Advice on losing fat with low TDEE
Height: 5' 4"
I'll begin with my history, I suppose.
So for the past 4 years up until a few months ago, I had been living poorly. Unbelievably poorly, really, since the majority of my diet consisted of cookies, hot chocolates, potatoes, and toast and I consumed very little of it (roughly 1000 calories daily). But I got away with it up until just last year in September when I decided to take up baking which, unfortunately, left me 5 pounds heavier by the middle of October. Now, I was never really that happy with my body fat percentage, but I had now reached 110 pounds and was finally motivated to get up and start exercising again. By the beginning of November, having put no real research into fat loss, I decided to eat a much healthier and more diverse diet by removing all junk food and starting up Rushfit, a program similar to P90X and Insanity.
This got me to 105 pounds before plateauing, but I wasn't quite satisfied with my abdomen. My mom had bought me Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes for Christmas and upon reading all the studies I felt inspired to try low-carb dieting "for two weeks just to see if any changes occur". Instead I ended up sticking with it from January to today, reaching 101 pounds by the beginning of April (also thanks to some cardio in March).
Thing is, about three weeks ago I stopped exercising and gained 7 pounds despite decreasing my caloric intake further. I honestly didn't think that exercising would have such an impact on my weight considering it's relatively low and therefore results in lower calories burned; I only intended on sustaining muscle mass. But evidently I did something wrong, and I'm certain it wasn't my diet since it didn't change. I get the impression my BMR and TDEE aren't really 1300 and 1600, but something much, much lower, perhaps due to my history. Now I'm eating less than 700 calories a day and started up Rushfit again to get that deficit I want but I'm starting to get hunger pains and I can't see myself doing this for a month, never mind three like I had intended.
Basically, I don't know how to get a deficit without inflicting physical pain and henceforth hindering my exercise efforts (maintenance is also a concern). Yes, I'm "underweight", but my body fat is around 19%. Any and all advice is welcome.
Some extra facts:
- my diet currently is made up of eggs, vegetables (carrots, broccoli, peppers), and lean meats (I cut out the cheese, nuts, and salads just to be safe)
- I consume a minimum of 4 cups of water daily
- my current form of cardiovascular exercise is walking, for 90 minutes minimum daily
Have you been logging your calories into FitDay to get your calorie count? And check your nutrients levels?
It's good you're eating a healthful diet now.
I'm worried about you though. There is a very real risk in not consuming enough calories. You're very active if you're walking 90 min a day. If your body doesn't get the nutrients it needs to maintain itself from food, it takes them from elsewhere in your body (for example, calcium from your bones, other nutrients from your muscles). Many young women who don't eat enough develop osteoporosis as the body takes calcium from their bones.
Heart attacks are another possibility when the body isn't getting enough nutrients. The heart is a muscle and the body will start consuming it to get the nutrients it needs. A couple of years ago, a local 16-year-old girl who wasn't eating enough had a heart attack. She survived, but she was without oxygen to the brain for long enough that she became brain damaged and will require full-time care for the rest of her life. Several very thin models have dropped dead from heart attacks.
My suggestion would be to eat enough to get your BMI up to a normal level. See a doctor or nutritionist to give you a healthy diet plan. Remember that muscle weighs more than fat. When people exercise and replace fat with muscle, they frequently experience a weight gain.
I've been regulating my calorie intake by recording it down in a food journal. I understand that my calorie intake is severely restricted at this point but I feel like I have no other option to lose the fat. I do take vitamin supplements in the morning to avoid deficiency, so I'm not too concerned, although I agree that eating whole foods beat pills any day. My BMI, due to my weight gain, is actually now on the line between underweight and healthy, but just so. Also I don't think I could have gained the weight I did from muscle if I wasn't exercising during that time.
I do intend on meeting with a nutritionist to ask for their advice, perhaps next week. Thanks for your input, and I appreciate the concern; I must sound I little obsessive, what with my lack of calories.
EDIT: Advice is still welcome.
Wolpertenn, you're shooting yourself in the foot by lowering calories so much. The less you eat, the less your body will metabolize (while consuming muscle and retaining fat) and you will need to continue cutting just to maintain your weight. It's a recipe for disaster.
Since body composition is your main concern rather than weight loss per se, you should look into strength training to build muscle. Muscle needs calories - specifically protein - to develop, so you will need to up your intake significantly. Google the "New Rules of Lifting for Women" and the Strong Lifts program. The latter is designed for men, but you'll find forums where women discuss the program (and share some seriously impressive before and after pics). Both programs suggest no more than 3 x 30min heavy weight lifting a week for a significant reduction of fat/increase in muscle. I also recommend searching for photos of women at different weights/body compositions. You will be shocked at how much better the more muscular (and heavier) women look than the women who weigh less but have a higher body fat percentage. Don't obsess about the scale, it's all about the muscle!
I know firsthand the pressures on teenage girls to be thin (been there, done that!), but the fact is that severe calorie restriction is not only unsustainable and misery-inducing, but can actually sabotage your weight loss (and permanently damage your metabolism, making it harder for you to ever maintain a healthy weight). Keep researching nutrition and exercise and you'll have a better chance of reaching your goals in a way that is healthy, sustainable, and effective.
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