quantified-dietThe holidays are almost upon us and soon people will start to gorge on food. Then they’ll start a new years resolution to try and lose all that excess weight…it’s a vicious cycle and I’ve been there. For the past 2 months I’ve been running an experiment that is strictly based on numbers – I’ve been tracking EVERYTHING that that goes into my body (food) or gets burned (exercise). This experiment is part of a bigger movement called the quantified self – which is using technology to track all the various numbers and bring some science to the idea of losing weight.

Step 1: The first thing I had to figure out is how much I weigh and how overweight I was. The standard that most clinicians use is the body mass index (BMI) or Quetelet index, which is a measure of my mass and height. You can use this calculator to find your BMI. Now you have your BMI number and number of pounds/kilos you are overweight by. (My BMI was 26.6, which puts me in the overweight category)

Step 2: Next, I needed to figure out how many calories my body typically needs which is known as the basal metabolic rate (BMR). This calculator can help (another one – calorie intake and BMI). I’ve found that the online calculators have a wide variance, so you’ll have to average it out or just pick one and go with it. (My calorie consumption is around 2,400 per day).

Step 3:  Figure out your target BMI. People will take drugs to lower their cholesterol number so they can be in the healthy range but for some reason people just don’t care about the BMI. For me it was not only about losing weight but also getting into the healthy range of the BMI index. I decided to shoot for 23.5. That works out to about 173 lbs. which means I have a goal to shed 23 lbs.

Step 4: How many pounds do you want to lose per week? It’s easy to say I want to lose a pound a week but when you look at it mathematically it’s not so easy. As a rule of thumb, 1 pound of fat equals 3,500 calories. So to lose 1 pound you would need to cut 500 calories per day either from your diet or increase your exercise. For me to lose 1 pound a week, I needed cut my calories to around 2,200 and also ran 20 minutes a day…everyday.

Step 5: Track your calories and exercise. For calories I used the MyFitnessPal app, it’s got a massive database of food that you can select from to track your calories consumed. Since I run, I used the Nike+ running app and then would add the calories burned into MyFitnessPal.

Implementing the above system, I was very surprised of the preliminary results. I was able to drop about 15 lbs. in 10 weeks which is more than I expected. As always, your mileage will vary and the real test will be for me to sustain this level of heightened awareness and determination in the long run.

Also, I would suggest reading Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss. It’s eye opening to see how the food we eat is actually created by big companies.

[November 10, 2014 – 3 month update]

  • Started at 89 kg (195.8 lbs.)
  • Now at 80.9 kg (177.98 lbs.)
  • Shed 8.1 kg (17.82 lbs.)
  • 1 sugar packet = 1 suger cube = 4 grams of sugar = 16 calories (a 20 oz bottle of Coke has 65 grams of sugar or about 16 sugar packets)
  • Ran 20 minutes a day (87 out of 90 days)
  • I’ve come to realize 80% of the weight loss was from reducing my calorie intake and the other 20% was from physical activity

[December 10, 2014 – 4 month update]

  • Now at 79.0 kg (173.8 lbs.)
  • Shed 10.0 kg (22.0 lbs.)
  • Ran 20 minutes a day (118 out of 122 days)
  • portion control, portion control, portion control…did I mention portion control?

[March 10, 2015 – 7 month update]

  • Now at 78.0 kg (171.6 lbs.)
  • Shed 11.0 kg (24.2 lbs.)

[May 12, 2015 – 9 month update]

  • Now at 77.2 kg (169.8 lbs.)
  • Shed 11.8 kg (26 lbs.)

UPDATEMy 1 year update and some thoughts about the process.