Measure in Moderation

Confession: I’m a bit of a data junkie. I get excited when I get ahold of new gadgets to get more accurate measurements or be able to take more factors into account. I actually enjoy measuring all the different numbers and statistics related to my health and overanalyzing them to infinity and beyond.

One of the great things about numbers is they don’t lie. But they can be deceptive. The scale may lack accuracy or precision. You may weight yourself at different times of day with varying amounts of water weight.. The numbers may not take enough factors into account and be oversimplified (e.g. calories, BMI, weight). But numbers don’t make shit up like our magical thinking minds do. They don’t try to deceive you the way product labels and marketing does (be skeptical with their numbers). Numbers can help you snap out of a rut because they don’t lie and you can’t escape the truth (but never underestimate the power of creative explanations). Numbers are the red pill of healthy living when used with an understanding of their limitations, what they really represent and how they fit in to the big picture. It was stepping on the scale and seeing what I actually weighed that got me to flip the switch to really commit to becoming the best version of myself.

With all the gadgets, information, science and formulas it can be easy to trip yourself into an analytical pit of doom where you hyper analyze every meal, workout and everything in between. This can be a bit of a problem because it can eventually lead to obsessive tunnel-vision focus where you forget how to say “fuck it” and let go.

I think using scales, food logs, and health gadgets are great for getting started, getting yourself back on track or checking in with yourself. But I think it is important to not get too rigid or reliant. It is important to learn to eyeball a meal and just know it is the right amount for you.  I think one of the most important aspects of healthy living is to learn to listen to your body. I think focusing too much on numbers can distract you from your own body. I think sometimes people feel a sense of obligation to follow their schedule or hitting a number just for the sake of following it. But this becomes a problem when being attached to that number/ schedule/ goal results in ignoring the signals your body is giving you and defeating the purpose of why you are making those decisions in the first place.

What this comes down to is balance. Take advantage of math, science and technology. Objectifying yourself with measurements can be useful to help detach and give a better understanding of yourself and your habit. But they don’t tell the whole story. Measurements are just abstract representations of the real data. They don’t experience your body. Only you do and your body knows itself better than anything else. Success in healthy living more than just a number. 

Fun calculations to play with:

Calories

Body Fat Percentage (BF%)

Your Guide to Calories

CALORIES:  We talk about them constantly and for many of us it is the first thing we look at on a nutrition label. But how much do we actually know about calories? What are they?

Calorie: 1. Either of two units of heat energy. 2. The energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water through 1 °C (now usually defined as 4.1868 joules).

Technically 1 “food calorie” is actually 1 KCal as in 1,000 calories.

How many (kilo)calories do I burn?

The Harris-Benedict Equation for Basal Energy Expenditure (BEE) is commonly used to calculate energy requirements based on sex, height, weight and age.

W = weight in kilograms H = height in centimeters A = age in years

Men: BEE = 66.5 + 13.8(W) + 5.0(H) – 6.8(A)

Women: BEE = 655.1 + 9.6(W) + 1.9(H) – 4.7(A)

Your BEE is basically the amount of calories you would need if you were a couch potato and sat on your ass all day.  If you are a normal person, your BEE will need to be multiplied by a factor of 1.2-1.5 to account for extra calories burned during physical activity. A factor of 1.2 represents an average amount of activity, whereas 1.5 would be a very high amount of activity.

If doing math is too much effort, I recommend using this calculator:

How many should I eat?

To maintain weight you eat the same number of calories as you burn.

To gain weight you eat more than your body burns.

If you are trying to lose weight you eat less.

1 lb. of fat contains 3,500 calories. To lose 1 lb. per week you should have a daily deficit of around 500 calories. While body weight lost is not pure fat, this can still be used as a benchmark to approximate the caloric deficit needed to lose a certain amount of weight. This does not factor in fluctuations such as water weight. Keep in mind, your body becomes more resistant to caloric restrictions the leaner you become and you will need to be less restrictive than you would at a higher weight.

Calories from Energy Nutrients

Protein: 4 cal./ gram

Carbohydrates: 4 cal./ gram

Fat: 9 cal./ gram

Alcohol: 7 cal./gram.