Thursday, August 5, 2010
No One Told Me There Would Be MATH
Okay, when I got started on this weight loss journey, I thought it would be relatively simple. I would eat between 1000 and 1200 calories a day--high fiber, moderate protein and fat, low glycemic index, low sodium--and I would exercise. The weight would magically disappear. NOW, I hear that I'm not eating enough to sustain my life and that my body is going to hold onto fat tighter than a fat girl grips a danish. Back up the ice cream truck. I'm not eating enough food?? Where did that bizarre notion come from??
One of my new online support friends told me. Don't get me wrong. I'm very glad she told me. But, boy did it ever burst my bubble. This is what she pointed out to me... Instead of following some generic calorie rules, I am supposed to actually calculate how many calories I need to sustain my metabolism. Okay, that part made sense, and the math wasn't terribly difficult*. Then she told me I had to figure out how many calories I needed to NOT eat in order to lose a certain number of pounds a week. That was starting to get complicated, but I could still manage it. But it got worse. This is the part that gets me every time. Apparently, if I do any sort of vigorous exercise, ie: water jogging, I need to calculate the calories I burn... and... I may cry here... EAT THEM BACK. As my friend understated, "it's very counter-intuitive." I couldn't agree more. When I told another friend about this conundrum she scoffed and argued that I'd lost my mind and that it made no sense. I am exercising to lose weight, so I need to eat back all the calories I burn? Wait, what?? That sounds like malarkey.
Right before my head started to spin a la "The Exorcist" I had an epiphany. It all made total sense. The human body needs a certain amount of nutrition to maintain its metabolism. In order to lose weight, one needs to eat fewer calories. And if that person also wants to exercise in order to gain muscle mass and cardio benefit, she needs to boost her caloric intake to meet that minimum. AHA!! My body needs fuel! Because it is a very large body, it needs extra fuel... more fuel than a 150 pound body. (My "duh" moment.) And, if I make that large body work hard, it's going to need more calories to function. Makes sense. It does. Really.
I went online and found a calorie calculator at the Mayo Clinic website. I was using one at Livestrong.com, but I think it is set too high. The LS calculator wanted me to eat something like 1866 calories a day plus eat back almost 600 calories for exercising. That's almost 2500 calories a day! A thousand calories more than I eat now? Crazy. I think not. Not going to happen. Anyway, the Mayo Clinic is well-respected and I trust it. I plugged in my age, height, weight, gender, and selected "lose weight" and it told me how much to eat. Problem solved! No! Dang it all.
The calorie calculator told me to eat sixteen hundred calories per day and exercise 30 - 60 minutes per day. Huh? Why are these two calculations so wildly different? Which one do I follow? I am going to follow the Mayo Clinic recommendation... but unless I hear someone actually tell me to eat 1600 cal/day I am going to shave a few hundred calories off it just to be on the safe side. I will aim for 1400 calories per day, but if I only eat 1200 I am not ging to stress over it. Not only does eating so much scare me, I don't know if I can choke down that much food.
Does anyone have any information on this subject? Any thoughts they'd like to share? Is 1200 calories a day really not enough food for me at this weight and exercise level? I seek answers.
*I took math all the way through calculus...a LONG time ago. It's gone. Kaput. Nowadays I need a map, a calculator, a GPS, and a 12 year old to figure out long division.