Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Weight Problem- Part 2

In my last post, I laid down the ground work for why you and your bathroom scale have actually no idea as to how much you weigh. That's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to trying to lose weight. Now here, in Part 2, the problem gets even more complicated. This one is completely your fault, except that it isn't. 

You and I Are Pigs but We Don't Know How Much
I keep a meticulous record my exercise habits through the efficiency of gps technology. At any given moment on any given day I can tell you about my workout. If you have some time to kill, feel free to ask. I can ramble on about all sorts of data. My Garmin is a god and I worship it diligently. I look at the numbers, paces, times, training zones, efforts, hill profiles, and whatever else I can squeeze out of the device. There was even a time that I recorded how I felt during the workout and what my mood was like pre and post. (I read somewhere that elite athletes did that and I have delusions of grandeur. I am past that now.)

There is a high probability that the "Calories In: Calories Out" theory of weight lose/ gain is dead on. Should you consume more calories than you burn, you gain weight. Should you burn more than you consume, you lose weight. The most common way to get calories into your body is through your mouth (there are other ways to get calories into your body but I'd rather not discuss them at this time). This equation is flawed in many ways. Currently, I'm going to focus on the misgivings of the products side of the formula...

The second big problem about weight is how little data we actually have about our dietary habits. I couldn't tell you exactly how many chips I ate out of the bag. I'm pretty confident I ate at least half of the bag. What was the weight of the chicken breast I cooked for dinner? The serving size says, '1 chicken breast' yet a brief look in the bag will tell me that not all chickens have the same sized breasts. I have no idea if that was the fowl version of an A-cup or a DD.  How many ounces of rice did I just consume? Am I supposed to measure that pre or post cooking? How many grapes? How many cookies were in that sleeve of thin mints (because I know I ate them all)? Nobody eats just 4 thin mints in a single sitting. I'm pretty sure that science has already proven that.

As if to further complicate the problem, the manufacturers don't really know how many calories are in their products either. Are the Girl Scouts of America a reliable source of culinary accuracy? (Because we all know that the kid who knocked on my door selling cookies has a hand in making them). Look at the picture of the thin mints. Drool a little bit. Then look at the number of servings in the box. "About 8". See the problem? They don't have an exact number. Eating the whole box (which I, um, may have done as recently as yesterday) gives me 'about' 1280 calories. They don't even have to common courtesy of sharing the margin of error. 

Since you and I suck so much, digital technology wants to help. There are so many programs out there that will accurately calculate your food intake for you. At a simple glance, there was more than 300 iPhone apps (that was all I had the patience to calculate). There are many more options available on the internet, all of them awesome. But, each of these require constant attention and multiple inputs on a daily basis. That means, in order to honestly, and correctly, identify the number of calories floating around in our bellies at any given time, we have to log our gluttony 3-10 times a day. We have to count how many chips. We have to weigh our beef. No wonder the old lady couldn't find it.

Even with digital technology, there are flaws in the system. Look at the calorie information on an apple as reported by caloriecount.com. This is a great resource with incredibly accurate information. I have an Gala apple packed in my daily lunch. I have absolutely no idea how many grams are in my apple. Further, I don't know how much of the apple I have to eat in order to get 74 calories of a 152 gram pomme. How much of the top and bottom? How close to the core? Even with meticulous recording, I suspect the error could be as great as 7 calories in the apple. That doesn't seem like much until you realize that equals 10%. Ten percent is a significant number in terms of size.

I have a call out to Garmin and we are working on a deal. I already own the FR310xt watch. I have 2 wireless Speed and Cadence sensors for my bikes. I have the Ant+ wireless data transfer device. I am looking in to getting the Footpod sensor. They have available a bathroom scale which will wirelessly transfer your weight straight to the internet. They are powermeter compatible, including their own radical Pedal Sensor. My contact was about none of these. I want Garmin to develop a "Food and Beverage Intake Sensor." The idea would be that I would strap this thing on and it would automatically record how many food and drink calories I am consuming in a day. I envision a device that would be embedded in your mouth near your glottis or surgically implanted near your esophageal sphincter muscle. I have not solved the how-can-I-change-the-batteries- in- the- device conundrum just yet. Garmin seemed rather pessimistic on the phone and wanted me to get an interest vote before they put the forth the funds in Research and Development. Please let me know.

Even in the best efforts, we honestly have no clue as to the number of calories we swallow on any given day. At best, we can get a rough estimate. Even though the Calories In: Calories Out concept is a pretty good gauge of whether or not we will lose weight, we can't get accurate information on the Calories In part of the equation. There's no accurate way (unless Garmin comes through for me) to gather that information. Phew, that's the gist of my 2nd big problem with this whole weight lose scheme.

(Please be advised that there are, in my calculations, 5 big problems. At least, that's as high as I can count, so I doubt I'll be researching for whatever number comes after 5. Keep in mind that after I lay down the problems, I am going to lay down some solutions.)

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