Some hard lessons on calorie counting, plus some tips on goal setting and recording.EPISODE 3
Before You Begin – Why Are You Overweight?
Last week I challenged you to eat normally for three days and to write down everything you consumed. The plan was two fold. Firstly, to help when it comes to the very important goal setting exercise. Secondly, to discover if I was correct in suggesting that you fool yourself sometimes.
If you didn’t do the homework exercise, it might be worth trying, even though you’ll get hints from the marking of the homework of those who did. While I’ve never worked with my personal trainer Kenny Taylor on this specifically, it’s an exercise he has done with many clients. He tells me that in at least half of the cases he can see at a glance that the recording exercise isn’t being done accurately. As he said to me, I often take one look and think, if that’s all you eat, you wouldn’t be that shape.
Thanks to those who handed in their homework on time. I’ve been over your work. Interesting. Remember the deal was to record everything.
Ms A. I think you overlooked your coffee intake. 6 cups a day in total. Now with 5 of these you just allow yourself a dash of milk – that’s about 6ml per cup. With full fat milk (64cals per 100 ml) that’s 30cals. Negligible, but you didn’t mention your daily Starbucks tall latte on the way to work. (My spies are everywhere.) An extra 150 cals. And, in spite of your efforts, you still take sugar, 2 tsp per cup (32 cals each).
So your daily coffee regime is adding 372 cals.
Mrs B. You’ve done quite well on the coffee front. Also 6 a day, but black, no sugar. Calorie free. You restrict yourself to one chocolate biscuit a day, a chocolate digestive, say, at 140 cals. You’ve written that down. The trouble is you’ve chosen to disregard the fact that you can’t have a cuppa without something to nibble. Sorry, but you can’t disregard the two Bourbon biscuits (2 x 70) or the three plain digestives (3 x 71).
Your biscuit habit is costing you 493 calories a day.
Ms D You’re a hard working professional with a stressful career. After a tough day you reckon you’ve earned a glass of white wine, and why not? Calories will vary, but My Fitness Pal will estimate a bottle of white wine at 600 cals. Six glasses to the bottle, right? Everybody knows that. So why does a bottle last you only two days? The 100 calories you wrote down are in fact 300. And what about the handful of peanuts? I was watching you, remember. Now you say, well, it was barely an ounce/30 grams. That’s actually 179 cals.
You underestimated your daily input by at least 379 cals.
Mr J What a smart alec this guy is. I may know him. He had 2 G & Slimline Ts before dinner. A luxury, but he’s being careful with the food. Steak and a green salad. Well, Mr J, full marks for honesty, but not many for accuracy. A pub measure is 25 ml, so you’ve recorded two of these. But did you measure it? Well, at home, who does? I can tell you that your home measurement was equivalent to a pub double, so you missed the mark by 111 cals on the drink alone. But it got worse. You’re not a cook and have no idea of weight. You guessed your steak based on a 150g fillet at 420 cals. The trouble is that you had a ribeye and it was 280g (700 cals). You were proud of having salad instead of chips – but you forgot about the vinaigrette. You like a lot of that – about 2 tbsps I counted. That’s another 128 cals.
So you were doing your best, but in fact you’re the worst offender of all, your daily tally being out by a whopping 519 cals.
Let’s get to the specifics and set out precisely what you are trying to achieve.
The Ideal Weight Goal?
I’m not certain I know precisely what that is. Some books will give you weight ranges based on elite athletes. Fat lot of good that is for us non-Olympians. You have to choose your own. But how?
That stands for Body Mass Index, not to be confused with BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). There are lots of online calculators, but you can work it out by dividing your weight in kilos by the square of your height in metres. Thus a man 2 metres in height weighing 96kg would have a BMI of
96 ÷ (2²) = 96 ÷ 4 = 24
It is said that a healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9. A person with a score of 30 and above is classed by the medical profession as obese. The problem with this is that if you are very muscly you will be way above that. Any professional rugby player would be classed as clinically obese using this index. But for most of us it’s a useful yardstick. At my worst I was 30. I'm now down to 25.7. I'll get there.
Now you’re talking. This whole exercise is customising something for you, not what some geezer in a blog says you should do. It might be as simple as wanting your summer dresses or trousers to fit, or going down a waist size. These are modest, and I would suggest you might want to distinguish between ultimate goals and stage goals.
Now we like ambition, but if you want to lose 50lbs, it’s going to take you a long time. Yes, the longest journey begins with a single step, but you’re setting yourself up for discouragement. Say you end up losing 40 lbs. That would be one hell of an achievement, but a failure by the goal you set yourself. Why not go down in stages? Bear in mind that, like me, you may not know your ultimate aim.
Aim for, say, an 8 lb loss. Work out how you’ll reward yourself when you get there. In this example you would have had five grounds for celebration, instead of feeling a failure. I lost the first 8 fairly quickly, and reckoned another 8 would be enough. As I approached that, I still wasn’t happy with the look-sideways-in-the-mirror test. Be flexible with your goal setting as with the diet itself.
Whatever your ultimate aim, set yourself a daily calorie goal. Provided it is less than your BMR, you will ultimately lose weight. My Fitness Pal will give you an indication of how much you can expect to lose if you stick to that limit. Obviously, you can adjust it as time goes on, but be realistic. Set it too low and you will end up hungry, and that way spells disaster.
Recording Your Goals
Wait a minute? Didn’t you just tell us we could do it all on the App?
Yes I did, but that’s a bit too hidden, isn’t it? Just between you and your phone. I suggest you keep the weekly goals on paper, preferably in plain sight. Mine is on the fridge door. Why not do this with a friend and agree to share results? Or broadcast it on social media. Nothing like a bit of peer support/ pressure to stiffen willpower. My written record, updated weekly, looks like this.
|Date||Weight||Change+/-||Total Weight Loss||Plan of Action|
If you want to share, send details to Tom’s Food! I can keep records for a couple of months, either anonymously or not, depending on your choice. A valuable prize may await the Champion Slimmer, though before you get too excited, that’s usually a year’s free subscription to the blog.