‘maybe this is dangerous to my health and I should stop’ I decided to see how things played out.
And things play out. Around the end of 2019 / beginning of 2020, I got my groove back. Nowadays, even though I still try to keep to 1800 calories per day (though some days I end up overshooting, just as there are typos in the posts I public in this blog), I feel as energetic overall as I did before I started restricting my calories. I guess my body got used to it.
Now that I’ve made a conscious effort to restrict calories and lose weight, there are various nuances of American culture (and other first world cultures, to be honest) which now make sense to me in a way they had never made sense to me before. I’m not sure I like having this new understanding.
Maybe, if you’ve read this far, you’re wondering if I actually lost any weight.
Yes, I did lose weight.
Like I said in the previous part, I don’t want to play the numbers comparison game, so I’m not going to tell you how much weight I lost, or even what percentage of body weight I lost relative to October 2019. But yes, calorie restriction was definitely effective for losing some body weight.
As far as I can tell, my appearance is basically the same, which is good, because I didn’t want to change my appearance. The fit of my clothing is about the same, which is also good, because I don’t want to alter and/or replace a bunch of clothes. And I’ve been wondering – this weight that I’ve been losing, where did it come from? Has the weight loss been so evenly distributed that no individual part of my body has gotten much smaller? On the flip side, this also explains how I gained so much weight without noticing anything had changed; if I looked about the same, and the same clothes/clothing sizes were fitting me, then why would I think my weight had gone up?
Also, before I started publishing these blog posts, I hadn’t told a single person about my calorie restriction regime or attempt to lose weight. And nobody – NOBODY – has made any comments which suggest that they’ve noticed a change in my weight. This is also good, because I think it’s generally better if people don’t make comments on my weight.
So since I have lost weight, why am I continuing to (mostly, sort of) restrict myself to 1800 calories per day? First of all, it’s become so much of a habit that it doesn’t take too much effort on my part to keep the habit up. Yes, it still takes a bit of self-discipline to stick with the calorie restriction, but it’s certainly easier now than it was for the first couple of months.
Second of all, the adventure ain’t over yet. I’ve read that, if I stick with a specific calorie intake level, I’ll eventually reach an equilibrium and stop losing weight. I’m curious if that will actually happen, and if I ever think my weight loss is going to far, I can start eating more calories again. I also think there may be more surprising discoveries along this path.
I can think of multiple circumstances which would compel me to drop the 1800-calories-a-day regimen. Sooner of later, one of those circumstances will come up, and the regimen will be dropped. Until then, I’m going forward. And if there is a particularly interesting new development, I might write another blog post about living on 1800-more-or-less calories per day.
I’ve recently lost weight because I was sick (some persisten cold bug and a short spout of what was probably influenza in hindsight) and I usually lose my appetite then. I’m determined to keep that weight, though. I’ll see how it goes, because I’m no counting calories.
Anyway, I’d love hearing about your cultural insights.
I hope your efforts go well!
I’m hesitant to say too much about cultural insights because body weight is a very sensitive topic. I’m more comfortable with saying ‘this is what I’m doing and what’s happening with me, I’m not placing expectations on anyone else’ than making more generalized comments which readers are more likely to take the wrong way.
Yes, I can understand you’re hesitant about generalizations. They rarely do work well.
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