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BarbEricScotaku

Female Friend, As Low As 500 Kcal/day, Much Carbs And Cardio

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I wasn't sure where to put this, sorry.

I have a friend who is in roughly in the same boat as I (began morbidly obese, is currently somewhere between chubby and "skinnyfat", and trying desperately to fix that) who for the past few weeks reposted her MyFitnessPal daily diets to her Facebook, and the results have me very worried to say the least: I won't say exactly what out of respect for her privacy, but every day it's between 500-800 kcal total, with maybe 100-150g carbs with around 10-20g fat and 10-30g protein.

I believe she also does daily cardio at her local gym for an hour or so (treadmills, stationary bikes, etc), doing no form of strength/resistance training for fear of becoming "too bulky" and hurting herself from occasional seizures (I don't know the medical issues here and refuse to be a nosy busybody about it). She is also trying to "detox" with certain foods and the like.

Her stated goal is to reach 120 lbs in "less than a year". As far as I know she doesn't measure body-fat percentage or go by anything but what her bathroom scale and the calories burned from cardio machines (reportedly burning in excess of half of what she's eaten that day).

Two convos:

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I know I was melodramatic and probably wrong in the details -- I'm really just regurgitating half-remembered, mish-mashed bits from the hundreds of articles and videos I've seen on the subjects of health and fitness -- but I'm truly scared she's in for slow but sure world of hurt if she continues down this path.

I respect and applaud her for not being morbidly obese anymore, and continuing to chase the pot of gold of health and aesthetics.

I also realize that due to her apparent dislike of bodybuilders and strength trainers, especially female ones (going by her occasional disparaging comment about people who look like Spezzy and Dani Shugart, though she spares no wrath for male meatheads either) she'll probably not listen to you guys, and I know if I keep bugging her she'll just dig her heels in harder no matter what I say (she's almost as bull-headed as I :) ).

However, my conscience demands I say and do SOMETHING for my friend whom I've known since early elementary school, even if it ultimately it won't do a lick of good. I just don't want her to make the same mistakes I did, don't want her to have to learn the hard way that crash dieting won't work in the long-term like I did, and am at a loss for what to say or do. So I'll just throw this out to you guys and gals whose collected knowledge, hardships, and failures and successes I've lurked and learned from in (mostly) silent respect and respectful silence, hope she reads what you have to say, and hope for the best. :(

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Nobody is going to get to 120 lbs. and stay there eating 500-800 calories a day, all from carbs. Even if she does magically have the fortitude to get there (she didn't get to be obese by showing that trait) then once she stops eating like that it's all going to come right back. When it comes back it'll be 10x harder to lose the weight again because her endocrine system will be completely ruined by the time that happens. It's something one of our female lifters has been struggling with for years now and she's following a strength training program and eating a solid amount of protein. Metabolic damage and endocrine dysfunction is where she's headed, and there's probably nothing you can do about it, and then when she ends up back to morbidly obese, you'll once again not be able to do anything about it because then you're coming from the place of "I told you so" even if that's not the tone you take.

 

With that said, a lot of people who are obese share that attitude, I have a lot of experience being around people who fall into that category, the best thing you can do about it is come from the standpoint of building them up, rather than tearing what they are doing down. A simple suggestion in the right direction like "Well if you had more protein instead, you may lose the weight faster"  would do more than "You need to eat or you're going to be ruined". Another way of getting your point across is to say "While I admire the effort you're going through to get to your goals, it could be made more efficient by ______". 

 

You have to realize that advice coming from anyone who would qualify as a bodybuilder or a lifter or something that she thinks doesn't qualify as what she would want to look like, isn't going to have as great as an effect as someone who has the body type she wants. It's a precarious place being in the fitness realm and giving advice because a lot of the time either they don't believe it'll work for them because they aren't from the same boat or whatever it is, the "Everyone in my family is obese/diabetic" thought process comes to mind, granted that the problem wasn't that it's genetic rather that it's either cultural (for example some cultures highly value body fat) or that it's familial (Some families just pass down bad eating habits and sedentary lifestyles because they're used to it and it becomes natural). You have to be careful to make sure that you come from a caring place and not in any way a high horse because as soon as they think you think you're higher than them or better than them, nothing you have to say means anything.

 

My advice is to use your story as an example, (once again, don't do it from a high horse, just as an example only) and let her know that you only say it because you understand where she is at, and that you understand her mindset. From there you need to say "I wish I had known when I started my journey that ______ would happen because I did _______" and reiterate that you understand how she feels and build her up while you talk about it. 

 

Now onto the seizure thing, I'm going to go ahead and take a shot in the dark here, I could be way off base, and without knowing a lot of details this is just what I learned when I was working on getting certified, I think the seizures were a side effect from very high blood sugar/diabetes. So by cutting a ton of calories out it lowered her blood sugar and thus took the seizures off the table. It's not necessarily a sign that she's eating healthier, just that she's not eating enough sugar any more to cause the side effect. As long as she keeps the sugar down she probably won't have the seizures anymore, so that's a good thing.

 

Also, Art did a starvation diet a long while back and he reversed his diabetes and lost a ton of weight, it's not sustainable, but at the same time if she can readjust correctly after she's done doing this diet to get where she wants to be, and does it quickly enough to avoid a real and more permanent amount of metabolic damage, she may be able to get away with it. Art could give more insight into that than I could though.

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 It's something one of our female lifters has been struggling with for years now and she's following a strength training program and eating a solid amount of protein. 

 

Aforementioned female lifter checking in.

 

Just a few thoughts:

 

1) Mathiah's comments are pretty spot on.  Ketosis is a treatment often used for epilepsy, so the lowering of blood sugars is very likely the mechanism.  But than again, I am not a real doctor.

 

2) I highly doubt that she's actually eating 500 cal/day for a sustained period of time.  

 

Story time.  For about 2 months, I was eating 600-700 (legit, counted and weighed, and 99% protein and fish oil) 3-4x a week (so, not even every day!) and I felt like SHIT.  All. The. Time.  I was lifting 4 days a week, and doing cardio 5x a week, and not eating back exercise calories (because myfitnesspal horribly overestimates them, anyway).  I was tired, physically and mentally exhausted, and any aches and pains were amplified.  I developed amenorrhea (which still hasn't resolved itself, 2.5 months later), and my libido tanked.  Yeah, I lost most of the weight that I wanted.  But I never felt "great."

 

If she's really feeling as good as she says she is, she's probably miscounting calories.  Of course, some of the effects are probably from switching to a less shitty diet, but that will wear off soon enough.

 

3) Starvation mode is a myth.  Metabolic downregulation is not.  And trying to fix things sucks.

 

Although, what do I know.  My goal is to look like those big, bulky strength training ladies.

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[stuff about not saying "you're doing it wrong" rather than gently suggesting and planting seeds and such, which I'd love to use quote tags on but for some reason isn't working for me right now.]

I look back now, outside of that haze of being all worried and worked up, and I was definitely a dick to her. And I've even read How To Win Friends & Influence People. Twice. So I should have fucking known better. Should have realized I was in an emotional, childish state and thus should have stopped running my mouth and waited until I was in a more calm, logical frame of mind before saying anything.

That's yet another issue I need to work on in myself, but the road to self-improvement is a winding, rocky one, constantly having to stop and change popped tires or pull over and wait for the rain and snow to let up, then comes the times you realize you've been going nowhere but in circles and then come the efforts to retrace your steps back to where you need to start again and re-figuring where you need to go from there...

---

[You have to realize that advice coming from anyone who would qualify as a bodybuilder or a lifter or something that she thinks doesn't qualify as what she would want to look like, isn't going to have as great as an effect as someone who has the body type she wants.]

Not sure exactly what, other than "skinny". Maybe I need to poke around those thinspiration tumblrs (NSFW pics):

[navel-gazing again] Once thought this common camwhore was drop-dead gorgeous, but now she just looks chubby. Well, okay that's harsh, she's still hot. But would be so much better if she had abs, delts, and quads instead of that 1-2" layer of babyfat around her hips. I hate jiggly butts. Heh, maybe my (morbidly obese) family have a point in that I've become far more judgmental than I used to, even though I just don't like fat chicks and never have. Once pissed my sister off saying Meghan Trainor was disgusting and not "average" like she and my brother were claiming*, and shouldn't be contributing to the obesity epidemic. I never got along with my family on these issues even when I was the heaviest of all. :P

* Rant deleted; don't need you guys thinking I'm a monster from my expression of bitterness over losing so many years to being fat and ugly and all the physical, mental, and social dysfunction that comes with it. [/navel-gazing]

---

[My advice is to use your story as an example, (once again, don't do it from a high horse, just as an example only) and let her know that you only say it because you understand where she is at, and that you understand her mindset. From there you need to say "I wish I had known when I started my journey that ______ would happen because I did _______" and reiterate that you understand how she feels and build her up while you talk about it.]

[navel-gazing] I don't really feel confident in my own story of one failure after another -- anyone who's read my various training logs can attest, especially my frequent bitching about how much I suck :P . But I did lose 180 lbs in a year and a half through crash dieting (to 240) similarly (much more protein, though) to what she's doing right now -- which is what triggered my "No, stop it!" -- so there's that. I do wish, though, that I had heeded all the advice about, well, not doing that. And had been strength training from the beginning -- even just following a bodyweight routine until I finally escaped that terrible NEET period, more years lost for good... wanted to do Starting Strength but, well, I was an agoraphobic NEET back then, and I'm still stubborn in the light that I want all-or-nothing and if I couldn't barbell train, I wasn't gonna train at all... stupid -- and doing so moderately until my body was ready for 3-plate squats.

[more navel-gazing] At least she and everyone else I continuously spam failbook about what I've done and am doing wrong can learn what not to do! As Scooby said about Zyzz, I'd make a good "negative role model".

[even more navel-gazing, aren't I a self-absorbed twat] I'd love to light the way for others* but my own candle is but a cinder on a matchhead. But I'm trying to work on it, and have only done so for not even a year now -- and probably only 4-5 months total between excessive down periods due to depression and/or hurting myself; currently dealing with a bad back, but instead of stopping entirely like last two times I'll do upper-body lifts only until it clears up. At least I've only been lifting on and off for about a year (touched my first barbell early Jan '14), as I did my original bout of diet revamp and calorie-counting for about 2-3 years beforehand. Fuck I wish I had jotted down the year I did my very first calorie-count, rather than just month and day! Look at this crap, so embarrassing:

Feb 28-29 Tue-Wed (goal: ~3300 calories)

250 (two baked taters, nothing added; a few hours earlier than the next meal)

600 (two turkey patty and egg in burger buns; 11:10pm)

850 so far

300 (small glass of milk [2 cups measurement]; 12:50pm)

1150 so far

850 (two burgers in george foreman, two buns, ketchup+mustard on both; 4:20am)

2000 so far

850 (two burgers in george foreman, two buns, mustard on both; 7:00am)

2850 so far

450 (3 cups [m] milk; ~11:00 pm)

3300 score!

Holy fuck, that's exactly the amount of calories I'm trying for now! What for for irony! Also just realized that since it's Feb 29, making it a leap year, thus it was late Feb 2012 when it all began. Should have figured that out a long time ago, derp. So looks like I've only been doing this for a few months shy of three years, so not as long as I thought. So much has happened in such a short time, I never would have guessed it wasn't even so long ago on that fateful day I read, studied, and dissected 4chan /fit/'s sticky, following its links to the stickies of bodybuilding.com, webmd, and all the googled and wikipedia'd articles on vitamins and minerals and various nutrition and fitness training mythbusting that sprung from there (I feel I've forgotten more random health knowledge than most ever learn). I was locked in my room for four days straight, filling my head with knowledge before I executed my plan of attack above.

[/navel-gazing, finally]

Hell, maybe I should say the above to everyone, as it's pretty much exactly what you just advised. :)

* No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. [Luke 8:16]

---

[Now onto the seizure thing, I'm going to go ahead and take a shot in the dark here, I could be way off base, and without knowing a lot of details this is just what I learned when I was working on getting certified, I think the seizures were a side effect from very high blood sugar/diabetes. So by cutting a ton of calories out it lowered her blood sugar and thus took the seizures off the table. It's not necessarily a sign that she's eating healthier, just that she's not eating enough sugar any more to cause the side effect. As long as she keeps the sugar down she probably won't have the seizures anymore, so that's a good thing.

Also, Art did a starvation diet a long while back and he reversed his diabetes and lost a ton of weight, it's not sustainable, but at the same time if she can readjust correctly after she's done doing this diet to get where she wants to be, and does it quickly enough to avoid a real and more permanent amount of metabolic damage, she may be able to get away with it. Art could give more insight into that than I could though.]

Interesting.

---

[ 2) I highly doubt that she's actually eating 500 cal/day for a sustained period of time.]

She's stated more than once she used to be ashamed of posting some of what she's eaten to her MFP, but is now trying to post everything. Maybe she's still leaving off that grilled cheese fish sammich. :P

---

[story time. For about 2 months, I was eating 600-700 (legit, counted and weighed, and 99% protein and fish oil) 3-4x a week (so, not even every day!) and I felt like SHIT. All. The. Time. I was lifting 4 days a week, and doing cardio 5x a week, and not eating back exercise calories (because myfitnesspal horribly overestimates them, anyway). I was tired, physically and mentally exhausted, and any aches and pains were amplified. I developed amenorrhea (which still hasn't resolved itself, 2.5 months later), and my libido tanked. Yeah, I lost most of the weight that I wanted. But I never felt "great."]

Damn, that sucks. Worse than how I was near the end of my first time of calorie-counting, and how I felt about a week ago, both from the same shit: NOT EATING ENOUGH. Though the first time I was doing jack-all for exercise (and 1,200 kcal/day), and this time only weak lifts and walking every now and then (wasn't counting, but probably not much more than 2,000, since I was just eating until sated but not full). My blood pressure has dropped to the point where I was feeling weak, dizzy, and nearly-fainting. I feel a lot better just from making sure my calories are above 3,000, which probably isn't optimal for weight loss but my weight has already dropped to the 270-275 mark (weighing daily and it fluctuates 1-3 lbs, though the past few days it's stayed closer to 270 than 275) when I was consistently 285-290 during my last down time when I was drowning my sorrows in $50 of ice cream a week. Two of those $4-$5 little fist-sized tubs every night, each with at least 1,500 calories of sugar and artificial saturated fat. I can only look back and shake my head at almost undoing everything I had worked so hard on for almost three years.

---

[if she's really feeling as good as she says she is, she's probably miscounting calories. Of course, some of the effects are probably from switching to a less shitty diet, but that will wear off soon enough.

Just like what happened to me, and it lasted a year and a half, though I started at 3,300 calories and very slowly lowered over the course of months until I was down to 1,200 (I only ate until I felt sated but not full).

---

[ 3) Starvation mode is a myth. Metabolic downregulation is not. And trying to fix things sucks.]

More things to google up!

---

[Although, what do I know. My goal is to look like those big, bulky strength training ladies.]

Oh hell yes. (NSFW)

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I was eating 700 cal a day, no cheating at all, but I was consuming 75-100g of protein a day, as ANY gastric bypass specialist will tell you you MUST do when on a huge deficit like that, and I was eating very little carbs

I had plenty of energy, and was not ever tired, and I was doing light strength training (mostly body weight / KB work) and a fair bit of cardio (did a couch to 5k program in that time)

in 8 weeks I went from 225 to 170, though I am currently in the 190s, and was at one point back up in the low 200s, though my BG remains at non diabetic levels with no medication

What she is doing, all carbs all the time, is not healthy at all, and any MD would back you and I up on that

That said, she will likely not listen, as most folks don't

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Unfortunately, the problem at this point is that your friend is either lying to herself and to the world (she definitely seem to be an attention-seeking person by posting every single move on FB) and in reality, she is eating more than that. Or she is really going down the wrong way.

The problem is that, no matter what you say, you won't change her mind. Most of the time, these things are solved only by the person herself hitting hard on the ground realising what they've done...

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