The Unexpected Struggles Of Eating Right

My son has decided to change his eating habits. This is a wonderful thing because while he’s tall, he’s also horribly obese. When we got him on the scale a couple of days ago, he was just a couple of pounds shy of being morbidly obese.

So changing what and how he eats is a great thing.

We sat down and worked out his calories and his macronutrients and yesterday he started. Because I do the cooking most of the time, he had a pretty clean diet for the day.

In the process, he ran into an unexpected difficulty.

Right now, he’s “restricted” to 2,200 calories per day. Now, that may not look like a lot, and if you eat fast food much, it isn’t. But with a clean diet, it’s an insane amount of food.

In fact, it was so much that he had trouble getting enough food.

This is important because, you see, my son is 17-years-old and typically eats like your stereotypical teenager. He was always hunger and was usually shoveling food down his throat at a voracious pace.

That had a lot to do with how he ended up at far too close to 300 lbs.

Yet eating a somewhat clean diet, he found a problem. He was full. He had eaten and eaten and still needed calories. He needed protein and calories, so he had a Quest protein cookie and a couple of different protein bars, just to get enough food.

Now, in fairness, he skipped breakfast. He normally did, so nothing really changed. But by missing that meal, he missed a key opportunity to eat and consume much-needed calories that he’d need later in the day.

This morning, he ate some peanut butter on toast to try and make life a little easier later today, so we’ll see how it goes, but even then he only fixed two pieces of toast instead of his usual four.

This isn’t because he’s not allowed more. It’s because he just wasn’t hungry.

You see, when you eat so-called “clean” foods, you aren’t eating calorically dense foods. Basically, by not eating food filled with calories in all the wrong proportions, you’re maximizing the amount of food you can eat.

Let’s look at an example.

The four-piece Chicken McNugget weighs roughly 70 grams or about 2.5 ounces. McDonald’s lists the caloric value as 180 calories.

You know what else is 180 calories? Four ounces of ground chicken. Plus, you get an additional 9 grams of protein (19 grams versus 10 grams) as well as skipping the 10 grams of carbohydrates you get in the McNuggets. Additionally, you get the exact same amount of fat, despite more food.

Now, if you only have 180 grams to devote to a protein source, ground chicken is a much better value for your diet, right?

However, this also creates some difficulties in getting enough food. The last thing you want is to lose weight too quickly. That means you need to consume food to make up for that.

And that is a lot of food.

So, what can you do if this is you? Well, for one thing, try eating smaller meals more often. This advice used to be super common and the thinking was that regular, smaller meals helped to fire up the metabolism. That thinking appears to have been debunked by the research, though, so don’t even sweat that.

However, smaller meals all you to consume more food throughout the day. Even staggering in lower calorie snacks can help. It’s a lot easier to hit 2200 if you eat six meals of 366 calories average than trying to do three of 733 calories or even worse, two meals of 1,100 calories.

Hell, even a couple protein bars and a protein cookie thrown into a backpack and a cookie to wrap up the night (in fairness, they’re good sized cookies) will make it a lot easier to get the 516 calories per meal remaining.

Now, a few points I want to make first.

Point one is that the above numbers are averages. I’m not saying you need to measure out each meal to equal a third of your caloric intake. I mean, you can, but the body doesn’t actually care all that much. You can eat a few hundred calories at breakfast, a few hundred more at lunch, then devour a big old plate of food at supper to top off for the day. That’s fine so far as I’ve been able to discern.

What matters is your total daily calories.

Point two is that while I talk mostly about calories, do not neglect your macronutrient balance. While I think it’s not a big deal to not sweat whether non-protein calories really come from carbs or fats, I do think the protein count is important. That’s not something you want to slip away from.

Instead, understand that I focus on calories because that’s the key point for weight loss. I don’t care what Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, your buddy who does keto, or anyone else has to say about it.

It’s funny, though. The one thing almost no one associates with weight loss is struggling to eat enough food. Trust me, though, it’s a struggle you need to win. Otherwise, you can do a number to your metabolism. Believe you me, that’s not a whole lot of fun.

Luckily, you know about that trap now, so you can avoid it.

Author: Tom

Tom is a husband, father, novelist, opinion writer, and former Navy Corpsman currently living in Georgia. He's also someone who has lost almost 60 pounds in a safe, sustainable way, so he knows what he's talking about.

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