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Smart Dieting – how to not sabotage your goals.

June 23rd, 2011 Comments off

I’m not saying that I have everything figured out, a good review of my blog posts on the matter should prove that fairly well. 😀

But I had a light-bulb moment this week, and when I shared it on the Lose-It! forums and on my friends feed it got a lot of comments and questions.  So I think it’s probably worth reciting on the ol’ blog too.

Besides the wonderful LoseIt! forums, there is another website I’ve been visiting and listening to that advocates a smart form of dieting.  It’s Fat2Fit Radio which has a weekly podcast that discusses the progress of one of the hosts, entertains letters from their fans, and dissects a ‘weight-loss’ fad just about each and every week.  Their philosophy is a bit upside down from LoseIt!, so it was initially a bit confusing trying to reconcile the two worlds.  My light-blub moment prompted me to make the following YouTube video (live with my voice!)

 

If you can’t sit through a boring 3 minute lecture, let me sum up.  Fat2Fit asks you what you current weight is and what your weight-loss goal is, and then give your a page with your current BMR, and a table of calories of what you should be eating at your goal weight for a variety of activities.  Fat2Fit’s philosophy is to eat today like you are at your current weight, and by doing that you end up eating like your a thin person for your weight-loss duration, and you just keep eating that way “for the rest of your life”.

LoseIt’s philosophy is to find your current BMR, apply a standard activity level and deduct your weight-loss plan from that to get your daily calorie goal.  So as you lose weight your calorie goal decreases and you slowly adapt to eating less and less.  When you reach your goal weight, you move to Maintenance mode and that includes a jump in calories that can be quite large.  The other issue is LoseIt!’s formula is just an arithmetic problem, and doesn’t account for the possibility that you might be eating below what is healthy for your body.

What I’ve done (and many other people that come to LoseIt!! as well) is start up with the maximum amount of weight to lose, and just keep it there.  Progress is usually good at the beginning then begins to slow down.  After a while weight-loss stalls and people get frustrated.  My theory is that many people (not ALL) have driven the equation below their BMR and are in the middle of starvation mode.  The quick fix is paradoxically, to eat more.  The problem is LoseIt! has no tools to help you determine this on your own, so the forums are filled with the same frustrating question: “Why am I stalled??!?!” and the answer usually is “Eat more!” and the response is usually… WHAT?!?!? you’ve got to be KIDDING ME?! I’m trying to lose weight!

So we need a tool to help us understand what might be happening with this “starvation mode” or more properly eating below your BMR for an extended period of time. This is where Fat2Fit’s information is helpful, but also confusing because they have a different philosophy to how to eat than LoseIt!

The number we want to keep an eye on is our BMR (another issue is that they both use a slightly different formula to compute BMR so the numbers don’t match exactly).  We want to eat above our BMR and below our Activity Level adjustment.  The confusion is that LoseIt! doesn’t display our current BMR, and that Fat2Fit’s calorie recommendations aren’t associated with our current BMR, but with our goal BMR.

So, lets get into the math.

Here’s my current LoseIt! goals:

Weight: 282
Weekly Plan: 1 lb/week
Calorie Goal: 2734 calories

To get my BMR I need to add back my weekly plan goals, and reverse LoseIt!’s Activity Level Adjustment.

2734 + 500 = 3234 / 1.45 = 2230 calories per day.

So my calorie goal is good, I’m above my BMR and below my Activity level of 3234.  So I should lose about 1/lb week if I hit those numbers.

If we look at Fat2Fit, we get a slightly different number (because they use a different mathematical formula to calculate BMR.  We plug in our numbers and they give us the following:

BMR: 2464 (see it’s a bit higher)

But then they give us a table with the following:

Activity Level Daily Calories
Sedentary 2591
Lightly Active 2969
Moderately Active 3346
Very Active 3724
Extremely Active 4102

First time I read that, and I was just as confused as anyone, because I didn’t read the fine print.

Based on how much activity you do on an average day, the calories in the right column will be the number of calories that you will be able to eat at your goal weight. If you start eating those calories right now (eating like the thinner you), you will eventually become that thinner person. As you get closer to your goal weight, your weight loss will start to slow down. It is OK to eat a few hundred calories less per day (200-300) to speed up your weight loss at this point.

So the numbers they’re giving us are a good range of numbers to eat.  But what should we make our LoseIt! calorie goal?

This is what I’ve determined. The Lightly Active Activity Level is what LoseIt! applies to everyone as a standard (and it’s fairly accurate in the tests they’ve done with volunteers).  So what I’ve decided to do is first set my Lose It! goal so that it comes close to the Lightly Active – Daily Calories goal (I’m actually under that by 200 which about the margin of error induced by the different equations).  Then I plan to eat my exercise calories (which would correct for the additional activity I add by my running training and bicycle commuting).

I’ve done this for the month of June, and my numbers end up right on goal.  So I’ll continue to track this and blog more as I continue fiddling with the controls.

May was No Bueno!

June 23rd, 2011 Comments off

Hello, blog… it’s been a while.  I’d like to start this off by saying, if the month of May 2011 decided to go away, I wouldn’t be too upset (so long as Danny gets credit for his birthday, other than that it was just rubbish…).

Lots of things were happening, work was stressful (self-inflicted procrastination wound), which made me feel depressed (perhaps another self-inflicted not-eating-enough wound) and then I didn’t handle either of those issues well which pretty much spiraled everything out of control.  What’s funny is looking back at all the data I’ve been keeping on my weight-loss it’s pretty easy to spot when things started heading south, and part of it was a problem going back a few months that I didn’t understand and didn’t realize what I was doing.

So I’ll need to digress a bit to deconstruct what was happening.  I’m writing this post-mortem so I have something to remember if I ever get back into this situation again.

So, let’s remember that dieting is basically slowly starving yourself.  The trick is to make it so that you aren’t actually starving yourself.  It’s the tricky middle, eating enough to support your normal bodily functions, but not too much that your body takes the excess and adds to your fat stores.  Add in an increase in exercise (and the requirements that come with that, repairing muscles after training, etc…) and it’s a complex multi-variable problem.

If you’ve read my blog back into last year when I moved from Weight-Watchers to LoseIt! I struggled through the summer with whether to eat back my exercise calories or not.  Finally in the fall I determined that eating them back for me wasn’t helping my losing goals, but that struck me as odd, because by the math I should be able to eat back my exercise calories and still lose weight on plan.  I couldn’t reconcile the conundrum, and instead just went with what apparently worked.  And I had good results through the majority of the fall and winter.  I had a couple of pauses, and figured it was just a periodic adjustment my body was making, and usually within a few days to a week, all was okay and normal.

Then came spring, and everything just went wacky in late April through the month of May.  I tried eating more, I tried eating less, I slacked on training, I trained harder.  Finally the end of May I just gave up and set my calories to maintenance and took a week off and ate a lot of cheeseburgers.

Then on June 1st, I went back on plan but at a slower rate.  Got into a good schedule at work, which relieved the stress I was feeling from procrastination.  I also signed up for an ran another 5k and completed my first 10k in the first couple weeks of June.  Slowly the numbers what were going wacky started falling in line, and I started losing what I had gained in May.

So which of the variables was the kicker? Stress? Not eating enough? over-training? More than likely all three.  But one thing I really wanted to get a handle on was the not-eating enough.  How much is enough?  How much is too little?  If this was part of the problem, how can I make adjustments to not make the same mistake again.

It’s a little thing called BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) or RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate).  The terms are used interchangeably in many places.  What that means is how much you can consume and keep your body working (breathing, metabolizing food, waste management, etc…) without breaking down your lean body mass as your body tries to find the raw materials to keep your engine running. If you don’t consume enough calories, the body starts to react strangely and holds onto what it has, and instead of burning just fat, it might scavenge lean muscle to get the fuel it needs to keep the lights on.  The problem is, lean muscle itself needs fuel, and it the primary engine we use to burn calories and lose weight.  So for someone on a diet to lose weight, preserving lean body mass is something we want to maximize, just to keep the calories burning.

My issue was I was playing right along that line of not eating enough to maintain my basic metabolism.  Some of the symptoms of going below that point for an extended period of time are: depression, calorie seeking (binging on sweets or cheap calories, constipation, feeling cold all the time, decreased concentration, apathy, anxiety.  Basically that sums up May of this year.  And the fix was to eat more, and when I did, I felt better and my body went back to normal.

I’ve since looked back at the numbers, and I’ve been playing on that line since I’ve tracked things carefully (November) and could probably say the little mini-plateaus I had regularly could be attributed to an extended dip below my BMR.  So I’m working on how to correct that.  Which I’ll opine about in another post.

Anyways, here is an entirely too complex chart that sums up graphically if you can interpret the hieroglyphics.

Consumed Calories v. BMR

Categories: Learning, Life, Losing It Tags: , ,