Monday, January 9, 2012

The Weight Solution- Limit your losses

When you really look at it, weight gain and loss is a long-term function. Due to problems with comparing one day to the next day, you cannot know if you actually gained/ lost/ maintained weight on a daily regime. Our scales cannot provide you with that data. But, when taking into account the numbers over a long period of time, the trend makes itself obvious. All too often, people fall into the rut of:
1. Finally recognizing they want to lose weight
2. Starting off their weight gain 'systems' with high motivation
3. Give up when the results aren't immediately obvious

No one ever explained to them that the whole weight thing takes a long time. To illustrate my point, let's suppose you put on 20 pounds in the past year. I would not hesitate to say that a +20 pound Banter is a significant change and would be obvious to just about anyone. I would be most displeased with myself and be well over the Bar. This is would be, what I call, a big deal. I might go to a bad place for a while as I deal with the gain.

However, when you crunch the numbers, it's not that much. An extra 20 pounds per year breaks down to a surplus of less than 200 daily calories from a Calories In: Calories Out perspective. Less than 200 additional calories in. This would not, under any circumstances, be considered over eating by anyone's standards.

~200 Calories
1 candy bar
1 serving of chips
2 slices of bread
2 slices of cheese
2 cans of soda
1 bowl of soup
1/2 a blueberry muffin
1/2 a donut
1/2 a bagel
1 english muffin with butter
1/2 PB&J sandwich
2 apples

Can you imagine that? Today at the staff meeting, you split your obligatory donut with a friend. You both are losing weight. Bam, there's your extra 200 calories. Or worse, you ate an extra apple at lunch and then again at dinner. You pig! Do that on a daily basis and the result is a 20 pound annual weight gain.

My point here is that when you get right down to it, putting on 20 pounds per year is incredibly easy because it doesn't take much. An extra 200 calories won't show up on your scale tomorrow. Or next week. It might show up next month as 1 measly pound. You would have a hard time knowing if you put on an extra pound of fat or retained one glass of water.  200 calories won't expand your stomach. Won't change your attitude. You'd be hard pressed to actually identify the source of 200 calories in the first place. If you had an additional 70 calories per meal, which is rather minuscule when you really think about it, you have more than exceeded your 200 additional calories per day and are well on your way to gaining 20 pounds this year.

Lucky for you, the converse is also true. Remove 200 calories from your daily life and you lose 20 pounds. That means that you need to shed only 70 calories from each of your meals. Again, 70 calories per meal is not much. It's like eating 2 Oreo cookies instead of 3. Drop one can of soda and you are more than half way there.

And, on the Calories Out side of the equation, it really doesn't matter if you drop those calories via eating or via exercising. 200 calories is an extra 4000 steps per day. 2 miles of running. It is removing 1 granola bar plus doing 10 minutes on the elliptical.

I feel like I am starting to sound like one of those info-mercials. "You can get long, lean muscles in just 10 minutes per day." An you know what, these idiots are right. Here's where most people fail: you have to have a calorie deficit EVERY DAY. Not every other day. Not once a week. You must take the calories off daily. Which requires constant vigilance.

If you are doing/ did your homework, you'd know by now if you are gaining weight or losing weight. Don't stop weighing yourself at the same time daily. Record your results. If you are holding steady, increase your activity or decrease you food. Up to you. You could do both. If you are losing weight, you can use your numbers to figure out how well you are doing.

The math is fairly easy. Figure out how many pounds you want to lose. Add a zero at the end of the number. Viola- you have your daily calorie deficit. A 10 pound drop this year is roughly 100 calories per day. If you are interested in losing 30 pounds, you have to cut 300 calories. It's that simple.

Again, simple does not mean easy. You and I both know that following a food routine is one of the most difficult challenges on the planet. There are going to be those times when you fall off the wagon. For example: holiday meals, or when you eat an entire birthday cake all by your lonesome because your exceptionally beautiful wife doesn't really eat cake, or a SuperBowl party, or... the list can go on forever. This is one of the big reasons that you are logging your weight, food, and exercise. Falling off the wagon today does not require that you stay there. Jump back on immediately.

Remember, weight loss is a long-term goal. You are looking to be less you several months from now. Be patient. Do your homework. Do your exercise.


  1. I go on vacation and you finally put up the second part in the series, so my reply is late.

    There is a basic reason that your system doesn't work. Your body acts as a thermostat. As you eat excess calories your body burns most of the extra as heat and stores a little, as you eat fewer calories your body becomes more efficient at processing those calories and your body turns down your internal temperature and you do not lose weight. When you eat fewer and fewer calories, first you get hungry, then you get cold and finally you get lethargic.

    Your system fails to recognize that your body adjusts its efficiency, based on the caloric deficit that it encounters. Calories in/Calories out thinking is a fallacy not because you cannot measure, (scientifically controlled settings are properly measured) but because the body's food processing and energy usage is adjusted to caloric intake.

    1. Thanks for the reply:
      1. Vacations are overrated.
      2. According to a little law called the "Law of Thermodynamics" the Calories in: Calories Out rules the show.
      3. If you remember any of my 'problems' with weight loss posts, you'd recognize that you and I are saying the same thing. I'm not done with the solutions yet and I will address your concerns as I find a couple of errors in your assumptions as well.