Do you know your calorie setpoint?

by Christine on March 1st, 2011

filed under Christine's Life Updates, Exercise

Good morning Revolutionists!

Yesterday I sat down and tracked all my food intake that I consumed over the weekend, and I was surprised that I was within 10 calories all three days (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday).  My average was about 910 calories. I know I have mentioned this a thousand times before on my blog, but let me say it again: if you are trying to lose weight, it’s incredibly important to track all your food consumption, every day. You can identify trends, areas of weakness, analyze your food types, pinpoint times of day that you have problems, etc. I have been journaling my food for years—at this point it comes naturally to me, and that’s probably why all three days were essentially the same calories without even trying.

Now that I have entered into “Weight Maintenance Mode (WMM),” I am trying to learn what it takes to successfully maintain my weight. It’s a very different mindset than trying to lose weight, and it’s hard because I don’t necessarily know what the secret ingredient is to ensure that I don’t put the weight back on.

For instance, I learned that for my body, I lost weight slowly but steadily when I ate approximately 800 calories per day. Previously, I know that my “Calorie Setpoint” (the calories you need to maintain your weight) was around 1000 calories. However, I’ve lost over 100 pounds, so it’s only natural to assume that my Calorie Setpoint has been lowered.

I’ve maintained my current weight for a few weeks now, and if I’m eating 910 calories a day, I think it’s fair to assume that 910 calories is my new Calorie Setpoint. This surprises me that my setpoint has gone down as low as it has. I think part of the reason for that is that I have not been exercising very much in the last two months, thereby lowering my metabolism and also requiring less food to keep my body fueled.

Why is it so important to know your body’s Calorie Setpoint? Well, if you are trying to lose weight, if you know what your Setpoint is, then all you have to do is lower your calorie intake by a mere 10%, and voila, I can almost garauntee that you’ll lose weight! Now it’s important to point out that everyone’s Calorie Setpoint is totally different. Mine—900 apparently—is very low, much lower than average, and I don’t recommend that anyone use that as a starting point for figuring out their own Setpoint. However, I think the fact that mine is so low is an interesting point. For years I had a very hard time losing weight on my own, even though I exercised regularly and watched what I ate very carefully. It turns out I was eating too much. I assumed that the doctor’s charts, that said I should eat 1200-1500 calories per day were just blatantly wrong for me. Looking back, it’s no wonder I gained weight when I was eating so much!

[Interesting sidenote: Apparently “Set Point Theory” is a real scientific theory that has been analyzed. And here I thought I made the term up myself! Read more at MIT Medical or at the Journal of Metabolic Syndrome and Disorders.]

I have also noticed that I’ve been feeling sluggish and tired the last few weeks, since starting my new job. So yesterday I decided that it was time to amp up my exercise. Now, I can’t say that I have not been doing any exercise at all: I’ve gone downhill skiing a few times, and snowshoeing, too. However, since starting this job, I rarely get any exercise in during the week. It’s time to change that and get a little bit of exercise back into my routine. Yesterday I hit the gym. It was more important that I get into the habit of going than it was to actually break a sweat and rev up my heart rate, so I just grabbed a stationary bicycle and read a book for 45 minutes. I’m proud that I went; it wasn’t easy to pry myself off the couch and go.

I also went tanning, in the hopes of boosting my energy. I have a vacation planned in April, and I wouldn’t mind being tan for that. However, tanning is really more for the energy, for me. I notice that I have far more energy after I go tanning. I think it’s one of the side effects of living in the Northeast during the wintertime. I can already tell a difference today; I woke up extra early today to take my husband to work, and I’m not sleepy at all. I think the tanning + exercise combo is good for me.

Today I am going to pre-plan my food intake to ensure that I get the right amount of calories and maximum amount of nutrition. Are you going to pre-plan your food intake, too?


How to control your weight when you suffer from depression

by Christine on May 10th, 2010

filed under Diet, Food, Nutrition, Exercise, General Information

I’ve battled depression pretty much all my life. You could pretty much follow my depression levels by watching the scale go up-up-up. The more I fell into a depression rut, the faster I put on weight.  Unfortunately for me it was always one of those “chicken and the egg” situations: I would become more depressed and gain weight, which would depress me further, and I’d gain even more weight. It seemed like a never-ending cycle.

Depression can be characterized as simple feeling “low” or “down in the dumps.” Depression is very common, with an estimated 17 million Americans suffering from it, according to WrongDiagnosis. It is also treatable. Medication can definitely help (and I discuss this below), but there are also at-home remedies to you can take to keep your chemical levels more balanced and keep depression in a more manageable state.

Depression and Serotonin
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is primarily found in the gastrointestinal tract, platelets and the central nervous system. Serotonin is primarily used to regulate intestinal movements but also helps to regulate mood, appetite, sleep, muscle contraction, and some cognitive functions. The most common antidepressant drugs regulate serotonin levels.

Eating carbohydrates helps to increase serotonin levels. If you suffer from depression do not follow low-carb diets. However, it’s important to try to consume “good carbs” and avoid refined carbs.  Good carbs include oats, whole wheats, basmati or wholegrain rice, beans, legumes, etc.  Just watch to make sure that you aren’t eating too many carbs, which may indicate that your serotonin levels are off-kilter.  A 2009 study in the General Psychiatry journal showed that people who followed a Mediterranean diet showed a 30% reduction in depression symptoms.  The Mediterranean diet has a high ratio of monosaturated fat to saturated fat, moderate intake of alcohol and diary, and a low intake of meat.  It also has a high intake of legumes, fruit and nuts, cereals, vegetables and fish.

Depression and Selenium
Selenium is a chemical element, nonmetal, that is chemically related to sulfur and tellurium. Selenium is involved in the functioning of the thyroid gland in humans; the thyroid helps to regulate the metabolism. According to, small amounts of selenium has been effective in the treatment of depression. You can get selenium by eating eggs, meat, fish, bran, Brazil nuts, tuna, onions, tomatoes, and broccoli.

Eating breakfast is important for anyone wanting to lose weight, but it is also very important for people suffering from depression. You can get your carbs and selenium by eating the foods listed above, which will help promote

Exercise has been known to fight depression. Exercise helps to promote endorphins, which creates a “happy” feeling.  Endorphins are produced by the pituitary gland and hypothalamus and are released during exercise, excitement, pain, and during orgasm. If you’re not exercising, you should!  Some medical studies have shown that endorphins get released the most during long, continuous workouts, when the intensity is between moderate and high, and when your breathing is difficult. A healthy sex life will also release endorphins, so ask your Significant Other to help you fight depression by participating in a little night-time exercising.

Stress and weight gain
Stress makes you gain weight. If you are juggling too many things in your life, your stress levels skyrocket, and with that, your weight.  This is related to a hormone called Cortisol, which are found in the adrenal gland. Cortisol primarily works to increase blood sugar and stores of sugar in the liver, aid the metabolism, and suppress the immune system.  While high levels of Cortisol may be good in survival situations, when Cortisol levels are elevated for a prolonged period, it can suppress the thyroid, decrease muscle density, decrease muscle tissue, create high blood pressure, and increase abdominal fat, among other medical issues. When your Cortisol levels are high, you may crave sugar and fatty foods.

If you’re suffering from depression and may have stress in your life that you cannot control, then make sure that you are staying away from caffeine, which increases Cortisol levels, and ensure that you are getting enough sleep. Relaxation techniques may also help to lower Cortisol levels. Some relaxation techniques can include meditation, yoga, listening to music, exercise, breathing exercises, journaling, etc.

I found it interesting that some oral contraceptive pills may increase Cortisol levels, especially women performing “whole-body resistance exercise training.”  If you may fall into this category, talk to your doctor about this issue.

Many people suffering from depression also have sleep problems. In fact, netdoctor says that more than 80 percent of people suffering from depression also have problems with sleep. Some may sleep too little, some may sleep too much. Some may be restless and wake up frequently.

The bottom line is this: sleeping for seven hours or more per night, with good quality sleep, is good for regulating your biological rhythms. Sleep is important not only to keep depression at bay, but also to help you lose weight.

Recent studies have shown that getting regular amounts of daylight at the right time of day helps to regulate biological rhythms. The most effective light for circadian stimulation is blue light, which is found plentifully in sunlight. When one receives blue light at the right time of day (in the morning), it helps to promote the release of melatonin (which is released at night).  It’s important that you receive a regular dose of daylight at regular times of day to promote a healthy biological cycle.  If you do, you will notice that you will sleep better, fall asleep at “normal” hours, and will have increased and sustained energy throughout the day.  Blue light therapy has been a safe medical treatment for those suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and may be effective in treating depression.

Anti-depressants and weight effects
Medicating depression should be left to the professionals. There are eight categories of antidepressants: Tricyclics (TCAs), Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), Serotonin antagonists, Bupropion (Wellbutrin), Venlafaxine (Effexor), Mirtazapine Remeron), and Reboxetine.  Mixing these drugs or switching from one to the other abruptly may cause a total psychiatric breakdown, so leave this to the professionals.

However, it’s important to know that some antidpressants have weight-gain side effects, and some medications have weight-loss side effects.  A list of these drugs include:

Weight Gain Side Effects

  • Tricyclics (Tofranil, Elavil, Pamelor)
  • Mirtazapine (Remeron)

Weight Loss Side Effects

  • MAOIs (Nardil, Parnate, Eldepryl, Marplan)
  • SSRIs (Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Luvox, Celexa, Pristiq)
  • Bupropion (Wellbutrin)
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor)

Set realistic goals
Setting realistic weight-loss goals is very important to anyone wanting to lose weight, but it’s even more important for people suffering from depression. I cannot tell you how many friends who suffer from depression (and also those who are bi-polar) and who have dug themselves further into depression by setting unrealistic weight-loss goals.  Aiming to lose 1-2 pounds of weight per week is a realistic goal. Hoping to lose 20 pounds in two weeks is not realistic.  When you set unrealistic goals and then subsequently fail to meet them often triggers those suffering from depression to dig deeper into a depressive cycle. You can fight this by setting small, attainable goals. When you achieve small goals, it will help to make you feel better, help fight depression, and will encourage you to achieve future goals.

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