My mother the engineer taught me the value of mistakes (also the value of avoiding them, but since she was bringing up someone with WriterBrain, not EngineerBrain, she finally realized that more mistakes would be part of my life than hers.) “You have to notice a mistake before you can fix it,” she said. “Admit it, fix it, then look for a way to prevent it happening again.”
About two weeks ago, I was reviewing progress in the weight-loss/health improvement program, and decided that I could *just* get enough protein with fewer calories and then would have some calories to use for more variety. That’s because the weight I’d lost now meant the minimum protein requirement was lower, so my “overage” of protein was more. So I cut back on the high-protein, specifically cutting the meat component from 4 oz/day to 3, but did carefully calculate the grams of protein every day to be sure I wasn’t running short. (Animal-derived protein has the highest complete protein to calories ratio.) I allowed a ten day test period to see how it went. Protein dropped, but not below the minimum every day, and I felt well for the first week. However, at the same time I was increasing outdoor walking time…I didn’t think I was increasing it enough to impact the protein need. Classic experimental error–changing two variables at once rather than just one without having the relationship between them well defined. DUH.
Week one went well, and though I had some muscle soreness as the walks lengthened, I attributed that to the usual exercise effect of increasing fitness. I continued to walk longer or faster (sometimes both) every day, and held to the lower protein content without considering that the muscle soreness might be (as it had been earlier, before I knew I *needed* more protein) the result of trying to build muscle while not providing it with the protein it needed for repair and increasing. This week gave me a head-slap in that regard. The slow increase of soreness didn’t do it (thinking “I’m pushing on this walking thing so of course I’m getting a little sorer each day.”) Energy began to lag more, I was tireder overall. Again, blamed it on the weather (hot and muggy) and the increased exercise. Tuesday this week, I did a slightly longer, much faster, walk to get back to the house before R- left to take the car in for service. Felt really wiped out even though it wasn’t that hot while I was out. Took a caffeine pill to perk up.
And Wednesday I woke up feeling crappy all over. Muscles hurt, joints hurt, head hurt…had little appetite and no strength–legs felt shaky as well as painful. Didn’t go for a walk; all I wanted to do was fall into bed. Didn’t want to eat any lunch (and didn’t.) Slept most of the afternoon, got up and fed horses…and thought “maybe it’s the protein thing.” I had been running right at, or just below, the 1g/kg for almost a week. So I added back in the former ounce of meat. By bedtime I was more alert, but still sore. This morning…MUCH better. Minimal soreness, no shakiness, no headache either. So, OK, difficult as it is to get much variety, back on 4 oz for awhile–total protein intake more than 85g/day, which is 10g more than “minimum requirement. 85g is still less than 1.2g/kg, and we tottering ancients can go well beyond 1.2 especially if really exercising, under some other stress, including illness. If my calorie limit was higher, it would be easier to get more lower-protein variety in there, but I’m only now getting the body into shape to burn enough to hold the same rate of loss so I could increase the intake.
So intake stays at <1000cal, protein stays at >85g, or (as weight drops) at least 10 g above the g/kg amount, and I’ll continue to record daily intake of calories & protein, with a weather eye on calcium and other nutrients, and recalibrate weekly. I will consider that increase in exercise means an increase in protein needs (and more for me, at my age, than when I was younger.)
Having said which, I did weigh this morning (not the regular Monday morning) to check on what the “bad day” Wednesday did to me, and have now confirmed 25 pounds down from May 17, thanks to that initial week’s 5.4 pound loss. I’m sure it will be higher by the end of the day, and maybe tomorrow up and down again. But I had expected to get to the 25 pounds sometime this week (week 14 overall.) I’d love to be under 160 by Monday (presently 160.4). Being that weight on the scale means when I ride, the load on Rags will be well under what’s healthy for him to carry. (It varies with horses’ fitness, the heat, the kind of work they’re asked to do: speed, distance, duration, terrain, ground conditions.) For Rags, my being under 160 will mean a total burden that needs no adjustment to a standard conditioning schedule for him. We’ll still start in walk for some weeks, but the progression in time and distance will be “normal,” as will the progression in speed once we’ve done the initial walking stuff. So by the time the weather’s cool enough to ride him for a solid hour with several periods of trot, I should be down in the 140s, and by the time he’s in condition to do longer trots and some loping/cantering, I should be under 140. He will also lose weight with work, but we’ll stay in good balance. The average weekly loss, not counting that first week, has been 1.6, right in my target zone, a safe rate. And yes, not counting the few “not so good” days, I’m definitely feeling better than before I started.
A gentle reminder that this is not a “plan” for others to follow–we’re all individuals, we have different bodies, different sensitivities to foods, different preferences, etc, etc. This is a record of what’s working *for me*. It’s not what worked for me on previous reconditioning projects, when I could either ride a horse or a bicycle…those were based more heavily on exercise with much less dietary restriction. But impaired balance got in the way of riding my bike, so…this is what’s working (for me!) now.
4 thoughts on “Mistakes & Corrections”
You say it works for you – but when Ky Vatta and her cohorts, in the first Vatta book, were reduced to <1000 Calories per day, it was only a very few days before they were in a very weakened state…… so do be careful and think how you are going to manage (I'm sure you already have thought) when you reach your goal weight.
Ah, but Ky had neither the knowledge nor the resources I have now. She couldn’t send someone to the store to bring home more protein-dense foods. The individuals–mutineers, her crew, etc–on her ship were not overweight to obese, so they didn’t have the fat reserves I had and still have.) Also, more is known now about the needs of older people for certain nutritional elements–I based what I wrote on the information available back then. I am being careful–checking and rechecking because I know I’m doing it differently and have to be alert and ready to change direction if anything starts going wrong. You’re right, I DO have a plan for the last segment of loss before I reach goal weight and for maintenance thereafter. By tapering the increase (which will slow the rate of loss over the last 10 pounds) I hope to reach reach goal weight while my intake is already at or very close to the necessary level. Preserving muscle mass and bone mass is the core to start with, and then bringing in, as I can, components of a balanced diet (while avoiding the things that give me trouble, like the cabbage family. There’s always another way to skin the cat.) Maintenance will require surveillance–weekly weigh-ins–and record-keeping–and the willingness to cut back or add on quickly before weight changes outside a narrow window. Luckily, I clearly remember the decades of being a healthy weight with a stable diet…the big change came with the hormones I took to be able to breast-feed our adopted kid, and interruptions to exercise that came later. So I know what stability *feels* like, it’s just a matter of *doing what needs doing* and prioritizing my health, which I haven’t. It’s always been duty to others first. But with R- and I both working on getting healthier, and very differently, I will be able to manage my own without worrying so much about his, or M-‘s.
Or so I think. Proof of the pudding is months away. Proof of concept, in the short term, is the blood pressure dropping from a dangerous level to 110/60, pulse slowing, and energy mostly up. And if it quits working, I’ll change the plan. I appreciate your concern–it feels comforting to have someone care. I do think I’m on the right track for me, for this period of time, but both R- and I are watching closely for the things that could go wrong. If I suddenly drop six pounds in a week, or develop any of the warning signs of problems with kidney or liver or whatever, there’ll be a reconsideration. I’m often stubborn, but I do pay attention to where the edge of the cliff is.
Oh dear, I don’t get notified of new comments, so have only just seen this. I’m glad you are being sensible. But it is very difficult to maintain a healthy weight post-menopause (I do so wish it weren’t); I know, for me, exercise is key, but I haven’t been able to do much lately, don’t quite know why. Think this course of dental treatment I am undergoing (and I am so hoping I’ll have new teeth in 3 weeks’ time!) will actually improve my overall health. It would have need to!
Indeed it is! I was doing better when I could ride my bike on the land and on the town streets, but after the bad fall, and then the fall off the buckskin mare a few months later, I lost the ability to ride on the rough, potholed, patched streets…that and the loose dogs. Brain damage has its own ways of messing with metabolism and appetite, too, in addition to menopause. And bad teeth…oh, I could write a book!! I hope your dental treatment does as well for you as mine finally did…it costs the earth but wow what a difference. I still have most of my teeth, and they’re not hurting (yay!) but my mother had all hers removed and replaced with dentures (implants didn’t exist then) and always claimed it gave her another 16 years or so. Wishing you well with that.