More Numeric Ruminations

Last week Trystan commented here that despite the number on the scale, I still do a healthy lifestyle better than almost anyone. I am hugely proud to hear that, but also it reminded me that people don’t just come here because I’m specifically keeping off 200 pounds (because I’m not), but for other reasons and living a healthy lifestyle may very well be one of them.

So, today I’m going to ramble about last week’s numbers. Last week I burned 3,780 calories in exercise. That’s well above the 2000/week recommended by a lot of programs – almost double, in fact. All that, and I even took Saturday as a rest day! How did I get there? Well, I could break it down and tell you that represents 305 minutes of activity (a little over 5 hours) that week. That’s an average of 12 calories burned per minute, but I don’t exercise in averages. A majority of my exercise was at a high intensity (running, kickboxing), which using my ballpark calculations I estimate at 14 calories/minute. The rest of it was at moderate or medium intensity (walking, yoga, weightlifting), which I ballpark at 8 calories a minute. These numbers are based on my weight and change when my weight does – when I weigh less I burn less per minute, when I weigh more I burn more. Most days I do 40-60 minutes of exercise.

I also did a great job last week at journaling my food intake (except Saturday which was unusual). I saw a steady downward motion on the scale – started at 224.5 on Monday morning and by Sunday morning I was at 221.5, excellent progress.

Yesterday I went for a long, hard run. I didn’t have anywhere to be, and the usual symphony of bodily complaints was at a mere whisper, so I decided to go for it. Not my longest route, but a portion of it which was 5.5 miles and included a serious hill in the middle. It is a steep, high hill and I don’t attempt it very often because it is HARD. But when I do attempt it I have only a single goal – to not drop into a walk on the way up it. That’s it. That’s the only thing I want to accomplish on that run. On Sunday I powered through and made it up the hill, then back down again. By the end my legs were burning pretty hard – not only a longer run than I have done all year, but a seriously strenuous section in the middle. That run took me about 90 minutes, and burned ~1260 calories. I took a long nap after that run. Yesterday I consumed approximately 1600 calories all day. Pretty good in/out ratio there!

So naturally, as you can imagine, I woke up this morning to the highest weight I have seen in years – 225. That’s right, runningĀ  shoots my weight up. Always. Running harder than usual will spike it higher than usual. That’s just how it goes. Maybe not for everyone, but always and without fail for me. At this point I’m just looking at the numbers out of objective, scientific curiosity. “Oh, huh, that’s a surprising number to see after yesterday. Wow. Body, you never fail to confound me.”

I started reading a new book I bought on Rianh’s recommendation last week, The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung. I’m about halfway through, so nobody spoil the ending for me (the butler did it, right? It’s always the butler!), but so far it makes a lot of sense and I am hoping there will be a “how to do this” section in the back, because I will probably want to give his ideas a try. What do I have to lose, other than all this fabulous and exciting fat?! I’ll keep you posted as I go.

Week 5 Results: Surprise! Meat Puppet is Defective!

I stayed on target all week, no slips or eating off-plan, as I expect of myself. I had 49 servings of fruits/veggies. I had 37 meal replacements. I burned 4,340 calories in physical activity. I averaged a net caloric intake of ~754 calories per day. As you can see, I met and exceeded all of my target goals.

I spent the weekend medieval camping, and despite vast amounts of tasty temptation, I stayed on program every single minute of every single day. You could say I ROCKED IT. I will say it. I rocked it. I am feeling so good about how I handled this weekend with my prepping and my planning. After last weeks astounding physical activity numbers and dismal result on the scale I was expecting that the “check was in the mail,” so to speak, and I’d see a great loss this week. Are you ready for my amazing result??

I was up .7 pounds. I gained.

I’m getting really sick of your shit, body. This meat puppet I use to drive my brain around is defective and I’d like to trade it in on a new one that works now please. If you have never understood the feeling of impotent rage, this is it. To do everything right, to be absolutely immaculate in your execution, and to still fail is the embodiment of situations that inspire impotent rage. I feelz it.

Alright, now that that’s out of the way, taking an objective look at the situation, there are three options when one is plateauing:

  • Eat less
  • Eat more
  • Exercise harder

Two of these three options are not feasible for me, as I’m already eating as little as I can get away with, and exercising as hard as I can. So my coach has recommended that I try the other one. I will eat more to try to fuel my body into realizing it is not starving. I will also reel back the exercise a bit because perhaps I am overdoing it there too.

This is so weird to me, you guys. In my thirties, what I am doing now would absolutely work to get me the results I expected. It no longer works. Welcome to my fully wrecked metabolism, courtesy of aging and genetics. I don’t know what works now, but I am going to experiment and find out.

I’ve got nothing but time, and my very own laboratory (body) to experiment with.

According to everything I read, a diet made up of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and complex carbohydrates should be the gold standard for healthy eating. However I may not have been getting enough of them. So, this week, more fruits and veggies, more of everything. I’m aiming to net in at around 1000 calories per day, so I need to up my caloric intake of healthy foods, and maybe cut back the exercising a bit.

Another thing that actually buttresses my suspicion here that I am not getting enough fuel (despite averaging a total of ~1400 calories per day, netting in at ~700), is that last week I was desperately depressed. I took things that weren’t big deals on their surface and overreacted myself into a deep hole of despair. When does that happen? When things are out of whack. Perhaps I didn’t have enough energy to keep an even keel. I could be wrong. We’ll find out next week I guess.

Vindication! Yes – Bodies Fight to Regain Weight.

Did you guys see this article in the New York Times about the follow-up study on Season 8 competitors of The Biggest Loser?

After ‘The Biggest Loser,’ Their Bodies Fought to Regain Weight

I sympathize so fiercely with the feelings they’re expressing, and I fully appreciate and understand exactly how frustrating this all is. I read this whole article nodding my head and going, “Finally! I’ve known this all for years! Finally science is validating my experience! I knew it!”

I lived this, and I’m still living this: “The body puts multiple mechanisms in place to get you back to your weight. The only way to maintain weight loss is to be hungry all the time.” Yes, for several years! It’s true! I got through those years with careful food choices and always picking high-satiety and high-water-content foods. But it’s so, so hard.

And now, even knowing that all the things I’ve suspected for years are true, what does it change for me? Nothing. Until they come up with a cure for those of us with messed-up metabolisms, I’m not just going to throw it all away and give up. I can’t.

One of the things that drives me crazy about The Biggest Loser, is that they don’t seem to give the contestants long-term support and tools to build the skills they’d need to even attempt to maintain their weight. The things we do to lose weight are almost always unsustainable long-term. I feel like it’s a moral failing to put people on TV, work them to exhaustion to lose large amounts of weight for the camera, then turn them loose with a hearty handshake and a “Good luck!” What does that prove? Only that yes, if you give up everything else in your life you too can lose weight. It doesn’t show you how to transition to a life that’s worth living. Now THAT’S a show I could watch. Or star in. Whatever.

The New One-Minute Exercise Program!

Have you guys seen this article yet? The one about how only one minute of all-out exercise is as good as 45 minutes of moderate exercise? Is everyone planning to ditch their gym memberships and find new uses for the time you currently set aside for working out?

If you are I’d recommend you look closer at the article and what it calls out as benefits. And what it doesn’t.

The big benefit touted is an improvement in “fitness and health.” I’m going to be honest and say that I don’t exercise to improve my fitness and health. It’s not a driver for me. For me it’s a fantastic side effect, but it’s absolutely not my top motivator. I exercise to keep off 200 pounds. End of story. Every bit of my exercise regimen is focused on one and only one thing: maintaining my 200 pound weight loss. I absolutely benefit from the increased fitness and health that also happen to ride along with all of my exercise efforts, but it’s not my primary purpose.

Reading that article closely, you’ll see that nowhere does it mention that any of the study participants lost any weight at all. They may have increased their fitness, but that doesn’t mean they burned enough calories to lose weight or maintain a loss. That’s because exercising (no matter how “all out”) for one minute a day can’t possibly produce that result. Let me break it down:

The absolute maximum number of calories I can burn in one minute, pushing myself to the absolute limit of my abilities, is about 20. That’s…not much. When I run I burn about 13 calories per minute. If I up it to all-out sprinting I might get to 20 or maybe 22. That means in a week of exercising for one minute per day in this fashion, I might burn 140 or maybe 150 calories.

As I’ve mentioned before, to maintain my weight loss I need to burn 3500 to 4000 calories per week in exercise, or pull those out of my system in some other way. If I’m only exercising for a minute a day, that leaves me with 3350 calories I still have to deal with. And frankly, I don’t have that kind of wiggle room in my diet plan.

They didn’t specifically mention weight loss or weight maintenance in the study, but I’m going to assume that was implied by “It depends on who you are and why you exercise,” a quote attributed to one of the people who ran the study. If who you are is someone who needs to lose or maintain a loss, I’m extremely dubious that this would be an effective exercise routine.

All that being said, high-intensity intervals are a fantastic tool and a solid addition to any well-rounded exercise program, and I highly recommend incorporating them to anybody who isn’t already doing them!

Week 4 Numbers: More Data Acquired. Dammit.

I stayed on target all week, no slips or eating off-plan, as I expect of myself. I had 50 servings of fruits/veggies. I had 37 meal replacements. I burned 5,540 (!) calories in physical activity. I averaged a net caloric intake of ~614 calories per day. As you can see, I met my exercise goal and exceeded it (goal was to burn 5000 calories this week).

You might expect that I had a fantastic result on the scale this week. If you do you either haven’t been coming around here long, or haven’t been paying attention. I lost a half pound. The math says I should have lost 2 at the very least. So, I stand by my previous statement about a slow metabolism and my disparaging comments about the Mayo Clinic (wankers). That brings my total this push to 7.5 pounds down. Woohoo I guess.

My coach says it’s probably a case of “the check is in the mail” and it’ll show up next week. Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t. The thing is, when it is, I usually don’t get both weeks worth of payoff next week. And that’s some frustrating BS let me tell you.

To work SO HARD this week for so very little to show for it would normally be massively depressing were I not already battling some epic level depression this week. As it is, there really wasn’t much further for things to drop emotionally, so I was like, “Mmm hmm. Sure, why not?” when I stepped off the scale.

My plan for the coming week is to scale it back a bit. Obviously reaching new highs on the exercise portion of the equation is not helpful, so I will reel it back a bit to a level that has worked before. I think that 3500 to 4000 calories per week is really my “sweet spot” where exercise is concerned. It’s the level where my body needs to be to maintain or lose. Going much higher hasn’t produced desirable results so that’s an experiment I don’t need to repeat.

Other than that – please send cute pictures of kittens. Bunnies or puppies would also be acceptable.

Week 3 Results: BMR and Me

It seems like the older I get the less satisfied I am with my results. And that’s because the older I get the slower I drop. But that’s not really what’s going on.

What’s really going on is that the closer you get to your goal weight, the slower the loss will be because your Base Metabolic Rate is lower. When I was at my highest, I could drop 9 pounds in a week the first week because the difference between how many calories my metabolism needed to burn just to keep the lights on, and how many calories I was consuming in a VLCD, was astonishing. The basic weight math is straightforward.

Right now, the difference between how many calories my body burns and what I’m consuming is not so astonishing. I’m much closer to my goal now than when I was dropping huge wodges of weight each week, and I’m not doing a VLCD, so I’m working with a much narrower margin. Also, and this is an important compounding factor, I have a slower metabolism than the average bear. There’s no online BMR calculator that accurately reflects my reality – they all greatly overestimate how many calories I have to play with because they’re basing it on an average across humans and every body is its own laboratory. Due to 13+ years of consistent attention and data collection, I have a very good grasp on just what my burn rate is. And it’s lower than the average reflected in online BMR calculators. If my BMR were truly 1727 as those sites claim, I should be losing 2 pounds a week right now based on the caloric deficit I am creating through diet and exercise. I am not.

I naturally have a more efficient system than most (ie, my burn rate is lower – I like to call it an efficient system because that sounds better than “genetic booby prize”). This is why I was 400 pounds to begin with when I started this whole journey – eating the same foods as the people around me who were only 10 or 20 pounds overweight. I don’t burn up calories as fast as I should, or might like to expect I could. And losing a lot of weight slowed my metabolism further. I mean, obviously, losing a lot of weight slows your metabolism – that’s basic physics. But I think I got more than the normal effect because my system was more efficient (metabolic booby prize!) to begin with. Discouraging, true, but that’s life.

When I put all those factors together, any loss at all is a victory. Last night I weighed in and was down 1.5 pounds, bringing me to 7 pounds total this push. I am very happy with this result! I’d be ecstatic to get this result every week until I get to my goal.

They say (who? the internet!) that weight fluctuations less than about 8 pounds aren’t noticeable on most people, so I’m almost there, I can almost see progres! I think I can see it a little right now, in the curve of my waist, it’s leaner and slightly less padded. I think. Maybe? Give it another week! My clothes already fit better, anyway.

Slight side rant: I edited and agonized over this post for a long time today because I keep reading how “rare” a thing it is to have a slow metabolism, clearly the consensus is that anybody who claims to have a slow metabolism is really just a lazy junk-food junkie (thanks Mayo Clinic – now fuck off) who needs to man up and go on a diet like for reals. I feel that considering my long experience, my years of record-keeping, and consistent mathematical calculations, I can make this claim because the numbers back me up. That’s the thing about weight math. It’s a fact whether the Mayo Clinic things I’m a lazy excuse-making fatso or not. (In their defense, they are writing for the general population. My experience is not a common one to find out in the wild). Ok. Rant off.

What Does the Math Say?

I was out running this morning and turning this one-pound-loss-in-a-week thing over and around in my head and I decided to go to the math. Math makes me happy, and figuring stuff out while I’m running helps that go by faster.

Keep in mind that this is all very, very nebulous and theoretical, because there are a LOT of factors at play in a body, so it’s never just straight arithmetic. But it can give a general idea!

I gained 10 pounds over the course of 14 months, which is 60 weeks. Theoretically, to gain 10 pounds you have to eat 35,000 extra calories that your body doesn’t need (1 pound = 3,500 calories…sort of). That’s about 583 extra calories per week, or 83 extra calories a day. That’s a pretty slim margin, btw. When you have a super-slow metabolism like mine, though, a small excess can really add up.

I was already crushing it on the exercise front – I had implemented a serious workout routine and was following it all year long. I was also mostly following my healthy eating plan 3-5 days a week. Leaving me 2-4 days to get those extra calories in. So really what was happening, I think, was that 3-5 days a week I was eating at my maintenance level or just below, and for 2-3 days I’d let loose and eat an extra 200-300 extra calories per day. Woop woop! Party in my mouth!

Seriously, as far as falling off the wagon goes, I really didn’t do a very good job at it. Even when I was indulging I was always conscious of trying to eat smaller portions of high-cal foods and choosing more fruits and veg. So the margin I’m working with here is actually pretty small to begin with. Like I mentioned in my What Went Wrong? post, I was doing a lot right, and just needed to tune up a specific defect in my routine – weekends.

When I lay it all out like that…

I don’t really have much room to maneuver, the changes I am making aren’t that awfully large. I needed to stop consuming those 583 extra calories per week just to reach equilibrium (you know, stop gaining), then deficit by another 3500 calories to drop a pound. So to get a one pound loss in a week, or a 2.3 pound loss in a week and a half…I think that’s pretty good considering that all I am doing is tweaking what I am doing a couple of days per week. And according to the math I wasn’t shooting as big a hole in those days as I’d previously thought. Slow and steady is the name of the game.

Thanks, math! I’m going to be all right!