Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Weight Problem- Part 4

I'm roughly 80% of the way through this series. I firmly understand why fat gain is more the norm than fat loss. There are so many problems on the way down. Whereas most people understand the concept that an excess of calories yields an overall bulge in your midsection, the actual measurement of said calories is seriously complicated. We can't really know how many calories go in nor can we accurately figure out how many calories come out. Now, I'm going to add one more layer of complication to the Calories In: Calories Out Equation.

How Many Calories Do You Need?
The fourth big problem (this was originally 3rd on the list to the BIL) is that few of us know how many calories we need to survive without gaining or losing weight. There is something very real called our "basal metabolism rate". This is basically the number of calories you need to consume for normal, everyday life without wasting away. See, your body has some basic functions which require energy. Maintaining a constant body heat of nearly 100ยบ is one of your biggest calorie burns. Brain activity is another. You want your heart to keep pumping and your lungs to keep breathing, right? These things take energy.

Once you have met your BMR needs, the other stuff that happens in your life, such as exercise, starts to use up your calories. But, do understand, the number of calories you burn during the rest of your life pales in comparison to your BMR calories. For example, if you burned 2000 calories total today (which, of course, you don't know so please ignore that fact for now), about 1500 of that was most likely from your BMR, maybe 300 from your exercise (again, you don't know this either but this is a hypothetical situation so relax, ok), and 200 from the other crap that you do (such as work and reading boring, nonsensical blogs). If you really wanted to lose weight, you would start by satisfying your BMR needs via food, the tack on a few extra calories for the crap, and hold out on the rest. The pounds will just melt away.

But, do you know how many calories your body requires to do these most basic aspects of life? Nope. Me neither. There's a very high probability that less than 1% of the population (and I'm estimating high) has the means and knowledge to calculate their real BMR. This is most unfortunate as your BMR is the single highest user of your calories. The energies that go into maintaining homeostasis are very high, using more than 60% of your daily energy usage. The number may be as high as 75%. However, in terms of the actual number of calories being burned, well that number is as elusive as the Banter putting forth a decent Ironman marathon run.

Further, there is no good way to physically measure your BMR. That sucks. There are a few estimate charts out there but they are as reliable as the 220-(your age) for calculating heart zones- completely unreliable. Just to prove the point, I calculated my BMR using a few of the online calculators. Most of the calculators follow the same principle. They have a formula developed by some scientist that includes a multiple number of variables. Apparently, the most important aspects of BMR are your gender, current weight (which is impossible for you to know anyway), height (a little easier to know), and age (which you should hopefully know). The formulae are complicated. They multiple those numbers by some constants, such as how many hairs you have growing on your left arm, and added them to some other constants, such as how many viable sperm or ova that currently reside in your body (It's amazing what scientists can glean from minuscule bits of info). I plugged in the exact same numbers in each situation. Here are the results:

Bachelorette #1 tells me my BMR is a third of the way through the 1700 calorie arena.  Bachelorette #2 tells me I need to consume 200 calories less than #1. Almost as if she was listening to the whole conversation and really wanted the date, Bachelorette #3 decided to take the middle ground. At least #3 admits that this is only a best guess.

Do you see why this whole weight loss embarkation is so challenging? When it comes to the important information required to intelligently make decisions about how much goes into and out of our bodies, we are completely clueless. Don't worry, I do plan on helping out. If you can make it through the week, I promise we'll start working on a solution for you and get you on the road to meeting your weight loss goals. Hang in there.

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