Managing the "m" in Your 1/2*m*v^2

I recently finished a 12-week "Weigh Down" program sponsored by my employer's health clinic.  Thanks to the professionals in the program, I had some success losing weight.  Many people noticed the change in my body shape and asked how it happened.  My "physics answer" is, "I adjusted the "m" in my 1/2mv^2."  Although it's not a technically accurate answer, it does illustrate the "energy balance" aspect of the program.  To be more accurate, here are the basics of my moderate, and hopefully long-lived, weight loss:

Overview: The basic idea is to balance your energy (1/2mv^2) input (calories) with output (activity).  If you have more output than input, you loose weight.  Set a daily caloric intake to reduce weight, then monitor everything that you eat so that you know your caloric intake.  You should also monitor your caloric "output," or exercise.  The approach is holistic, meaning that you change your entire lifestyle, especially behavior regarding nutrition, exercise, and frame of mind.  Of course, this plan assumes you are nominally healthy to start (Consult your Doctor for health advice).

Objective: At very least, your "Body Mass Index" (BMI) should be less than 30 (obese).  Ideally BMI should be less than 25 (overweight).  Get there by loosing about one pound per week, then sustain.  Knowing your height and weight, you can calculate your BMI using:  http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/ 

Theory: Your daily caloric need is called your "Basal Metabolic Rate" (BMR) which depends on your height, weight, age, sex, and activity level.  To some extent, it also depends on the types of food you eat.  There are many websites you can use to calculate your BMR:  http://www.bmrcalculator.org/ or http://www.caloriesperhour.com/tutorial_BMR.php are good choices.  Wikipedia has a good write-up with formulas to calculate your BMR: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basal_Metabolic_Rate, although a bit more technical than practical for most.  Once you know your BMR, you can loose about one pound per week by denying yourself about 500 calories per day or 3500 calories per week.  You should do this with a combination of exercise and calorie counting.

Example: A 200lb male, 55 years old with a height of 5'11" has a BMI of 28...overweight.  If this person has a "moderate" activity level, he has a BMR of about 2800cal/day.  So, to loose one pound per week, this person should take in no more than 2300cal/day.  Note that as you loose weight, your BMR goes down, so you "plateau" if you don't adjust the daily calorie limit.  As suggested by 1/2mv^2, you need less energy as your weight (m) goes down, so recalculate BMR as you reach your goal.

Tools: You must record what you eat, and then calculate the calorie totals on a daily basis for at least 10-12 weeks.  Some call this "food logging"  It is essential!  I used the "The CalorieKing Calorie Fat & Carbohydrate Counter"  (hyperlinked to Amazon.com, but you can probably get it locally) to determine the calories in my food/drink.  You could also use www.calorieking.com if you want their on-line deal, but I would recommend paper & pencil or a spreadsheet  In my weight loss program, we used a calorie counting card.  I've scanned and attached a copy that you can download.  You could easily put it in a spreadsheet, but the key is to record it daily!  There are also plenty of online tools, including apps for iPhones and Android.

Tips: A nutritionist was the "MVP" in the Weigh Down program.  We learned to read the nutrition labels on packaged foods.  It's no coincidence that total calories, fat, and dietary fiber are listed both on the calorie count card and on the "Nutrition Facts" label of packaged foods. Carbs are also listed, but not for the reason Dr Atkins would want you to believe.  It's more important to believe in a healthy breakfast to keep your blood sugar from going wild and making you hungry later.  Avoid simple carbs with a high glycemic index like sugar, corn syrup, white flour, potatoes, etc.  You should limit your fat intake to 30% of your total daily calories, and minimize saturated fats from milk/cheese, limit fats from fatty meat and stay away from the preserved fats in junk food ("partially hydrogenated" trans-fat is bad!).  Good fats come from nuts, olives, fish, etc.  Note that there are about 9 calories in each gram of fat.  Also, you should be targeting 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day, which equates to more whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans.  This summarizes some of the best peer-reviewed science on nutrition, so don't fall for "fad diets" or "pay as you go" programs that can't be sustained as a lifestyle.

Exercise: When loosing weight, exercise is especially important.  You want to loose fat, and build muscle.  There's plenty of scientific evidence that exercise also helps your frame of mind, so it's a significant aspect of the holism of "Weigh Down."  Exercise burns between 100cal/hr to 700cal/hr depending on your 1/2mv^2.  To simplify, an "aerobic mile" is a good measure of exercise.  An aerobic mile (ami) is the equivalent to the energy expended in jogging one mile.  You should be getting the equivalent of 12 ami per week.  If new to exercise, start with 6 ami per week, then build to 12 ami or more.  Download the attached chart for examples of how to measure ami for various exercises.  Another way to look at this is that you need at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic activity (brisk walk).  You should also include a few hours of strength building exercises such as weight lifting.  To maintain mental and physical health, exercise should be in your lifestyle.

Do:  Weigh yourself on a regular basis.  Keeping track of your weight, caloric intake, and exercise output is like watching your check book.  If you track it regularly, you will always have a sense for the balance.

Frame of Mind:  It's difficult to control weight if your "master gland," is running out of balance.  This is complex territory that I don't pretend to understand, but we could summarize by saying that eating behaviors and mental health sleep in the same bed.  (Check-out the work of Dr Robert Sapolsky and Dr Adrew Wiel.)  Prayer, mediation, yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, volunteering, or what ever else moves your spirit, might help you keep your calm and balance.

That's it!  It's a poster child for "just do it."  Good luck managing the "m" in your 1/2mv^2!

Note: this is not professional advice, so use it at your own risk. It is for educational purposes only and subject to copyright.

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