This seems almost surreal, or impossible, but -- I have to learn how to eat eight hundred seventy-five more calories a day.
As a first, linear, "engineering" approximation, that is.
Bear with me. The approximation goes like this: One must run a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories to lose one pound of human fat, more or less. This is a convenient number, because it is divisible by seven; it means that, in order to lose one pound per week, each day one must eat 500 fewer calories than one burns.
I have been losing one and three-quarters pounds per week. Pretty steadily. (My expected standard deviation once I get to maintenance is approximately 1.1 pounds, according to Mark's OpenOffice spreadsheet.)
I'm almost at goal (108 pounds) and when that happens I will be trying to lose zero pounds per week. So will be trying to run a calorie deficit of, um, zero. Since all signs point to a current daily calorie deficit of 875 calories, the first-order approximation is to eat 875 calories more per day than I'm eating now.
Enter the two giant, dressing-soaked, Parmesan-and-crouton-laden Caesar salads.
Of course, I am a highly nonlinear system, and it could well be that the first-order approximation is off by a few hundred calories. Maybe I need to add only 650 calories. Maybe I need to add 1,000. We will find out as I continue to graph my weight loss.
(You may recall that my husband is a process engineer. He is not only making spreadsheets to figure out nerdy little things like the variance and standard deviation of my weight. He is planning a full-fledged statistical process control scheme. Believe me, you will hear more of this later, cross-posted to the Homemaking for Engineers category. And if you wonder why I put up with this, you must have forgotten what I spent twelve years of my life studying.)
But the bigger question facing me now is: OMG HOW AM I GOING TO EAT THAT MUCH FOOD?
Cathie and Amy F and CJ all guessed, one way or another, that 875 calories is the difference between what I eat now and what I ate before. Since the slope of the weight-time graph is pretty constant, we can indeed infer that, too, as a first approximation. I wasn't measuring before, so I can't say for sure.
This is nearly (not quite, but nearly) two meals' worth of calories (meal size being what it is for me now).
I don't think it would be easy to do it again. My hunger signals have adjusted. At the end of my dinners -- just one eight-and-a-half-inch plateful -- I am stuffed. I no longer get hungry for snacks except right before bed, and then only if I've just come back from a swim workout.
And I'm a little bit afraid to try. I'm afraid to stuff extra calories in. I'm afraid to re-start the habit of snacking when I'm not hungry. I still fight the mental urge to wander into the kitchen to pop something into my mouth when I'm bored. I feel like I have a long way to go to cure the psychological habit of eating when I'm not hungry. I finally understand how it can be that some women say they have trouble eating all the food they're supposed to when they're pregnant.
I think I understand anorexia a little bit more than I did before. It's not the fear that this one apple, this one slice of bread, will make you fat. It's the fear that giving in to the one apple, the one slice of bread, will open the floodgates. If I can eat one saltine cracker today when I'm not hungry, tomorrow I might allow myself two, and then before you know it it's a whole sleeve.
Or 1.8 sleeves.
I apologize to anyone who finds it hard to, er, feel sympathy for me being in this situation. I am sure I would have thought so before I lost 40 pounds. As it is, I find it more than a little surreal. I really am not sure how I'm going to do it.