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If You Can’t Lose Weight, Do Just Suck At Math?

September 4, 2014 by Aaron Snyder in Aaron's Blog with 0 Comments

If I were to take a survey of overweight people and asked how many of them thought a sluggish metabolism was the reason they can’t lose weight, more than half would raise their hands.

And nearly all of them would be incorrect.

If you can’t lose weight, 95% of you can’t blame a sluggish metabolism as the problem.

The issue is one of how you determine you have a sluggish metabolism. You’d have to:

  1. Know how many calories you’re burning.
  2. Know how many calories less than what you’re burning that you ate.
  3. Weigh yourself, don’t lose weight, and then make your conclusion.

And studies like this one show 1 and 2 above are the problem. Click on that link. It’s a fast read and will shock you out of denial.

People are notoriously bad about estimating how many calories they really eat in a day. And they are also bad about estimating how much exercise they really did. Now, I don’t really mean to knock on your math skills via the title. This is a problem even for geniuses. The mathematical prodigy Jon Von Neumann would throw elaborate parties, sometimes twice a week, and loved to just smoke, drink, and eat. According to wikepedia.com, “his wife, Klara, said that he could count everything except calories…”

Click here for my free estimate of how many calories you burn in a day.

As another example, I bust my butt in the gym 4 days a week. I do all heavy compound movements in a circuit training fashion. Want to wager how many calories I burn in an hour at the gym?

About 250 calories. Yeah, not enough even for a Snickers. And yet I carry less than 10% body fat. This reveals two lessons:

  1. Weight lifting’s benefit is not in how many calories it burns, but in that it builds and at the very least retains muscle during dieting so you lose fat, not muscle, and hence do not slow your metabolism down.
  2. Weight lifting is the most important exercise for dieters for the above reason. It beats cardio every time. If you love doing cardio, you should actually do less to make time for weight lifting.

My own calorie calculator above will give you an honest assessment of how many calories you need to eat to lose however much weight you wish. That’s half the math problem. The other half, how to accurately measure how many calories per day  you are eating, ain’t as easy.

I measure my food and write down the total to lose weight.

Every day. Even when I eat burgers and fries or fry potatoes in bacon grease and throw them in my egg and cheese and bacon burritos. I should mention I am known for my mental arithmetic abilities. My son calls me a calculator. And yet I write down my food along with how much I weigh. Because my memory is not as good as stopping denial as the visual on an Excel spreadsheet.

This is what it took for me to lose my 80  pounds of denial. It helped with my emotional eating. Even when I was really down on myself, I might write “Time: 6:30 PM, Food: Shit, Calories: 1,500.” But I wrote it down.

I was fat. Good at math, better at bullshit.

And regarding the study above, my one issue with the conclusion that math is the biggest weight loss problem is that former fatty’s like me knew all along deep down that we were over-eating and over-estimating our exercise, but were also in denial of how much crap we actually ate. All of us who are or were overweight can list elaborate rituals designed to hide how much poor quality food we eat.

  • I’d eat when no one was around.
  • I’d eat where no one knew me.
  • I’d eat in a dark parked car away from the drive-thru.
  • I’d eat alone and then go to a friend’s to eat more.

But writing it all down forced me to look at those behaviors. Even if I was afraid to look in the mirror sometimes, I could not look away from how much I was putting down my throat each day according to that piece of paper.

If you’re struggling with your weight and blaming your metabolism for why you can’t lose weight, I would suggest to you that you’re really struggling with denial like I was. Look at yourself. Measure your food, even your binges, even for one day, even for one meal., and take a look at how much you’re really eating. Compare that to how many calories you’re really burning. Then when you’re ready, do it every day.

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