Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The fat of the matter

If WS says finish-line momentum exists, then I believe it. Thanks for your comment and encouragement.

I'm assuming, because y'all are such good little weight-loss bloggers, that you at least get the weekly e-mail about Sally Squires' "Lean Plate Club" in the Washington Post, whether you read the column or not. Yesterday's piece linked to a new calculator at the American Heart Association website designed to tell you how many calories you should be eating and how many of them should come from fat.

I think we've all learned that fat is not the Big Bad Wolf of Dieting. Rather, we need some fat in our diets for vitamin absorption, satiety and energy, to help keep our skin supple and for warmth. At least that's why I need it. I lost a good deal of weight 10 years ago on a very low-fat diet. My skin was dry, flaky and itchy, and I was cold and hungry all the time. I had plenty of energy for my job and the gym, but slept a lot when I wasn't working or working out.

This time around I'm not so strict about limiting fat, but I am choosy. I use heart-healthy olive oil wherever possible, and I love the flavor of sesame oil added to sautéed vegetables or rice. I still like butter instead of margarine, but I save it for fresh-from-the-oven bread – a rare occurrence. [Really, there's no substitute.]

So I popped over to the calculator to see how I'm doing. According to John Bingham, the ratio of carbs/fat/protein for race training should be 50/30/20, and I try to follow those guidelines. I recorded my age, gender, height, a goal weight of 135, and chose the "active" activity level. Here are the AHA recommendations:
First, the 2120 calories will never happen, not unless I suddenly develop one of those wasting diseases where I have to drink milkshakes every hour on the hour. [Would that not be the most ironic way to go for someone who's had a weight "issue" since the age of 12?] And second, they actually allow trans fats? I guess 20 calories' worth isn't a whole lot, but why bother, knowing what we know about trans fats?

When I plug in my current weight, the daily caloric level rises to 2390. First, I would gain a lot of weight eating that much. But if I subtracted 750 calories from that total – reducing the weekly total by 5,250 to create enough of a deficit to lose 1.5 pounds per week – the number is 1,640. Not too far off the mark for the average dieter.

Of course by now you know I'm not at all average.

So I'll just muddle along as I have been, taking comfort in two things:
  • I'm not gaining weight.
  • My heart is in great shape.
Seventeen days until race day.


PastaQueen said...

I've tried calculators like that before and they always seem hinky to me. At my current weight and at an "active" level I'm supposed to be eating 2870 calories a day. At a "low activity" it comes to 2650. Now, I don't track my calories, but I have done estimates on what I typically eat in a day and it's usually around 1700 or 1800, and rarely ever over 2000. Which means I should be losing about 2 pounds a week, which *so* ain't happening. Lately I've been averaging about a pound a week and maybe even a little less than that. I'm at work and don't have my charts in front of me, so I can't check.

So either my calorie calculations are way off, which is possible, or weight loss is not as simple as counting calories. You can feed your body as many calories as you want, but ultimately it gets to decide what it does with those calories and I suspect this is not the same for all people. Some bodies pinch every penny out of each calorie and others blow through them like a spending spree on Rodeo Drive. At least that's my opinion, not backed up by any fancy scientific study or research.

Shauna said...

Now that is very interesting. Could this get any more confusing!? I have been struggling to figure out how much to eat for the amount of activity I'm doing, while still wanting to lose some more pounds. And I have been paying close attention to yourself, Marla and Lainey pondering the same thing.

I totally agree with what Marla said the other day, "I'm not going to eat 1000 or 1200 calories a day. I'd rather be fat." Yet I can't bloody figure out how to make it work consistently. According to my calorie thingy, I should be able to eat 2100 cals a day and maintain my weight, and that doesn't take into account my exercise. With a couple of hot x buns last week, I averaged about 1700 and the scales were up two pounds.

So who knows!? Numbers! Bah!

I think your last two points are so true. Just gotta keep muddling along. You are kicking arse with this half marathon training and your heart will no doubt be thanking you :)

ws said...

I'm certainly not a very good weight-loss blogger. I could pretend to be a "fat-loss" blogger at least for the next few weeks. And then, apparently I'll be pretty much done. As much as I'd like to say I weigh less than I do, I can't imagine dropping below 15% bodyfat and still being healthy.

And, a few weeks back you had questioned whether or not the half-marathon would be run in the rain, chances are it will be. If it is raining at the start, and you have supporters at the race, ask them to bring dry socks and sneakers for you to grab along the route. I know it takes some time to change socks/shoes, but in my opinion, it will save you quite a bit of discomfort. (If only I had known this before I ran a marathon in wet socks and sneakers).