Shout it from the rooftops! The math works!

Math and dieting…

Diet and exercise. Tracking what I eat. Limiting calories. Burning more at the gym…generally 5 times a week. Cardio. Weight training so I don’t lose muscle.

77 pounds. 222 days.

Doesn’t sound like much…for all that work. But if it was easy…well…everybody’d be doing it…

Given the “state of the industry” in weight-loss marketing…you’d imagine there’s some horrible mystery…magic bullet…complex formula…and some ritual you must perform just to lose weight. “Blood of virgins” and all that…which…come to think of it…there’s few virgins today…so that *would* explain why so many of us are fat…

But no.

There’s a reason for this belief (the complexity, not the virgin thing)…two actually…
1) “The Industry”…makes billions off ya if you believe you need the latest diet craze, pill, book, or “delivered to your door” meal plan.
2) Nobody wants to believe the actual answer. “Magic bullets” are EVER so much easier than hard work.

What’s the answer? The one nobody wants to believe?

Simple math…more or less. Well, simple math and some damn hard work.

So…let’s do some math.

A pound of fat in the human body contains between 3500 and 3800 calories (Kcals), depending on who ya ask…and what (if any) actual science they’ve perused. We’ll use 3600 for our examples…

In order to lose weight, the math is brutally simple. You have to burn more calories than you consume. 3600 calories for each pound. If ya burn 3600 more calories than you consume, you lose a pound. If you consume 3600 calories more than ya burn, well, ya gain a pound. Now…there’s all kinds of short term loss/gains possible due to water/dehydration and other stuff…but real, sustained weight loss is that plain and simple formula.

Tada! The secret! Now ya know. Be careful…the diet industry may be even now sending out spies and assassins to get ya. There’s billions of dollars at stake! 🙂

Heh…nah…they won’t come after you…you can shout this stuff from the rooftops and folks won’t believe you. They’re looking for the easy way…and there’s not one.

Anyway…math. Here we go.
77 pounds lost X 3600 Kcals/pound = 277,200 MORE calories burned than I consumed…

277,200 calorie deficit…divided by 222 days = 1250 (rounded) calorie per DAY deficit.

This means I burned, on average, 1250 MORE calories each day, than I consumed.

This result…1250 calorie/day deficit is the measured numbers based on my actual weight loss.

Diet and exercise…and math. Yep, that’s the ticket.

And we thought we’d never need math after high-school.

So, how did I figure out the number to limit my diet to?

I wanted to lose the maximum sustainable safe rate of weight loss…depending on who you ask, this is about 2 pounds a week…

(Calories per pound) X (weight loss desired) / 7
3600 X 2 / 7 = 1,030 calorie deficit/day.

There’s a formula to calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)…based on your age, sex, weight, height. This number is the amount of calories you burn per day just existing…there are calculators on-line (one here) if you would like to know yours.

Mine started around 2600 and has dropped to about 2200 as my weight has dropped.

So… working out a few days a week I figured I could easily burn an average of 400 extra calories/day…(that’s a good hour of moderate work, so frankly, I figured 7-8 hours/week in the gym…a number I’ve held up pretty well)

(BMR) + exercise – (desired deficit) = (target diet calories)
2600 + 400 – 1,030 = 1970

So, if I exercised to the average, I could eat 1970 calories/day and lose 2 pounds/week.

I figured I’d hit it just a little harder though…just to make up for those days I didn’t exercise enough…or those inevitable days I blew my diet (faceplant into the brisket!), and to also make up for the fact that my BMR would drop as I lost weight.

Oh…yeah…and to makeup for those damn almond cookies at the Chinese Buffet….

Based on a number of factors…some research, reading, looking at my diet, advice from my trainers…I figured I could successfully limit my diet to 1800 calories/day. More on how to succeed at this in a future post. It’s not a huge secret…but folks won’t like that answer either.

So…that’s what I did. 1800 calories/day. Workout a lot (figuring 400 cals/day average).

How does it add up?
(desired deficit) + (difference in target diet vs actual) = (actual deficit)
1,030 + 170 = 1200 calorie/day deficit.

The actual number based on my weight loss we figured above was 1250…

I would say, “Holy shit! The math works!”


Well actual:
222 days…call it 32 weeks…77 pounds, that’s 2.4 pounds/week.

And theoretical:
1200 calorie/day target deficit X 7 days = 8400 calorie/week deficit…
8400 deficit/3600 calories per pound = 2.33 pounds per week lost…

2.4 pounds actual vs 2.33 pounds theoretical…I’d say that’s pretty damn close.

Despite all the averaging and daily struggles…

The math works!

But that’s the engineer in me. I LIKE IT when the math works.

For all TWO of you that managed to read this far…you’re probably asking, “Do ya need all the math?”

Hell no. Told ya. I’m an engineer. Math turns me on…this causes my wife to look at me oddly at times…

[texts the wife] “Hey babe…what’re you wearing?” [/text]


Here’s what YOU need…

Go find your BMR. Eat less calories/day than that…say, 500 or 1000 calories less…and add some exercise. No magic. Just math. And hard work. You’ll need that.

And you’ll lose weight…even without the blood of virgins.

Now…dear reader…”It’s as easy as all that?”

Oh. Hell. No.

At least, not if you need to lose 10% or more of your body weight.

It’s hard. A pure head game. Pressures, society, time, marketing, resources…even your own body will fight you…you’d be WISE to get some training/coaching. The numbers work…but ADHERING to them is a bitch. I’ll talk about that more (probably endlessly) in other posts…

But it CAN be done…and the math works…and I like it when the math works.

I’ll see you on the road.

Daniel Meyer

You can read more about my fitness journey here.

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