My Bass-Ackwards Way of Losing Weight

Or how I became interested in nutrition
Published 9.2.2012, reformatted 4.6.2013; then again 9.22.2015
How these nutrition related writings and researching come to be? I didn't do things in the order that I now suggest others do them. That is to say, when I went into early menopause, and realized that I needed to address my excess poundage now, I didn't embark on a long, careful review of the evidence. The "wheels" were starting to come off a decade early, and I needed to do something.

I did read a book or two on menopause, both of which essentially said that weight gain was inevitable (on average 8 pounds over the course of peri and then during actual menopause) and that weight shifting was inevitable. Weight shifting refers to the tendency for fat to be deposited around a women's middle rather than on her butt and thighs after the hormonal change.

As I already had a shape that was more apple than pear and many older women in my family are/were obese (on both sides), I knew I had to change what I was doing. Back fat (the extra flesh that many post menopausal women have over the sides of their bras) in particular is something I wanted very much to avoid. That and the "bat wings" extra arm flesh, which unfortunately is also very common in my family.

I knew that to lose weight I needed to eat less and/or move more. I also knew that I had to do something that would not require a huge shift in my daily existence, because I knew this change was going to have to be permanent.

So I did a simple proportion calculation based on height (I am shorter than the average woman, so I assumed that my calorie intake should be less then the average woman by that proportion.) I'm smaller than the average woman, therefore I should eat less than the recommended calorie intake for the average woman.

Using this crude measure, I got the number 1700, which I took to be what a woman of my height (with no accounting for exercise) should eat. That's not a the total for weight loss, that's the total, period. The recommended daily diet for the average adult woman under 50 (not trying to lose weight) is 2000. Although I hadn't been counting, I had been trying to keep my intake at about 2000. The result was that I had overweight for my height since high school, with the weight slowly increasing over time. Though never a serious athlete, I have never been completely sedentary, and that level of movement (calories out) kept the rate of gain lower. But I was gaining. So I altered my food intake to be about 1700 per day.

I did no real research about whether this was a proper total, nor did I consider an age or hormonal factors before altering my diet. In short, I was lucky. My back of the envelope numbers happened to be close enough to what the real research would have told me I should be eating if I was a normal weight for my height (within the margin of error any calculation like this is going to have).

It's good to be lucky, but it's better to be smart.

I was overweight, but not obese. I had no medical issues (except the early menopause). I cannot recommend this method, there are too many factors that could be involved. Use Hall and Chow's model to really know how many calories you should be eating at a normal weight.

I do wish I'd realized (and I admit in hindsight it seems really stupid that I didn't) that I was overeating all those years. But I simply accepted that 2000 calories a day was what I should eat. By doing that I had been eating and extra 300 calories a day. No wonder I was slowly gaining.

The "back of the envelope" total got me through menopause without gaining any weight, and slowly I started to lose some weight. My body composition did shift some. Because bone loss is common during and after menopause, I began to occasionally lift some weights, and I started walking 30 minutes a day as a weight bearing exercise.

I was (and am) proud of the fact that I came through menopause without gaining weight. Because I think the amount of information available to women approaching and experiencing menopause is lacking, I thought I'd write up what was successful for me, in case it would be helpful to anyone else. But before making any claims about diet and nutrition, I decided (belatedly) it would be a good idea to learn a bit about the topic.

Almost five years later, I am only starting to find my way out of the rabbit hole into which I jumped thinking to "refresh" my understanding of diets and nutrition. My research has taken twists and turns, and my writings will as well.

My bottom line hasn't changed. But now I have research to get there deliberately, rather than luckily.


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