Week Two: The Plan

Now that we’re into the second week, we should set up some sort of framework for the next seven days? Right? Come on, whose with me? Baahhh, to hell with you Stanley. On with the planning!

Sekrit Plan - Week 2

Fitness Benchmarks

Wii Sports and Wii Fit both assign you an “age” that is meant to represent your overall health, lower being better. Unfortunately, they’re both pretty useless as a fitness index. Wii Sports is really just measuring how good you are at specific mini games, and Wii Fit is just an assesment of your balance. Both may have some relationship to fitness, but it’s a pretty tenuous one.

For that reason, I’ve added fitness benchmarks to my weekly measurement tracking. These are pretty straightforward. I’ll see how many push ups, crunches, squats, and chin ups I can do before reaching a failure point. Presumably as strength improves and weight from fat drops these numbers should go up. Maybe not substantially, but there should be an upward trend over time.

To get a snapshot of cardio fitness I’ll be tracking resting heart rate. If I understand heart rate correctly, this should go down as fitness improves.

I’ll also be using calipers to measure body fat percentage, along with various other measurements around my body. Some measurements should go down, like belly fat, others should go up or stay the same.

Wii Sports

Each day I’ll be doing the Wii Sports Fitness test which chooses three activities from the Wii Sports mini games. I’ll also play 12 – 15 minutes of one of the more vigorous games – Tennis, Boxing, or Baseball.

Wii Fit

Each day I’ll continue doing the Wii Fit body test and recording the results. In addition I’ll be doing 15 – 45 minutes of exercise using various Wii Fit activities.

EA Sports Active

I will occasionally add EA Sports Active exercises into the mix to get a feel for which ones I enjoy and find effective. I will not be kicking off a structured 30 day challenge just yet. I may in the coming weeks, but I would like to avoid setting up a regimented plan centered around this software at the moment

Punch Out

I will also occasionaly add Punch Out with motion controls and the balance board to the mix. So far I have been playing Punch Out with the traditional NES style control, so it will be interesting to see if playing with motion control is still fun, and if it provides any kind of workout.

Simple Calorie Counting Made Complicated

With all the complicated diet plans and confusing hoopla out there, you’d think that weight gain and weight loss were mysterious forces beyond human comprehension. It turns out that it’s actually kind of simple.

Miss Hannigan knew that bathtub gin was surprisingly low in calories

Miss Hannigan knew that bathtub gin was surprisingly low in calories

Food is full of calories. Some calories come from fat, some come from sugar, some come from protein, but in the end they’re all used for energy. When your body takes in energy it’s only got two basic choices. It can burn it up for fuel, or store it for later as fat. So the equation is pretty simple – if you take in more energy than you burn up, you’ll pack on fat. If you burn up more energy than you take in, you’ll lose fat.

When you start down the rat hole of weight loss advice, it’s easy to lose sight of the simple truth behind all of it: If you want to lose fat you need to burn more calories than you eat.

So with that in mind, I went online to find out how many calories I actually need to eat in a day. If you google around for daily caloric needs, you’ll find a lot of different options. The sites all seem to use slightly different formulas to arrive at your daily calorie needs, but they all tend to arrive in the same general ballpark. Most of the calculators use your gender, age, height, and current weight to come up with a basal metabolic rate. This is the basic rate that an average person like you would burn up calories if you were at rest all day. Most of the calculators will also ask for your activity level. Active people need to take in more calories than sedentary people.

After getting about 10 results the average for me – assuming a sedentary lifestyle -  is:

2256.43 Calories Per Day

That’s the number of calories I would need to take in to maintain my current weight, provided I’m not burning many calories from exercise.

A bit more investigation turned up this interesting tidbit:

3,500 Calories = 1 lb. of Fat

That means in order to lose a pound of fat in a week, you would need to burn or cut out 500 calories per day either through diet or exercise. On the flip side, eating an extra 500 calories per day would pack on a pound of fat in a week’s time. I find this really helpful to know, since 500 is a pretty easy number to keep in your head when making food choices.

So what does this mean for the Miniimize Me project? Well, my high weight at the start was 177.5 lbs. My goal weight is 149.58. And I’ve got about 83 days left. Let’s see what that works out to…

High Weight of: 177.7 pounds (minus)
Goal Weight of: 149.58 pounds (equals)
28.12 pounds left to lose – which is the same as (times 3,500)
98,420 Calories of fat to be lost over (divided by)
83 days remaining (equals)
1,185.78 Calories Per Day or (times 7)
8,300.48 Calories Per Week which is (divided by 3,500)

I need to lose about 2.37 Pounds Per Week

From what I’ve read so far, 2.37 pounds per week is a little high. Most sites recommend losing one to two pounds per week. If you take the calorie deficit that I’d need to run per day (1,177.35) and subtract it from the number of calories that I need to maintain my basic metabolic rate (2256.43) you end up with the low low figure of 1,079.08 calories per day. That seems low enough that it could trigger a starvation response and actually make weight loss more difficult.

Instead of shooting for 1,079 total calories per day, I’m going to shoot for around 1500 calories combined with exercise and see how things are trending. After a couple of weeks if it looks like I’m not going to be able to reach my goal at that pace I may have to consider cutting back on calories while still getting enough nutrition to support exercising.

Obviously there’s more to the story of weight loss and weight gain, nutrition, and health, than a simple equation between calories in and calories out. But I think that sometimes when you’re neck-deep in contradictory and conflicting information about weight loss, nutrition, and health it’s useful to step back to the basics and see that you are what you eat.

(If you’d like to see some of the concepts in this post illustrated with stick figures – and explained a bit more clearly – check out this site)

Week One: Knowing the Unknowable

The first week of the project is well underway. You may be wondering what’s on the fitness agenda? Will it be Wii Fit? EA Sports Active? Keeping it real with Wii Sports? Actually, none of the above. Instead, it’s about getting in touch with one of Bill and Ted’s most righteous companions.

The path of self knowledge is the only way to avoid self abuse

Socrates Sez: The path of self knowledge is the only way to avoid self abuse

The goal of this week is not to modify my behavior at all. Instead, I will be going about an ordinary week, and keeping track of my exercise, what I eat, how much I weigh, and so on in a handy dandy google doc – which, by the way, is available for you to check out at any time you’d like.

At the end of the week I’ll be looking over the data to see if I can identify any unhealthy patterns that look like prime culprits in my fattitude. I suspect to find more than a few nasty habits that are clearly in need of change. Those will be the first things to work on.

Once I’ve corrected the big nasties, I think success will be a matter of discipline and regular tweaks along the way.

So, this week isn’t going to be super exciting. And it’s not going to involve a lot of Wii gaming. Instead, it’s about making myself more scrutable. Like the oh so scrutable Sulu.

Goali-O! The Search for a Reasonable Target Weight

Wowzers. There sure are a lot of different ways to calculate what your “ideal” weight should be. Using the magic of (pseudo-)science, I believe I’ve divined my number. How have I arrived at so auspicious a figure? I will gladly tell you this thing.

The Excel oracle has revealed unto me a target weight accurate to several million decimal places. But I only need two, really. Thanks though.

The Excel oracle has revealed unto me a target weight accurate to several million decimal places. But I only really need two of them. Thanks though.

The Battle of the Bulges

First, I looked at height to weight charts for the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. I figured that they must have a lot of data to work off of. And, they have an interest in keeping people healthy. You’d think their statistics should probably be pretty accurate. Of course, this data pertains to men who train a lot and need are prepared to jump out of airplanes or skin crocodiles at a moment’s notice. So me – with my waggle wand, eating cereal in my underpants; I’m not exactly part of that sample group.

Actuary Ghouls

Moving right along, we find that life insurance companies also have a lot of data on weight and how it correlates to mortality. Unlike the army, the life insurance companies don’t really have a huge interest in keeping their wards healthy. But they do have a very strong interest in predicting exactly when you’re going to die. Morbid! This suggests that their data would be pretty strong. I have read that the insurance sample is based largely on white guys of average height, and therefore may not be accurate for everyone. As it turns out, I’m an average white guy. So it’ll be okay for me. Score (another) one for homogeneity.

Who Cries for BMI?

Next I turned to BMI. Poor BMI. Everyone seems to have a bone to pick with it. It tries to be a one-size-fits-all index. But because of this, there are a lot of exceptions. BMI just wants to be loved. Is that so hard to understand? Somehow I found shelter in my heart for this much maligned index, and together we discovered a decent weight range. The criticisms of BMI have to do with the fact that it will return inaccurate results for body builders, children, and may not work well for some ethnicities. It doesn’t take into account the balance of unhealthy fat to healthy muscle, age, or even gender. But as a general guideline for an average white guy, it seems like another good data point.

Calculators, Formulators, and Prognosticators

The next step was to just ask the internet for an easy answer. There are a lot of “ideal weight calculators” out there. Many of them use tables from the data above to generate an ideal weight based on height, age, gender, and frame size. Others use formulas developed by doctors over the years. And then there are some that are just black boxes with no indication of their formula. For all I know they could have been plucking numbers from a bingo tumbler. Regardless of their methods, most of the calculators fell in the same general range, so I guess they must follow some sensible set of guidelines.

Arriving at THE NUMBER

Once I had the data set above, I did a small amount of sifting. For the data that was based on body frame size, I adjusted it so that the recommendations would fall somewhere between small and medium. It turns out my wrists are really skinny, but my elbows are kind of medium. Since those are the two places where you are supposed to check for frame size, I figured I’d split the difference. Next, for each weight that was given as a range I took the average. Then I took all the “ideal weight” results, averaged those out, and did the same with ranges. I averaged those two numbers together, and viola! 149.58.

Okay, so it’s not rocket science. In fact, I’m sure that just averaging everything into a grey mush without any sort of weighting isn’t a very statistically sound way to arrive at a goal weight. But I figured that at the very least an average would knock off the highs and lows and give me something reasonable if not – as many of the calculators claim – ideal.

So I won’t be calling this my Ideal Weight. This is my “Reasonable Target Weight“. Not super sexy, I know, but then neither is a really long post about data gathering and Excel. Oh… crap.

If you’re trying to lose weight, have lost weight, or you’re a creepy voyeur who likes to watch people lose weight tell me this – how did you set your goal weight?

P.S. You can (Download the spreadsheet) with most of the information I gathered if you want.