Counting the Days, Always

Here’s a mini-rant, although given the state of the world it’s not really in my top one-thousand, I’m guessing. It’s more something that makes me mildly exasperated, and usually with people I care about.

And it should be noted that there are any number of exasperating things I must do. Possibly writing this blog, today. Feel free to leave at any time, no hard feelings.

This particular exasperation has to do with Facebook, which has its own share of these. A person I know will post a link to an article (the vast majority – I’m forgetting the exact percentage – of news stories on Facebook are shared without being read, so right away we have some bad internet hygiene in terms of contributing to the problem) and then say, “Just posting so I’ll remember to come back to this,” or something similar.

I roll my eyes because, good grief, people. No clue about bookmarks? Or how to save to a reading list, or one of the many apps that make this simple?

I don’t know why this bothers me. Part of my Facebook issue, I guess. Easy enough to fix. My Facebook time is now down to a few minutes, a few times a day.

But then. I can’t swear that I write here or elsewhere with absolutely no thought about it serving as sort of a bookmark. I don’t have a conscious intent, but intent is a curious thing. Sometimes best understood backwards.

So this may be one of those.

***

I was sick in November, right after returning from a trip to Austin. A couple of days home and then wham, viral illness with a fever above 101 and some other unpleasantness for about 24 hours, then the bronchitis and bad cough that lasted long enough for me to seek medical attention.

And then again in January, after my trip to Arizona (granted, planes are flying incubators for microbes). No fever but more bronchitis, slow to resolve but it did.

And now I feel fine. I walked up to the grocery store yesterday in the middle of a mild windstorm (mild in my neighborhood, anyway; just breezy) and back, about 3-1/2 miles, and no problems. Ordinarily I try to avoid walking in big winds, just because it feels dangerous with branches flying and trees looking a little unstable, and we’ve got some big trees up here. I needed to pick up a prescription for my son, though, and some food, being without a car all day and night.

The prescription was important but could have waited. The food was more crucial.

So here’s my bookmark, for Future Chuck: Since January, I’ve averaged around 1600 calories a day. Some days are much more. Some are pretty light. Just an average. And since my Fitbit gives me what seems to be reasonable figure on exactly how many calories I burn each day, based on movement and mostly my weight (60-70% of the calories we burn – the energy we expend, to make it easier for you calorie-averse people – are just keeping us alive), I can easily look at the difference between the two. Particularly since I write it down.

And Fitbit tells me that number is pretty consistent, sometimes ranging up to 2400 calories and occasionally down to 1900, but mostly hanging around 2100. That’s without a lot of exercise, with the sickness and all, but some.

If I were neutral, just looking at those numbers, I’d expect a weight loss of around a pound a week. This isn’t something I’m real interested in happening, although it’s not dangerous. I’d just not like to keep this pattern.

And so it seems I’ve lost 5-6 pounds, although the scale is all over the place, having loaded up on food these past few days, bad news for my stomach but at least an attempt to correct. Heavy food sits in the stomach for a while, and messes with the numbers. Yesterday I weighed 172. Today I weighed 174, after several days of indulgence.

But based on my calorie intake and output, I’m really about 166. That’s a strange way to look at things, I know, but I’ve been doing this for a long time, amping it up last year when I trouble with my appetite. I can’t afford to be ignorant about what I’m doing.

And I know from experience that the scale will adjust. If I eat just a normal amount of food for a guy my weight, based on my caloric output, and don’t eat after 6 or 7pm, say, the scale will drop down to where that statistical number resides. It sounds crazy but trust me. Been down this road.

I’ve been doing this nearly 10 years, by the way. I have spreadsheets going back to 2007, when I crested at 273. I’m pretty confident in the numbers, but they’re just numbers. Only when they mean something; that is, when they match up with the way my clothes fit or I feel, or a comment is made.

People are a little leery about making comments, mostly because they know I’ve had some struggles with this. My wife is not leery at all. I came into the kitchen today and she rubbed my back, and asked me if I’d been eating enough. Thought I was getting a little thin again.

So there you go. I feel confident in all of this. I just need to keep an eye on it. Pizza and ice cream help. Not the best nutritional diet of all time, but lots of calories and calories are what I need.

***

The reason this just feels like a bookmark is because most people aren’t interested. Although some of you might be better off being interested.

I firmly believe that social media has dulled our cognitive abilities, or at least our common sense. Answers seem obvious to certain people, who are not shy about pointing out their subjective sense.

So let me put it this way, once again: I’ve been doing this for 10 years. It’s not hard. I’ve got apps, I’ve got a scale, it’s easy to keep track of calories and ignore food (that is, I don’t log food, just calories). I try to get on the scale once a day, although I usually miss a day once a week or so and then I just approximate, based on what I ate.

In other words, faced with a problem that I wanted to solve, I decided on data, and data, in my case at least, worked. Over that decade, I’ve been up a bit and down some more, but I’ve never gotten within 70 pounds of my highest weight. It’s just something it’s headed up over the holidays, and needed some extra attention come January.

But it’s been a few years since that happened. I’ve been pretty consistent, occasionally adding some spinach-berry smoothies to get some nutrients, or as much as I can given the smooshing together. If you went out to dinner with me, you’d see me eat a regular amount of food, maybe something special for dessert. I don’t look like a picky eater, although that may be all the food I ate that day, other than a few snacks. I have some appetite problems.

Even with all the noise out there, the different diets and different theories, most designed to make losing weight as easy as possible, depending a lot on the psychology of the person in need. Everybody thinks they have the answer.

Biology is not crowdsourced, though. I’m just one guy. Still, it’s been 10 years.

And after 10 years, I think I could help. Maybe. I have these spreadsheets and everything.

The variables are problematic, but in general they seem to work, and it’s a pretty simple philosophy: No matter what the charts or statistics or apps tell you, logging is the easiest and I suspect easiest way to make this work. Eat “X” amount of food. Burn “Y” amount of calories, settling on some formula and being consistent.

Let’s say I eat 1500 calories one day. Fitbit conveniently suggests that I burned 2100 calories. The equation is simple: Y-X=D, with Y calories out, X calories in, and D representing the calories deficit.

That is, 2100-1500=500 calories deficit. Since we generally equate 3500 calories with a pound (it’s the caloric equivalent of a pound of fat), we simply multiple 500 X 7 (days of the week) and we get, surprise, 3500.

And that’s it. I’ve lost 5 pounds in the past few weeks, despite what my scale currently says (ate a LOT of food, fairly late at night). I could eat 1600 calories, spread out over the day, and in three days my scale will say 166. Or 165. Don’t want to do this.

And that’s probably enough. No fancy here, no special fat-burning foods or exotic diets. I eat all sorts of things, some of them fried and some of them loaded with creamy calories. Just, maybe, not enough.

I’m not sure how to fix this. And I’m fine; that range between 166 and 172 it right in my wheelhouse, in terms of clothes and comfort. I just need to keep it there.

And maybe in a year I’ll look back on this post, and I’ll remember. Eternal vigilance.

And I’m willing to share my ideas. But I won’t offer. If you’re interested, let me know. Otherwise, you’ve probably already moved on. I don’t blame you and I wish you well. I’m just one guy.

But I weight well over 100 pounds less than I did a decade ago, and even the minor ups and downs show a remarkable consistency. Maybe I’m on to something. Maybe my wife worries too much, but I know of what she speaks. I can weigh whatever I want to weigh. If you haven’t stopped reading already, I’m thinking you can, too. Get familiar with spreadsheets, though. Trust the numbers. Figure out when you gain based on what you eat, tweak your spreadsheet, and carry on. Information is everything, awareness is everything, and cookies should be baked and given away. That may be the most important.

And now I have my book mark. Exasperate away.

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