I’m not enamored with diet plans or methods that take an all-you-can-eat approach, or prescribe foodstuffs, or in any way mask the information we need to feed ourselves and consciously lose weight and monitor shifts in our metabolisms.
Regardless of the program you choose to lose, low-fat, low-carb, low-chocolate, low-sugar, Weight Watchers, whatever you’re doing, ultimately it’s important to track the calories in and calories out through eating, exercise and lifestyle, to develop real understanding of how your body works, how efficient your metabolism is.
If you come to a place, and many of us do, when you need medical assistance to lose weight, having records to share with your physicians saves lots of time and frustration for everyone.
I hadn’t really looked hard at the WeightWatcher’s progam in a while, and checked back in the other day to see what sort of updates have come along. WeightWatchers is always making tweaks and adjustments to their program to react to further research.
I noted that somewhere along the line, WW dropped their point ranges a bit. Just a bit, but that bit places a person who is under 150 lbs. dieting between 900 and 1150 calories. Each point is more or less 50 calories. You get a few points back for more fiber, lose some to high fat foods, gain for exercise, etc., but roughly it’s 50 calories per point.
That range falls below the 1200-calorie, lowest-recommended number of calories suggested by the American Dietetic Association. But keep in mind, 1200 calories is only the lowest recommended number of calories for dieting without the supervision of a doctor or nutritionist, or diet counselor, someone who can help guide you during lower-calorie dieting to help advise you away from calorie ranges that can hurt you.
Though I maintain my weight at below 1200 calories right now, I caution anyone of falling below that number without supervision, because regularly eating very few calories will lower your metabolism over time. It can recover, but very slowly. Being stuck with a low calorie requirement is a bummer, gang. Believe me. Especially if you happen to like food.
Of course, your calorie load is your calorie load. To figure out your best calorie or point range, for your body, you will need to start with some math, and then experiment, slowly, over time. Slower if you’re a girl. Sorry, but we experience so much fluid retention at different times of the month, we really have to work slowly to understand our metabolisms.
How do you experiment? By recording your data, your stats, over a long period of time as you slowly make changes to your diet. The better your records, the faster you’ll understand what your calorie requirements are for maintaining and losing weight.
You can use calories or points to do this – whatever program or method you like – the only requirement is that you keep regular daily records.
Nutritionists and dieticians have developed a formula to estimate a person’s metabolism — basal energy expenditure (BEE, number of calories burned each day). That formula is the Harris-Benedict equation, and it looks like this:
For Women: BEE = 655.1 + (9.563 x your weight in kg) + (1.850 x your height in cm) – (4.676 x age)
For Men: BEE = 66.5 + (13.75 x your weight kg) + (5.003 x your height in cm) – (6.775 x age)
There are 2.2 lbs. for every kg, and 2.54 centimeters for every inch. So, first translate your weight and height, and then plug them into the equation.
So, for instance, I weigh 149. 149/2.2 = 67.7 kg. And I’m 67 inches tall. 67 x 2.54 = 170 centimeters. And I’m a girl. So my equation looks like this:
655.1+(9.563 x 67.7) + (1.850 x 170) – (4.676 x 43 in August) = 1416 BEE
But wait, that gets us just a starting number. Now we factor in lifestyle and calorie expenditure. If you’re a very inactive person, basically lying in bed all day, you still burn a few more calories just sitting there. Multiply your BEE number by 1.2 to get your Resting Metabolic Rate.
If you’re more active generally, instead of 1.2, multiply your BEE number by one of these factors:
Some daily activity = 1.3
Aerobic exercise/ a good workout 3 times/week = 1.5-1.75
Extremely active/ an athlete = 2.0
Now, I work out 5-6 time per week, and pretty hard, but I’m otherwise very sedentary, so I’ll be conservative and choose 1.5 as my lifestyle factor. That gets me to 2124 calories.
Here’s an easier equation, though not quite as accurate, I’m told:
Sedentary People (you have a desk job): Your weight in lbs. x 14
Moderately Active People (mothers chasing toddlers, people who work on their feet): Your weight in lbs. x 17
Very Active People (athletes): Your weight x 20
That gets me to 2072 calories. To maintain my present weight. To lose weight, I would want to eat fewer calories than this.
Okay, but I have never in my adult life eaten that much food, I’m quite certain. Maybe when I was 17 years old, or probably 14, before I first started experimenting with near starvation diets, and the slow but steady deterioration of my metabolism began. But by the time I reached my late 20s, I’m sure I averaged approximately 1500 calories a day while steadily and slowly gaining weight and continuing to yo-yo diet.
My body maintains at a lower-than-Harris Benedict rate. The Harris Benedict scale was developed in 1919. We have become a much more sedentary species. WeightWatchers has lowered their points….. What’s going on here? Could it be that our calorie ranges ought to be set lower than conventional wisdom suggests? Even lower than MacDonald’s suggests?
If you follow my posts backward, you’ll see I used a protein-sparing very-low-calorie-diet (VLCD) to lose the first 50 lbs. of my weight loss. That’s extreme dieting, alright. For most people. Even at that low calorie intake of just 800 calories per day, I lost weight slowly. More slowly than the others in my group. When it was time to come back to eating real food, we estimated my calorie requirement at 1100 – 1300 calories per day. I started there, but immediately started putting on weight. So, I lowered my daily calories by 100 each week until my weight stabilized (at 1100 calories per day), then I lowered 100 calories more for a couple of weeks until I started to drop weight again. I started dropping again, very, very slowly, at 900-1000 calories. I was still 50 lbs. overweight.
(WW people, you can use points for this experiment, just dropping points until you’re really losing that .5 – 2 lbs. per week. Or if you count calories, then divide the final calorie count by 50 to get your points. Mine would have been 18-20 points at 50 lbs. over, which is below the WW suggested number of points. Check with your WW counselor and your doctor if you believe your points are under what they suggest.)
Of course, it wasn’t a problem to track this using calorie counters and a food journal. I wrote down everything I put in my mouth. Every morsel, so I was sure to understand what was going on with my body.
Once I understood my calorie load, and I understood what could help boost my metabolism (eating my calories in 5-6 small meals spaced throughout the day, lifting weights to build muscle, increasing my protein consumption while lowering my carbohyrdrate consumption, getting more sleep, aerobic exercise a few times per week, etc.), I was equipped. I knew I was doing the right thing when I followed my eating plan, and it no longer mattered what the scale said. Slowly, very, very slowly, my weight did come down.
Over time, I developed a pretty good feeling for the amount of food I can eat, so that I no longer have to work very hard at tracking things unless my jeans get too tight. Then I pull out my food journal and just track my calories in for a while until I know I’m back on track.
That happens every couple of months or so. I don’t consider this dieting, at all. I consider it checking the gauges. Making sure the dashboard readings are all what they should be. All systems are go. Over the last year I’ve been able to up my calories by a couple of hundred per day as my metabolism slowly gains speed. But I’m still nowhere near the 2000+ calories these equations suggest I should be.
I believe the equations, though, are a good starting point for all of us. There’s nothing quite like information to help you understand where to go from here. Even if the equations need to be tweaked to account for the past 100 years of human “evolution.”
Good luck with the math. Makes my head hurt,
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