NOTE: This blog is for (your) entertainment purposes only. If you are inspired to improve your diet and discuss what your obstacles are and how to address them, find a registered dietitian (RD) near you for an expert, personalized opinion that takes your personal health status and history into account.
After sixteen years of marriage, Chad and I have had discussions on almost every topic. But when it comes to nutrition, exercise and any other health topic, the number of talks have been in the hundreds. I am constantly throwing bits of “nutrition trivia” at him and taking him for long leisurely walks through the grocery store to read labels and scowl at the food marketing. Also, since he has struggled with his weight for most of his adult life, we have had many discussions (in varying degrees of loudness) about how we might change his lifestyle. I say “we” here because any spouse that has been with a partner who is trying to make a change, whether its trying to quit smoking, eat healthier or get into a healthy exercise habit, the spouse is part of that change. (And sometimes NOT for the better.) Because of my career, I am uniquely qualified to either help or frustrate him. It is a fine line to walk to be supportive, informative and encouraging without sometimes coming off as judgmental, disappointed or scolding. For Chad, he may feel like I am secretly adding up every forkful he eats and silently, but constantly, critiquing his every choice. Imagine being married to your therapist!
One of the common questions I get from people who have weight issues is “How much should I eat?” That is a brilliant question, because it gets to the heart of the problem, but for the same reason, its not an answer that will be quick, and definitely won’t be the same for everyone. Chad has mentioned that he has a “two calorie goal system.” This idea seemed like it might work for him for a couple reasons: we lead different lifestyles during the week versus the weekends, and though one number may be easy to stick to during the week, the weekend is more difficult, often involving traveling and restaurant-hopping, which we both enjoy! Also, he does have a history of abandoning his efforts after a day of not reaching his goal calories. So why set things up for failure when beginning a year-long project?
To determine his numbers, 2400 calories and 3300 calories, he consulted with his geeky RD-wife, who promptly pulled out her phone calculator and did a page full of calculations!
- I looked at his “current body weight,” his “adjusted body weight,” his “goal body weight,” and his “ideal body weight.”
- I calculated the calorie-range that would maintain each of these.
- I looked at how much he wanted to lose to reach his goal (~65#) and how long he had to do it.
- I included how often he would be working out, and how many calories he is estimated to burn each time.
- We also took reality into account: he does come from a tall, large-framed family, and to expect him to weigh less than any male in his family has ever weighed (less than 195#) is not realistic!
OK, enough geeky stuff. It was predicted that to maintain his “before” weight, or to slowly add weight, as he had been doing not so long ago, he would need to eat 4000-5000 calories. Then we sat down and discussed it. We laid out a plan to show what calorie content each meal and snack might be to be sure he could imagine spending a year (theoretically) on this plan. At the end of it all, we decided on numbers that would be above the “ideal body weight” calories but still on the lower end of what was estimated for his goal of a 40 BMI.
Despite the very stern-looking numbers on the page, there were two things to remember: 1. These are estimated amounts, no matter how we tried to count every last calorie, and 2. any decrease that results in more calories being burned than calories eaten will result in weight loss. What we are hoping to predict is how much is a workable amount, and allows steady weight loss without such crazy hunger that Chad cracks, eats poorly, and then gives up. As the year goes on, life will dictate what happens to those calorie goals: is he losing weight too fast or too slow? Is he working out the same amount, and at the same intensity? Will he need to add snacks or eliminate them, thus changing the size of his meals? Are the two goals set too far apart or too close together?
So how are we doing so far…?
After one week: Chad has lost 6.6 pounds in 9 days, that’s a little over 5# in one week. In most situations, I STRONGLY tell people to shoot for 1-2# per week, at the risk of starting too strong, then losing your will to keep going. However, knowing my “client” like I do, there are some factors at play here.
- First, he’s a guy, and darn it if guys just don’t lose a weight a bit easier than girls.
- He’s a BIG guy, so he loses more in a week than others have as their total goal; for him, its a smaller percentage of his total weight. (6.6# is 0.017% of his original body weight…oops, sorry, more data!)
- Water weight. For the last week, he has eaten much less processed food as well as exercised regularly. This can sometimes cause a extra bit of weight loss at the beginning of a diet, but it’s important to be aware of this, since it doesn’t continue for long and people often wonder why the weight isn’t coming off as quickly as at the start.
- He has been feeling appropriately hungry at mealtimes, without the desperate, starving feeling that comes with severe calorie restriction (and possible nutritional deficiencies.) He says he’s happy with how the calories are set right now, and that he feels fine.
- I know from his other weight loss attempts that he could lose MORE than this in a week, so I do take that into account because it speaks to how his body/metabolism responds to his weight loss efforts.
He had a good week of meals, with only having one small slip involving gas station food because of time and planning issues. He has not skipped a meal. His proportions of carbohydrates, fats and protein are good (more on that another day,) and he is eating more fruits and vegetables!
He has a good start on his exercise plan, which will hopefully become a habit, and even more enjoyable when he become less sore and starts seeing some physical results.
I am most curious to see how the weekly amount of weight loss changes and if, when, and how often the calorie goals need to change. There are many weeks ahead of us, and I would say he’s off to a great start!