Checking In

Posted by Jen | Weight Loss | Wednesday 24 February 2010 10:13 pm

So, I’ve been tracking my calories on The Daily Plate for the past few weeks.  It’s been such a tremendous help as I continue my attempt to lose those 4 pounds I regained over the holidays.  It’s been about 6 weeks and I only have 1 more pound to lose.  Yay!

What’s refreshing to know is that I finally seem to have an effective plan to keep my weight in check forever.  To lose these 4 pounds, I am basically doing what I did 2 years ago when I lost those 50 pounds.  In fact, I am doing the same exact thing I have been doing to maintain that weight loss during these past 18 months:  I keep track of my calories and eat a healthy low-glycemic diet. The only difference is that I had to lower my calorie intake to lose the weight again.  It also became imperative to actually track my meals online because I found that I was a little forgetful about what I ate during the day and I can’t afford to just guess what the actual calorie amounts were for certain meals.

I am looking forward to being back to my maintenance calorie intake again, though.  I’m definitely going to be a little more careful with the cake and pie consumption during the next holiday season, too.  I really don’t want to have to do this every year.  :)

In any case, I am definitely going to try to come back every few months or so and just spend a week tracking my calories again.  It’s too easy to get lazy or forgetful about how much I am eating throughout the day.  Tracking keeps me honest and accountable.  Oh…and healthy and thin!

As for my exercise…I’m on self-imposed bed rest for the next week or two.  Those crunches the other night really really did something bad to my abdominal muscles.  At least, I think that is what happened.  I started to feel some pain the other day and it has now turned into a ripping/burning feeling when I use my abs.  Even getting into a car hurts like crazy.  Add that pain to my recurring neck and back and pain and this makes for a sad little Jen.  I swear that the mono I had last year has changed my body forever.  I went from healthy and strong to this broken little me.  :(

I’m in physical therapy for the neck and back – I have some kind of spondylosis and muscle spasms…and a compression fracture, too.  I have no idea where the heck that came from…weird!  But, at least that kind of explains the pain.  I am going to see my doctor on Monday for the abdominal pain.  Just want to make sure it’s  not something serious.  You know, like a tumor or something.  I always think “zebras” instead of “horses” when I hear those darned hoofbeats!  :D

Taking a Break – Maintenance

Posted by Jen | Journal,Weight Loss | Friday 4 July 2008 2:18 am

Well, I have been dieting continuously for almost 6 months. Now some people think I’m not supposed to refer to this as a ‘diet.’ It’s supposed to be called a lifestyle change; a permanent alteration to my habits in the direction of lifelong health and weight control.

Well, the truth is these lifelong habits are currently being used to lose weight. When I finally reach my goal weight, I will continue these habits. The difference is that I won’t be counting calories and exercising in order to lose weight. I will be doing those things in order to maintain my weight and stay healthy forever. That will be my permanent ‘maintenance diet’. In the meantime, though, I am still on a ‘weight loss diet’. I use the word ‘diet’ here to signify my eating and health habits…not in the sense that this is a fad.

With all of that being said…I am a little tired. A weight loss diet puts stress on the body – mentally and physically. The body likes to have things stay the same. It likes steadiness and consistency. When we are losing weight, we are constantly forcing it to change. We force it to work a little harder. So, after six months of this, I decided to step back a little bit and do a little bit of maintenance. I am still counting calories and staying active (although, I will be honest and say that my exercise has dwindled a bit, but my foot injury and bad weather are to blame for this) but I am eating at my maintenance level of calories and I have not attempted to lose weight for a few weeks.

I figured this would be a nice way to let my body get used to my current healthy weight (127 lbs, thank you very much!) before I attempt to tackle the final 10-15 pounds.

How is it going so far?

Pretty well. I have stayed steady at this weight for nearly 4 weeks now. My injured foot has healed nicely and I am about ready to resume next week with increase my exercise to my previous level and consuming the calories needed to lose my 1 pound a week again.

In essence, I basically spent the past few weeks practicing what I will be doing forever…keeping my calorie intake at the level my body needs to maintain my current weight. Of course, if I had been more active these past 3 weeks, I would have been able to eat a lot more (because the more we exercise, the more we can – and should – eat!) But, I am glad I took it easy on the activity because I was really overworking my foot injury and possibly heading towards some long-term problems. (That’s what I get for running with the wrong type of sneaker!)

In any case, I just thought I’d share my experience on ‘maintenance dieting’ and how I fared in my attempt to take a break from ‘weight loss dieting.’ Honestly, calorie counting has changed how I will eat forever. It just makes the most sense to me…calories in, calories out (for the most part.) It’s not an exact science, so it always require tweaking, but I’m obviously doing something right because I have lost nearly 40 pounds this way. Wish me luck for the final 15!

Net Calories vs. Total Calories

Posted by Jen | Weight Loss | Wednesday 14 May 2008 11:40 am

Okay, since I started using an online site to track my calories, I was introduced to the concept of Net Calories.

Total Calories consumed – Exercise Calories Burned = NET calories.

I have dieted a lot in my life. A lot. I have only tracked calories with two of those diets. (Once a long time ago with Weight Watchers…which, yes, is a calorie counting program disguised by a Points System) and once again last year. Neither plan included Net Calories.

This January, I started at The Daily Plate and noticed the Net Calories feature.
Basically, when you track your exercise you eat those calories back. It took me a few weeks to understand the logic behind it. It is highly prone to accuracy errors and I think that is the main reason why it doesn’t work for every one. Also, I think people may be using it incorrectly.

Below is my basic understanding of it. I am fairly certain I have the general idea of how it works.

1: What to do and how it works.

When you calculate your daily Calorie Goal, you need to select your activity level and how much weight you want to (safely!) lose per week. Seriously…unless you are obese – don’t try to lose 5 pounds in one week!
Okay, the important thing here is if you want to ‘eat back’ and track your exercise…pick the correct activity level!

For instance, I get my daughter ready for school, I work at home on the computer, I drive, I do light housekeeping (very light – wash dishes, make a bed, wipe counters, etc.) I do college work, I watch TV, I read, etc. That is my typical day. Boring…yes!
But, on average, my day pretty much falls under the “lightly active” category.

First, the calorie calculator starts with the number of calories burned in a ‘lightly active’ lifestyle on a typical day…let’s say 1800 calories and subtracts a deficit from that. In my case, I want to lose 1 pound a week, so it subtracts 500 from 1800 and gives me 1300 as my Calorie Goal. (I am going to assume everyone understands how consuming fewer calories than your body burns will bring about weight loss.) So, I now know that I can consume 1300 calories and lose 1 pound a week because of that 500 calorie deficit.
Now, there are 3 ways to maintain that deficit:

1: Food Restriction. (Eat 500 calories fewer than 1800/day. i.e. Eat 1300 calories/day.)
2: Exercise. (Eat 1800 calories a day…and exercise off 500 calories)
3: Both. (Ex: Eat 1500 – which is only a 300 deficit – and burn off the extra 200 to make the deficit 500)

So, I start my day and eat 1300. I have my 500 calorie deficit.
Then, I decide to exercise and burn an extra 200 calories.
My NET calories are now 1100.
1300 (total calories consumed) – 200 (exercise calories burned) = 1100 NET.

Another way to look at it is that my deficit is now 700.
500 from the food restriction deficit we made when we ate 1300 calories…and 200 from the exercise we just did.
500+200 = 700 deficit.

One final way to look at it is I no longer just burned 1800 today. I busted out of my Lightly Active lifestyle and I burned 2000 calories.
If I still want a 500 calorie deficit, I now have to eat 1500 calories (2000 – 500 = 1500) instead of 1300 to get my 500 calorie deficit.

So, yep…to do that I have to eat back my 200 exercise calories.
This makes my deficit 500 again.
My NET is now 1300 and the total I consumed for the day is 1500.

1300 (food eaten) – 200(exercise) = 1100 NET + 200 (eat back) = 1300 NET.
1300 TOTAL (food eaten) + 200 (eat back) = 1500 calories TOTAL.

I still have my 500 calorie deficit. I just changed how I got it. Instead of just food restriction, I used a combination of food restriction and exercise to get to a 500 calorie deficit.
This is why people ‘eat back’. If you track it right and use the right activity level, it does

2: What not to do.

Here’s what I think I did wrong in the beginning.
I told the calorie calculator that I was ‘Moderately Active’ and I ate back.
The calorie goal given to me for ‘Moderately Active’ already included my exercise calories.

The calculator started with the number of calories I burn due to an moderately activity level that included my exercise sessions….it was about 2100 calories and then subtracted my deficit (500) to give me a Calorie Goal of 1600 TOTAL. I wasn’t supposed to track exercise and ‘eat back’ because my calorie intake number already included my exercise. The 2100 calories (and thereby the 1600 Calorie Goal) already had those burned exercise calories in there…to track them again would be redundant!

3: Finale

So, the two choices are…choose an activity level for just your day-to-day activities and track exercise separately/’eat back’. Or just choose a higher activity level to account for your exercise and just eat and know that your Calorie Goal will give you a deficit that already includes your exercise calories.

Remember it’s not all exact. The calorie calculator estimates – it doesn’t really know exactly how many calories you are burning. (How helpful it would be if it really did!)
Keep all this in mind as you track your calories.

Which one do I personally do?

I do both. I switch every 3 weeks and do one or the other. When I use the higher activity level, I actually calorie cycle (change the amounts I eat each day, but still end up with the same total by the end of the week.) Also known as ‘calorie shifting’, ‘zig-zag dieting’ or ‘The Wendie Plan’ (for those of you on Weight Watchers.)

When I “eat back”, I track my exercise with my Heart Rate Monitor and eat back most of those calories. I have personal rules about how many exercise calories I actually eat back. I do this mostly to allow room for inaccuracies with counting calories.

I like doing both. It gives me a fresh start every three weeks. I have been successful (so far) with both, so I’ll keep doing it for now.

BMI – Body Mass Index

Posted by Jen | Weight Loss | Monday 12 May 2008 6:47 pm

As I get closer to my goal, I am finding myself more and more interested in knowing my actual body fat percentage. Initially, I was all for the weight loss being measure by the numbers on the scale. Then, I because interested in the inches lost around my hips, waist, thighs, biceps, etc. Now, I kind of want to know if I am really lowering the fat, while keeping most of my muscle.
So, how do I find that out, I wondered?

Well, the first of my goals was to get my weight down into a healthy weight range as indicated by the BMI (Body Mass Index) chart below.
GREEN is Healthy Weight. YELLOW is Overweight. RED is Obese.
I am 5’1″ and I am 132.5 pounds…ALMOST to 130, which will put me in the healthy weight range! (Actually 132 will get me there, but either way…the medical community will soon consider me to be at a healthy weight.) I started my weight loss quest at 164 pounds…I was actually considered to be obese then…that boggles my mind.

What is the History of the BMI chart?
Well, about 10 years ago, NIH (National Institutes of Health) released its new healthy weight guidelines. The purpose was to find a uniform method that the medical community, insurance companies and the general public could use to measure body fat and healthy weight. One interesting thing that happened back then is that they actually lowered the overweight threshold from a score of 27.5 to 25. That meant that quite a few people who were once considered to be at a healthy weight range were suddenly overweight. There are quite a few BMI calculators and charts online to help determine your BMI score quickly and easily.

How accurate is it?
The chart is best used as a screening tool – not as a definitive calculation of your body fat percentage or your overall health. One of the reasons for this is that it does not account for a person’s age, gender or the amount of muscle mass they have. Football players, for instance, might score high on the BMI chart when really their fat percentage is low. It’s the weight of their muscle that skews the results for them.

So, the BMI chart may be a starting point for a person or a medical provider in trying to determine a person’s health weight and body mass, but there are better ways to test for actual body fat. For me, once I get myself into the healthy zone, I am going to look into getting tested for my actual body fat percentage (probably via a skin-fold measurement test.) They sell calipers online and if used properly, I should be able to get a very accurate idea of my fat loss success.

  1. WebMD – BMI information.
  2. BMI calculator
  3. – Information about the Skin Fold Measurement test for body fat.
  4. Accu-Measure Fitness – Purchase calipers to measure body fat

Down I Go

Posted by Jen | Journal,Weight Loss | Monday 12 May 2008 12:47 pm

Okay, so I weighed in this morning…132.5 thankyouverymuch!
Oh, my weight loss, where have been? I have been waiting for you for weeks!

I exercised late last night – aerobic dancing and a full back/biceps and legs workout. My aerobic dancing was 33 minutes long with 239 calories burned at an average of 142 BPM. My strength training was for 26 minutes-174 cals burned – 137 BPM.
It had been 3 days since my last workout routine, so I definitely welcomed it.

I am now just on the very edge of normal body weight. As indicated by the BMI – Body Mass Index chart. I am in the middle of composing an entire post dedicated to body fat calculation based on the research I have done about it. The BMI chart is not always accurate when it comes to determining a person’s body fat, but I’m still quite happy to know that the medical community will soon consider me to be in the healthy weight range. Yay, me!

I just finished my Kashi Lime Cilantro Shrimp dinner. Yummy and all natural. I will definitely be buying that again. Okay, that’s it for today! It rained all day, so no exercise for me, but the next 4 days will be run, run, run!

Calculations: Part 3

Posted by Jen | Weight Loss | Saturday 9 February 2008 11:56 pm

I know my Maintenance Calories…now what?
Well, this is the final step in your calculations.
You now know how many calories you need to eat in order to maintain the same weight.
I calculated that number to be 1942.
If I eat 1,942 calories, my body will use all those calories to fuel all of its bodily functions and all of the activities I perform. It won’t need to use any of my fat stores or muscle stores because I gave it all the food fuel it needs. That is great if you are at a healthy goal weight…but if I want to lose weight, I need to eat below my maintenance level. I need to give myself a deficit every day.

If, for instance, I eat only 1500 calories a day, my body will use that 1500 to fuel itself, but because it burns 1942, it needs more than that. So it will then begin to use our fat (and muscle) stores to make up for the missing calories.
This is how we lose weight.

Just remember that it is important to choose a healthy, safe and steady deficit that will promote weight loss without harming our body.

How did I decide on my weekly weight loss goal/my deficit?

The general rule of thumb is to shoot for either 20% below your maintenance number or to try to lose only 1% of your body weight per week. Both of these options seem to provide a person with a safe and steady weight loss.

I chose the latter option because it gave me a larger deficit, while still keeping me above my BMR (which I think is really important. The body should at least get enough fuel for its basic bodily functions!)
So, one percent (1%) of my body weight is 1.3. I rounded that number down to 1 and made that my goal. I want to lose 1 pound a week.

I won’t go into to much detail here about choosing a goal that brings about too rapid a weight loss. I’ll just say that I personally think it is usually unnecessary, unhealthy, and counterproductive in the end. Always discuss with your doctor if you are planning a diet that severely restricts your calories.

Again, I think never going below my BMR is the rule of thumb I use.

How do I lose 1 pound of fat a week? What is my exact deficit?
To lose 1 pound of fat a week I need to consume 500 calories fewer than my maintenance calories per day.

One pound of fat = 3500 calories.
3500 divided by 7 days (in a week) = 500 calories a day.

This means that I have to have a 500 calorie deficit every day and by the end of the week…voila!..I have lost a pound. (In a perfect world, of course!)

The next step is to then take my Maintenance Calories and subtract the 500 deficit from it in order to get my Calorie Goal for weight loss. This will give me how many calories I can consume every day in order to lose 1 pound a week.

So what is my calorie goal?

My Maintenance Calories were 1942.
My deficit is 500.
That makes my Daily Calorie Goal: 1442.

This is the number of calories I can eat each and every day to lose 1 pound a week. We already know that my body needs 1942.
Well, I am only going to give it 1442.
The rest is up to my body…it must fend for itself.
It must start converting my fat stores into energy to make up for the missing calories.

And, so begins the road to my slow and steady, healthy and happy, weight loss!

Is there an easier way to do this? Without calculations on paper?
Here are some links to some online Calorie Goal calculators. Unlike the calculators in my previous post, these do more than just calculate your BMR/RMR. They do the whole thing! Just put in your stats and you are given a calorie goal to lose weight!

HEALTHY LINKS – This one is my favorite. You can use the advanced options to switch between a calorie goal based on the Mifflin-St.Jeor or Harris Benedict or lean body mass.
You can also test out their zig-zag calorie tool for those who like to “calorie shift” or “calorie cycle” or “zig-zag diet!” – this site gives you a nice calorie range. Based on the Mifflin-St.Jeor equation.

That’s all!

Calculations: Part 2

Posted by Jen | Weight Loss | Saturday 9 February 2008 11:54 pm

What happens now?
Well, we have our BMR/RMR number, but that isn’t enough.

Because an average person does not lie in bed all day without moving, eating, etc., your BMR/RMR only covers some of the calories you burn. You also have to count the calories you burn during your daily activities.

So, to find out how many more calories you burn, you need to multiply your BMR/RMR by the appropriate activity factor, as follows:

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

Personally, this is where I struggled the most.
I have a hard time figuring out where exactly I fit in. Some weeks, I workout really hard and do about 4-5 days of exercise and some weeks I only do 2-3 days. So, in the beginning, I multiplied my BMR by 1.45…which was somewhere between lightly and moderately active.

The number you get from this calculation will bring you to the total number of calories you burn every single day to fuel your basal/resting activities AND your normal activities.

For example, if I considered myself moderately active and if my BMR was calculated as 1253, I would get this number:
1253 X 1.55 = 1942

This is my Maintenance number. This is the number of calories I can eat to keep my weight exactly the same. So, if I give my body that amount of calories, I will stay the same weight.

If I want to lose weight…I give my body fewer calories.
If I gave my body only 1600 calories, it would still burn 1942 calories, but not all of those burned calories will come from food because I didn’t eat that much.
It would use the 1600 calories I ate…and then start burning fat and muscle for the rest of its necessary fuel.
That is how you lose weight.

Now, it’s finally time to figure out my Daily Caloric Intake Number…the actual number of calories I should consume each day to lose weight.
On to Calculations: Part 3. The final chapter!

Calculations: Part 1

Posted by Jen | Weight Loss | Saturday 9 February 2008 11:53 pm

I am a sucker for those online calorie calculators. Every time I come across a site with one, I use it. I don’t know if I am looking for confirmation that I am using the right calorie goals or if I’m just a numbers nerd.

In any case, due to the fact that I lose weight by tracking calories, the right calorie intake numbers are important to me. I try to get as accurate a calculation as possible.

To find my daily calorie intake number I can go the short way and use an online calculator (I have some links at the bottom of my “Calculations: Part 3″ post) or I can do it the long way:

Step One: Calculate my BMR/RMR.
Step Two: Multiply that number by an activity multiplier to get my Maintenance Calories.
Step Three: Subtract a deficit from my Maintenance Calories to get my Daily Calorie Goal.
Step Four: Eat, exercise and stay as close to my Calorie Goal as possible!

This post will cover Step One.

What is the BMR and RMR?
BMR stands for Basic Metabolic Rate. RMR is my Resting Metabolic Rate.

Basically, my BMR or RMR estimates the amount of calories my body will burn while at rest. If I were to lie in bed all day (no getting up, no moving around…) I would burn a certain number of calories. That number is represented by my BMR/RMR.
The chart below will give you an estimated breakdown of my daily caloric burn:

60-70% – Basic bodily functions (…breathing, temperature regulation, etc.) as represented by my BMR or RMR.
15-30% – All physical activity (walking, running, cooking dinner, chewing gum, tapping my toes…anything other than lying in bed all day.)
10% – Thermic effect of food. (Calories burned through the digestion, asborption and storage of food.)

What is the difference between the two terms BMR/RMR?
These terms are often used interchangeably and the difference between the two is relatively minor.
The difference basically comes from the fact that each rate is clinically measured under two different types of conditions. To get a subject’s BMR, he or she must be in a fasted state (so that digestion calories do not play a part in the calculation) and the subject must be in a state of complete rest and in dark, quiet surroundings. It basically just tests how much you burn through regular biological functions.

The test for a person’s RMR is not as strict. The subject must be resting, but the calculations can include a some physical disturbance and possibly some digestion. This goes above and beyond BMR testing and includes any additional minor activity that occurs during a rested state.

In any case, we really don’t have to worry about any that and we can simply find our estimated BMR or RMR by using an online calculator or by using the equations I will provide below.

What type of BMR/RMR forumlas are available?
Currently there are two popular math formulas to use in order to figure out a person’s BMR or RMR. These two formulas are the Harris Benedict Equation and the Mifflin-St.Jeor Equation.
(Note: There is also a way to determine your caloric intake number by lean body mass called the Katch-McArdle formula. However, most people – including myself – do not know their lean body mass, so I won’t talk about that method.)

I don’t like math. Where are some good online BMR/RMR calculators?
The links below will bring you to two online BMR/RMR calculators:

BMR Calculator (uses the Harris-Benedict Equation)
My Fitness Pal (uses the Mifflin-St.Jeor Equation)

Which do I personally use and why?

I currently use the Mifflin-St.Jeor formula.

While the Harris-Benedict formula is more popular, it has been tested and reported to be slightly more inaccurate than the Mifflin formula. The Harris-Benedict numbers tend to be slightly overestimated (meaning you might be eating more than you should!)

However, some people have great success using Harris-Benedict and many of the popular dieting sites use that formula for their calorie calculations, so it really is up to you to test the numbers and figure out which works best for you.

Just a quick note….it appears that many times a site will use the Mifflin-St.Jeor equation and call the result your “RMR” and then use the Harris-Benedict equation to get a person’s “BMR.”
Other sites may use both formulas and call both results your “BMR”. Don’t let that confuse you. They are really talking about the same thing and the most important thing is the number you get from using either formula.

I like math! H
ow do I calculated my BMR/RMR on my own?
First, you need to convert your weight and height into kilograms and centimeters.

This is done by:

Dividing your weight (in pounds) by 2.2.
Multiply your height (in inches) by 2.54.


A 33-year-old female. You weigh 134 and I am 5’1″ (or 61 inches).
134lbs. divided by 2.2 = 60.9 kilograms
61 inches multiplied by 2.54 = 154.9 centimeters

Now, you take those numbers and plug them into one or both of the formulas below.

* Mifflin-St Jeor Equation *

Men: RMR = (9.99 X weight) + (6.25 X height) – (4.92 X age) + 5
Women: RMR = (9.99 X weight) + (6.25 X height) – (4.92 X age) – 161

A 33-year-old female. You weigh 134 and I am 5’1″ (or 61 inches).
134lbs. divided by 2.2 = 60.9 kilograms
61 inches multiplied by 2.54 = 154.9 centimeters

(9.99 X 60.9) + (6.25 X 154.9) – (4.92 X 33) – 161 =
608.39 + 968.13 – 162.36 – 161 =

My BMR/RMR = 1253
So, according to the Mifflin-St.Jeor forumla, these are how many calories you would burn just by lying in bed all day long.

*Harris-Benedict Formula*

66.5 + (13.75 X weight in kg) + (5.003 X height in cm) – (6.775 X age in years)
655.1 + (9.563 X weight in kg) + (1.85 X height in cm) – (4.676 X age in years)

A 33-year-old female. You weigh 134 and I am 5’1″ (or 61 inches).
134lbs. divided by 2.2 = 60.9 kilograms
61 inches multiplied by 2.54 = 154.9 centimeters

655.1 + (9.563 X 60.9) + (1.85 X 154.9) – (4.676 X 33) =
655.1 + 582.39 + 286.57 – 154.31 =

My BMR/RMR = 1370
According to the Harris-Benedict formula, these are how many calories you would burn just by lying in bed all day long.


Mifflin-St.Jeor = 1253
Harris Benedict = 1370

Two different equations…two different results.
It’s up to each person as to which formula they want to use.

Okay I used the calculator (or did the math.) What happens now?
I now have my BMR/RMR.
Remember this number only accounts for some of the calories we burn each day (about 60-70%). We need to find an estimate of all the calories our bodies burn each day.
This means you have to add youractivity calories, too. That is the only way you can get the best estimate of the total number of calories your body needs every day.

I will explain this next step in the post called “Calculations: Part 2“. This is where I calculate in activity levels to find Maintenance Calories.

Note: Remember, there are online calculators to do all of this for us, but some people like to see where the numbers come from, which is why I am explaining it all here.