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Smart Dieting – how to not sabotage your goals.

June 23rd, 2011

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.

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