Checking In This Friday

Just thought I would check in.  There hasn’t been that much interesting this week either from a food or exercise standpoint.

Well, a little bit maybe.  Food, I’ve mostly worked on getting more protein. Let me see.  Since last Saturday, my daily protein has been: 99, 101, 135, 92, 90, 88, 87.  My goal is 100 grams and my bare minimum is 81 grams.  That is equal to my lean body mass.  I have enough body fat that eating equal to my weight isn’t really necessary.  So, 81g is OK, but I really want to hit 100.  With the limited calories I can eat and still lose fat, given my low resting metabolic rate (1120) it is super hard to get in enough protein.  I ate out Saturday (99g) and Monday (135g).  We bought rotisserie chickens at Whole Foods so I did pretty well early in the week.  Wednesday was low (90gfor a day when I did strength training.  The problem there is that I overslept so had a Quest bar for breakfast.  That was fine, 21g of protein.  But, I had weight training at 1:30 so wasn’t that hungry before hand.  I knew I needed to eat something so I didn’t get low blood sugar so I had a Kay’s Naturals pretzel sticks package (12g) and a cheese stick (7g).  That was OKish.  But then I had a salad for dinner (25g) and even with a couple of snacks only got to 90g for the day.

Thursday I struggled because I ran out of rotisserie chicken.  I did get a sandwich late in the day from Which Wich.  I made it a Skinny Wich (they remove some of the inside of the bread from the roll so it is less calories), I still just got to 88g.  Next time I go there I think I’ll get a Bowlwich which is no bread at all.  Then I could get double chicken and that would work to get more protein for but without the calories and carbs from the bread.

So, what I learned from this is to really priortize the protein and have some more lower calorie sources of protein.  And go to Whole Foods and get another couple of chickens when I start to run low.

Exercise was pretty good this week.  I worked out 5 days.  The new schedule with my trainer where I do 3 sets in a row instead of doing the circuit is working better for me I think.  It seems like more of a weight workout than before.  My heart rate doesn’t get as high but I don’t need it to.  I have my cardio days for that.

From a weight standpoint I’m up a couple of pounds from Monday.  I don’t think it is “real” weight gain as weight has fluctuated a lot this week.  I think my body is still adjusting the the higher protein and the changes in my weight workout.  I don’t have to weigh in until October so I’m not worried about it.


To Moderate or Abstain?

This is my last post in a series on whether it is better to eat in moderation or to abstain from certain foods.  To set the stage, I first talked about how changing what I eat has helped my weight loss.  Then, I talked about what moderation is and what it isn’t.

A big part of that last post is recognizing that while moderation isn’t abstention it is also not just totally eating something without restraint. If you look at, the first definition of moderation is “the quality of being moderate; restraint; avoidance of extremes or excesses; temperance.”  Note, the sort of “in the middle” part of moderation.  Moderation isn’t the same as abstaining, but it is a long way from wild abandon.

So, should I eat in moderation or should I abstain?  The answer is “yes.”  That is, for some foods or some situations abstention works better.  For others, moderation works better.  And, that is just for me.  What works best of you may be very different from what works best for me.

Unfortunately, when reading about weight loss, I often see a lot of polarized positions on this.  And, sometimes a “one size fits all” attitude.  The reality is that both abstention and moderation have things going for them.

I will be honest here and say that I tend to not be an Abstainer.  That said, some of my taking part is so close to abstaining that I am bit hard pressed to really think of it as moderation.  It might be more accurate to say that I eat certain things rarely, not moderately.  An example of this would be alcohol.  I don’t really like the taste of alcohol and it tends to make me feel nauseated and I don’t need the calories.  So, I partake very, very rarely.  Most of the time I think of myself as mostly an abstainer. But, a few months ago I went to a family wedding and I drank and a couple of swallows of champagne during the toasting.  That was my first alcohol in several years.  So, I guess a better way to put it is to say that I drink alcohol rarely.  Or, maybe say that I abstain except when toasting at family weddings.  Or, perhaps to say I abstain except when I don’t.

There is one food that I abstain from.  I don’t eat beef.  I quit eating beef 14 years ago.  During the early years, I had beef intentionally once, maybe twice.  A few times I ate something I thought was pork sausage and found afterwards had beef in it.  But, to my knowledge, I haven’t eaten beef for several years.  This is mostly for ethical reasons, but also contains elements of food safety.  Theoretically, grass fed, pastured beef (for the entire lifetime of the cattle) would alleviate most of my concerns.  But, I still don’t eat it.  Why?  Two main reasons:

  1.  I don’t love beef.  My parents worked for a meat cooking factory when I was a child and I ate steak 5 or 6 days a week during most of my childhood and adolescence.  I got really tired of it and even when I ate beef later on, I tended to prefer other things more.  So, giving up beef is not a major hardship for me.  There are rare occasions when I see something with beef that I think I would like to eat (usually it is pepperoni pizza or some sort of sausage).  But, over the years as I haven’t eaten beef, that has faded more and more and I don’t think about it much any more.
  2. Abstaining is easier.  It is way easier to abstain from eating beef than to mess with trying to figure out if the beef I am thinking of eating meets my ethical standard.  Was it truly grass fed for life?  Was it truly pastured?  I try to eat chickens ethically (I do love chicken) and I spend a lot of time researching restaurants and grocery stores and their products.  By abstaining from beef, I don’t have to make any decisions and I don’t have to think about it.  I don’t to worry about whether eating that piece of pepperoni pizza is justified.  I just don’t even consider ordering something from beef.  I almost don’t see the beef items on the menu.  They might as well not be there.

One of my favorite books is Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin.  I need to do a whole post on this book.  Anyway, she talked about the moderation v. abstention thing in the book.  She tends to be an Abstainer.  She points out that she finds it easier to just abstain:

As an Abstainer, if I try to be moderate, I exhaust myself debating: How much can I have? Does this time “count”? If I had it yesterday, can I have it today? In Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, a character remarks, “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it,” and it can be a relief to give in, to end the tiresome mental chatter about whether and why and when to indulge. But, I’d discovered, abstaining cures that noise just as effectively. I’m not tempted by things I’ve decided are off-limits. If I never do something, it requires no self-control to maintain that habit.

Rubin, Gretchen (2015-03-17). Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives (p. 137). Crown/Archetype. Kindle Edition.

While she tends to be an Abstainer she also makes the case for the Moderators.

Many people aren’t Abstainers, of course. Moderators, for their part, find that occasional indulgence both heightens their pleasure and strengthens their resolve; they get panicky or rebellious at the thought of “never” getting or doing something. They do better when they avoid strict rules. They may even find that keeping treats near at hand makes them less likely to indulge, because when they know they can have something, they don’t crave it. One Moderator posted: “By allowing myself an occasional splurge, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on something … Tell me ‘no’ and I just want it more.” In fact, from what I’ve seen, Moderators shouldn’t try to abstain; if they try to deny themselves, they can

Rubin, Gretchen (2015-03-17). Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives (p. 138). Crown/Archetype. Kindle Edition.

She used an example, that really resonated with me because it talks about something that I do:

Abstainers and Moderators behave very differently. A Moderator told me, “Every month or so, I buy some bars of really fine chocolate. Every afternoon, I eat one square of chocolate.” “You’re never tempted to eat more?” “No, I just want the one square,” he said. It would be impossible for me to eat one square of chocolate a day. For the rest of the day, I’d be thinking about that bar of chocolate. In fact, I discovered that the question “Could you eat one square of chocolate every day?” is a good way to distinguish Abstainers from Moderators. All Moderators seem to keep a bar of chocolate stashed away to eat one square at a time. (Maybe this explains the mystery of why chocolate bars are divided into squares.)

Rubin, Gretchen (2015-03-17). Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives (pp. 138-139). Crown/Archetype. Kindle Edition.

And, yes, in my desk drawers I have a bar of dark chocolate and I eat between 60 and 100 calories of it most days (on most it is a single square, but on some brands it is 2 or 3).  I find it not difficult to do this at all.  It often takes me a full week to eat a bar of chocolate.  I don’t suffer and I’m not miserable and I am content with eating what I planned.  Could I eat more?  Sure.  But, I don’t choose to.

So, for food, I am mostly a Moderator.  I don’t usually find it difficult to decide how much of X I am going to eat and then stick with the decision.  I might occasionally eat a little more (maybe a few times a year I have an extra square of chocolate), but I really do much better with eating moderately.  These are mostly foods that, unlike beef, I truly love and I just don’t want to give up.  I get pleasure from them and I think that is an OK reason to want to eat them, if I can eat them in a way that I feel is not unhealthy for me.

On the other hand, I do abstain from certain eating situations.  And, I do it for mostly the reasons Rubin cites.  It is easier to just make some food situations off limits and to not have to constantly make decisions.  The catch is that it is the food situation I declare off limits, not the food itself.  For example, I don’t buy cookies for the house.  I find that — unlike the chocolate in the drawer — cookies call my name constantly.  I have to always make the decision whether to eat or not eat.  Even if I make a “good” decision, I am exhausted by it.  Once I decided not to buy (or make) cookies for the house, it was all so much easier.  I didn’t have to make decisions.  I knew there were no cookies in the house.  Do I make exceptions?  Yes, two.  On rare occasions, I will get a single cookie elsewhere and eat it at home (think a single chocolate chip cookie from a store).  Also, I have occasionally made or bought cookies when I was having guests and they would consume them all (think Christmas).

You might wonder if I shouldn’t just entirely abstain from cookies.  Perhaps.  I don’t think cookies are a health food, but at the level I eat them I don’t feel that they really hurt my health either.  Unlike beef, I really like certain cookies.  And, the thought of not eating them ever bothers me.  The thought of not eating beef doesn’t bother me.  And, for the last couple of years I’ve controlled how many cookies I eat.  I eat them several times a year, but I don’t even average one cookie once a month.  So, it works for me.

But, I’m mostly a Moderator.  Some people find it easier to be Abstainers.  And, that works.  What I think doesn’t work is making a choice that makes you unhappy.  It is hard to do well with losing weight and maintaining weight loss if you are miserable.  The book The Diet Fix by Dr. Yani Freedhoff addresses this.  He gives some ideas in the book about how to eat moderately.  I think that experimentation is a good idea.  I find that I can do fine with a bar of chocolate in my drawer.  I find that I can eat a small bag of potato chips at Panera Bread, but it is better for me not to buy potato chips for the house.  Others will draw their lines elsewhere.  And, where the line is drawn may change over time.

It is easy for others to try to tell us what to do.  A dedicated Abstainer may find it hard to see that a true Moderator can eat moderately without problem.  On the other hand, someone who embraces moderation and would hate abstaining, may not understand the relief that can come with being an Abstainer.  In the end, there is no one answer.  It is what works for you.  And, it may chance from food to food or from situation to situation.  And, that is OK.

P.S.  A picture of one our cats playing with the gecko on the window.  She was upset she couldn’t catch it.  She wasn’t in favor of moderation or abstention.  She wants all the geckos.




Kay’s Naturals Protein Snacks

I just wanted to post about some new snacks I’ve been trying as part of my quest to eat more protein.

Kays front

These are protein snacks by Kay’s Naturals.  There are pretzel sticks, cookie bites, chips and cereal.  Every one I’ve tried so far have been very good.  (No, I wasn’t compensated for this post.  And, I paid full price for the snacks at my local grocery store).

The absolute best one was the Cinnamon Toast Pretzel Sticks.  Bear in mind, that I don’t even like pretzels usually.  These are just really good.  They are very crispy with a hint of salt.  The big thing i the cinnamon toast flavor.  I also tried some of the chips (BBQ) and the cookie bites (Cinnamon Almond) and they were also good.  One thing I noticed in all of them is that the flavor is really prominent.  I don’t like to eat something that is, say, cinnamon flavor and you can barely taste it.  These aren’t like that.

For me, trying to get about 100g to 120g of protein a day, it is really important to find good sources of protein that aren’t too many calories.  Most of these bags are 120 to 125 calories with 12g of protein.  That is a lot of protein for a snack.

To give some more details, the protein is in the form of soy protein isolate.  These are all gluten-free.  While these are a processed food, of course, I find it acceptable given the amount of protein and that I recognize everything on the label.

Kays back

Yes, there are a lot of ingredients, but I felt OK about these.  The net carbs (carbs minus fiber) is 11 and there are 3g of sugar in the snack pictured.  Of course, I think that eating a plain chicken breast is “better” than a processed snack.  But, there is only so much chicken or fish, for example, that I want to eat in a day.  These make a tasty snack to have sometimes and have the benefit of the high protein.  In fact, I would like these even without the protein, but the protein makes it really worthwhile for me.



Body Fat Plan

It is funny how sitting in a strange looking contraption can concentrate the mind and help to give direction.

Bod Pod

And so it was after I had my body fat tested in the Bod Pod and had my resting metabolic rate tested.

To recap, I found that despite having reached a normal BMI, my body fat was 45.3% and my resting metabolic rate was a low 1120 calories a day (over 100 calories a day less than Fitbit estimated).

What was apparent from this is that I have an extreme case of Skinny Fat.  There was a recent graph in the New York Times that plotted body fat percentage against Body Mass Index (BMI).  If you haven’t seen it go, take a lot at it.  You can see that 15% of women have a normal or underweight BMI, but have more than 35% body fat.  I already knew I was in that group.  But look carefully, at the line that shows 45% body fat.  And, then look at the line for 25 BMI.  You can see that having that high a body fat percentage with BMI that low is really, really super rare.  And…that is me.

So, I need to do something about that.  I had posted awhile ago, that once I got to a normal BMI I wanted to work on body composition.  At that time, I wanted to get to under 35% body fat with an advanced goal of under 30%.  Of course, at the time I thought I was probably at no more than 40% body fat, even allowing for my scale body fat percentage to be wrong.  But, it seems things are much worse than I thought.

I currently have about 81 pounds of Lean Body Mass (basically everything that isn’t fat).  While I know my scale doesn’t give an accurate body fat percentage in terms of an absolute number, I do think that the direction it shows me going over a period of time is probably accurate.  If so, then I did reduce my body fat percentage while I was losing weight.  I would guess I probably started at well over 50%.  Based upon the measurements I did guess, I think that while losing weight about 70% of what I lost was fat (good) and about 30% of what I lost was muscle (not good).

The key thing now is that I can’t afford to lose any more muscle.  If I simply keep the muscle that I have, I would need to lose all the way down to 124 pounds to get to just under 35% body fat!  That would be if I lost only fat.  To get to below 30% body fat, I would need to get to 115 pounds.  None of that really enthuses me.  For one thing, my calorie burn would be so low at those weights that I would find it very hard to sustain them.  Furthermore, to be at those weights without building muscle I would look really skinny and have no muscle definition.

I could try to build muscle now.  Theoretically I could eat at a calorie surplus and really work on the strength training and try to gain muscle.  That would also improve my body fat percentage.  Still, I know I have excess fat and I need to lose fat.  If I try to gain muscle, there is no way I will gain only muscle.  I put on fat easily (obviously) and some part of that would be fat. So I would go above a normal BMI and would still be over fat.

Of course, what I really want to do is add muscle while losing fat.  That is, however, very difficult to do.  It is, however, easier to do for weight lifting beginners.  So, I might be able to gain some muscle while mostly losing fat over the next few months.

Saturday I had a training session with my personal trainer and I told him that I really want to work hard to gain muscle.  We had been doing a circuit training session where I would do one set of each exercise then repeat the circuit twice.  This had the virtue of not needing much down time so I could do 3 sets of 12 reps on quite a few exercises.  And, I kept my heart rate up during the entire time which increased my calorie burn.  On the other hand, that isn’t quite as effective for building muscle.  So, we are going to switch to doing 3 sets of reps all in a row.  To do this I will have to rest between sets, so we are upping the weights and lowering the number of reps.  I am hoping that by doing this I will — at a minimum — preserve muscle mass and won’t lose any more.  And, maybe there is a possibility for some muscle growth.

Also, I am going to increase my protein intake.  I’ve been averaging about 70 grams a day.  I’ve often seen a recommendation of 1 gram per pound of body weight.  But, reading some stuff written by Tom Venuto (I can’t link to it as it a members only site), he suggested that if you have excess fat you might want to base protein goals on your lean body mass instead.  That is, I may not need to eat extra protein to sustain my body fat.  So, I’ve decided to aim for a minimum of 100 grams of protein a day.

I am also thinking about how many calories to eat.  I’ve analyzed my RMR test results (1120 calories a day) and applied a discount factor to my old Fitbit calorie burn numbers (adjusting them down since Fitbit had my RMR over 100 calories a day too high).  From that, I’ve estimated that during a week where I exercise 5 or 6 days I average about 1500 calories burned a day.  So, this sort of explains why it was so hard for me to lose weight at 1200 calories a day.  That was only a deficit of 300 calories a day!

I know that to lose body fat I have to have a calorie deficit.  But, I don’t want to have such a calorie deficit each day that I end up losing muscle.  I’m thinking about possibly eating at a maintenance level a couple of days a week.  Maybe even a tiny surplus. I’m going to experiment for awhile and see.

So, I feel sort of energized by having a clear goal now.  Don’t lose any muscle.  Lose fat.  Add muscle.  Improve my body fat percentage.  Doing this will probably result in weight loss, but that actually doesn’t matter.  I want to get to 35% body fat (as a first goal).  Right now, that looks like 124 pounds.  But, if I can gain some muscle then I can earn the right to weigh more than that.  So, we’ll see.

At this point, I think I will go back in about 2 to 3 months and do the Bod Pod again.  I will want to see if I have made made any progress.

Skinny Fat!

I think I can officially now say that I’m definitely skinny fat.  And, Shannon, at least part of it was definitely worse than I expected!

Friday was the day that I was having Resting Metabolic Testing (RMR) and Body Fat testing using the Bod Pod.

Resting Metabolic Rate Testing

RMR tells you what calories you burn just existing, without doing anything.  The linked article says that there are two ways to calculate RMR.  One way is to use various formulas based upon things like height and weight while some include body fat.  The other way is to use indirect calorimetry which uses your expired gases to calculate the fuel being used and then to convert that information to calculate the number of calories burned.  That was the type of test I had.

I had a long list of instructions.  I couldn’t eat or drink anything other than water for at least 4 hours before the test.  I couldn’t exercise at least 4 hours before the test.  There was a restriction on taking anything with pseudoephedrine or caffeine for at least 4 hours before the test.  I also found a web site which said it was best to not exercise for 12 to 24 hours before the test, so I skipped my Thursday exercise.

When I went in to have the test, I was given something to clip on my nose so I could only breathe through my mouth, then I had to breathe naturally into the device:

RMR Test

This was sort of a weird feeling.  I was given napkins, because the person administering the test told me that toward the end I would actually drool (yuck!).  I sat there quietly just breathing and it actually was over more quickly than I expected.  The result was:  1120 calories RMR.

To put in perspective, the Mifflin-St Jeor formula used by Fitbit gives me an RMR of 1224.  So, not even counting any other activity during the day, Fitbit is already overestimating the calories I burn by at least 104 calories a day.  The guy administering the test did stress to me that lots of things can affect RMR, so what Fitbit gives is not exact and is an estimate.  For example, the things I couldn’t do for 4 hours before the test (eat, exercise, take caffeine and so on) are all things that can increase metabolic rate.

I’ve often posted here that my actual weight loss has generally been less than what I might expect from my Fitbit calorie deficit.  Some of that, I’m sure, is because the food calories eaten are not exact — I doubt restaurants carefully measure ingredients to match calorie counts on a website and while I weigh my food most of the time, I know I’m not perfect either.

Still, I had the feeling that my RMR was just not the 1224 Fitbit predicts.  And, it isn’t.  What that means is that my RMR is about 91.5% of what Fitbit says.  So, what I want to do is lower the calorie burn Fitbit gives me by 8.5% to get something that might be more accurate.  I know it won’t be exact, but I am hoping that would be more accurate. The other day Fitbit said I burned 1692 calories and I had a deficit of 284 calories for the day.  If I adjust that down by 8.5%, I get a burn of 1548 calories which reduces my calorie deficit to 108 calories. And, the difference adds up.  Last month Fitbit said I burned an average of 1449 calories a day (yes, I know that was low).  But, reducing it 8.5%, I get an average calorie burn of 1326 calories.  So, my deficit of 166 calories a day suddenly becomes 43 calories a day.

The problem is that Fitbit, though, won’t let you set a custom RMR.  You have to use their formula.  But, there is a work around to trick Fitbit into changing your RMR which I got from the linked article.  Basically I changed my age and height on Fitbit until the formula gave me an RMR of 1121 (the closest I could manage to 1120).  Basically Fitbit now thinks I am several years older and 4 inches shorter, but my RMR is now correct and I should get a more accurate, albeit it more depressing, calorie burn number.

It is sort of sad to realize that on a day when I thought I was burning about 1700 calories, I was really only burning 1550 calories.  But, that is the reality and I need to know that so that I have a better idea of what I need to do to either lose weight or maintain weight loss.

Oh – I paid $75 for the RMR testing which seems fair given the time it took to do it.

Body Fat Testing – Bod Pod

Once the RMR testing was over, I headed over to have my body fat tested using the Bod Pod.  That is kind of a cutesy name, but it is actually pretty accurate.  Herewith the Bod Pod:

Bod Pod

This is actually a pretty simple test.  You just sit in the Bod Pod for about 45 seconds and that’s it.  First, though, I had to change clothes.  The instructions are to either wear a swimsuit or a sports bra and tight shorts.  I ended up wearing a sports bra and swimsuit bottoms.  I didn’t wear the entire swimsuit as a website I read said to wear a tight Spandex suit or a sports bra and compression shorts. I didn’t have a tight suit. The link isn’t to where I went but it had more detailed instructions that I got.  I didn’t think about it at the time, but I hope what I wore was tight enough.  The sports bra was fine, but the swimsuit bottoms were kind of lose.  I bought them as part of a swimsuit with a loose top (which is why I didn’t use it) and regular two piece bottoms.  However, I bought them 50 pounds or so ago so they were kind of loose.  I wish I had thought to ask, but if they weren’t OK I guess the person testing me would have said something.

Anyway, I also had to wear a swim cap and then I just sat in the Bod Pod.  It was a little cold inside, but not too bad.  He ran it for about 45 seconds, opened the door, then ran it a second time and we were done. The Bod Pod testing cost $50.  There are some mobile Bod Pods that I think are a little cheaper, but this was easier than trying to chase down one of them.

OK, I’ve put it off long enough.  I measured on my home scale before leaving and it said my body fat percentage was 38%.  That is fairly typical over the last month or so.  The highest was 39.25%.  Of course, I knew that body fat scales are notoriously inaccurate.  I didn’t expect mine to be off in my favor and was sort of expecting a result around 40%.  Well, that turned out to be wildly optimistic.

The result was…. 45.3% body fat.  That was fairly depressing.  On the analysis I received, anything over 40% was considered risky and from 30.1% to 40% was excess fat.  For me, my first goal has been to get to 35%, as some consider that to be the critical number of older women.  Getting to 30% seems a long way away.

The really difficult part is realizing that if I kept my lean body mass exactly the same — didn’t lose or gain — I would need to lose fat all the way down to about 124 pounds to get to 35% body fat.  That is not a pretty thought.  I have done it before, but it was really difficult and I didn’t sustain it.

I was actually going to talk in this post about what I plan to do and how this affects my goals.  But, that is going to be long enough I’ll save it until later.

Oh, one thing was interesting.  The Bod Pod analysis gave me an estimated RMR of 1069 calories which was based upon the information from the Bod Pod.  The good news is that the tester said that my RMR result of 1120 was more accurate as it was actually measured while the Bod Pod was an estimate.  So, from that standpoint, at least something went good. I’m glad I sprang for the RMR testing.  One place I called just offered the RMR from the Bod Pod and I can see that kind of estimate is not as accurate as actually doing the breathing test.

While I’m not happy about the body fat number, I realize that it is what it is and not knowing doesn’t change that.  I might like thinking it was 38%, but that isn’t accurate and it is better to know real numbers than fake numbers.  I still think the body fat percentage my scale gives me is of some value as I’ve seen it come down a lot while losing weight.  So, I think the relative improvement has been shown to me, but this probably means I started out with a much higher body percentage than I realized.

More later about where I go from here.