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Saw a dietitian and had my metabolism tested

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ok, still trying to figure out why I can't lose weight when doing the "right" things. That would be tracking my food, eating five small meals a day, exercising 5 times a week, staying active outside of exercise, having an average of 615 calorie per day deficit for two months. What I got was no scale change, no clothing fit change, no waist measurement change. Well actually, I gained a pound.

But if I don't exercise and don't track like last fall, I lose weight. In this method I just eat when I am hungry. However I normally eat healthfully anyway, don't eat out and move throughout the day due to my home renovation. I actually don't like this method, because I love fitness and exercise.

So I called around this morning to find where I could get in to have my metabolic rate tested, and I found a place that actually had a cancellation today at 10, and since I hadn't eaten breakfast yet, figured I could go without for another couple hours until the appointment. You can't eat or exercise for four hours prior to the test.

To test your metabolism, they use a Medgem. It is a small device that you breath into for 5-10 minutes (with your nose plugged, it's not that fun) and it accurately pops out your basal metabolic rate (BMR) based on your oxygen consumption.

Your BMR is how many calories you are burning at rest if you stayed in bed all day. It is the starting point to determine how many calories you burn in a day, as most calorie calculators figure out how many calories you burn in a day based on multiplying your BMR by an activity level.

I just had to check if something was off with my metabolism and that's why I wasn't losing. Still, I didn't think so. With an average 615 calorie per day deficit, I would have to be half dead to have a metabolism slow enough to make that equate no loss.

So I drove there and met with her while she explained what to do. I have actually had this done but it was probably about 10 years ago. I sat in a quiet room and spaced out basically while breathing into this device. After a little while, it beeped and the nutritionist came back in.

1250 was what it said for my BMR.

Now there are a few different ways you can manually calculate your BMR without Medgem testing (Medgem has the advantage of being more accurate for the individual). The most commonly used is called the Harris-Benedict Equation,

BMR = 655 + ( 4.35 x weight in pounds ) + ( 4.7 x height in inches ) – ( 4.7 x age in years )

This is what most calorie calculators online use.

A second is called the Katch-McArdle Formula. This uses your lean body mass to determine your BMR. Some consider it more accurate, because your lean body mass is what actually burns calories. For example a bodybuilder and someone who is obese with the same weight, height, and age would have the same BMR according to the previous formula. However, it would be different according to Katch-McArdle, since the bodybuilder would have more lean body mass. But you must accurately know your bodyfat to calculate your lean body mass.

The formula, in case anyone is curious, is

BMR = 370 + (21.6 * lean body mass in KG).

What the Medgem said, 1250, was in agreement with the commonly used Harris-Benedict Equation if you plug in my weight, height and age (=1290). The number is low according to the Katch-McArdle formula, but I can't say for sure since I've not been tracking my bodyfat numbers accurately.

I also wear a calorie counting Bodymedia armband to know how many calories I'm burning in a day. I am fairly sure the armband also uses this equation as a basis for it's calculations as well, as it just uses height/weight/age and not bodyfat. So the 615 calorie deficit per day that I had been doing, was also accurate.

So.... although I'm glad to know my metabolism isn't out of whack (I also recently went to visit a doctor and my tests came back fine)... I still don't know what is going on.

The second part was meeting with the nutritionist. Now, I can't say this part was a waste of money, but...

As you can probably tell, I know a thing or two about nutrition and exercise. I was a personal trainer for several years and a group exercise instructor for 18 years. I am an endurance athlete and have completed 9 marathons, countless half-marathons and triathlons, as well as other types of multisport events all over the world. I was in a Master's program for Kinesioloy/exercise science.

Granted, she did not know all this when she started to explain to me what a fat gram and a carb is.

However, I brought in printouts of my typical meals, and also a chart showing my average calories burned per day (2289), average calories eaten, minutes of activity, etc.

Yet, she continued with her speech that she probably gives countless times a day, as if I had not said anything or showed her anything. Starting with my BMR, she said, "Let's say you burn 1.2 times your BMR on a sedentary day, and 1.5 calories when you are exercising and "really working it.""

Ok, 1.5 times my BMR is 1875. I burn 1875 calorie in a day where I feel like I am being lazy. I had already showed her my average was 2289 per day. That actually puts me on average in about the highest activity level category, BMR * 1.9. And that is average, I have a lot of days I burn more, too. I don't sit down for most of the day, and I don't take days off. I am not saying that is necessarily good, but that's just how I am.

She seemed to get a bit flustered going back and looking at my age, weight, etc for her calculations I guess. Maybe she thinks that extremely active people don't need to lose weight. I wouldn't think so, either. Hence my confusion.

She then started to explain to me how to eat 5 meals a day, even though I showed her I was already doing that. And how, if I ate 1600 calories a day for example, how that would divide up. I was already doing that too. She said I could get my protein from, for example, a low-fat cheese stick. This is after I said like 3 times I don't eat dairy.

So I told her I was already doing these things. So, she said maybe I needed to manipulate my carbohydrates, eat slightly less of them and see what happened.

I could try this, but I am not sure if this was real advice directed toward my situation, or just another generic thing she says to people. Years ago, I had a nutritionist put me on a 45% carb plan. Running felt terrible, and I didn't lose weight. I did the first two weeks of South Beach with a friend as well. She lost 10 lbs. I didn't lose any.

She did say the stress could be doing it, too, which I already suspected. She said her husband is an example of that, so she knows personally that it can affect weight loss.

She did not think my 615 calorie/day deficit was too large. I said some suggested weight training, but I didn't want to get bulky. She also didn't think adding weight training would help, she said she could tell just by looking at me I already had an athletic build to begin with.

So, from my appointment today, at least I know my metabolism is OK. Not that I hoped it would be slow, but I had hoped I would get more answers than I did.

I might try her suggestion of cutting carbs, but I don't know. I don't want to start feeling badly. I am currently around 60% when training. Maybe I will go to 55% or even 50%. She also said to make sure to pair a protein and carbs for each meal, which I was doing, but slacked off on. I would get the right amount of protein in a day, but sometimes it would be by eating more during some meals and less at others. I don't know that these tweaks will make that much of a difference? But who knows.

I do need to work on my workaholism and stress management. So perhaps I need to start doing Yoga again (I used to teach it, but no longer...), stick to trying to stop working on stuff around 7 or 8 in the evenings, and take full days off, both from working on the house AND exercise. I'm still sleeping badly and I've read that can affect weight loss, too.

I don't know. If anyone has any suggestions... would love to hear them...!
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    @CASEY, no need to apologize! Thanks for being supportive. I'm glad you brought that up anyway, as I don't want people to think I am trying to do something unhealthy or get to an unreasonable weight for me.

    When I was a personal trainer, I saw clients that wanted to lose weight for a number of reasons, sports performance, figure competitions/bodybuilding, a wedding/reunion, so they could be more active with their kids, just because they feel better at a lower weight, unhappy with weight they gained over the holidays, haven't worked out since high school, hiking the Appalachian trail, etc, as well as "because the doctor said so," and in many cases, the latter was the hardest to keep consistent. I say, as long as the end goal is healthy, go for it!

    For me right now, it's not so much the weight either as the cause as to why I can't lose it. I also want to make sure I am healthy, i.e. not something else causing it that is affecting my health in other ways. I have been seeing through this process that I have been chronically dehydrated and (well I knew this) REALLY need to work on my stress levels. So, it's also about improving overall health as well!

    THANKS for your comments!
    2111 days ago
    I'm sorry. Forgive me. I was trying to be supportive and see that I failed. I also would never say it's OK for someone at the top of the healthy weight range to gain 10 or 20 pounds and ignore it. I hope you don't think that's what I was saying. It was just an idea that maybe if your health numbers are OK as you say they are that perhaps the number on the scale or the size of the trousers might not be that significant. I was wrong -- for you in your situation, they are that important.

    Again, I'm sorry. Cheers!
    2111 days ago
    @Casey: I think there are a number of valid reasons to lose weight besides strictly what the health charts say. But I also don't think being at the high border of any chart - cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, etc (just giving examples, my ranges are ok), is necessarily ideal. Additionally, I'm an avid athlete and can't perform at the level I enjoy with the added weight. There are health-related issues with that as well - the added weight causes more lower legs injuries, heat-related stress as well as taking away from the performance aspect that motivates me to exercise and stay fit. I've never been the type of person that can go stand on an elliptical machine for 45 minutes just because "it's good to exercise." Fitness is best and most regularly pursued if it's something a person enjoys.

    I see what you're saying - but at the same time I don't hate my body or think I look terrible or anything like that. But I also don't know that it's such a good trend in general to gain 10 or 20 lbs and just say "oh well, that's the way it goes."
    2111 days ago
    If there's no health reason to lose weight, maybe what you need to work on next is loving the body you have. Body image is a trip, isn't it?

    2111 days ago
    Well strictly speaking I don't HAVE to lose weight, but am at the high end of the weight scales for my height/BMI and also my bodyfat is high too, like 7% higher on average than someone who just generally works out. I'm not sure why and why I can't lose it, it's just weird.
    2112 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/6/2012 11:15:37 PM
    Also, I'm assuming you are sure you NEED to lose weight? Perhaps with all the exercise you do, you have muscle mass and not fat?
    2112 days ago
    OH! btw, I just cut dairy and processed grains this week so we will see how that goes ( I miss greek yogurt so so very bad, but bread and crackers... meh)
    2114 days ago
    wow I'm going through the exact same thing. I wear a BodyMedia device as well, workout 5-6 days a week, mixing up weight circuits & running, get plenty of sleep and my job is not stressful, I also moved into a fully "clean" diet about a month ago eating 5 small meals a day aaaaannnndd nothing. So so so very frustrating.
    2114 days ago
  • BOSS61
    With all that science, you need no armchair quarterbacking from me. Still 600ish calories a day seems inadequate. Your body might think it is starving itself. Try upping the calories some... I would.
    2114 days ago
    I know. I feel like when you have to get so analytical about everything, something isn't working?? I mean some people are like, "I just stopped drinking soda and lost weight." And I'm like AAAARRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!
    2118 days ago
    Good Grief... you must be my sister! In fact, I have been so frustrated as well with the same situation. I have done and still do endurance events, hardly take a day off, eat extremely well. And the weight just hangs on. I am seriously thinking of cutting out bread and rice ( which I eat little of) and adding more fats. I too hate limiting carbs because you feel like crap running etc... I am still problem solving on this and would love to keep in touch. I hate you have this problem.... and I hate I have this problem. There must be a solution somewhere though.
    2118 days ago
  • JLITT62
    Heck, if I knew what to do I'd be doing it - sorry! I've always kind of wanted to see a nutritionist but I think you just cured me of that.
    2119 days ago
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