John the Magical Unicorn

UnicornSomeone actually referred to me as a magical unicorn a few weeks ago.

Seriously. I cannot make that up.

What prompted that was an online “discussion” about the merits of the calorie in vs. calorie out paradigm. Much has been written recently about how a calorie is not a calorie and that basing your eating solely on calorie counting will not work because the calorie in vs. calorie out methodology is flawed due to that.

I will be honest. Because it seemed to explain my issues I bought into that thought process.

But now I am having a change of heart.

In its base essence, a calorie is indeed a calorie. Since it is a unit of heat, each calorie is the same. what is different is what composes that calorie, and that is where the argument┬áleans to the “not equal” side.

Let’s look at it like this: If I want to eat at a 1200 calorie level each day I can reach that level in many ways. I can eat two Big Macs, or I can eat pounds and pounds of spinach. Hell, I could even drink a couple of 2 liter bottles of Coke. All will get me to that 1200 calorie mark. But is that equal?

Hardly, and no one can dispute that. So in this example, the calories are the same but what makes them up is very different, so me eating 1200 calories of spinach will have a much different result than you eating two Big Mac’s. At least in theory.

Here is the rub though. I average 1200 calories a day of good, clean food (for the most part … I do have my trips now and then). For a man my size the formula for determining Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) shows that mine is 2018 calories a day (this is the amount I burn in a normal day if I did nothing). So to use math (WHAT??) if I ate 1200 calories a day that would be a 800 calorie deficit. If a pound of fat is roughly 3000 calories, it would take me 3.5 days to lose a pounds. so basically 2 pounds per week (remember that this is with NO exercise thrown in). The problem is that I gain weight. And this is where the “magical unicorn” came in.

I was arguing my point when an exasperated person on the discussion wrote “well John, you’re just a magical unicorn”.

Very helpful right? I took that to mean they felt that I was either lying about how much and what I was eating, or that I was underestimating the caloric content. This is something I have had a HUGE issue with in dealing with doctors, but regardless of my feelings I decided that something was not adding up so I delved a bit deeper.

Long time followers of this blog and the podcast know that I am a cancer survivor and suffer from psoriatic arthritis. The loss of my thyroid gland caused me to gain the initial weight, and my slovenliness added the rest. Since righting the ship as far as exercise and eating I lost at one point 70 pounds, and now site at 255. And I am not budging, even though my eating and exercise are now good. So what else could it be.

Adopting the basic physics of “if you burn more than you take in you must lose weight” as fact, I assumed that there must be something to how much I am burning. Some research into the effects of thyroid on the RMR yielded some interesting information. One study showed that those with hypothyroidism (which I would be considered since I have no gland at all) can have an RMR as low as 900.


That lit the light bulb over my head.

Even being conservative and using the high level range mentioned in the study of RMR = 1200, this would explain what me eating 1200 per day, and sometime 1500, is yielding no weight loss. While I have been assuming that I was operating at a deficit, it could very well be that I am eating to my RMR level and even over it. This would explain the weight gain at 1200-1500 calories per day, along with the feeling that I am full even at that low caloric intake. I am often … let’s say chastised … in groups because they feel I do not eat enough and my answer is always “But I am not hungry”. So this may explain it.

All this is now just theory. Without going for a true test to determine my RMR there is no way of truly knowing that this may be the case. Another issue is that the test is a measurement of oxygen flow, which si something that was compromised when I had my thyroid removed. I have throat damage which has result in my airway being smaller than what is considered “normal”. I had a doctor years ago mention this to me and that I should probably have surgery to correct this issue. This may also explain why I feel like I am gasping for air sometimes when others around me are fine (and maybe even the raspiness I get when swimming during a triathlon and trying to get air in my lungs).

So … a magical unicorn I may be …

I am finding more and more that I am definitely not “normal”.

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