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At some point, do calories matter? How much is too much?

by (20)
Updated about 5 hours ago
Created May 08, 2012 at 3:55 PM

Hi, my name is Brandie and I am confused about the carb vs. calorie/conventional wisdom ideas. I count my carbs for weight loss and haven't really been counting calories though I've been keeping and eye on them. I eat between 50-80 carbs a day, each my lean weight (160-190 grams) of protein a day and make sure to eat enough fiber. I have endometriosis and constipation is a side effect so I literally need upwards of 40 grams of fiber a day. It's incredibly difficult to eat a high fat, low carb, high fiber, lower calorie diet. It's taken me three months to find a tentative balance. The other day I counted my calories and I am eating between 2,000-2,5000 calories a day (depending on how much fat I eat, like avocados, coconut milk, olive etc) This is basically what I eat in a day: 3 eggs, 1/4 cup raspberries, 1/4 cup blackberries, 1/4 cup strawberries, 1/4 cup greek yogurt mixed with chia seeds, 3 scoops whey throughout the day, 6 oz. chicken with two cups greens, one whole avocado, 8 oz. hamburger/steak or 6 oz. fish, and both lunch and dinner with one cup of veggies, like broccoli or brussel sprouts. I know the fruit sounds like a lot but remember, I need fiber!! I also take psyillium fiber husks *gag. I do kettle bell (30 pounds) 2 or more times a week, I box twice a week, I walk an average of 20-30 miles a week, bike my daughter to school etc, but I am 340 pounds. I am wondering if I need to count calories as well for better weight loss. Sorry for the long windedness, lots to explain. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

21f306ff3f17eecd7410c910470d7a96
20 · May 09, 2012 at 2:28 AM

Why thank you Jamie :) That's a whole lot of water but I bet I can pull that off. Aside from peeing every 20 minutes, I enjoy drinking lots of water! I have already ditched the greek yogurt and am hoping that will help :) Thanks for the advice!

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20 · May 09, 2012 at 2:27 AM

Haha, good idea about being 50/50. It seems that one work for some and the other works for, well, others, but none seem to be working for me. You have some awesome advice here and I appreciate it :) Thank you!

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12540 · May 08, 2012 at 8:20 PM

@Brandi -- a good quality probiotic is an awesome thing. So is bone broth (Yaay crockpots!). Make sure, though, that you're getting either a prescription-quality probiotic OR a therapeutic probiotic that requires refrigeration. Something sitting on a countertop is unlikely to provide sufficient useful intestinal symbionts to help heal a traumatized gut. *smiles*

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60 · May 08, 2012 at 7:17 PM

Your fats sound great. . . olive oil should only be raw though, so maybe switch to another for cooking and safe that for salads. :-) A good rule of thumb for water is 50% of your body weight in ounces, it sounds like you are doing close to that. You might cut the greek yogurt. . . I had to cut all dairy (even my kefir) in order to speed up the weight loss.

21f306ff3f17eecd7410c910470d7a96
20 · May 08, 2012 at 6:53 PM

Thank you Jamie! :) I eat avo's, coconut oil and coconut milk and use olive oil for cooking. I drink at least 5 32oz. glasses of water a day, is that what you would consider lots? I also eat two tablespoons a day of chia seeds, but with greek yogurt. And no, I am not losing the weight I would like, but perhaps that's just the way it goes with me. I will for sure check out the 21 day sugar detox, actually been wanting to do that for a while :)

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2707 · May 08, 2012 at 6:36 PM

Keeping a log is a great first step. Agree.

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418 · May 08, 2012 at 5:13 PM

As a woman with your description, try to move the carbs to 50 and keep calories at 1500 a day. Both carbs & calories count in your situation.

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20 · May 08, 2012 at 5:04 PM

Oh, sorry about not adding height. I am 6' and have a lot of muscle mass. I'm not wrestler looking and don't look like I weigh that much but I am very strong and do a lot. I HATE taking that much fiber and will stop today. I eat about 4 cups of organic mixed greens a day and will start eating more brassicas. I will try going as long as possible not taking the fiber or any chemicals as you call it, to move things along, it's just so darn miserable. I look forward to that balance you talk about! Thank you so much Firestorm, you've given me great ideas :)

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9402 · May 08, 2012 at 5:00 PM

+1 very well said.

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20 · May 08, 2012 at 4:57 PM

@ NewEra- I have seen that around the stores but never knew it helped! Can you take it everyday or just every once in a while? How did you get your thyroid issues worked out?

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20 · May 08, 2012 at 4:56 PM

@ Firestorm, good advice :) I try to weight myself just twice a month but find myself doing it more. I appreciate your input!

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20 · May 08, 2012 at 4:55 PM

@Mike- Thanks for the thread! I will for sure check that out. I was at 39 carbs yesterday and was so cranky and emotional, I am hoping I get used to that. I am hoping that soon the primal lifestyle I have been following will work like it has worked for so many other people. I feel like the anomaly and the 'one' person it just doesn't work for. I guess I will give it two weeks or very low carb and see how it goes. Thank you for all the advice!

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1607 · May 08, 2012 at 4:55 PM

I had IBS with constipation for years before I went Paleo. I was having to eat more and more fiber to go, as my body got used to it. The effective dose kept increasing. There is only so much fiber you can pack in your face in a day. Going Paleo, getting on a prescription probiotic and getting my thyroid issues worked out has me 'going' like a champ on very very little fiber. It's awesome! The fiber thing is a myth. Yeah, it kinda works for a while, but not forever. I also take magnesium citrate to keep things moving if I have any slowness (usually around my time of the month.) Good luck!

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605 · May 08, 2012 at 4:53 PM

Do calories count? Yes. Do you need to count calories? No. I eat somewhere between 1000 and 1500 a day, but I don't bother counting because I burn 2500 and so I know I'm always in a calorie deficit.

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12540 · May 08, 2012 at 4:47 PM

Two things -- First, make sure you stay hydrated. I find that, with PCOS/endo, if I don't stay hydrated, my bowels don't work as well. Second, don't weigh yourself every day. I weigh in monthly during my "active season" (from March thru October), and every 2 months during my "sedentary season" (from November through February) -- it helps keep me from driving myself batty, while still giving me information to help keep me moving in the right direction.

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9402 · May 08, 2012 at 4:42 PM

And more importantly you don't want to run into impaction.

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9402 · May 08, 2012 at 4:41 PM

Those pounds aren't "real" pounds though. You know they'll come off fast as soon as your body catches up. I'd be more concerned with the general discomfort of constipation.

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9402 · May 08, 2012 at 4:41 PM

I think below 50 grams carbs would do it, but it would have to be for a sustained period of time. I'm not sure how long. The goal is to be in ketosis (if you're trying to heal a broken metabolism). This thread talks about carb threshold: http://paleohacks.com/questions/116942/carb-intake-and-ketosis

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20 · May 08, 2012 at 4:32 PM

Oh! Gotcha :) I sometimes try and eat below 50 grams of carbs (is that low carb enough) just to mix it up sometimes. I have considered just ditching the fiber and just let myself be constipated to see what my body does. It's pretty miserable but maybe eventually it would figure out what to do. It's just difficult to try and lose weight while not going to the bathroom...the pounds add up fast that's for sure.

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9402 · May 08, 2012 at 4:31 PM

sorry. VLC = very low carb. my wife has had constipation issues much of her life (admittedly perhaps not as severe as yours) and she always said she needed fiber to go. Finally I got her to try low fiber for a couple weeks and she was still able to go just fine. Real eye opening for her.

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9402 · May 08, 2012 at 4:29 PM

sorry. VLC = very low carb. my wife has had constipation issues much of her life (admittedly perhaps not has severe as yours) and she always said she needed fiber to go. Finally I got her to try low fiber for a couple weeks and she was still able to go just fine. Real eye opening for her.

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20 · May 08, 2012 at 4:28 PM

And thank you Mike, for the support and advice :)

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20 · May 08, 2012 at 4:27 PM

I would love to stop eating so much fruit and taking the supplements but seriously it's the only way for me to go to the bathroom. I have tried adding more coconut oil and magnesium as well as probiotics and even that didn't work. I do not have any metabolic disorders, just hormone issue due to the endometriosis. I have never heard of VLC...I just googled it and received a lot of different hits. What is it and why would I need to abandon the high fiber diet?

Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823
9402 · May 08, 2012 at 4:23 PM

And good luck by the way. I think you are on the right path.

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3b38bcc91dbfc6a114f4bdce544103d3
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404 · May 08, 2012 at 6:17 PM

There is a lot of good advice here from several people who gave you an answer.

Not all people get diarrhea from foods they do not tolerate, some get very constipated from them. Before I went gluten free I had major issues with constipation (movements maybe 3 times a week), now I am regular (at least once or twice daily). I have found that protein is not the issue, but sometimes I need to think about the other things I eat and how I feel after eating them.

Keep a log of what you've been eating, how you feel after each meal, the psyillium fiber husks, and the whey, and during the time before your next snack or meal and you may see a pattern to certain types of foods that are causing issues for you. Record things such as gasy, bloating, cramps, energy levels, and overall how you feel, good, crabby, achy, energetic etc. This will help you weed out the trouble foods that may be causing the constipation issues. If you listen to your body you will find answers to why you feel the way you do and why your body reacts the way it does.

I am in the "no need to count calories camp", however if you are not losing weight, and by weight I am referring to fat, not muscle, and pants size, not scale measurements, the log will help you to tweek the high calorie foods and make some adjustments to help bring it down so you can get off the plato.

Good luck on your journey to being a healthier leaner person.

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2707 · May 08, 2012 at 6:36 PM

Keeping a log is a great first step. Agree.

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9402 · May 08, 2012 at 4:22 PM

I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice, but I don't think fiber really helps with constipation. Insoluble fiber is just indigestible mass that your body has to force through your intestines. Soluble fiber is broken down by bacteria which could cause gas/bloating/discomfort. I think fiber solves constipation is a SAD myth. Once my body got used to much less fiber, my digestion improved significantly. That would allow you to cut down fruit and cut out chia seeds and psyllium. Also, if you are trying to lose weight, I don't know why you'd add the 3 scoops of whey.

And yes, calories do count, but I think if are eating whole foods, only to satiety and being as active as you've listed, you should lose weight. If there is some metabolic disorder (which very well might be), then maybe VLC for a while could help with that, but you'd only be able to do that if you abandoned high fiber diet.

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12540 · May 08, 2012 at 8:20 PM

@Brandi -- a good quality probiotic is an awesome thing. So is bone broth (Yaay crockpots!). Make sure, though, that you're getting either a prescription-quality probiotic OR a therapeutic probiotic that requires refrigeration. Something sitting on a countertop is unlikely to provide sufficient useful intestinal symbionts to help heal a traumatized gut. *smiles*

21f306ff3f17eecd7410c910470d7a96
20 · May 08, 2012 at 4:57 PM

@ NewEra- I have seen that around the stores but never knew it helped! Can you take it everyday or just every once in a while? How did you get your thyroid issues worked out?

21f306ff3f17eecd7410c910470d7a96
20 · May 08, 2012 at 4:56 PM

@ Firestorm, good advice :) I try to weight myself just twice a month but find myself doing it more. I appreciate your input!

21f306ff3f17eecd7410c910470d7a96
20 · May 08, 2012 at 4:55 PM

@Mike- Thanks for the thread! I will for sure check that out. I was at 39 carbs yesterday and was so cranky and emotional, I am hoping I get used to that. I am hoping that soon the primal lifestyle I have been following will work like it has worked for so many other people. I feel like the anomaly and the 'one' person it just doesn't work for. I guess I will give it two weeks or very low carb and see how it goes. Thank you for all the advice!

8634d4988ced45a68e2a79e69cc01835
1607 · May 08, 2012 at 4:55 PM

I had IBS with constipation for years before I went Paleo. I was having to eat more and more fiber to go, as my body got used to it. The effective dose kept increasing. There is only so much fiber you can pack in your face in a day. Going Paleo, getting on a prescription probiotic and getting my thyroid issues worked out has me 'going' like a champ on very very little fiber. It's awesome! The fiber thing is a myth. Yeah, it kinda works for a while, but not forever. I also take magnesium citrate to keep things moving if I have any slowness (usually around my time of the month.) Good luck!

Ca1150430b1904659742ce2cad621c7d
12540 · May 08, 2012 at 4:47 PM

Two things -- First, make sure you stay hydrated. I find that, with PCOS/endo, if I don't stay hydrated, my bowels don't work as well. Second, don't weigh yourself every day. I weigh in monthly during my "active season" (from March thru October), and every 2 months during my "sedentary season" (from November through February) -- it helps keep me from driving myself batty, while still giving me information to help keep me moving in the right direction.

Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823
9402 · May 08, 2012 at 4:42 PM

And more importantly you don't want to run into impaction.

Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823
9402 · May 08, 2012 at 4:41 PM

Those pounds aren't "real" pounds though. You know they'll come off fast as soon as your body catches up. I'd be more concerned with the general discomfort of constipation.

Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823
9402 · May 08, 2012 at 4:41 PM

I think below 50 grams carbs would do it, but it would have to be for a sustained period of time. I'm not sure how long. The goal is to be in ketosis (if you're trying to heal a broken metabolism). This thread talks about carb threshold: http://paleohacks.com/questions/116942/carb-intake-and-ketosis

21f306ff3f17eecd7410c910470d7a96
20 · May 08, 2012 at 4:32 PM

Oh! Gotcha :) I sometimes try and eat below 50 grams of carbs (is that low carb enough) just to mix it up sometimes. I have considered just ditching the fiber and just let myself be constipated to see what my body does. It's pretty miserable but maybe eventually it would figure out what to do. It's just difficult to try and lose weight while not going to the bathroom...the pounds add up fast that's for sure.

Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823
9402 · May 08, 2012 at 4:31 PM

sorry. VLC = very low carb. my wife has had constipation issues much of her life (admittedly perhaps not as severe as yours) and she always said she needed fiber to go. Finally I got her to try low fiber for a couple weeks and she was still able to go just fine. Real eye opening for her.

Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823
9402 · May 08, 2012 at 4:29 PM

sorry. VLC = very low carb. my wife has had constipation issues much of her life (admittedly perhaps not has severe as yours) and she always said she needed fiber to go. Finally I got her to try low fiber for a couple weeks and she was still able to go just fine. Real eye opening for her.

21f306ff3f17eecd7410c910470d7a96
20 · May 08, 2012 at 4:28 PM

And thank you Mike, for the support and advice :)

21f306ff3f17eecd7410c910470d7a96
20 · May 08, 2012 at 4:27 PM

I would love to stop eating so much fruit and taking the supplements but seriously it's the only way for me to go to the bathroom. I have tried adding more coconut oil and magnesium as well as probiotics and even that didn't work. I do not have any metabolic disorders, just hormone issue due to the endometriosis. I have never heard of VLC...I just googled it and received a lot of different hits. What is it and why would I need to abandon the high fiber diet?

Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823
9402 · May 08, 2012 at 4:23 PM

And good luck by the way. I think you are on the right path.

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3450 · May 08, 2012 at 5:32 PM

If you eat 5,000 calories a day, you're going to gain weight (unless you work as a lumberjack).

Having said that, I'm 100% in the don't count calories camp. Counting calories is the foundation of the traditional weight loss approaches, which have proven to be an absolute failure for the majority of people.

Your body has a natural mechanism for maintaining your body temperature (increasing/decreasing metabolism, sweating, etc...) Sure, you can change your body's temperature by doing different things, but the BEST WAY to regulate your body's temperature is to make sure your body's system for regulating temperature is working properly, and then letting it work as it should.

The same holds true for your body fat level. Your body has a mechanism for maintaining a specific body fat level (built around the hormone leptin; ironically, the typical SAD actually breaks this system by causing people to become leptin insensitive). Sure, you can regulate your body fat by counting calories, but the BEST WAY is to ensure your body's system for regulating body fat is working properly, and then letting it work as it should.

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12540 · May 08, 2012 at 4:44 PM

Brandie,

VLC stands for Very Low Carbohydrate. Basically, it means keeping your carbohydrates under 50 g per day (total carbs, not 'net' carbs). You basically switch out those seeds and psyllium (which, btw, are very hard on your intestines and your intestinal flora -- which NEEDS to be balanced in order to have a working bowel... especially with endometriosis!!!) for leafy greens, brassicas, etc. and eliminate other high-carbohydrate foods like roots, fruits, winter squashes, etc.

Though some folks will disagree with me, I believe that VLC isn't meant to be a life-long thing. Like being vegan, VLC usually restricts a healthy diet so much that it isn't sustainable for more than, say, a couple of years TOPS. I did VLC for about a year and a half, before incorporating a much wider scope in my diet. (I started out at 450 lbs, and am now down to 296, with a +/-5-7 pound 'fluctuation range' over the course of a month. I'm on a 'pause' now, for at least a year, while I re-balance at this weight and find out what my body needs from me next, before I make any more decisions about future dietary tweaking). That being said, in order for it to do anything at all in terms of re-structuring your body, a person really has to maintain VLC for at least 3 months with about 80% consistency (for me, that meant 6 days a week on, and one day a week that I saved for 'recreational eating' like going out with friends, family parties, etc.)

For you, you don't say how tall you are, but you do indicate that you're not proportional. My experience with endometriosis and PCOS was that reducing my weight helped with some of the symptomology of the illness, though it didn't remove the issues completely. Also, going to a VLC diet helped me to obtain progressive weight loss, even through the hormone issues, increasing muscle mass from resistance training, and other things. I don't track calories often, but when I track what I eat for OTHER reasons (macronutrient profiling, etc.) which I do for 1 week out of 4 during my active season, and 1 week out of 8 during my sedentary season (see comment above), I usually find that calories don't matter as much as truly listening to my hunger signals and not eating when I'm not hungry matters.

Also, one thing I noticed for me was that the VLC diet resulted in fewer and smaller stools -- and that this was normal. It took about 6 weeks for my intestines to 'get with the program', and it was sort of scary to leave them alone and let them find a balance, without pushing either chemical or fiber "stimulants" to the digestive process -- but once I did, my bowels became regular on their own, AND I stopped having so much flatulance and discomfort with meals.

Hope this helps!

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20 · May 08, 2012 at 5:04 PM

Oh, sorry about not adding height. I am 6' and have a lot of muscle mass. I'm not wrestler looking and don't look like I weigh that much but I am very strong and do a lot. I HATE taking that much fiber and will stop today. I eat about 4 cups of organic mixed greens a day and will start eating more brassicas. I will try going as long as possible not taking the fiber or any chemicals as you call it, to move things along, it's just so darn miserable. I look forward to that balance you talk about! Thank you so much Firestorm, you've given me great ideas :)

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9402 · May 08, 2012 at 5:00 PM

+1 very well said.

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2707 · May 08, 2012 at 6:39 PM

Calories matter! Going low carb is just one way to eat less. Many feel they can do w/o worrying about calories.

In the end, if you over do the calories, you will gain weight.

If you are going with the low carb approach and are not losing weight, track your food, see how much you are consuming, and start to dial back on the calories. In your case since you are already doing w/ carbs, try lowering fat. I like to keep my protein at the same level no matter the deficit.

You may also want add a bit more activity (lifting, walking, etc), and make sure you get enough sleep. But in the end its the caloric deficit that will result in weight loss.

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604 · May 08, 2012 at 5:27 PM

Louisa. how can you know that she doesn't need to count calories? It's not the same for everyone. I lost weight initially going moderate carb and then when I went very low carb, I gained 5 pounds that I can't seem to lose. At least not with the speed that I lost the weight before. I am now counting calories because apparently, I need to.

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789 · May 08, 2012 at 7:11 PM

It sounds like the yes/no factor is split 50/50, which is really interesting.

(The following is from my experience, anyway) :

For two months I was eating quality food when I was losing some weight, but not as much as I figured I should ... yknow, it's that feeling like "this could be better." I tried hydrostatic body fat composition testing, and in a gist, was told that calories do matter....at least somewhat.

For each person, they have a different number for their body, which is the number you reach to fuel your body, and anything over that is basically feeding/maintaining the fat.

Keep in mind, the majority being lean protein. I was probably eating around the same amount without counting, but probably not as much protein as it's supposed to be. Thus, I am testing out the calorie/paleo approach to see how that works.

It's only been a week, so I don't exactly have an answer lol, but, just like there's no unanimous decision in this thread, I feel like being 50/50, quality AND quantity, seems like a good way to go.

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20 · May 09, 2012 at 2:27 AM

Haha, good idea about being 50/50. It seems that one work for some and the other works for, well, others, but none seem to be working for me. You have some awesome advice here and I appreciate it :) Thank you!

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8 · May 08, 2012 at 5:19 PM

Don't count calories! It's about the quality of the calories you take in - not the quantity!

It's first and foremost the hormone insuline that controls the fat burning process in your body, and as long as you don't spike your blood sugar levels you're usually fine. Don't forget to include fat in your diet as well! That will make it harder to eat "too much" (instead you eat until you're satisfied and full).

Psyillium fiber husks I use a LOT in my baking.. I'd never consume it by itself.. I understand you're doing it to get "the machinery going" but try making a quick recipe with that included instead ;) A more fun way to enjoy it if you have the time!

You can get constipation from too much fiber as well, even "healthy fiber" like coconut flour and psyllium fiber husk! Speaking from experience ;)

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60 · May 08, 2012 at 5:09 PM

With enough healthy fats and lots (I mean lots) of water, constipation has not been an issue for me with a VLC diet even though it always has been in my life before Paleo. I eat a lot of green veggies (good quality mixed salads, kale, spinach, zucchini, etc. . .).

I'd recommend ditching the whey and any other dairy products you are consuming, this may actually be contributing to the constipation issue. You can increase chia to help as well, as it acts almost like a "lube" in the intestinal tract.

Regarding total caloric intake, the question is, are you losing weight? If not, then you do need to change things up which may include weighing and measuring foods and keeping a food journal to ensure you know exactly what is going in each day.

If you are at a slump in weight loss, I'd recommend checking out the 21 Day Sugar Detox over at Balanced Bites. I'm doing level 3 and started off dropping 1lb each day! Anything is possible for 21 days right?

Best of luck to you!

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20 · May 09, 2012 at 2:28 AM

Why thank you Jamie :) That's a whole lot of water but I bet I can pull that off. Aside from peeing every 20 minutes, I enjoy drinking lots of water! I have already ditched the greek yogurt and am hoping that will help :) Thanks for the advice!

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60 · May 08, 2012 at 7:17 PM

Your fats sound great. . . olive oil should only be raw though, so maybe switch to another for cooking and safe that for salads. :-) A good rule of thumb for water is 50% of your body weight in ounces, it sounds like you are doing close to that. You might cut the greek yogurt. . . I had to cut all dairy (even my kefir) in order to speed up the weight loss.

21f306ff3f17eecd7410c910470d7a96
20 · May 08, 2012 at 6:53 PM

Thank you Jamie! :) I eat avo's, coconut oil and coconut milk and use olive oil for cooking. I drink at least 5 32oz. glasses of water a day, is that what you would consider lots? I also eat two tablespoons a day of chia seeds, but with greek yogurt. And no, I am not losing the weight I would like, but perhaps that's just the way it goes with me. I will for sure check out the 21 day sugar detox, actually been wanting to do that for a while :)

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20353 · May 08, 2012 at 4:48 PM

It may indeed take calorie counting. Once you get the hang of it you might not need to count every day.

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