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Fixing metabolism and losing fat – long term athletic perspective

Blog Forums Healthy Weight Loss Fixing metabolism and losing fat – long term athletic perspective

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    I was a competitive long distance for 7 years, and did many things to damage my metabolism. When I was 19, I dramatically cut my food intake to about 2000 calories a day (usually I must have eaten a ton more), while averaging 10 miles a day running. I dropped from 135 pounds to 115 (I’m 5’5). I suffered most of the semi-starvation symptoms, such as being depressed, always cold, no energy, no libido, obsessed over looking at food pictures, eating the core of apples and shells of peanuts etc… I also was doing low sugar, low salt, low fat, and conventional wisdom healthy. Here is a picture of me . Me starving myself

    For the last 3 years of my running career, I found paleo/primal and though it was the best thing ever. It made so much sense. So I decided to cut out all grains, potatoes, and fruit. I spent a year gorging myself on a ridiculously high fat/ high meat diet. In a state of damaged metabolism, I regained all the weight and more (probably 140-145 pound), while running up to 10 miles a day.

    The last 2 years of my running career I wised up and ate some carbs, fruits, potatoes, and occasionally rice. I seemed to maintain a weight, but it was mostly due to my chronic running. I didn’t count, but I must have been eating around 2500-3000 calories, and I would purposely eat less at the end of the season to slim down for the big end of the races.

    Last year, when I was 22, I graduated college and stopped running. I also started reading about Matt Stone and Ray Peat. I decided to “Eat for Heat” and up more calories to close to 4000 over the summer. I also ate mostly everything, just avoiding PUFA. I put on about 20-25 pounds, going from 130 to 150-155. I felt like I might have avoided the fat gain if I ate less dietary fat, but I think some of the gain was necessary.

    Here is a comparison from last summer to today. August 2013 and August 2014

    In September of 2013 I decided to lower my dietary fat. For over the course of the year, I ate a lower fat, moderate-high protein, high sugar, high carb diet. I followed most of the guidelines of ray peat. I kept fat between 30-40 grams most days. I ate lots of salt. I ate around 3000 calories in the fall, but upped it to 3500-4000 in the winter, pounding the fruits (especially dates). Up until this summer, I had thought that I had to keep my dietary fat very low to not gain fat, but over the past months I’ve been averaging 50-80 grams of fat a day, mostly saturated. I have leaned out even more, despite averaging 3500-4000 calories. I do think that keeping dietary fat lower is better for fat loss though, especially when you have some to lose.

    Although I stopped running, I do continue to walk and move a lot. I try to not to sit a lot, and I do a lot of body weight training. I stopped upper body weights in the Spring. The only lifts I do is squat and deadlift.

    Staple foods are fruit, juice, low fat yogurt/cheese, potatoes, rice, shellfish, gelatin. Often wheat, eggs, beef, low fat milk, ice cream. When I eat higher fat, it’s chocolate, dairy, coconut oil. I have alcohol 1-2 times a week, usually less, and mostly cider or liquor.

    I also keep pufa below 5 grams almost every day, and I think that’s the most important thing I do.

    • This topic was modified 9 years, 11 months ago by Max.

    Not to mention I no longer have issues when having to eat food at social events, or if I fall off my “diet”. I also am always warm, have great energy and mood most of the time, sleep way better, and have an ever improving libido.


    Thank you for sharing your story – you do look healthier! I try to eat low fat too, and eat many fruits, but my results as far as body fat percentage gain/loss are not as good as yours though I feel better.

    • This reply was modified 9 years, 10 months ago by blurg.

    Thanks Blurg! How many grams of fat are you eating? My suggestion is to walk more and sit less throughout the day. And to not necessary exercise, but spend your day moving and playing. For example, sometimes I just feel like doing pushups randomly.

    • This reply was modified 9 years, 10 months ago by Max.

    Hi Max-

    I recognize you from that other forum (cult). You look so much better now. As someone with a history of anorexia/compulsive exercise, if I met the guy in the before picture I would probably feel uncomfortable as my alarm bells sounded internally. If I met the guy in the after picture, you as you are now, I would probably just think: “this guy looks happy, and I should give him my number.”

    I do wonder about your running. I am a distance runner too and even though it’s become entwined with my ED over the years, as I am trying to move on my life and away from the eating disorder I still really crave running and everything goes with it. Are you done with running? Do you think you can do it again safely? Do you want to?


    Hi tennosea, which forum did you see me on?

    I am completely done with running, as for now. I haven’t gone for a run in about 15 months now. I enjoy other types of fitness, like walking, lifting weights, calisthenics etc. I think in a state of a higher metabolism and with more consistent calories I could do it again safely, but not how I used to. I used to run an average of 8-12 miles a day. I feel doing 30 minutes or so would be a lot healthier. I don’t have a desire for it anymore though. (7 years takes its toll mentally).

    I feel like running can very easily be intertwined with an eating disorder, and that’s what makes it kinda dangerous if you are trying to recover. I feel running can be healthy if you genuinely enjoy it, but if you are using it as a mask to continue a disorder, then it becomes a problem. If you can do it without thinking about good at all, that’s a good sign. How has your progress been so far?

    Thanks for the compliments by the way, I’d be happy to take your number :) hahaha. Really though, let me know if you wanna talk more, I like to help.



    It was Mark’s Daily Apple. I am not a member there and don’t care for most of it, but I think I found your thread through some other search or other.

    I really do have a rough time with the running identity. There really was a time, pre-ED, when running was just a joyful physical activity for me that was about feeling good and had little to do with my weight. The taskmaster in my head, who does all the mile counting and the ignoring of the bodily signs that say its time to stop, came along with the ED, and not before.

    Over the last couple of years I’ve had several periods of time from a couple of weeks to months where I did no running, either because I was injured or because I was ‘trying to recover.’ Currently my weight is right above the minimally healthy BMI and everyone thinks I’m fine. I keep being told I look great! and healthy! and I hate it. So ED is in my brain, and the recent gain, though probably not near enough to get me truly healthy, feels intolerable and I would really like to get back to being noticeably thin. Because that is what I have been for nearly my entire adult life, and it feels quite awful to now just be average. So yes, clearly my frame of mind currently is in no shape to try to incorporate a healthy, non-disordered running program into my life. But I’m running anyway. At this point even though I know its not the best idea, it is the only thing that keeps me sane and anchored to the reality I’ve known for so long.

    Paradoxically though, when I wonder to myself about maybe trying to be less restrictive with my food and put on additional weight, one of the few motivators is that it might make me run faster and generally better. The thought of improving my running is one of the very few things that makes me think it would be worth it to truly let go of the need to be thin. There seems to be different schools of thought on this when it comes to ED recovery. Some schools say that its necessary to get rid of athletics generally, or at least certain types of athletics, to allow the person to truly recover and discover their identity outside of sport. But there’s definitely another school that says returning to/remaining in sport can be used as a motivator. I’ve been in treatment with providers in both schools and my only thoughts is that maybe there isn’t a one-fits-all solution, but for many cases a period of full abstinence from exercise is absolutely necessary at least in the beginning. And I can tell you that outside of this community and a few others, this is really not standard thinking. Somehow general society has evolved to the mindset that all physical activity is good for everyone all of the time, and it is really hard (even for educated, intelligent ‘professionals’) to not get sucked into the hype.

    Anyhow, that was a long-winded reply! If you’ve made it this far, thanks for listening to my unexpected rant.


    Tennosea, no need to apologize about ranting, it’s cool haha.

    As far as being thin and not wanting to be average, that is probably the biggest problem. In my opinion, unless you are naturally thin, it is much more healthy to allow your body to gravitate towards it’s own set point. If you were never overweight, I don’t think your set point now would be very heavy. When I put on body fat last year, it was only about 15 pounds, since I was never heavy before my ED and running. I also find being “average” or “not thin” much more attractive (and apparently those telling you that you look great do also), and obviously you would feel much better if you allow your body to migrate towards it’s natural weight.

    Another thing, BMI is usually bullshit. If you put on muscle, it will skew the BMI numbers because muscle weighs more than fat. A great thing for someone recovering from anorexia would be to look into weight training rather than running. That way, you won’t feel bad if you overeat (which a recovering anorexic needs), for overeating will lead to muscle growth and a higher metabolism. Weight training for legs is a great area to put on muscle.

    As for running faster, are you currently/looking towards becoming competitive? I’ve seen many thin runners improve at running by putting on some muscle mass, especially in their legs. If you aren’t interested in becoming competitive, there is probably more harm than good in focusing on becoming faster. Racing seems like the only reason to become a better runner, to put your training to the test.

    Once again however, it’s hard to combine running and recovering from an ED unless you can totally separate the two from each other. Walking might be better, since it might help with the metal release and joy you get from running, without worrying about logging a certain pace/miles etc. Walking outside in nature can really clear your mind, or walking with a friend.

    General society is usually wrong about most things, especially health/nutrition/training. Most people are either brainwashed or stuck inside a box with information they are fed. I wouldn’t take what general society has to say too seriously.

    I suggest, if you don’t want to be a competitive runner, to focus on weight training (especially squats) and walking for some time. Maybe you will fall in love with these and then you can re-introduce running. I also suggest slowly upping your food intake, particularity with carbs, and keep upping it a little more each week. That way, if you are afraid of weight gain, it will more likely become muscle rather than fat. And also, being thin is no fun if you are not naturally thin. Maybe if you do put on body fat, it will be in areas that are good for a woman.


    Hi Max, not sure if you’re around here anymore (this forum is so inconsistent!) but I wanted to come back and update. I’ve reconnected with my treatment team and am really trying to do better with food generally-which for me just means more, and not any particular types of foods other than the ones I want, since I’ve always just been so restrictive. I’ve been off running for a week too. I really did think about what you said about being a faster, better runner versus weight loss motivations. I read somewhere else too, about questioning yourself as to whether you would still ‘want’ to run so badly if running was thought to promote weight gain, and not loss. And I have to admit that maybe, when I think of it that way, perhaps I don’t ‘love’ running the way I have been telling people I do. For now I’m sticking to gentle walking as I don’t think weight training would be mentally healthy for me. I think I need a good long period of abstaining from environments and/or behaviors that are focused on appearance, whether it be getting super thin or getting ‘toned’ or ‘ripped’ or whatever. I can easily see myself going off the deep end with weight training too, so I think it’s safer for me to stick to resting and just doing the walks if the weather’s nice. It is pretty easy for me to get compulsive about anything other than that, and I’ve done it before. I am really trying to brace myself for the weight gain (feels like its already happening) but I am trying to develop some mantras about accepting myself at any weight, and about it being time for me to enjoy my life and stop punishing myself because after all, all the self-punishment and sacrifice and exercise/restriction I’ve subjected myself to has not at all resulted in me enjoying my life. So there’s that. Still I know I’m in for a rough ride as the weight gets up there above the magic BMI 18.5 number I’ve been clinging to. (I just read though that they have actually changed that and that 20 is now the minimum healthy magic number for caucasions; 18.5 is only the minimum for those of Asian descent….it’s almost funny how much mental space these seemingly arbitrary and stupid numbers take up for me.) Anyway thank you (a late thank you) for your feedback. I really do appreciate it and it made me think outside of my comfort zone, which is always good.

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