It is estimated that more than 61 billion dollars was spent in the US alone last year in the effort to lose weight. Unfortunately way too much of that money went to waste on products or schemes marketed to speak to our desperate need for instant gratification.
One of the reasons we look so hard for that quick fix is that for those of us staring at the goal of losing 50, 100 or more pounds, there is no way for us to see the light at the end of the tunnel. As a friend of mine said to me years ago “I’ve lost 15 pounds and I can’t even see it.”
For anyone who has struggled with their weight it can seem like a great big mystery and yet the funny thing is the math is and always has been incredibly simple. More calories expended than calories eaten equals weight loss. Certainly there are the endless debates and nuances about the correct foods, when to eat etc. But as someone who has spent most of my life thinking about my weight if not actually trying to affect it and additionally being someone with a very real tendency to over-complicate I know the best way to tackle something sometimes is to distil it down to its essence.
I began the first leg of my most significant weight loss journey in January 2006 and lost about 130 pounds in the first two years. But by the middle of 2009 I had sort of reached a standstill and was stuck in the 170’s. Then I started creeping back up. When I got on the scale one morning and it read 179.8 I finally just mentally put on the brakes.
I long ago learned to quit living and dying by the scale. Changes in water, muscle etc. can swing the scale dramatically in either direction while not telling the whole story. Now I count on measurements and the fit of my clothing, however, at 5’3″ there was no way 180 could be a healthy weight for me.
Two other things happened at about that same time that helped get me back on track. The first was a friend of mine challenged me to run the Atlanta Thanksgiving Day half marathon and the second was my husband’s boss demonstrated a great new gizmo his wife Paula had just gotten. It was the calorie counting armband by Bodymedia also used on The Biggest Loser.
My armband calculates very accurately the calories I burn every day and with that knowledge I can better establish exactly how much I need to eat and what is even more exciting for me, I can know exactly how much effort is required to burn any particular number of calories.
My personal feeling for why we don’t always see the progress we expect and often end up losing patience is a great deal of misinformation and lack of REALLY useful feedback. We know all the rules about diet and exercise and with all this technology at our fingertips, most of us tackle dieting like everything else by researching it and trying to get as much info as possible. When it comes to figuring out Basal Metabolic Rate and such, the most common equation is the Harris Benedict Formula which is as follows:
The Harris-Benedict formula (BMR based on total body weight)
The Harris-Benedict formula uses the factors of height, weight, age, and sex to
determine basal metabolic rate (BMR). This makes it more accurate than determining
calorie needs based on total bodyweight alone. The only variable it doesn’t take into
consideration is lean body mass. Men: BMR = 66 + (13.7 X wt in kg) + (5 X ht in cm) – (6.8 X age in years)
Women: BMR = 655 + (9.6 X wt in kg) + (1.8 X ht in cm) – (4.7 X age in years)
Note: 1 inch = 2.54 centimeters
1 kilogram = 2.2 lbs.
This is a very good and accurate equation for the average person. However, what it can’t take into account is body composition and that makes all the difference. Let me give you an example. The first bit of math here is what my numbers would have looked like in January 2006.
655 + 1296 + 288 – 183 = (2056 BMR)
The second is the same equation using the numbers at my lean healthy weight. I used the same age number just to avoid extra confusion.
655 + 739 + 288 – 183 = (1499 BMR)
Now as previously stated I carry a lot of muscle so the second number is actually about 200 calories low. My armband shows consistently that on a normal sitting at my desk day without any additional exercise I expend about 1700 calories over a 24 hour period. If you compare that to the 2056 the equation said I should be eating just to maintain when I was heavy and I followed that guidance I would theoretically have gained at least a pound a week all the while thinking I was doing what I was supposed to do.
At the end of this post I have added several screenshots of data acquired from my armband. In one of the photos you can see my highest ever calorie burn day of nearly 3600 which was August 20, 2011 a day on which I spent 3 hours running 17 miles at Stone Mountain, Georgia which I assure you is not flat terrain. Some of the drop down shots are showing details from that same day.
However, while the big picture data is cool, where I might have found the armband most useful is in its ability to motivate me. I am someone who loves to be challenged and I live for feedback. I was the psycho in school who loved test day because it gave me the opportunity to get visual results in numeric or grade form. The armband is the same way. If you purchase the watchband accessory you can see at a glance how many calories you have burned in a single exercise session and use that to set bigger more challenging goals. In addition, the program notifies you each time you reach new personal bests! It literally got me from teetering on the edge of 180 back to my goal weight of 149 and 16% body fat.
I love this product so much and believe in its value such that I have actually given a couple of mine away because I so wanted people to get the benefit that I had. The newest generation even has bluetooth capability so you can sync it to your smart phone which is the picture I have with this post.