My Bass-Ackwards Way of Losing Weight
Or how I became interested in nutritionPublished 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.