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Weight Loss: Math or Magic?

Monday, December 19, 2011

I am driven by logic. I chose to use the Spark Nutrition and Fitness trackers as the cornerstone of my 2011 weight loss plan, and loved having lots of numbers to target, crunch, and analyze. I set goals based on the projections I could view, and things sort of fell into place. Sort of. In hindsight, I realize that early on, I came to understand that part of my success came from math, while the other part involved "magic." Not necessarily good magic either.

I don't have a fairy godmother..or a friend from Hogwarts. Nobody waved a wand at me to zap my fat. The "magic" I refer to is the often frustrating LACK OF LOGIC that comes with long-term weight loss. What I have found is that when I relied totally on math, the scale didn't always move.

Math-based reality: Follow the advice of my SP trackers. Note the calorie differential. See loss of pound each time the negative differential sum is 3500 calories. HA HA HA! How many times does THAT happen?

Magic-based reality: Follow the advice of my SP trackers. Note the calorie differential. Note how the calorie differential seems to have no bearing on the scale. Sometimes a pound is "lost" with a 2000 negative calorie differential, and other times it disappears with a 7000 negative calorie differential.

So, what have I learned about ME and this magic? It's not always logical, but:

1) I've lost weight when I eaten around 1400 calories a day, regardless of where that number falls in my tracker range.

2) I've used the Spark-suggested protein/fat/carb ratios successfully, BUT, if I went over in fat - even if my calories were well within my tracker range - I maintained or even gained weight.

3) If I wanted the scale to move, I couldn't eat too many calories at one sitting, even if my daily total was within range. My body doesn't mind if I eat all day - even late at night - as long as I only eat mini-meals.

4) I do best if I track the three main nutrients PLUS my sodium, calcium, fiber, and saturated fat, and keep them all in check.

None of these four things are necessarily supported by "the math," but they were the truths for my own journey. If I ignored them, and just said, "I'm doing everything right, but I'm not losing weight," then I wasn't being honest with myself. They were the non-quantifiable aspects of my Spark program - my "magic." I had to learn them by trial and error, over the past eleven months, and adapt and adjust accordingly. So I read and learned, paying attention to the experiences and blogs of Spark friends. But I knew that at the end of the day, I needed to do the things that worked for me.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    How true! Great blog! When I read the title I had to laugh though. Every month my boss tells me to work my "magic math" on his financial reports. emoticon

    2257 days ago
    Yet another mind shifting powerful blog ! Well done !!

    I am also beginning to see these same parameters work for me. I know a lot of people who have lost weight by shifting to the' eat every two hours mentality.'I think it ultimately all boils down to your blood sugar levels. Keeping them in check is magic itself. Also just saying... I also find if I go over my carb or protein levels the weight loss ceases. The real deal is to eat well, but being mindful of portion sizes.

    You are truly the master of diets now ! emoticon
    2257 days ago
  • YIWEN39
    You've learnt so much about how your body responds and what really works for you, that's GREAT :-) Thanks a lot for the insight and the inspiration emoticon emoticon
    Keep on sharing and sparking, you're a rock star :-)
    2257 days ago
    So true!! We each have to find out what are own magic is and commit to doing what works best for ourselves! Spark has some amazing stuff to help us on our journey but it is a very personal one and we each have to find our own SPARK to succeed! Great blog! Smiles Barb
    2257 days ago
    Great blog! I have found #3 to be the best thing for my weight loss so far. I used to eat a very small breakfast and lunch and save all my calories for dinner, and even when I stayed within range, I wasn't losing. Now I eat all day long, usually at least 6 times, and the weight is finally coming off!

    Thanks for reminding me what's making the "magic" happen for me.
    2258 days ago
    Look now much you have learned! Good stuff!
    2258 days ago
    Once again, a great blog! I love reading your insights. We think a lot alike. I'm going to have to start watching some of the other numbers too. I was surprised how much of a difference I saw when I started tracking sodium. I wonder what will happen if I start tracking some of the others... hmmm!

    Thanks again for sharing your insights!

    2258 days ago
    I'm pretty sure that we ALL hear you on this one. I'm one for thinking that if I believe in Magic, then the Scale is the DRAGON that must be slayed! LOL. emoticon
    2258 days ago
    Wow, I was just joining to blog about this topic. I've been analyzing my numbers for the past few month. Once I started working the differentials the weight started coming off.

    2258 days ago
    Our bodies are wondrous complicated machines, each with its own tricks and hitches. Glad you've figured out what works best to get your engine purring.
    2258 days ago
    Awesome insight! I'm sharing this!
    2258 days ago
    I'm very glad I read made such good sense to me. it "spoke" to me... I have to reconsider a few factors in my eating, that will make a difference in my weight. Thanks for sharing the wisdom gained in the past 11 months, and the truth you found in your journey, Very valuable and sensible advice! Thanks so much!!!!
    2258 days ago
    Yes. I've found exercise definitely does increase my magic! I'm a great fan of the challenges.
    2258 days ago

    Comment edited on: 12/19/2011 10:21:39 PM
    I have to say I am now eating many small meals during the day too and I like how it works.

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    2258 days ago
    I'm with RUNNINGWAVE & AMARILYNH There is always so much to be learned from your blogs & the comments. Thanks, as always emoticon emoticon

    2258 days ago
  • NEWMAC2011
    I'm not a math person LOL! You've learned what works for you; you're proof of that success!
    2258 days ago
  • REDSHOES2011
    The calorie range is in relationship to how much exercise we do, kinda like a car.. If I weight train I get to the high end and if I am sendity because of work I eat to the lower range.. explains how to use the calorie range in time with exercise.. Sparkspeople doesn't have strength training in the maths because of peoples age, weight, sex, height and energy level..
    2258 days ago
    We are all an experiment in progress. You figure out what works for you, and you do it! Success! Life! Fully lived!

    Loved this post!
    2258 days ago
    So Cute! So Real! So Helpful! And So Awesome!!
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    2258 days ago
    Yes! emoticon I'm so glad to read this because I can't do math to save my life and I was worried I'd screw all the numbers up and not be able to reach my goals, but hey, if it's more of an illogical individualized art of weight loss sort of thingy, then I might just make it. Whew.
    2258 days ago
    Another great Blog, Mimi! Awesome!!
    2258 days ago
  • TERESA159
    Yes, one of the hardest and most demoralizing lessons we learn on the journey is that not only is the whole 3500 calorie deficit thing complete and utter B.S., but that there is NO number out there that you can pinpoint and say, "Ha! THAT"S the calorie deficit I need to obtain in order to lose one pound!" There is no guarantee!

    And so, gentle Sparker, it's all up to the whims of the fat fairies. And sometimes they can be real bitches.
    Which is why I am always saying, one way or another, "More POWER TO US!!" for those who get it and still stick around.
    2258 days ago
    Yes! It's fascinating -- if sometimes frustrating -- how sometimes we have to go against common "wisdom" to do the right things by our health. It also is clear to me, that life is change. And that means, yes, by the time I figure something out about my own metabolism, that metabolism might well have already changed so what I figured out isn't true! emoticon

    Eating MORE of the right things helps me a ton, and seeing the graphs for various nutrients is a big plus. I kind of wish I could see the graphs at different points throughout a day, although daily is still a help!
    2258 days ago
    You have worked it out!!
    well done my friend !! Yes it works and only if we track .. we must track eveything we put in our mouths ... Glad you are seeing results !
    Hugs and Love Susie emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2258 days ago
    I think the greatest reminder in that is how absolutely important it is to track and keep notes. Only when we can look and compare the ups and downs to how and what we ate in the prior days can we really identify those little "personal rules" or the Magic of our own body's way of losing weight.
    2258 days ago
    It's amazing what we've all learned from SP. Good luck in the future.
    2258 days ago
    Love your analysis!! You are so smart to figure out what works for you. Thanks for posting. You are just doing great! -Marsha
    2258 days ago
    emoticon I think you are well on your way to earning that PhD of You - I found myself nodding through so much of your post - this trial and error of learning about your own body is quite a journey, but so much better than the one size fits all diet maxims

    I think the most frustrating part for me is when I finally figure out a few things about my unique body, at least one rule will totally change up and throw me into confusion again - I'm learning to roll with those punches

    great post! emoticon
    2258 days ago
  • _JODI404
    You are superb at the number crunching & analyzing aspects of this process!! emoticon

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom! We are all different, and what works for one may not work for all... but chances are good that your tips will be helpful to many others. I find it quite helpful to read a variety of what is working for others, and always appreciate it when others take the time to explain and share the info!

    It is *supposed* to be simple math... but I could not agree more... it is far from it!! I can't figure it out... I just make overall good choices and eventually that scale moves down again... one pound at a time! (at it's own pace -- whenever that may be!).

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    2258 days ago
    It is hard to get away from the notion that our goal is to lose "weight" on the scale and to interpret every downward blip as "good" and every upward blip as "bad." So let me pose some hypothetical questions. Would you be pleased about a one pound loss on the scale if you knew that it was, in fact, from dehydration that day? Would you be upset about a one pound gain if you knew that it was all from muscle? Let me share two of my experiences (I know I'm a broken record on this subject.) I once lost two clothing sizes without losing a single pound on the scale (because I was gaining muscle as fast as I was losing fat). I always gain at least a pound on the scale after a very long run, even though I have burned over 2000 calories on that run (from increased water in the muscles which is part of the inflammatory recovery response.) At your current stage in your weight loss journey, the scale can't give you all the info you need to determine whether you are on the best path for improved health and fitness. (Thanks for indulging me.)
    2258 days ago
  • YDAVIS23
    Thanks for this post. So much of it is an "aha" moment for me and helps me understand my own journey a bit better. Congrats on knowing yourself well enough to figure some of this stuff out!
    2258 days ago
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    Disclaimer: Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.