Emmie Mears
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Learning You’re Not Starving

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Learning You’re Not Starving

I had a bit of a wrestle with myself when I thought about writing this blog post. It’s uncomfortable to write about, even though I’ve touched on the topic before.

I have a problem with food.

I’ve never been anorexic or bulimic, but I have had some issues with my weight. Since my late teens, I’ve battled against a metabolism that defies reason. It operates on logic that is not our Earth logic. It operates on insane troll logic. Which is to say, if the apocalypse began tomorrow, I’d outlast all y’all. Because I can survive on virtually nothing. My body needs very few calories to keep going.

The problem with that is that anything above those very few calories gets stored away…in places I’d rather it avoid entirely.

I’ve considered for some time the possible correlation between having grown up in poverty and my constant state of denial about my metabolism and how my body works. When I was a kid, I remember food bank days because they were the days we’d get treats like soda and box mac and cheese. Three day old pastries and stuff that we never, ever bought from a store. When that day rolled around, I’d want to eat everything because it wouldn’t be there later. I’ve done it with money, too. Spend money when I had a little because it wouldn’t be there later.

For me, those things are tied together. It’s something like a starvation mentality, or like a bear going into hibernation. Stocking up for leaner times. We never went hungry when I was a kid, but I ate The Good Stuff (read: fatty foods) when I could get my paws on it. Since becoming an adult, I’ve found that not only do I have to fight against my Insane Troll Logic metabolism, but I also have to fight against this mentality that there won’t be food later.

Tonight at work, we had a special burger that was made of three four ounce patties (!) and three slices of cheese. It looked delicious. Couple that with the idea that it would be taken off the specials in a couple days, and I fought with myself all night about eating it. I didn’t get it — I opted for grilled wings instead. Small victory….except I ate two Klondike bars when I got home.

Last month, I started a very strict diet. It allowed me one cheat day per week. After two weeks, I’d lost five or so pounds, and I was ALMOST at the threshold goal I’d been hitting and then regressing from all year. Then it was Spouse’s birthday, and I gave myself what resulted in a week of cheat days. I gained every pound back, even though calorie-wise, I wasn’t going nuts and eating 3000 a day or anything. It’s a hard lesson for me to learn. I keep failing at this. I love food. I love rich food. I love cake and ice cream and burgers and pizza. I love cheese on carbs in any form.

What’s tough is that I know my body well enough to understand how it works and what I need to do if I want it to have less mass. My problem is denial. I seem to think that a couple days off is fine — when in reality, my body gobbles up spare calories and hoards them like it’s planning for World War Z. Exercise has little to no effect on my basal metabolic rate. Like I said, Insane Troll Logic. I’ve started to think that perhaps I might actually have a thyroid problem that has gone unaddressed. When I talk to people about this, they think I’m starving myself. It’s fairly obvious that I’m not starving or wasting away. My body just doesn’t know what to do with extra calories. And “extra” to my body is anything over a very low threshold.

Tonight someone asked how old I was and then nodded, “Well, your metabolism shifts at that age.” I told her that it’d been like this since I was 20. She was stumped. I’ve never had the “eat whatever you want” sort of body. I’ve always had to be aware of what I ate and hovered slightly on the border of overweightness. I wouldn’t care as much as I do if my family didn’t have history of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. In fact, I started reading high blood pressure a couple years ago.

I’m not sure what else there is to do except change my mentality. I’m not starving. I’ve never been starving. Food will still be there tomorrow — and the day after that. I’ve managed delayed gratification in almost every area of my life but this. It feels like the chink in my armor that happens to exist right over my Achille’s heel.

The reason I’m talking about this here is that I am in gross need of some accountability. I’m tired of ping-ponging back and forth between these two numbers on the scale. What’s even more tiring is the knowledge that it’s completely in my power to change if I really want to. I know what it takes, but do I have what it takes to do it?

I have a race in less than three weeks. It’s not going to be an easy jaunt down a street — there are obstacles and zombies on that track.

For the next three weeks, I’m going to try something new. I’m going to keep a record each day of what I do and write down three positive things I’m shooting for, like breaking 25 minutes on my 5K or being able to do unassisted pull-ups. I’m going to try out different kinds of motivation and see what works. I won’t post about it here every day, but I’ll give weekly updates.

This year I’ve done more for my fitness level than I’ve ever done before. I’ve lost some steam in the last month, and I really want to get it back. The key, I think, is learning that I’m not starving. I have everything I need to get there.


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Author | Emmie Comments | 8 Date | September 13, 2013



I hear ya…. My stomach still thinks I’m 18 and wants to house tons of food…but my metabolism is saying, “Hey, we don’t need that much anymore!”
Stomach… “I’m NOT LISTENING! lalalalala!”

September 13, 2013 | 9:34 am


    Yeah, I never really had that switch because even as a teenager I had to watch what I ate. :/ You’d think I’d have it figured out by now…alas.

    September 13, 2013 | 10:05 am


Good luck meeting your goals! I’ve never been able to eat whatever I wanted, except when I was regularly running back in law school, but I can feel that my metobolism must be shifting now that I’m in my 30s. It’s harder to keep the weight off. I have to be more careful.

September 13, 2013 | 9:51 am


    Thanks! Yeah, my metabolism has never been great. It’s been very, very low ever since I was 18. I never even got to enjoy the teenage “eat whatever you want” thing. LOL.

    September 13, 2013 | 10:04 am


You and I seem to have the same metabolism. Mine has always been too efficient, but after I had to lose a lot of weight, it became extra efficient. And exercise does not increase my metabolism at all, but NOT exercising slows it down. 🙁 Good luck meeting your goals!

September 13, 2013 | 10:18 am


Good luck with your race! The zombie part sounds fun. Unless, of course, there are actual zombies.

You might have heard this, and it might be out-of-place advice anyway (and I do apologize if that’s the case), but I’ve heard that muscle-building will raise your base metabolism. Moreover, just doing aerobic exercise doesn’t guarantee you’ll burn fat – if you’re not also doing muscle-building (which it sounds like you are doing, so this might not be applicable) your body might burn muscle instead. I guess basically your body prioritizes having fat stores over muscles it doesn’t really use. Maybe. You know. This is just what the internet told me one time, I’m not a trainer or even that active, really.

Habits learned in childhood are tough to break sometimes, especially ones related to perceived survival. You can rationalize everything and know the facts and know WHY you’re doing something, but it’s a lot of work to recondition yourself like that. If I ever figure out any secret ways to overcome those childhood reflexes I’ll let you know :p

September 15, 2013 | 4:09 pm

Anthony Becker (@anthecker)

Hi Emmie 🙂

Glad you’ve figured this out about yourself. A lot of our problems come from subconscious assumptions, habits we’ve never thought about before. I’ve learned a lot about fitness this year too, and like you have lost some steam in the past month or so. Here’s to charging ahead with our goals!

Good luck on your motivational strategies. Let us know how it goes.

September 18, 2013 | 2:56 am


Don’t feel too bad. Just about half of the planet struggles every day along with you. I’m in the same boat and am in my mid-forties. It does not get any easier. And I don’t have any answers.

I guess, the best I can offer is: do not give up.

Also, it is nice to know that our bodies are against us. Nice, because then at least you know there’s a reason for it all. Check out Willpower by Baumeister and Teirney and also this article: http://www.npr.org/2011/09/18/140516974/resistance-training-for-your-willpower-muscles

Willpower is a “muscle”, too. Don’t over work it.

October 21, 2013 | 7:01 pm

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