Adventures in Calorie Counting

I admit that I am an anxious mess with my weight.  I joke that I have to keep running so that my fat can’t catch back up.  My obsession with the numbers is fueled by the metrics that are so easily available:

  • I use a scale to weigh myself to the tenth of a pound every morning and before and after a run to make sure I stay hydratedIMG_3547[1]
  • myfitnesspal.com allows me to track every calorie I consume, including the 30 calories in a daily serving of my calcium chew
  • I have a Garmin watch with a heart rate monitor that has been calibrated for my personal fitness zones to track my calorie expenditures and my miles run to the hundredth of a mile
  • I wear an all-day activity monitor to track my steps and my sleep

We are a numbers-driven society.  After having lost fifty plus pounds, I have stalled.  Seriously, like the eighteen wheeler in the middle lane of the freeway.  I have gained and lost the same half pound for at least the last twelve months.  I gave myself a break for a couple of those months as I was recovering from surgery, but I really thought my “last ten pounds” would melt right off once I got back to running in the spring.  To say I was frustrated would be an understatement and I took it to Facebook.  I had no idea that my plea for a good dietician would be such a hot button topic that morning, but apparently we are all in same boat.

I felt like I had a pretty good handle on the calories in and calories out part of the equation. In fact, I was restricting myself to 1300 -1350 calories per day and not adding back anything despite the running I was doing or the cross-training on the other days. My perfectly calibrated Garmin with heart rate monitor would regularly tell me I was burning between 250 calories (on light training days) all the way to 1000 calories for a ten mile run day and yet I was only adding calories on run days longer than an hour and those came in the form of a little gel packet of carbs.

It was tough to hear friends ask me if I was consuming TOO FEW calories. The idea of consuming more calories when my weight had stayed the same at 1350 calories was ludicrous!! If I ate more, I would gain, right? I set out to research the idea before I just willy-nilly added calories and went back up to 190 pounds overnight. I learned that I wanted to be sure I ate at least enough to cover my resting metabolic rate, otherwise my metabolism would possibly slow down. Being 5’1 and over 40, that was absolutely the last thing I wanted to do. Seriously, I eat any less and those around me might not be very happy with my attitude.   I sought out an appointment at Cooper Clinic in Dallas. They are the gold standard when it comes to health and fitness and we are so lucky they are right in our backyard. My appointment was scheduled for a few days later.

The appointment was scheduled for first thing in the morning because you have to have been fasting for 12 hours. That meant no food, water, pills, exercise, nothing. I ate an early dinner the night before and went straight to bed. When I arrived, I handed the front desk my paperwork that was emailed to me a few days before. I was ushered into a nice dark room with classical music and allowed to relax to bring my heart rate back down to a resting state after the drive over. The dietician explained how the test would work and then made sure the mask fit over my mouth and my nose was plugged so that the test was accurate. The machine calibrated itself during this time to the ambient oxygen level in the room and was soon ready. The test was easy – all that was required was for me to breathe normally for ten minutes. When the test was over, the numbers were spit out on a two page report based on the test.

1498?!?

1498?!?

Who knew? My resting metabolic rate was 1498! It was a solid 150 calories per day higher than any online calculator. Despite all the dumb things I have done over the years with diet and exercise, I have a higher metabolism than average! Add in the calories I burn just working a desk job and usual activity of living, my weight loss zone was between 1500-1600 calories per day. Christie also instructed me to eat back half of ma calories burned on the “big-burn” days like my long runs. She promised that if I made these changes, I should start to see a little movement in the scale.

Two weeks later, I sheepishly admit that the test was correct. I have increased my calories, all clean and nutritionally dense, and have seen a decline in the scale of about a pound and a half. The trend is definitely downward, which makes me pretty happy. So I call this little experiment a win.

The test at Cooper Clinic ran $103 and included a short consultation with the dietician after to get an idea of what the numbers actually mean. You can get the test at a few other locations for up to $20 cheaper, but it usually doesn’t come with someone that can truly give you advice on how to interpret the numbers. I would say it $103 well spent.

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