Weighty Issues – Further Thoughts

Following on from my post about weight etc. at the end of last year (OK, less than a week ago) and the comments that came, I thought I’d add some more thoughts about it now we’re into 2009.

During my time off, I looked at Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR, not BMI), which is basically sufficient only for the functioning of the vital organs, but gives a rough idea of what calories the body burns just to keep going. And mine works out (on an admittedly rough working out, rather than the full-precision test) as being about 2,000 to 2,500 calories, depending on the equation used.

I don’t yet know what that means for me – if it’s anywhere even vaguely close to right, I assume it means that I should be taking on at least that amount of calories per day just to break even. I also assume that if my intake is less than that (and I’m pretty sure it’s significantly less than 2,500 per day) then my body thinks it’s starving, and thus stores everything as fat instead of using it or burning it up. That’s no surprise, it’s been put forward as an idea a couple of times over the years already.

The thing is though, that if I do attempt to eat more in accordance with things like BMR figures, and recommendations from gyms etc. I just put weight on. I know, it’s because the body still thinks it’s starving and is processing into fat for storage rather than actually using the damn calories, but it’s one of the most demoralising things around – I want to get fitter, not fatter. And no-one gives any idea of how long it’ll take for my body to get used to the idea of not being starved, and use the calories instead of store them. If it’s only a couple of weeks then fine – if it’s a couple of months or more, not so fine.

Later in the year, come spring-time, I might just get out on my bike again. That appeals a lot more than going running – although running does have a certain strange appeal, just not at my current weight – but well, we’ll see. I do want to get more use out of the bike (although there’s no fucking way I’m ever going to be cycling the 25 miles to/from the current job!) so we’ll see.

In the meantime, I’m working on going to the gym on a more regular basis. It’s currently not helped by the fact I’m still coughing up lumps of lung (or the contents thereof – I’m not doing analysis to find out which) which leaves me feeling like shit, but even getting back to the basic routine of gym attendance is probably a good thing in the long term, I guess.


9 Comments on “Weighty Issues – Further Thoughts”

  1. Z says:

    Maybe it’s what you eat as well as how much. I have to eat a low-fat diet to lose weight. I think you said you’re mostly vegetarian – veggie food can contain an awful lot of fat, with that healthy olive oil, cheese and nuts.

    I’ve never understood those charts that say how many calories one ‘should’ need either, as I need way less than what they say.

  2. Lyle says:

    Yeah, the diet’s not too bad actually – we do eat more cheese than we perhaps should, but for the most part we’re pretty good on keeping it low-oil, low-fat etc.

    I’m sure there’s room for improvement (isn’t there always, unless you’re a Cistercian monk or something?) but I know that we’re pretty good in general.

    Usually a diet-diary results in dietician/nutritionist/gym-person saying “Hmm, well I can’t see anything there that explains it” or somesich.

  3. Andy says:

    I just ate less and exercised. I never bothered with BMR and used BMI as a goal, both of them are like astrological stars ……. full of crap and open to interpretation. You share a lot of the problems I had and in some cases still have. Running, I can now run though I think I have damaged my knees over time and I get incredible pain, still doesn’t stop me attempting to run down the canal towpath faster than the mad bint spaniel thats haring after me.

    I would suggest swimming would be much easier on your joints for the first bit, not only that but you could do a water based exercise class, possibly at a local gym, now that would give you a work out without loading up your joints.

    I know you will come up with the same reasons as me not to (but I hope you do go), I was a fat fucker and would never take my top off, let alone jump in a pool. I still don’t but that’s cos I can’t be bothered and before I didn’t know anyone round here to go with ……. that’s a confidence thing on my part though.

    The basics and understanding of food and biology aren’t too difficult to grasp. Lower your carbs, reduce your fat intake too. Carbs: unused carbs turn into a trans fat called glycogen in the liver, if unused this turns into body fat. It takes years for the fat cells to disappear but they do eventually and then you don’t put weight on as easily. Avoid fruit juices, full of natural sugars and concentrated to hell, they are lethal. Bananas are another one to watch, rammed with carbs.

    Lyle, if you do get hungry, try things like toasted brown pitta breads cut up into strips with a dollop of houmous or even celery/carrot. They got me through the day when I was losing weight fast and surprisingly I enjoyed them. I used to make my own dressings for salads and suchlike to liven up my lunch too. Brown rice is very good for you, slightlylower in carbs but full of fibre too. I also made my own bread, granary type or even loaded with rye thus lowering the gluten content.

    Balance is good, enjoy your food but don’t over eat and don’t starve.

    The above are things that worked for me, I tried things and waited to see what the consequences were. I don’t doubt some of them might not work for you but if you enter into the open minded spirit of things then you will see what I was doing.

  4. Tom says:

    I’m sorry Andy but I can’t let this pass: your comment is misleading, inaccurate and contradictory. You can’t say “don’t eat bananas because they’ve got carbohydrates in” followed in the next sentence by “eat bread and rice”. If you say “don’t eat bananas” then you might as well add “…or apples, melons, pineapples or pears” too. They contain simple carbs (mostly sugars) which get broken down easily – unlike rice, bread, potatoes etc. which are more complex, starchy carbs that need to get broken down to sugars (glucose) before getting further broken down to glycogen and stored in the liver and muscles.

    And glycogen? Most definitely NOT a trans-fat – it’s another form of carbohydrate. Wherever you got that information was wrong. Glycogen is glucose that has not been used by the cells straight away and is stored for quick release energy expenditure. It is the primary store of energy for the body. As the body can only hold a limited amount of it (~350g worth which would sustain most people for about 1-2 hours exercise before being depleted), surplus amounts of glucose are converted to fat and stored for energy later on.

    Also brown and white rice have about the same amount of carbohydrates per 100g. Brown/wholemeal does contain more fibre though.

    Lowering your carbs is not necessarily the right thing to do. Three major food components, as we all know, are carbs, fat and protein. Obviously fat intake is something we want to lower. Eating huge amounts of protein is unproductive as the body can only process a finite amount (and research suggests that eating too much protein can put unnecessary strain on the liver and organs as they have more work to do in breaking it down) which leaves carbohydrates as the main bulk of food intake. If you cut down on carbs (which is easy to advise) what do you suggest you replace it with?

  5. Blue Witch says:

    See, you can’t win! It’s how long the Acceptance Phase takes that differs between individuals 😉

  6. Andy says:

    Tom, thanks for the input. My advice was built up from years of doing the wrong thing and from education and also from my other half (a doctor of biology) and my best mate (also a doctor of biology and a lecturer). Whilst I accept some of what you said I think more than anything it was the way I put it across that maybe led you down the rant road. I lost over four stones (nearly five now) watching and learning about diet. I also cut out and moderated using advice from many sources, including my GP and a friend who used to be a distance runner for England. I’ve kept my weight off (for 18 months) which is proof that using simple knowledge or uncomplicated methods – and not going to anal depths or becoming obsessed with diets like some – works. I also have a list passed to me by my GP of foods to avoid and foods to eat in moderation …… that’s where the banana comment came from. I cut down a lot of my carbs from pasta, added sugars, those kinds of foods and instead switched to a vegetable/salad based diet (surprisingly little fruit mainly cos there’s little I like there) using very little processed foods. People assume that bananas are something you can eat as much of as you like – maybe I should have qualified that statement a bit more – I watch people eating two or three of them a day in one case as many as six (and he’d just had a heart attack).

    There is nothing wrong with bread as long as it is like I said, granary in content (this advice came from my GP) he mentioned it when I told him I bake my own from scratch – granary/rye breads are pretty low in carbs compared to others. Also that’s a moderation issue, a small tin loaf of granary home baked would take me over a week to eat if not more. Brown rice was a key component to my diet, I may have been misinformed but I’ve been told by many people there are less calories from carbohydrate in brown compared to white.

    The glycogen comment is something I took from my education, ok maybe not scientifically correct but I was always taught that it is a half way stage to fat (trans as in it’s on it’s way to being), I believe that still to be correct. I know that Jim my friend wrote a dissertation or paper on that subject and I got a lot of my info from him, he also taught me which way to load your diet so that you go to bed with the glycogen store almost depleted.

    Glad you felt able to correct or point out what you thought wasn’t right, disappointed you didn’t suggest or help Lyle. That’s what I was trying to do.

  7. Tom says:

    Andy, I’m glad you didn’t take my comment to heart and glad you responded.

    I am surprised that your GP gave you a list of foods to avoid that included bananas – although that might depend on what else was on the list and the reason for it being on the list. I’m suprised but not necessarily shocked because I’ve learnt that GPs aren’t always right. This came after a GP told me I needed to lose weight because my BMI was above the normal limit. I pointed out that I only had 12% body fat and I did a lot of exercise. He replied it didn’t matter because my BMI was over the normal limit. Needless to say I sacked him.

    My advice to you would be to find out yourself about what’s in food. People telling you that, for example, white rice has more carbohydrate content than brown rice is just wrong and this can be verified by looking at the back of a packet next time your in the shops. On the other hand, check several packets because the content between brands can vary too. (Cous-cous always bemused me – one brand would have about ~70g carbs per 100g, another would have ~80g per 100g).

    The bananas thing though? Wow! If you do have the explicit reasoning for that, I would be interested in knowing.

    The thing is, at the moment I’m just another “know-it-all” on the internet where everybody is an expert. While I don’t currently have any qualifications, what I’ve learnt about nutrition and exercise comes from the best part of 20 years worth of (formerly high-level) sport which has included national and international competition, training athletes (including one who competed in the Commonwealth games) and, over the last few years doing a lot of distance running – particularly adventure racing, mountain marathons and, with luck, soon to be moving into ultramarathons.

    For that last lot, nutrition is extremely important because of the nature of the endurance events (on a mountain marathon, you have to carry two days worth of food with you so to get the best return on what you’re carrying, you look for carbohydrate rich food – hence the cous cous comment. The aim is to get as near as dammit 400kcal out of every 100g of food you carry which would be pure carbohydrate. All of it’s for energy – you take soemthing like jelly babies -or fruit but they’re not so weight efficient – because they are quick release energy being mostly all sugar and then more complex pasta/noodles/couscous for slow release energy and to replace depleted glycogen/energy stores for the next days running. But I digress.)

    Concerning glycogen. It’s chemical formula is C6 H10 05. It’s a carbohydrate in polysaccharide form. It’s absolutely definitely not a half way house to being converted to fat. It gets metabolised back into glucose as and when needed by the body. As I think I mentioned, it’s the surplus glucose that doesn’t get polymerized into glycogen that gets converted into fat for long term energy storage. However, I’m sure your other half can explain in far more detail than I can.

    As for not helping or suggesting anything to help Lyle, sorry to disappoint you but in actual fact, there have been emails abound between Lyle and I about this topic.

  8. Tom says:

    Oh, one more thing (I promise!), some nutritional data:

    Hovis Soft White Medium Bread (per 100g)
    Energy: 234 kcal
    Carbs: 44.6g
    Fibre: 2.4g

    Hovis Original Granary Bread (per 100g)
    Energy: 248kcal
    Carbs: 46.4g
    Fibre: 3.7g

    Myth busted? Of course, maybe different if you bake your own but the point is to check these things for yourself rather than just assuming what someone told you is correct – even if it is your GP. (And apologies for linking to the devilsite but it was the most immediate resource I had to hand).

  9. […] because I know I’ve been exactly the same. A recent example is over at Lyle’s blog when he discussed his thoughts on his plans for dieting and weight loss. One of his readers, Andy, offered some helpful advice from his own experience in losing weight […]


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