“In real life, I assure you, there is no such thing as algebra.” –Fran Lebowitz
I lived for a long time with the illusion that algebra was part of my DNA, that something I learned in high school would never leave, regardless of how often I used it. Which, of course, was never.
I had to take a math assessment test a while back, though, when I registered for classes at a local college; I didn’t have to, because I’m not getting a degree, but it wasn’t worth the effort to persuade the nice lady at the registration desk. Besides, I was curious.
Not so curious now. It wasn’t horrible, is all. The adviser who helped me arrange classes noted that people my age who score the way I did usually either are teachers or parents who help with homework. I didn’t mention that I’d spent two hours the night before reviewing basic concepts, trying to remember how to multiply fractions.
Mathematics, then, never a strong point, is not going to be part of my skill set. Arithmetic, on the other hand, I can do. Give me a spreadsheet to build, in fact, and I’m in computer heaven. Numbers can be fun.
So when I decided it was time to lose weight and try to eat and live better, I opted to play to my strengths (or nerdiness, whatever).
(Yes, I said I wasn’t going to blog about this. I say lots of things.)
Diets are just tricks, sleight-of-hand maneuvers to help us lie to ourselves. We get fat, all things being equal (i.e., no endocrinology issues), by eating too much or exercising too little, or (probably) both. You can count fat, carbs, protein, fiber, sodium, fingers, toes…the only thing worth counting, really, is calories, what you bring in and what you give back to the world. Or so it seems to me.
Psychologically, though, it’s a different game. So my mission, assuming I accepted it, was to find an interesting way to lose weight while doing it the old-fashioned way; that is, making sure “less” and “more” are on the right sides of the equation.
I know there are some of you who look at counting calories and think, “That is so 1965.” Sorry. But the earth revolves around the sun, dogs are man’s best friend, George Bush shirked his National Guard duty, God didn’t make little green apples and it don’t rain in Indianapolis in the summertime…and calories count.
So. Your body takes a certain amount of caloric intake to maintain its weight (this can vary, for lots of reasons, but if you’re sedentary, for example, multiply your weight and 14 and you’re in the ballpark). A pound is considered 3500 calories. Ergo, if you weigh 200 pounds and sit on your butt a lot, you need 2800 calories a day to stay where you are, and if you drop that to, say, 1800 calories a day, in a week you should lose 2 pounds (1000 x 7 = 7000).
Two pounds a week is an ideal weight loss, say the experts, who are generally puritanical and thin. I don’t know a single fat person who wants to lose only 2 pounds a week, even facing facts. “But you didn’t gain it all at once,” they say. Hello? YES WE DID. Or it sure felt like it. And it’s a lot easier to double your caloric intake than halve it. And more fun.
But quicker weight loss runs into trouble, arithmetically and physically. You can’t lose a pound a day by dieting if you only need 2800 calories to stay in place; you’d end up in negative numbers. Plus, you’d starve. And below a certain level your body assumes it’s The Great Famine and shuts down the metabolism factory, and thus you end up totally screwed.
This is what I call The Einstein Factor™. You know, in the famous Theory of Relativity that people pretend to understand but really don’t in which Einstein proved that nothing can go faster than the speed of light because he said so.
But people do lose weight fast. Like wrestlers, jockeys, and Tom Hanks in “Philadelphia.” What’s their secret?
They do the math. They not only get into negative calories by eating less, but they exercise more *shudder*. Our theoretical 200-pound person up above can double his/her weight loss simply by burning 1000 extra calories a day. Which means walking briskly 2-3 hours daily, for example. A commitment.
But, wait. What about those gastric bypass people who get on the cover of People magazine? They lose weight like crazy.
Yeah. Because they’re real fat. Back to the numbers. If you weigh 350 pounds or so, that’s nearly a 5000-calorie maintenance requirement daily. Lop off 3500 calories a day and you’ve still got 1500 to eat, which is not that hard. Especially when your stomach is all hog tied and you spend most of your waking hours in the bathroom.
But there’s more! Keep reading!
Your daily caloric requirement goes down as you lose weight, obviously. And as you drop pounds, the amount of calories you burn with a given exercise goes down, too (slower, though). So there are a number of calculations that have to be tweaked constantly.
Thus we have The Virtual Scale™. You were waiting, I know.
I’ve determined how much weight I want to lose (this is pretty easy). I’ve picked a time period to lose it in. I’ve opened my spreadsheet. I’ve got a food scale and I know how to use it. I have a calorie-counting Web site bookmarked.
The first 10 pounds will be easy, no sweat. After that, every week, I’ve plugged in exactly how much extra exercise I have to do, eating the same amount of calories, to keep the net caloric loss at the same level. And I’ve projected this all the way into January, when I should be where I want. Gradually I’ll add in more exercise as needed, so no big change that way, eat pretty much the same, and be happy and healthier.
And all this without stepping on a scale.
See, here’s the beauty of my plan (which you would be paying big bucks for somewhere else, trust me): According to my spreadsheet, and the laws of physics or mathematics or metabolism or something, my weight loss should be imminently calculable without once turning toward that stupid appliance on my bathroom floor. All I have to do is crunch the numbers and the software will tell me what I weigh. And I can tell you. Or my wife, or son, or strangers at the bus stop. Probably all three.
And just typing this, I’ve burned extra calories. Don’t you want to know how many? Me too. I’m going to look it up now. But I won’t blog about it.