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OVER-expecting Weight Loss Success: Why Your Effort Doesn’t Match What You See on the Scale

By Mark Rullo MS, CSCS, MES

In the previous article, “UNDER-standing Weight Loss Frustration” I discussed how it is easy to UNDER-report the calories you are consuming and give up in frustration. The purpose of that article was to reinforce the science that weight loss is simple, in that it revolves around calories in versus calories out. However, simple doesn’t mean easy, due to factors such as portion distortion, food label loop holes, accountability accuracy of nutritional labels, and Bites Licks and Taste’s that may cause you to miscalculate and UNDER-report the calories you are consuming.

This article is going to continue on that theme but now focus on the other side of the caloric equation: caloric expenditure (calories out).

We have been able to document with our clients here at My Fitness Kitchen that the UNDER-reporting of caloric input (eating) averages around 25-30% until they hone in on the factors leading to this error. Meaning if you report a 1500 calorie intake, in reality you could be eating 1875-1950 actual total calories. This equates to a daily calorie error of 350 to 450 from your daily deficit, or .7lb to .9lb per week you would be expecting to see on the scale but are not – VERY FRUSTRATING.

Now what about our caloric expenditure or “burn”?

First and foremost, let’s accept the fact that all methods used to measure caloric expenditure—such as the Exerspy™ armband (used here at the Kitchen), heart rate monitors, Fit Bits, Fuelbands, and displays on stationary cardio machines, to name a few—are only estimates. With that said, if you want to minimize frustration, choose a method that does not exaggerate your burn. It may be cool to see a large caloric burn from a device; but if it isn’t true, that is a cruel trip back to reality when you jump on the lie-detector, also known as the scale.

To document such a wide range of OVER-estimating caloric expenditure, I wore an Exerspy™ armband while doing a simple 30 minute steady-state cardio workout on an elliptical at a moderate level of intensity (level 14).

In the photo above, the exercise display on the machine reported 404 calories expended; whereas the Exerspy™ arm-band shows 192 calories burned in the 30 minutes of steady-state work. That is a 212 calorie difference in 30 minutes of work or 7.1 calories per minute difference! Imagine doing that 30 minute workout three days a week or every day. That is 636 or 1484 calories you believe you are able to eat. Again both are estimates; however it is better to err on the lower end so you don’t think you have more calories to eat than you actually do. It is no different than being told you will earn$404 dollars for doing something but in reality only get paid $192. Even worse is if you went out and purchased (ate) something that cost $404 but actually do not have the additional funds ($212) to cover the cost.

Another example happened when I was taking a Spinning class. A female next to me, no where near my size and weight (at least 60-70 lbs lighter), wore a heart rate monitor that reported she burned over 800 calories during the workout, whereas my armband showed only 380 calories burned. To understand this, the point is that mass (particularly muscle mass) plays a significant role on caloric expenditure; therefore even if I was dogging it and she was busting her butt, there’s no way there would be over a 400 calorie difference.

Another problem with calculating caloric burn of workouts is that it fails to account for the other 23 hours in the day (assuming the workout was for 60 minutes). This is where many info-commercials mislead people with hype of extreme caloric burns that are mostly impossible. Workouts with a 1000+ calorie burn are not happening unless we are talking about a large (300+ lbs.) individual who is extremely fit, exercising at a high intensity for 60 minutes.

By wearing an armband for 24 hours, I can see what the difference in one’s expenditure is while sleeping, sedentary, active (vertical/walking around), and exercising. For example, on average I burn about 4,000 calories per day. Typically I burn about 100 calories per hour sleeping, about 190 calories per hour being sedentary, and anywhere from 300 to 550 calories per hour during a workout depending on the intensity and type. Therefore to illustrate, if I would…

• …sleep 8 hours, that would be about 800 (8×100) calories

• …be sedentary for 15 hours that would be about 2850 (15×190) calories

• …and exercise an hour and average 425 calories burned for the workout

This example would total about 4,075 calories in 24 hours. The important take-away from this is that we burn calories 24 hours, not only when we exercise.

Yes, having knowledge of an individual workout burn is great and can be motivating, but it can be misleading, particularly for the devices that OVER-estimate the caloric expenditure. Equally troubling with individual workout caloric expenditure (even when the device doesn’t OVER-estimate) is that it fails to show the entire picture of weight loss. Regardless of what you burn in a workout, how will that help you determine what you can eat (in calories) if you do not know the other 23 hours or the complete total for the day?

Understanding that we burn calories all day can also explain and educate how we can influence our metabolism during rest, not just by exercising. Monitoring expenditure all day can show which workouts create the greatest EPOC (Excess Post Oxygen Consumption), which is a scientific term for “after burn” or elevated metabolism post workout.

As in the previous article “UNDER-standing Weight Loss Frustration” and in the few examples above on how people “OVER-expect weight Loss Success” is how we help individuals here at My Fitness Kitchen via technology and evidence-based science to eliminate the guesswork with weight loss and build programs around YOUR FOOD, on YOUR TERMS, for YOUR RESULTS.

For more information, please feel free to consult with any of the fitness professionals at My Fitness Kitchen®. Additionally, as an on-going thank you to Laurel Mountain Post and its readers, mention this article for a FREE, no obligation, personalized, metabolic nutritional formula and fitness program that will leverage the “Hierarchy of Fat Loss.” If you are serious about achieving a body transformation goal, then you need a program; as any goal without a plan is really only a wish!

As an added incentive for people new to My Fitness Kitchen®, by mentioning this Laurel Mountain Post article and after meeting with one of My Fitness Kitchen’s Fitness Professionals for a private consult as offered above, you will receive $50 “Kitchen Cash” to be used toward any program or service at My Fitness Kitchen®, as a courtesy of the Laurel Mountain Post.

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UNDER-standing Weight Loss Frustration

By Mark Rullo

Weight management, particularly weight loss, is simple in that it is all about creating a caloric deficit by expending more calories than you eat. However simple does not mean easy.

One pound of fat is 3,500 calories. That is black and white and straight-forward science. Accumulate seven consecutive days of 500 calorie deficit and you will see a pound loss on the scale. The gray area is in calculating the respective deficit in this weight loss formula, which is based upon how we quantify both how many calories we consume and how many calories we expend.

As I have seen over the years, the biggest reason people struggle or get frustrated with counting calories to lose weight is that most either UNDER-calculate the calories they consume and/or OVER-calculate what they believe they have expended in calories.

In this article, I will expand on how individuals—despite honest attempts to log their food and count calories—UNDER-report what they consume and ultimately fail to see the desired results which causes them to quit in frustration.

WHY ONE MAY UNDER-REPORT CALORIC INTAKE

The main reasons that individuals UNDER-report their caloric intake include:

  • Portion Distortion
  • Food Label Loop Holes
  • Accountability Accuracy of Nutritional Labels
  • BLT’s

Portion Distortion happens when individuals fail to eat the actual serving size they are reporting/logging. This typically occurs when people tend to “eye-ball” rather than actually weigh/measure what they eat.

Take my breakfast cereal, LIFE®, for example. One serving (¾ cup) is 160 calories with 4 ounces of skim milk. The box also states it has 12 total servings per box. If that is true, why do I only get 4 bowls of cereal per box?Simple, my serving is actually three servings or 480 calories. This is a 320 calorie UNDER-estimate if report only one bowl (serving). Make this error every day for breakfast and it becomes 2240 calories unaccounted for in one week. Because 3500 calories is one pound, this simple UNDER-reporting could either lead to .64 lbs of weight gain per week or erase 320 calories from any daily deficit you may have thought you created through monitoring your nutritional formula.

Also, the people around you can indirectly contribute to portion distortion. Just because your serving is smaller than others around you does not guarantee you have the correct serving size. You may feel good about yourself that you ordered the 12 ounce steak when all your friends ordered the “24 ouncer.” However, considering one serving is 4 ounces, that 12 ounce steak is still 3 servings.

Food Label Loop Holes exist because the FDA allows manufactures to list foods as FREE or Zero content if the serving size if less than 0.5 grams per serving.

PAM Spray for example lists zero calories per serving, so initially this seems like a perfect option for those looking to watch their caloric intake. This is possible because the serving size listed on the label is 0.27 grams, or 1/3 second of a spray. (I give them credit for describing the actual serving size as 1/3 of one second of a spray.) Get a stop watch out and actually try to time 1/3 of a second—not easy to do. So do not expect to do it the next time you use the spray.

If you are not aware, nutritional labels list ingredients by most abundant to least. The most abundant ingredient in PAM Spray is Extra Virgin Olive Oil. When you look at the caloric value of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, one serving (1 tablespoon) is 120 calories.

Where did those calories go? They were always there; however the PAM serving size meets the requirement to allow them to state it as FREE or Zero. Providing this information is not intended to tell you not to use PAM, rather just to inform you. This way, you can be aware and account for the calories that, at the surface state zero, but in reality exist.

I use PAM Spray every time I cook to make clean up easier. I may not be spraying an entire tablespoon, but definitely at least ½ to ¾ of a tablespoon or 60-90 calories worth. To be safe, I round up to 100. So when I cook my eggs whites, at 25 calories per egg white, my 5-egg white break-fast is not 125 calories (5 x 25 calories); rather it is 225 calories to account for the PAM Spray. Eat these egg whites every day for breakfast and fail account for this loophole adds up to 700 calories being UNDER-reported.

Accountability of Accuracy of Nutrition Labels: Some states, such as New York are requiring that restaurants with three or more locations must list the nutrition facts of the food on their menus. On the surface, this sounds great for those looking to better manage their caloric nutritional formula. However, who is making sure what is listed is accurate? This same thought crossed the mind of a blogger who thought to randomly evaluate the accuracy of the nutrition information listed at 20 different restaurants. Of  the 20 different restaurants, 19 of them all UNDER-reported their caloric value by average 30%, with the worst case having an actual caloric value that was double what it listed. Believe it or not, that item was a “healthy Tofu Burger.”

BLT’s are your “Bites, Licks and Tastes” that we fail to account for. Don’t think BLT’s can have an impact? How many make a peanut butter sandwich and actually measure the serving size? Not many, I would assume. Of the few who actually do measure, I would assume it is common that they scrape and lick the remaining peanut butter after spreading it on the sandwich. At 190 calories per serving, that could be an easy 35- 50 calories. What else do you “Bite, Lick or Taste” that is not being accounted for?

These are why most who struggle with weight loss have a hard time accepting they are eating too much and cannot buy into the “it’s a calorie in vs. calories out” thing.

Understanding these variables in managing your weight loss program is not a one-day or one-week process of logging food. This is why here at My Fitness Kitchen®, we highly recommend that our weight loss clients minimally commit to eight weeks of food monitoring to best comprehend this process. That will ultimately allow food intake to be built around YOUR FOOD, on YOUR TERMS for YOUR RESULTS. Once this caloric formula is mastered, individuals can continue down the nutritional funnel to accelerate even greater results; however, to focus on anything before your caloric formula is in-line is wasting time, energy and money.

The bottom line is that failure to recognize these potential errors of UNDER-reporting can sabotage any weight loss program, create frustration and ultimately cause individuals to give up on their weight loss goals.

For more information, please feel free to consult with any of the fitness professionals at My Fitness Kitchen®. Additionally, as an on-going thank you to the Laurel Mountain Post and its readers, mention this article for a FREE, no obligation, personalized, metabolic nutritional formula and fitness program that will leverage the “Hierarchy of Fat Loss.” If you are serious about achieving a body transformation goal, then you need a program; as any goal without a plan is really only a wish!

As an added incentive for people new to My Fitness Kitchen®, by mentioning this Laurel Mountain Post article and after meeting with one of My Fitness Kitchen’s Fitness Professionals for a private consult as offered above, you will receive $50 “Kitchen Cash” to be used toward any program or service at My Fitness Kitchen®, as a courtesy of the Laurel Mountain Post.

Excuse or Reason?: Which Will Win in 2014?

by Mark Rullo MS, CSCS, MES

Here we go again: will it be a “New Year, New You” or not?  Truth be told, this is the time of year that the majority of people make a commitment to themselves to lose weight, get more fit and just become healthier overall. Statistically, weight loss is the number one resolution, with 45% of Americans citing it as their goal.  Unfortunately, only 8% of people who make the commitment to lose weight actually do.

Through the years, we have found two primary reasons why people either reach their goal or give up: Motivation and Direction.

Direction is making sure that your time, energy and even money are expended with a correct plan to achieve your goal.  Motivation is the emotional reason to actually want to see that goal become a reality.

An individual can be extremely motivated to lose weight; however if they are provided with the wrong information, more times than not, they will stop in frustration because the results do not match their efforts (check out my previous LMP article –Nov 2013 “Why Gyms Make You Fat”). On the other side, if an individual has the most scientific, evidence-based game plan for weight loss (Hierarchy of Fat Loss) but does not have a burning desire to see the change become a reality, more times than not, that individual will not follow the necessary behaviors to see the desired expected results.

I often explain Motivation and Direction using the analogy of wanting to see the sun rise. If your goal is to see the sun rise, it wouldn’t matter how motivated you were if you were told to look west every morning (wrong direction).  In a like manner, if you didn’t care to see the sun rise it wouldn’t matter if someone was telling you to get up early and look east. It’s good information but you just don’t have the motivation to see the sun rise.

As an Exercise Physiologist and weight loss expert, my goal is to keep individuals heading “East” relative to the weight loss goal; however to make sure individuals stay the course, we need some emotional “glue” to help with adherence to the program (directions). This emotional adherence is your Reason / Y-Factor.

Y-Factor (Motivation)

When individuals are highly motivated, the commitment and discipline of following through an effective exercise and nutrition program is not an issue, and RESULTS are achieved. However, when motivation is missing, individuals many times leave success up for chance.

It takes some soul searching and digging but most people find that their motivation stems from an emotional response to the avoidance of pain, acquisition of pleasure or a combination of both.  This is a term we refer to as the Y-FACTOR .

Your Y-FACTOR is not a specific goal (e.g., inches lost, %body fat, lean body mass, etc.) that can be measured, rather the reasons WHY you want this change.  To best explain the concept of the Y-FACTOR, I have provided an example of a former client.

A young female in her mid-twenties came to see me about losing weight.  The first thing I asked was why she wanted to lose some weight.  Looking a little puzzled and wondering why I was asking her this, she said because of her wedding coming up in six months. Having some fun with her, I joked that I was curious what religion she was because I am catholic and, as far as I know, we don’t have to lose weight to get married.  She laughed and said her religion doesn’t require that she lose weight to get married but she went on to explain WHY she wants to make a change.

To paraphrase her story, the young lady explained to me that since she was a little girl, she dreamed of her wedding day and wearing the wed-ding gown that has been passed to her from her mother. At the time, the gown didn’t fit the way she pictured it, and she knew that if she could lose some inches it would.  Also, she said, sticking her arms out in front of me and mentioning how fair-skinned she is, if she didn’t make a positive change she had a fear of walking down the aisle on the most important day of her life looking like a giant snowball!

Immediately with enthusiasm I said “GREAT!,” not because she may look like a giant snowball on her wedding day, but because she now had the ammunition to motivate herself and achieve her goal. I continued to explain to her that she now had her Y-FACTOR to help her through the tough days when she didn’t feel like staying with the program.  Her Y-FACTOR has both emotional responses, the fear of looking like a snowball on the most important day of her life, and the pleasure of fulfilling her childhood dreams of her wedding day.

The short-term goals, measurements, body fat %, etc were monitored every 1-2 weeks to assist with her accountability and make sure she was on track to reach her goal on her wedding day.  However, it was the Y-FACTOR, the fear of looking like a snowball and the pleasure of a child-hood dream becoming a reality, which provided her the personal self-drive, motivation, and discipline to follow through with the daily exercise and nutrition prescription.

This “Fear of the Snowball” ex-ample illustrates the power of emotion and how we do things out of emotional want well before any actual logic or need. The woman above logically knew that she needed to lose weight regardless of any wedding. Even though she knew she needed to lose weight she simply didn’t want to lose weight badly enough to stick with any program. Once she was able to identify that emotional factor it was only a matter of getting her on the right plan of attack.  Not every person I work with can identify their Y-Factor immediately, but those who do have always met and/or exceeded their targeted goals.

So how do you make sure you are part of the 8% who make a New Year’s resolution a reality when it comes to weight loss? First, identify why you want to lose the weight.  Identify what fear, pain or pleasure the extra weight you are carrying is causing you.  Once identified, get on a personalized plan that incorporates the “hierarchy of fat loss” to eliminate the guesswork and let the science work for you while leveraging your Y-factor for the days when you want to be the poster child for anti-exercise and poor nutrition.

Without an emotional reason, more times than not, the excuse (no-time, lack of energy, work, family, sickness, money, etc.) will win. How-ever a goal tied to an emotional reason and an effective plan of action will put you on the winning side of this year’s weight loss resolution.

For more information, please feel free to consult with any of the fitness professionals at My Fitness Kitchen®. Additionally as an on-going thank you to Laurel Mountain Post and its readers, mention this article for a FREE, no obligation, personalized, metabolic nutritional formula and fitness program that will leverage the “hierarchy of fat loss.” If you are serious about achieving a body transformation goal then you need a program, as any goal without a plan is really only a wish!

As an added incentive for people new to My Fitness Kitchen®, by mentioning this Laurel Mountain Post article and after meeting with one of My Fitness Kitchen’s Fitness Professionals for a private consult, as offered above – you will receive $50 “Kitchen Cash” to be used toward any program or service at My Fitness Kitchen® as a courtesy of the Laurel Mountain Post.

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