In my health education class they taught me about the mathematics behind weight loss. It works like this:
If you multiply your current body weight by 10 (if you’re a woman) or 11 (if you’re a man) you will come up with the daily total of calories needed to maintain your current body weight. If you consume more than that number, your body will store the excess and your weight will rise. If you consume less, you will build up a deficit of calories and your weight will drop.
There are, on average, 3,500 calories worth of stored energy in a pound of body fat – so each time your deficit of calories passes the 3,500 calorie mark you should lose a pound of weight.
On my current diet and exercise regimen I run an average calorie deficit of around 2,000 calories per day – which means I should be steadily losing roughly three to four pounds per seven day period.
However, I’ve noticed that when I total my actual numbers the math does not quite add up correctly. I’ve kept a precise count of my calorie deficit since day one on the program, and my grand total since then is 40,315 calories or 11.5 pounds of excess body fat used as energy.
As of my weigh in last night, I have only lost 9.3 lbs. The answer for this discrepancy is that the additional weight is all water – so at any given time I’m so hydrated that over two pounds of me is thoroughly water saturated cellular matter.
That may be the case. It's possible that as I continue the gap between my actual weight loss and where the numbers say I should be is going to close. But based on my own observations I also wonder if there isn’t a lot more going on here than simple math.
Example one: The other day I sat at lunch watching someone consume three very large pieces of fried chicken in one sitting. One fried chicken breast has around 300 calories and 17 grams of fat, so we’re looking at a 900 calorie lunch with 51 total grams of fat (about as many calories as I consume in a whole day, and about seven times as much fat). This person regularly consumes such foods. This person is also skinny, and from what I can tell has never been overweight a day in their life. I admit, it was difficult to smell fried chicken while I ate my lunch of protein powder, water and ice without being very, very, very jealous. Why do they get to eat like that and be thin too? If I ate 900 calories lunches the paramedics would soon be hauling me out of the side of my house via forklift.
Another example: I know a person who must constantly fight to keep their weight from dropping and complains about how much they have to eat to stay in a healthy range. They hate food, it’s a burden. On a given day I’ll see this individual eat cinnamon apple raisin toast with real butter for breakfast and a sandwich with mayo, lunchmeat and a decent sized helping of chips for lunch. Even before starting my current program, I would be sitting next to this slender person as I ate a lunch consisting of a big bowl full of raw, cut vegetables (no dressing) and an Amy’s Organic vegetarian entrée for a calorie total of around 300-400. And I have always outweighed them by at least a hundred and thirty pounds.
Lastly, my husband. Since I live with him I’ve got a pretty good handle on his diet. The other night he ate dinner twice. I’m not sure what the first one was but the second was a pork roll sandwich with mashed potatoes on the side. He will often get a snack attack at 11PM and eat three microwave soft pretzels or a full plate of tortilla chips slathered over with melted cheese before going to bed. He has never denied himself a single bite of food he wanted once in his entire life. He has also never been overweight a day in his life.
My point is that calories in vs. calories out may not be enough of an explanation for obesity. Bodies work and metabolize differently and we cannot all be fit into the same narrowly defined box for how we are going to respond to caloric intake and storage.
I need to say something to the people like me out there (and there are plenty of us): no, it’s not fair. Not fair at all. Fairness has nothing whatsoever to do with it.
But it is the way it is.
If you (or I) want to be thin we must eat and live differently than certain skinny people who yes, do get to eat what they please when they please. We don’t. It sucks, but suck it up because life goes on. There are way worse medical afflictions to have to endure.
I think it's time to admit to the hard facts here instead of trying to convince ourselves that our bodies are identical machines that can be expected to run the same way under the same circumstances. That opinion is part of what leads to the pervasive belief that the overweight are just weaker or more gluttonous than other people when I think the reality is that it's truly much harder for some to be thin on account of numerous variables. The evidence that I and countless others have seen with our own eyes and lived on a daily basis does not seem to completely fit with the science. My own metabolism appears to be running slower than it should be given my calorie intake and workout regimen, and I have the numbers to back that up. It is doing this despite daily exercise that includes both cardio and weight training to help stimulate it.
That truth is unfair and hard, but I find freely owning up to it is comforting somehow. Be angry, be jealous if you need to, then ditch it and just get back to work.