Monday, August 3, 2015

Living Healthy - Weight Management

For the most part of my life I have only known myself to increase in weight not the other way. Everything, especially my attitude towards weight management, has changed with recent addition of Fitbit Charge HR fitness tracker to my gadget collection. Taking a step back to look at weight management - my focus is health that too long term health. Extreme obesity is problem in itself but I'm not talking about that. Even slight overweight with abdominal obesity has strong correlation with heart problems and diabetes. We can find many references for this - a good start is the Wikipedia article on in.

One more important note - there is no alternative to loosing fat (either abdomen or elsewhere) other than overall weight loss. Targeted exercises and what not may give you the illusion but actually do not work.

So let me dig in. On a cautionary side - this is the well known calorie counting process. There is no way you are going to reduce weight if you are eating more than you spend. My hope is to bring engineers' pragmatism in calibrating the process and provide tools for the same. Here are high level components of the process.

1. Understanding how much weight (fat) you can loose

On of the simple ways use BMI (Body Mass Index). First estimate what is your current BMI. Also look at the recommended BMI. The weight you need to reach that BMI will help define that weight you can loose ideally.

Though the above is a good start, I like little more detail in this number. Especially for women. The approach is based on body fat%. Refer to the Wikipedia article on recommendations on body fat%. For average man it is 18-24% and for Woman it is 25-31%. Targeting higher end of this range is good start.

Next step is to estimate your body fat%. The is where we can factor in additional body measurements. Measure the following -

For Men - Weight, Waist Circumference
For Women - Weight, Waist Circumference, Wrist Circumference, Hip Circumference, Forearm Circumference.

Once you have them - there are a bunch of online calculators that will give you body fat% based on this. You can calculate the following numbers.

Excess Fat Weight = Weight * ( Body Fat% - Target Body Fat%) / (100 - Target Body Fat%)

That's you number. And by the way, get a Weighing Scale and Tape Measure. These measurements are not one time job. We will need them for Monitoring our progress. There are medical tests or other direct measure tools available for measuring Body Fat if you are interested.

2. Establishing minimum nutrition needed

One of first things things we do when we want to loose weight is reducing eating without a lower bound to it. The recommendation is based on BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). You can use the The Mifflin St Jeor Equation. At this point, I will introduce the tool that help you the most in the whole process. MyFitnessPal. Go ahead and install the app either of android or ios. There a very good website for it as well. You can use their BMR calculator. Once you have this number - your target calorie intake should be between 1.2*BMR and  1.5*BMR.

3. Measuring your calorie intake

Your tool is going to be myfitnesspal. Either the web app of android or iOS app. It has a food dairy and extensive repository of food portions. You can scan the barcode if it is packaged food. For me - I eat home cooked food. myfitnesspal lets you create your own recipe by specifying just the names of the ingredients and their size. It is a killer feature for me. Play with it to get yourself acquainted with creating your own recipes for Calorie measurement.

Just making a note of the high calorie ingredients that are going into your meal  will help you measure your calorie intake.

4. Measuring activity level

You don't needed any additional tracker for tracking your activity. But I would recommend at-least a pedometer or pedometer app. That will help you measure additional activity. For establishing base activity level - use your myfitnesspal app. If your job is sitting use 'Sedentary' Profile if you have standing job use 'Lightly Active' profile. You can enter the additional activity from your pedometer manually in myfitnesspal.

I'm only targeting walking as the main physical activity - but you can do any physical activity and myfitnesspal as generic way to estimate the additional calories.

5. Monitoring progress

Since there is a certain amount of uncertainty in all our calculation, it is important we monitor our progress by measuring weight and other body measurements. I would recommend weight measurement daily and body measurements once in two weeks.

Just remember weight measurement can be tricky. Just drinking half a liter water will increase your weight by 1/2 kilo. Just think about  food and other things will do to it. It is important to measure your weight the same way every day. I keep my weighing machine in the bathroom and measure it everyday in the morning just after clearing the regular discharges and before eating with consistent clothing. This step is extremely critical - the one that gives us confidence in the process and motivates us.

Finally the Process

  1. Get the tools - Weighing scale, Tape Measurement, myfitnesspal app, pedometer (or an app)
  2. Estimate your Excess fat and target weight. (to know when to stop eating less). 
  3. Estimate your BMR.
  4. Set up our myfitnesspal profile. 
  5. Set your Goals in myfitnesspal - Current Weight, Goal weight (from step 2), Weekly Goal (1.5lb/week or 1.0 lb/week, first one is aggressive). Choose Activity level between 'Sedentary' or 'Light Active'. If other profiles are applicable you won't be here. 
  6.  On the home screen of the app you will see this: Goal - Food + Exercise = Remaining. It is telling you that you can eat more if you exercise.
  7. Enter your food calories in myfitnesspal app. Your 'Food' Value (on myfitnesspal screen) should always be between 1.2*BMR to 1.5*BMR. You will surprised to see the food choices you make just trying to achieve this. 
  8. Just Put more Steps on your Pedometer by walking. (or any other exercise) and add them to myfitnesspal. Your target is to make sure your 'Remaining' is Always +ve or (green)
  9. Monitor your daily and weekly progress by measurements and adjust your activity. 
It worked for me in moving for 180lb to 165lb. It should work for you too. Let know your progress if you try or tried before. 

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