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Weight Loss: It's All the Numbers, Stupid

Weight loss was always a dark science to me until I realized there was a formula to it.

Those of you who know me know that I have been on a mission to lose weight.

I started before Thanksgiving, when my daughter Daria challenged me to. Since November I have lost 49 pounds and am still counting.

Challenging? You bet. Expensive? Don't care — I love shopping for new clothes. Satisfying? You have no idea.

Being the Internet addict that I am, I started by researching BMR (basal metabolic rate) and calorie requirements for my size and the pros and cons of different foods. I downloaded a tracking app (sparkpeople.com) and set about cutting my intake to 1,500 calories a day.

Bread, pasta, candy, soda — all gone. The new staple of my diet: salad. A block from my office, a little place called Taboo makes the best salads to order. I let them surprise me the many times a week I eat there, and I love it.

At home the family is helping — sorta. The nightly menu has evolved to accommodate my dietary needs alongside my daughters' obsessive appetite for pasta and pizza.

I have done most of this by diet alone. Never having been much of an exerciser, I get a great deal of pleasure from having memberships to health clubs, but very little from actually going. This time around I joined the Oakland Great Western and Power Co, a climbing gym with a top-notch weight and cardio room — and I continually attempt to turn a chore into a habit. But they do have WiFi, and I have Netflix. It's getting easier.

The other day one of my friends said something to me in passing. I couldn't believe I had missed this before.

"One pound is 3500 calories," he said. "It's simple math."

I was blown away. I researched this too, and by golly, he was right. And suddenly everything I do has turned into a mathematical formula. I start with my gender, age, height and weight. I then gauge my activity level. In my case, I generously use "lightly active," since I climb my stairs at work and at home, and engage in stressful architectural design work.

That gives me the amount of calories I need to burn to survive the day. Add any extra calories consumed. Deduct any calories burned — exercise is my new friend.

Big numbers. In my case I need 2,622 calories a day. I eat 1,500-1,800. Assuming I fudge it a bit, a deficit of 500 calories a day x 7 is a magical 3,500 calories, or a pound lost a week. Add exercise to the mix,or even substitute exercise to get to the right number and you will make it.

Add a 200-calorie soda? A case means a pound. No thanks.

Women: BMR = 655 + ( 4.35 x weight in pounds ) + ( 4.7 x height in inches ) - (4.7 x age in years)

Men: BMR = 66 + ( 6.23 x weight in pounds ) + ( 12.7 x height in inches ) -  (6.8 x age in year )

To determine your total daily calorie needs, multiply your BMR by the appropriate activity factor, as follows:

  • If you are sedentary (little or no exercise): Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.2.
  • If you are lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week): Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.375.
  • If you are moderatetely active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week): Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.55.
  • If you are very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week): Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.725.
  • If you are extra active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training): Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.9.

Reducing weight loss to simple numbers takes away the mystery. Throughout the last five months I have worried about the the day my metabolism changes or my appetite comes roaring back. I now know though that there will always be a formula. As long as I have the desire and the drive, I can do it.

So thanks, Daria, for making me do it, Daniella for cheering me on, Shirley for the delicious food and Roger for making me finally understand the mystery of the numbers.

My resources: www.sparkpeople.com (and the iPad app). www.livestrong.com (and the iPad app). BMI calculator (iPad app). Taboo, 600 York St., San Francisco. Calculations courtesy of www.bmi-calculator.net.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Elizabeth Shook May 07, 2012 at 07:55 PM
Great story and useful calculations. Thank you, Ahmad, for the inspiration!

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