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Phil Carville: Your weight loss program

Phil Carville | Fitness columnist

The holidays, with all the festivities and good food, are coming up. Delicious gravies and sauces, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie (ala mode), scrumptious alcoholic drinks (egg nogg is my favorite), the whole enchilada is on the menu for the next 50 days.

And come January, we will be making some New Year resolutions together because weight loss will be a priority. So, I thought we should examine sensible approaches to weight loss… the essence of which is ‘realistic’ expectations.

I say that because we are continuously bombarded by outrageously unrealistic expectations. While in the grocery line at SPD, I saw a magazine headline “Lose 10 pounds in 48 hours” … a totally ridiculous claim. The only way that I know you can do that is … to cut off your head (the average human head weighs 10 – 11 pounds).



So how does one get started on a realistic weight loss plan? I will cover those details in upcoming articles, but first we need to look the ‘foundation’ of your body’s metabolism.

There are two concepts that we must recognize when losing weight. The first is Harris-Benedict ‘Basal Metabolic Rate’ and the second is the ‘Calorie Equation’.



Basal Metabolic Rate

Your BMR is the number of calories required if you did nothing but lie in bed for 24 hours – the minimum amount of energy needed to keep your body functioning, including breathing, and keeping your heart beating. This is baseline to keep you alive.

Of course, it varies from person to person. The calculation combines age, body weight, several factors and then computes your unique BMR. The formula looks more complex than E=MC squared but isn’t really.

For example, a 65-year old man, 5’ 10” and weighing 225 pounds has a BMR of 2,013 calories/day. The same man, if he weighed 185 pounds, would have a BMR of 1,764 calories per day. Remember, this is lying in bed for 24 hours… not even getting up for a meal or going to the toilet.

When you get up, walk around, go to work, you need additional calories to function. Those are calculated by an “Activity Multiplier’ (AM). The sum of your BMR and AM are the number of calories which yields a healthy body weight. This is the long-term scenario we want to achieve in our daily lives.

The Calorie Equation

The reason we are overweight is that our Calorie Equation is out of balance. The equation is simple, but it bears repeating: ‘calories-in’ minus ‘calories-out’ = body weight. When we consume more calories than needed by our BMR and AM, we gain weight.

Because our AM often lessens as we age and we continue to eat the same amount, we gain weight. We conclude that our metabolism has slowed down, but that is not really the case. It is the result of our reduced AM – we are not as active as we once were.

Accountable Weight Loss

OK, now you have some basic concepts, but how do we effectively lose weight, avoid stupid starvation-diets, gain muscle mass, lose fat, become healthier and happier by embarking on a sensible weight loss plan.

The sensible plan is realistic, continuous, has a ‘method of progression’ and should be properly documented. By documented I mean a diary that tracks progress, exercise, diet and mental outlook. Multiple studies have shown that people who keep a diary are vastly more successful losing weight than those do don’t. It’s called ‘accountability’.

If weight loss were easy in our society, few people would be overweight. Unfortunately, because of our industrialized-processed foods with high-hidden sugar/fat content, and because of inactive lifestyles, our society is overweight… dangerously so. Add the confusion of ridiculous “10 pounds in 48 hours” magazine articles, celebrity fad-diets and medical industry pill-pushing, it’s no wonder that people fail to lose weight.

So, how do we develop that plan? Well, to put a whole plan together I will need to write additional articles in the next couple of months.

Today’s topics of BMR, AM and the Calorie Equation are concepts. We need to put them and all the other components of successful weight-loss articles. I am working on it. I hope the next few articles will inform and motive. Honesty, I am trying.

A modest first step is to follow Yogi Berra’s humorous approach to weight loss – “You better cut the pizza into four pieces because I am not hungry enough to eat six”.

Phil Carville is a co-owner of the South Yuba Club. He is happy to respond to comments or questions. He can be reached at philc@southyubaclub.com


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