Wednesday 26 September 2018

A numbers game

When you declare you need to lose weight you are presented with a number of conflicting opinions. For instance: “You don’t need to lose weight”. I so do. In fact last year I had to, I’d been told in no uncertain terms I had to achieve a BMI of 28 by the time the surgeon got to play slice the lady whilst I was dozing under the influence of not-Champagne-at-all. So yes, I had to lose weight. And let’s face it, things were getting a little difficult on my poor aged knees.

No comment required.

Do you remember the Hot Perm? He said this to me once, so one day I decided to give him a practical lesson. He had volunteered to come with me to the Tesco on Goodge Street as I was going to buy water, as ever he offered to carry them back to the office for me. This time I accepted. And I’d bought two five litre bottles.

The science, a litre of water weighs about a kilogram. Two bottles is ten kilograms. You can see where this is going. Yes?

By the time we got back to the office, him manfully carrying one in each hand, he was visibly struggling, it’s a decent walk and they are reasonably heavy. I took pity on him and took one so we could climb the stairs and as I did I casually said: “so, ten litres of water, ten kilograms, which coincidentally is how much weight I’ve lost since I began my weight loss programme…”. Oh. The penny finally dropped and he never said anything about not losing weight again.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m never going to be Sticky Mc Stick face, it’s simply not in my nature, mentally or physically, but I would like clothes to fit and not feel too exhausted as I move from A to B.

The other opinion given is always on which method one should adopt to lose weight. And many were. As time went on when I explained my philosophy, I would be pooh poohed and told it wouldn’t work. Spoiler alert: it did.

You see the trouble is I have a weakness. Well, many. In this case it’s a weakness for food of all kinds, hedonism and generally not being told what to do. Or what’s best for me. So, for instance, being told that I had to stand in front of a load of people and be humiliated at, say, Weight Watchers, would never work. It’s not me. And I wanted to eat what I wanted. Rules schmules.

The approach I took was simply, it was the good old fashioned numbers game. Here’s the science bit, a word of warning though, it’s a bit complicated…

If you burn more than you consume you will lose weight.

See, told you it was complicated.

The question is how to achieve this particular alchemy…

So the next bit of science. A pound of fat is about 3500 kcal. Have you ever wondered how weight loss programs aim to make you lose say a pound a week? Simple, they ensure that for a given level of activity you will have a 500 kcal deficit a day. Try it. Go to an app, set a target weight loss rate, make a note of the daily calorie allowance. Change it to pound, or roughly half a kilogram more and you’ll find it changes to about 500 calories kcal less.

Or you could just burn 500 more a day.

Here’s the thing. It doesn’t matter a jot whether you are 50kg weight, or 100kg, the amount of energy remains the same, ditto the effect of the deficit. The difficulty is that as you get lighter, much to the disgust of the dainty one, the harder it is to burn more. Why? Well it takes less energy to power a smaller body. Science again.

Beer. Writing. Lake.
BMR. Basal Metabolic Rate. A magical number that combines your age, sex, height and weight to say how many calories you need to consume to maintain your current weight. Simples. You’ve probably seen such things on the NHS website and other places. It’s pretty accurate and can be within 201 kcal a day for women. This is a baseline. What you’ll use sitting on your arse watching Netflix. Or, as I’m doing, sitting next to Veliki Jezero with a beer. To make it work, as the NHS do, you add an indication of your exercise regime, be it beer and Netflix or climbing the Matterhorn with a goat on each arm before lighting a fire made from wood you gleaned by cutting down a tree with you teeth. As you do.

According to the Mifflin and St Jeor 1990 revision the formula for a lady is…

(10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) - (5 x age in years) - 161

A bit of an arse then. But also the sort of things that spreadsheets do really well. Oh, for men, change 161 to 5, you can read more here.

I like modelling in spreadsheets.

You see with a spreadsheet you can take each weight loss and revise the BMR as you go along. It makes things harder, but it also reduces the risk of lulling yourself in to a false sense of security.

The danger of the numbers game is that you need a number of things:
  • You must be honest with yourself
  • You must be able to measure how much you’re consuming
  • You must be able to measure how much you’re burning
  • You must be able to recognise things aren’t was linear as you might like

As time moves on I found there would be several days when I would plateau and then fall suddenly. Plateaus are demoralising, but they happen. The key is seeing that when you do suddenly drop, which always happens ion you stick with things, you can see that you are back on track. This again I did with said spreadsheet. I had graphs, I would predict and, importantly, I would feed back new ideas and thoughts in to the system.

And I would exercise.

My regime last year was brutal. Once I had my surgery date I had the difficult task of pushing myself harder than I’ve ever done. I couldn’t just depend on less food, I would have been at starvation levels, instead I needed to build fitness and eat sensibly, always with an eye on the magic number, how many pie points were between what I ate and what I burned. If I had a blow out, which I did, then I would either be having an exercise push before or after. Or both. It was hard, but I had utter focus.

Not that I have that any more. Obvs.

But did it work?

Between the 8th of June and 29th of October I lost 17.4kg. 37.92lbs. It wasn’t consistent. As my fitness increased my regime became increasingly aggressive, so, for example, on the 10th of October I consumed 1252 kcal, but burned 3500. I wasn’t hungry, my diet was very balanced. Yes the consumption was low as my then BMR was then 1579. The exercise for that day was half an hour on the exercise bike on the morning (watching Netflix), some floor exercises suitable for a lady of my age to work on general fitness, a walk to work at London speeds, a walk home, and a further 45 minutes on the bike. I watched a lot of Netflix. Okay so the walk to my office was just shy of six miles, but honestly, I’d rather walk and take 90 minutes than be at the mercy of TFL and take 45.

Since last year things slipped. It didn’t help that I was unable to do any exercise for three months at the behest of my surgeon. It really didn’t help that I had a further medical problem for three months. Nor did it help that I moved house to a place so remote that walking to the office would be impossible. I didn’t think that one through.

So I’m back on the wagon. I’m back to long walks to offset the lovely food, I’m back to making sure that the numbers deficit helps pull things back down.

And, as if you hadn’t guessed, I’m back to trying to write.

I’ve missed this.

1 comment:

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