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  • Bad at math and CONFUSED about calories

    So I am truly abysmal at math and I am very confused about the calorie ideology and what I need to do to lose weight. So far I've been paleo/primal consistently since July 1 and lost 15 pounds without calorie counting, but I think I'm hitting a plateau and I'm not sure what to do to break through. I'm 5'4'', 24 year old female, started the journey at 160-162 pounds and now I'm hovering around 143-145 the last couple of weeks.

    In terms of physical activity, I run 2 miles 3-5 days a week, supplement with short power yoga practices (I do mean POWER yoga, I'm dripping sweat by the end), and I throw in a little walking and occasionally some HIIT in my living room. So usually I end up doing something physical every day of the week, if I ever do have a rest day it's just one.

    Nutritionally, I'm completely gluten-free and I've had dairy and rice maybe three times since July 1? I'm about as paleo/primal as you can get. I was drinking quite a bit of red wine there for a while but even that I've cut down on. I never tracked calories before but I decided to try for a few days just so I could get a visual handle on what that looks like, but now I'm more confused than ever!

    My goal is to lose 1.5 pounds/week till the end of the year, which will put me at my goal weight of 120 by New Years. I THINK I'm supposed to eat 1300 calories a day to achieve that goal, but that seems really low (although it's not like I'm starving or anything at that number, in fact as it turns out I learned this week while counting that I sometimes accidentally eat a little less than that naturally).

    I know that I need a daily deficit of 750 calories in order to lose 1.5/week, which can come from eating less and burning more calories exercising. But what portion of each should I be aiming for? How many calories should I aim to eat less and how many should I aim to burn off exercising? Also, I know that a daily deficit of 750 calories = a weekly deficit of 5,250 calories; is there any merit to the idea of calorie/carb cycling on days I work out harder to eat more calories/carbs on those days and less on days that I do more gentle activity?

    I am SO confused, but I really want to break through this plateau and keep on the path to meeting my goals, so any help would be a appreciated.

  • #2
    The calorie math related to a deficit does not directly correspond to weight lost on the scale but calories lost from body tissues. Your plateau(weight on scale) is fully possible while still in a deficit...
    "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

    - Schopenhauer

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    • #3
      Track how many calories you eat right now, subtract 200-250 calories from your daily intake and see whether you lose. 1.5lb/week is not really realistic once you get closer to your goal weight. Do you want to maintain the loss after you reach it? The slower the loss near the end, the more likely the results will be lasting.
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      • #4
        Consideration of "Calories" is, and will remain, confusing regardless of math skills.

        Why? Because the premise is faulty. It's like asking, "How many miles do you get per gallon?" MPG, miles per gallon, only has meaning in the context of fuel type, diesel or gasoline or ethylnol. Or, engine type; diesel or gasoline or dual fuel. And then, consideration has to be given to the vehicle weight, accessories and driving style. Even altitude. Temperature.

        Same with Calories. Fats, proteins and carbs are treated differently regardless of Caloric value. We vary according to the fuel types we're adapted to. Our environments differ. If you choose to now count Calories, when you had success not counting, be prepared for confusing failures. In your quest to cut Calories, you will likely cut high Caloric fats. Big mistake. Or you'll cut carbs lower than you can support your exercise program with.

        The end result of trying to lose weight by cutting calories or exercising calories away is hunger and cortisol spikes, followed by unexplainable fatigue.

        If you have plateaued in weightloss, increase your protein intake, either reduce your exercise regimen or increase carbs to support it and probably hold fats even until you see your results. But, if you have recently reduced fats to cut Calories, go back to prior levels. Forget Calories. They are a false predictor of results.

        Many people say to not weigh often but there is one benefit to weighing daily, rather than counting calories. That is, to find you sweet spot for carb intake. If by weighing daily, you see a quick spike of 2-3 pounds, it is likely due to glycogen/water gain and by reviewing the carbs you ingested the day before, you'll know the type of carbs and quantity that caused the spike. If you exercise, then do so when the weight has spiked and don't exercise when the weight has dipped. If you start to see spikes daily, then it will tell you your glycogen is full and any additional carbs are converting to fat to be stored. Then you'll know you exceeded the sweet spot for yourself.

        Should fat be limited? For weightloss, yes. But, not for any Caloric formula. Rather, it's a pathway issue. If you are limiting carbs to or below your sweet spot, your body will utilize fat to power your energy need. Where will the fat come from? It will come either from your food or from your fat store. Your choice. If you draw from your fat store, you'll lose weight, but if you power from your food, you won't. Or, you will lose it more slowly.

        All the while, protein is the source of the building blocks you need to maintain composition and chemistry. Keep protein at a high moderate level.
        Last edited by John Caton; 09-16-2015, 02:56 AM.
        Stop by to visit at http://primalways.net
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        • #5
          I'm 5'4'', 24 year old female, started the journey at 160-162 pounds and now I'm hovering around 143-145 the last couple of weeks.
          ...
          My goal is to lose 1.5 pounds/week till the end of the year, which will put me at my goal weight of 120 by New Years.
          I've several thoughts on your situation.
          1. You are getting plenty of exercise and probably can already be considered to be in "good shape."
          2. You were not all that heavy to begin with. I think your objective of 1.5/week is much too aggressive. Losing 1.5 lbs a week when you weigh 140 is much tougher than losing that much when you weight 250.
          3. IMO, you have done pretty well in the weight loss arena. 15 lbs since 7/1. That's around 1 lb/week. As a really fat male, I started at 270, went to 210 in a year, and was happy with 1lb/week. I also encountered several plateaus, one lasted about a month. At any rate, you no doubt are losing it significantly faster than you put it on.
          4. Plateaus are to be expected. Your body is having to change and readjust, there will be periods when it stalls out. Be patient. It will resolve itself, I think John's suggestions above are good if you want to try and kickstart things.
          5. What is magic about 120? I know it is an objective, but losing weight should not be your only indicator of better health. Do you feel better? Have more energy? Better mental focus? How devastating will it be to reach 1/1/16 and weigh 130?
          6. You may find your body is happier at a weight other than what you have set as your objective. Listen to it, and be patient as you move forward. You are engaged in a long term change in how you live. If you will, a marathon, not a 100 meter sprint.
          7. On the forum, there are continual "calorie wars" on whether counting cals is really the super duper indicator many think it is. Same for counting carbs. I'm in the "calories aren't that important camp" and don't want to ignite another brushfire of debate. But, IMO, if you follow the primal guidelines on what foods to eat, the carbs and calories will pretty much take care of themselves if you follow the "eat when hungry, stop when not hungry" guide. Typical females seem to react differently than typical males to going primal. From what I read, they normally will lose weight at a slower and more erratic pace than the guys do. Don't know why.
          Finally have given up on MDA Forum.
          My friends, I'll see ya at primalforums.com where I'm user #4, and we do have a moderator.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by John Caton View Post
            Many people say to not weigh often but there is one benefit to weighing daily, rather than counting calories. That is, to find you sweet spot for carb intake. If by weighing daily, you see a quick spike of 2-3 pounds, it is likely due to glycogen/water gain and by reviewing the carbs you ingested the day before, you'll know the type of carbs and quantity that caused the spike. If you exercise, then do so when the weight has spiked and don't exercise when the weight has dipped. If you start to see spikes daily, then it will tell you your glycogen is full and any additional carbs are converting to fat to be stored. Then you'll know you exceeded the sweet spot for yourself.

            Should fat be limited? For weightloss, yes. But, not for any Caloric formula. Rather, it's a pathway issue. If you are limiting carbs to or below your sweet spot, your body will utilize fat to power your energy need. Where will the fat come from? It will come either from your food or from your fat store. Your choice. If you draw from your fat store, you'll lose weight, but if you power from your food, you won't. Or, you will lose it more slowly.
            .
            Before I discovered paleo/primal I was VLC/attempting ketosis for a few months and felt AWFUL. The so called "keto flu" just never went away, I was constantly lethargic, and to be fair I was on a high-estrogen form of bc at the time but both both of those things combined just completely shot my hormonal balance and I ended up with some deficiencies and infections that took a long time to resolve.

            All that to say, I don't think VLC or ketosis is my sweet spot, but SAD high carb eating makes me gain weight like none other. I usually sit around 100-150 carbs/day if I'm counting right, and so far that has made me feel the best in terms of energy, mood, sustainability, etc. I think I was just worried that I might have to dip below that in order to truly lose more weight and I was worried cause I felt so crappy the last time I tried.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Rig D View Post
              I've several thoughts on your situation.
              1. You are getting plenty of exercise and probably can already be considered to be in "good shape."
              2. You were not all that heavy to begin with. I think your objective of 1.5/week is much too aggressive. Losing 1.5 lbs a week when you weigh 140 is much tougher than losing that much when you weight 250.
              3. IMO, you have done pretty well in the weight loss arena. 15 lbs since 7/1. That's around 1 lb/week. As a really fat male, I started at 270, went to 210 in a year, and was happy with 1lb/week. I also encountered several plateaus, one lasted about a month. At any rate, you no doubt are losing it significantly faster than you put it on.
              4. Plateaus are to be expected. Your body is having to change and readjust, there will be periods when it stalls out. Be patient. It will resolve itself, I think John's suggestions above are good if you want to try and kickstart things.
              5. What is magic about 120? I know it is an objective, but losing weight should not be your only indicator of better health. Do you feel better? Have more energy? Better mental focus? How devastating will it be to reach 1/1/16 and weigh 130?
              6. You may find your body is happier at a weight other than what you have set as your objective. Listen to it, and be patient as you move forward. You are engaged in a long term change in how you live. If you will, a marathon, not a 100 meter sprint.
              I'm starting to understand that it's easier to lose weight quickly the more "overweight" you are, especially since I've lost those first 10 pounds a couple of times over the last couple years, and it gets harder the closer you get to a healthy weight. But if counting calories isn't the best way to get yourself to that weight and drop the last 15-25 pounds, what is?

              I guess there's nothing magic about 120, I just used to weigh 120 when I was younger and looked great then. I guess it's more about body comp than anything, I suppose if I got to 130 and looked the way that I wanted to, I wouldn't fuss about the actual number. But honestly looking at myself in the mirror I don't think dropping only 15 more pounds is going to do that. I mean I just dropped 15 pounds and the biggest differences are, as you say, mental clarity, energy, no digestive issues, fitting clothes that used to be tight, non-scale victories as they say. Another 15 will help, but I don't think it'll *quite* get me where I want to be unless my body comp somehow radically changes during the loss of those 15 pounds too, which I am working on, but I'm not quite sure what the most efficient way to change body comp is either.

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              • #8
                ^^ What the others said.

                Food for weight/fat loss. Exercise for health.
                I'd go with the 250 cal defecit and exercise as you are - just don't factor those cals in. Sounds like it's working for health and well being.
                Oh, and use fat calories as your balancing macro. No need to amend carbs if you're on the curve and you feel good on that in terms of energy (and it sounds like you are)...on the contrary, you may struggle to exercise if you reduce carbs.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by softlysoaring View Post
                  Before I discovered paleo/primal I was VLC/attempting ketosis for a few months and felt AWFUL. The so called "keto flu" just never went away, I was constantly lethargic, and to be fair I was on a high-estrogen form of bc at the time but both both of those things combined just completely shot my hormonal balance and I ended up with some deficiencies and infections that took a long time to resolve.

                  All that to say, I don't think VLC or ketosis is my sweet spot, but SAD high carb eating makes me gain weight like none other. I usually sit around 100-150 carbs/day if I'm counting right, and so far that has made me feel the best in terms of energy, mood, sustainability, etc. I think I was just worried that I might have to dip below that in order to truly lose more weight and I was worried cause I felt so crappy the last time I tried.
                  You don't need to be low carb to lose weight, contrary to the popular opinion on here. I can lose by just cutting a few calories. The only way to tell whether it works for you? TRY IT. I'll take self-experimentation over Mda dogmatism any day.
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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by softlysoaring View Post
                    Before I discovered paleo/primal I was VLC/attempting ketosis for a few months and felt AWFUL. The so called "keto flu" just never went away, I was constantly lethargic, and to be fair I was on a high-estrogen form of bc at the time but both both of those things combined just completely shot my hormonal balance and I ended up with some deficiencies and infections that took a long time to resolve.

                    All that to say, I don't think VLC or ketosis is my sweet spot, but SAD high carb eating makes me gain weight like none other. I usually sit around 100-150 carbs/day if I'm counting right, and so far that has made me feel the best in terms of energy, mood, sustainability, etc. I think I was just worried that I might have to dip below that in order to truly lose more weight and I was worried cause I felt so crappy the last time I tried.
                    I'm not a fan of ketosis either except for some specific medical conditions.

                    But, with your experience down that path, I assume you are an adapted fat-burner. That being said, the 100-150 gram of carbs personal sweet spot is generally cited as a healthy maintenance level. So that is cause for pause. Does that range more often approach 100 or 150? It seems you aren't yet wanting a "maintenance" level but a continued "loss".

                    I suggest you review the sugar/starchy carbs you are regularly eating and see if you can reduce any of them to a lower level that still won't leave you feeling deprived. Perhaps a smaller serving size of some. To offset any of those reductions, add back some additional protein.

                    But, adding to RigD's post, other than falling short of a personal goal, your current weight isn't bad and staying at your current maintenance level isn't a bad decision either.

                    I urge you to stay with the strategy that gave you the greatest success to date, that is macro management, not Calorie management. Each macro has a specific purpose and health optimization is dependent on our alignment with those purposes. Weight management is just one marker of health and our views of healthy weight are highly skewed by factors unrelated to health.
                    Stop by to visit at http://primalways.net
                    Old Paths ... New Journeys

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                    • #11
                      +1 to Rig D's post.

                      I suggest that you find a better way to measure fat loss than weight. It's possible for your weight to go down while body fat percentage goes up (the problem with yo-yo dieting). It's possible for your weight to stay the same while body fat percentage goes down. Ultimately you want a certain shape with less body fat and more muscle. When we are talking about losing 100+ pounds of weight, it's almost impossible to do without losing a lot of body fat. But with only ~20 extra pounds, you have to be a lot more careful about preserving your lean body mass.
                      I moved to primalforums.com to escape the spam.

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                      • #12
                        It's a matter of trial and error OP, but just be forewarned, the closer you get to your goal weight, the tighter the reigns you have to put on your food choices/calories etc...

                        As others have mentioned (and I echo it), scale weight isn't necessarily the best way to gauge progress as lean muscle weighs more than fat. You could be gaining lean mass while losing fat, which is the ideal scenario.

                        Another thing to keep in mind is your metabolism will slow down the further you restrict calories. The body has this natural tendency to want to keep itself in balance, so if 1300 calories is your norm for a while, except your metabolism to slow down to just that preventing any further weight loss. Restricting further will cause the metabolism to slow down even further. For fat loss, you want the furnace burning hotter, not cooler, so ideally you want your metabolic rate higher so you burn more calories. The only way your doing that is by eating more consistently.

                        Also, maybe stop looking at calories as your gauge and start looking at the types of foods and eating frequency to keep the insulin levels lower throughout the day. Maybe consider intermittent fasting (this doesn't mean calorie restriction), and try eliminating all foods that contain any type of fructose for a week. This includes all fruit, sweet potatoes, and any starchy vegetables. Just stick to meats, fish, poultry, and leafy greens. See if that works in kick-starting things again. If not, it means your metabolism may be suffering, so start eating a little bit more each day. Add starchy foods back in, fruit, and maybe some more dairy; basically give the body a bit of a shock.

                        If I recall correctly, one of the members on here posted they had stalled about 5lbs from their weight loss and what caused them to lose the last 5lbs was add a breakfast with some toast, yogurt, and berries (if I remember). Sometimes the key is to actually eat more, not less.

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                        • #13
                          Before I discovered paleo/primal I was VLC/attempting ketosis for a few months and felt AWFUL. The so called "keto flu" just never went away ... but I'm not quite sure what the most efficient way to change body comp is either.
                          I had a similar experience trying Atkins. In 1978 I started Atkins, and after a week or so went out for a round of golf, walking the course. I was so physically drained I could only do 9 holes. Came home, pigged out on fast food and felt so much better. That was the end of my n=1 with Atkins.

                          For body comp, you might want to try introducing a weight lifting regimen to your exercise program. It will not make you look freaky unless you go way overboard with. MDA has a number of people who are very much into using weights to build muscle and keep trim/fit, and seem to do extremely well with it. The Starting Strength program gets pretty good reviews. There are several pretty dedicated gals who like weights, but I don't follow them and can't give you handles to check. But look around for them, you may be able to find them by checking threads/posts put up by some of the guys. You could begin with finding posts by RichMahogany, Mr. Anthony, and Jefferson1775. I also like Oldschhool, but his posts seem better for seasoned lifters.
                          Finally have given up on MDA Forum.
                          My friends, I'll see ya at primalforums.com where I'm user #4, and we do have a moderator.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Rig D View Post
                            I had a similar experience trying Atkins. In 1978 I started Atkins, and after a week or so went out for a round of golf, walking the course. I was so physically drained I could only do 9 holes. Came home, pigged out on fast food and felt so much better. That was the end of my n=1 with Atkins.

                            For body comp, you might want to try introducing a weight lifting regimen to your exercise program. It will not make you look freaky unless you go way overboard with. MDA has a number of people who are very much into using weights to build muscle and keep trim/fit, and seem to do extremely well with it. The Starting Strength program gets pretty good reviews. There are several pretty dedicated gals who like weights, but I don't follow them and can't give you handles to check. But look around for them, you may be able to find them by checking threads/posts put up by some of the guys. You could begin with finding posts by RichMahogany, Mr. Anthony, and Jefferson1775. I also like Oldschhool, but his posts seem better for seasoned lifters.
                            My experience back in the day with Atkins was very positive. My energy and endurance improved dramatically and I was doing an extended induction(below 20 grams carb a day). I did that for a few months, lost over 70 lbs and was feeling great. Being young and partying a lot eventually caught up to me though and I fell back into the SAD(story of my life). I did have a lot of fuel on my body though to be able to thrive in ketosis. I'm sure if I would have continued I would have needed to make some adjustments the closer I got to my ideal body comp.

                            Sent from my SM-N910V using Tapatalk
                            Last edited by whitebear; 09-18-2015, 11:22 AM.

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