Monday, June 11, 2007

On Weight Loss

I lost a lot of weight a couple of years ago using South Beach. The total including the pre-South Beach cutting back was around 60 pounds. That is a lot of pounds. I thought South Beach was a miracle.

Then just as I hit my target weight I found out Deb was pregnant. Then shortly after, we found out it was a highly problematic pregnancy. Then we had an infant undergoing lots of surgeries. And now we have a happy healthy toddler.

It all ultimately turned out great, but none of it did anything good for maintaining my weight, including the present happy healthy toddler situation. So now I am a fat pig again. As the weight was coming back on I made a couple of attempts to start South Beach again, but I found that phase I was never as effective as the first time and at some point I stopped believing that I could religiously follow the South Beach plan for the rest of my life.

So what to do? I needed a new strategy. I had tipped over the limit again from "overweight" to "obese" (i.e. my BMI was over 30) and something had to change.

I am a scientist, so in no way do I believe that there is anything ultimately magical about cutting back on carbs. It probably changes your biochemistry a little (OK, definitely), but ultimately what matters for weight loss is calorie reduction. Period. If you burn more calories than you eat, you will lose weight. If you burn fewer calories than you eat you will gain weight. Very simple.

So I have two choices, burn more calories (exercise more), or eat less. Did I mention that I have a toddler? Excercizing much more is out. I can try to keep myself in the "Active" column (defined as 4000-6000 steps by us pedometer wearing geeks), but there is no way I can rationally aspire to the "Very Active" column (>10,000 steps).

OK, so I need to eat less. How much less? I needed a rational no BS guide to optimal weight, calorie intake, and the like. I picked up the No-Fad Diet book as a resource.

Step 1. Validate the caloric intake estimates in the book. I am usually (OK, always, I am in the 99.99th percentile for height) off the chart and what applies to the little people doesn't always apply to me. The book said that to maintain my current weight I would have to be eating between 3300 and 3900 calories per day (or more as I was gaining). So I kept track for several days and sure enough, that was a pretty good estimate.

Step 2. Set a target weight. Did I mention that I am off the charts? Fortunately the charts are linear and I was able to do a linear regression to determine my ideal weight range. In case anyone else needs them, here are the formulas (height is in inches):
OWLow = 4.757895 * Height - 158.411
OWHigh = 5.733333 * Height - 192.66
Obese = 5.733333 * Height - 191.66
UW = 3.785714 * Height - 135.071

You are overweight in the OWLow to OWHigh range. You are obese at Obese and higher. And you are underweight below UW. So I am overweight when over 217 and the middle of my ideal range is 191. That seems low to me, but I'll go with it for now. 217 is definitely OK and if I start to look like a 6 foot 7 inch scarecrow as I move towards 191 I can always reevaluate.

Step 3. Set a target for daily caloric intake. Fortunately my weight isn't off the charts, so I could just look this up. At my ideal weight of 191, my caloric intake should be between 2483 (inactive) and 2865 (active) to maintain that weight indefinitely. I will most likely always eat more on weekends and I can more easily eat less during the week, so I set a target of 2400 calories (or less) on a seven day moving average, during the diet period. I will adjust this to 2800 or so after I lose the weight.

Step 4. Don't cheat. Hmmm, how to do this? I chose to be obsessive about writing down every calorie that I put in my mouth. So far that is working for me.

I have been doing this for 14 days now and I can report that I have dropped from a starting weight of 262 to 250. It is very exciting to lose 12 pounds, and very depressing to think that I have as much as 59 to go. Still, this is every bit as good as South Beach was the first time (so far) and I feel like I have control over the elements of success.



Philip said...

I don't know about these equations. They would imply that I should be less than 194lbs (my OWlow weight). I haven't wieghed less than 200 lbs since I was in high school, and I know that I was pretty skinny then. I look at pictures of myself when I was ~210lbs and I was very fit looking. I think these type of equations are always created for people who have thin/wiry muscles and narrower shoulders -- my jacket shoulders are 44-46 and my neck is 18inches, even when I was thinner, and my head is bigger than most hat manufactures make fitted hats (7-7/8). I wish that they had equations that worked for people more like you and me, who don;t fit into the normal sizes.

David said...

Well, the equations are correct in the sense that they reflect the published AHA tabular data, which is all based on BMI.

There are of course known issues with BMI for different body types. In particular lots of muscle or bone mass makes BMI completely useless.

The numbers come out a little low for me too, but my plan is simply to head for the target and reevaluate as I approach it. I can't really even imagine weighing 191 pounds, nevertheless that is my target for now. (that is the center between underweight and overweight by the formulas)

I do know that the "OWLow - 1" number for me is in the right range. You know, plus or minus ten pounds. That would put my weight at 216 or less to not be overweight and I am certain that the real number is not more than 226.

The real question is how to reevaluate as you approach the target. I think the only sensible answer is to measure body fat and use that to determine when to stop. So I have my plastic pincher thing in a drawer waiting for a reason to use it. And I might consider buying a toy.My goal there is 15%, which is on the border between "Lean" and "Normal" for men.

But I have miles to go before I have to worry about body fat.


David said...

The pincher thing to which I referred...