Starvation dieting is going too far, especially if you have a disability

Dear brother and sister dieters – I am so with you!

LettuceI recently went to my internist, begging for a solution to my weight “problem.”

Most Americans would probably be glad to have my weight 165 pounds (okay, it’s out there). But it’s a problem for me because my attendants have to lift me from my wheelchair to the bed and vice versa a couple times a day. Plus the additional weight makes it harder for my weak muscles to help with the transfer.

Life would be so much simpler if I weighed less.

I’ve tried what seems like every commercial diet out there, low-carb, high-protein, low fat, right fat, low glycemic, don’t get hungry, manager your hunger… I don’t want to bore you with all of my experiments. Suffice it to say that nothing has worked as long as my passion for chocolate/wine/ice cream remains only marginally under control.

One thing I’ve learned the hard way is that the starvation diet doesn’t mix well with disability. It made me too weak and shaky and gave me headaches to the point where I couldn’t even drive my wheelchair straight. Now that’s dangerous.

My internist put it in very simple terms that I already knew. Because my physical disability limits the amount of energy I can spend through daily activities and exercise, the only way for me to lose weight is to put some pretty severe limits on what I consume in my diet.

There’s even an illustration of it, The CROWD GoWoman Energy Balance Scale, on our website. Yes, friends, that means counting calories.

In putting together the GoWoman Weight Management program, we tested out a number of online food diary and calorie counting programs. The one that best meets our needs is MyFitnessPal.com.

It asks you to create a profile of your age, gender, current weight, height, and activity level.

You can enter your weight goal and it will calculate how many calories you need to consume each day in order to reach that goal over a period of time. Alternately, you could just enter the number of calories a health care professional has prescribed as your daily goal.

Every day for every meal and snack, you list what you have eaten and the program will give you the quantity of calories and nutrients the food contained. I do that for breakfast and lunch, and then see how many calories I have left to spend on dinner before planning the menu.

You can also enter whatever physical activity you did that day, and it will calculate the number of calories you have burned. You don’t have to do this forever, just until you get a feel for what works for you.

Interesting isn’t it, how a Ph.D. researcher on weight loss had to pay good money to visit her internist to get a prescription to go on a diet that she could have written for herself. Talk about hard headed!

What finally convinced you to get serious about dieting and how did you find a formula that works for you?

Additional Resources

The cycle of disability and weight gain

Weight loss choices: Accept tools to make shopping, cooking easier

By Margaret A. Nosek, Ph.D.

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6 thoughts on “Starvation dieting is going too far, especially if you have a disability

  1. im so glad you are fostering this discussion.

    I use a ventilator and scooter due to MD. Growing up I was always way underweight but after starting in the vent I gained about 5 lbs a year Til my 90 lb frame got up to 145.

    I’ve been working at losing weight for about 6 years. Tho recently I’ve had much more success. Started with 30 seconds running in place (just flinging my arms and legs back and forth as hard as I can to get my heart rate up). Now, 5 months later, I’m up to 13 minutes a day.

    I also started thinking more about my goal and trade offs with food. A friend sent a chart that shows a candy bar takes 2 hours of running to work off so I think harder about whether to eat that snack or not or drink water with lemon or a coke or eat dessert.

    I’ve changed what I being home from the grocery — less processed. No crackers/bread. More fruit & veggies

    It’s a chain reaction that for me has involved knowing more — doing more — and caring more. I still have a cheat once a week but I don’t cheat every day. My calorie count to lose weight has to be in the 600-800 calorie range consistenly. That’s not much and it can be tedious. But the end goal will be worth the life change — for me and for my caregivers.

    • I’m so happy that you found a combined nutrition/activity strategy that works for you! But 600-800 calories is soooo low; I would find it difficult to get all the necessary nutrients at that level. You really sound like you know what you are doing so I’m sure you are gauging your body’s response in terms of unusual weakness, dizziness, grumpiness, depression, etc. If I were to go that low and didn’t notice the warning signs, my attendants would be sure to tell me, especially the grumpiness part. – Peg

  2. It’s thoughtful of you to want to lose weight in order to help your attendants who have to lift you. That says something about your character. But to answer your question about what diet works for me? It’s all about testing which food your body responds to well. We are all different and we respond differently to certain foods and subtle allergies can account for unexplainable weight gain because our body doesn’t like that food. I personally suffer from GERD and found that following a low fodmap diet has helped me feel much better.

    • I wish we knew more about food allergies. There is so much confusing information out there; it’s hard to know what to follow and what to ignore. I like your advice about observing how your body responds to certain foods. If you introduce one new food at a time and notice a negative reaction, you may have identified the source of an allergy and a food you should avoid. The problematic foods listed on the FODMAP websites are a case in point. I admire you for having the discipline to stick with that somewhat complicated diet.– Peg

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