Something I found interesting in the TIME Magazine article I reviewed a few days ago was the reference to an article in Obesity Research, which discussed methods of determining Resting Energy Expenditure, better known as Basal Metabolic Rate, or BMR.

WHEE (Weight, Health, Eating and Exercise) is a community support diary for Kossacks who are currently or planning to start losing, gaining or maintaining their weight through diet and exercise or fitness. Any supportive comments, suggestions or positive distractions are appreciated. If you are working on your weight or fitness, please -- join us! You can also click the WHEE tag to view all diary posts.

The most basic equation of weight loss is:
Weight gain/loss = energy in - energy out.

That is, measure the calories (energy) in the food you eat, and subtract the calories you "burn" through maintaining body functions, exercise, etc, and that number will tell you how much fat you can expect to gain or lose, at a conversion factor of about 3500 calories per pound of fat.

For example, if you eat just 96 calories per day more than you burn, over the course of a year you will gain ten pounds. Conversely, if you burn 96 calories more than you eat every day, you'll lose ten pounds in a year.

It's fairly easy to determine how many calories are in the food you eat. Easy, but tedious - you need to accurately measure everything, then convert to calories using a table or online calculator. There are smartphone apps that make this easier than ever before, but it's still a pain. However, it's still pretty easy. But how do you determine how much energy you burn?

The best-known BMR equations are the Harris-Benedict equations:

BMR (men) = (13.75 x body mass) + (500.3 x height) - (6.78 x age) + 66.5

BMR (women) = (9.56 x body mass) + (185 x height) - (4.68 x age) + 655.1

You can run these equations for yourself (body mass is measured in kilograms, height in meters, and age in years). But there are many online calculators that will do the math for you.

Knowing your Basal Metabolic Rate (that is, the energy your body needs to maintain normal body functions), you can determine your daily calorie burn by adding the additional calories you burn in exercise. Alternately, and more simply, you can multiply by a conversion factor based on how active you are and estimate your daily calorie that way. But how accurate is this estimate?

According to the article in Obesity Research,

These prediction equations were developed in 239 adults (136 men and 103 women) between the ages of 16 and 63 years for men and 15 and 73 years for women with very few overweight individuals.

(emphasis mine)

The problem is, body fat requires MUCH less energy for maintenance than other tissues. Again according to Obesity Research,

Heart and kidneys have the highest resting metabolic rate (440 kcal/kg per day), whereas brain (240 kcal/kg per day) and liver (200 kcal/kg per day) also have high values. In contrast, resting metabolic rates of skeletal muscle (13 kcal/kg per day) and adipose tissue (4.5 kcal/kg per day) are low. Therefore, although skeletal muscle and adipose tissue are the two largest components, their contribution to REE is smaller than that of organs. The majority of the REE of the body (approx 60%) arises from organs such as liver, kidneys, heart, and brain, which account for only approx5% to 6% of BM.

Since the Harris-Benedict equations were formulated years ago, before the majority of the American population became overweight and obese, it's almost certain that these popular BMR calculations overstate calorie burn.

How much? Well, at my goal weight of 154 pounds, my BMR will be 1524 calories per day according to the first Harris-Benedict equation above.

My maximum weight was 229 pounds, when I was carrying an additional 75 pounds of fat. Taking the figure of 4.5 kcal/kg (2.04 kcal/pound) of energy required by those 75 pounds of fat (adipose tissue), I get a difference of 153 calories needed to maintain my extra fat mass at 229 pounds. In total, being 75 pounds overweight raised my BMR to 1677 calories.

But calculating my BMR at 229 pounds gives me a figure of 1991 calories, over 300 calories more! If I'd kept my food intake just under 1700 calories per day when I weighed 229 pounds, I would have expected to lose a pound every 12 days - but I would actually have been GAINING weight!

What to do?

Well, there are other BMR calculations. The next most popular one is the Katch-McArdle equation,

BMR = 370 + (21.6 x lean body mass in kg)

The drawback of the Katch-McArdle equation is it requires you to know your lean body mass. If you have a bathroom scale that ACCURATELY measures body fat percent or you've had your body fat percent measured by skinfold calipers, you can determine your LBM by multiplying that percent times your weight, then subtracting that result from your body weight to get your lean (i.e., non-fat) body weight. Divide by 2.205, multiply by 21.6, add 370, and you get your BMR. For me, my LBM works out to 134 mass pounds, and my BMR comes out to around 1683 calories per day.

Personally, I think it's easier to do what I did earlier - use the Harris-Benedict equation to figure BMR at your goal weight, then correct for the extra fat pounds that you're carrying by multiplying by 2.04 calories per pound. For example, my BMR at my goal weight of 154 pounds will be 1524 calories. At 173 pounds (as of this morning), I'm carrying 19 pounds of fat above my goal weight. Adding 39 calories, I get a BMR of 1563, instead of the overly-generous 1636 calories that the online calculator gives me.

Of course, what I actually did was buy a bodybugg, which uses a number of measurements to estimate daily calorie burn without needing to mess with calculations and corrections and estimates of energy burned in exercise. According to my bodybugg, I burned 2083 calories yesterday, when I slept in and took a sedentary rest day. Apparently, though, I was more active than I thought, because multiplying my calculated BMR of 1563 by 1.2 (for a sedentary lifestyle) gives a daily calorie burn of only 1875.

Aug 26

Wed PM - ebbv

Aug 27
Thu AM - Ed G (9 AM ET)
Thu PM - ???

Aug 28
Fri AM - ???
Fri PM - ???

Aug 29
Sat AM - Edward Spurlock (8 AM CDT)
Sat PM - ???

Aug 30
Sun AM - louisev
Sun PM - ???

Aug 31
Mon AM - NC Dem ( 9 AM ET)
Mon PM - ???

September 1
Tues AM -
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#### Comment Preferences

• ##### Another week's diary...(15+ / 0-)

...better late than never, I tell myself.

• ##### fabulous diary edward(2+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
Wee Mama, Edward Spurlock

and I just spent half an hour geeking my bmr all over again because my results after 40 days are defying all logic, I'm gaining weight instead of losing it, I'm starved instead of hungry, blabbity blah... and so...  I used the links you did, and the equations you did, and came out with the following very surprising results:

Body fat percentage (based on measurement of waist, hips, wrist and forearm: 31.66%) which is in the normal range for women! GO FIGURE.  It ain't lean but it is not in the obese range.

Waist-to-hip-ratio: .78%   - low risk

Harris-Benedict BMI/BMR
BMI (at goal weight) 1295.7
Calorie need: (at goal weight) 1781 to 2008 (range based on lightly to moderately active)
Calorie need: (at present weight, for maintenance: 2178 to 2406).

Calorie restriction: at active activity level

1405 - 2 lb/week
1905 - 1 lb/week

Calorie restriction: at light activity level

1178 - 2 lb/week
1678 - 1 lb/week

I started out at active activity level eating 1400 calories a day, felt weak and wrung out.  After 4 weeks I increased my food to 1900 calories a day.  I initially lost 10 pounds and then began to gain.  After 5 weeks, my net weight loss is 9 pounds or 1.8 pounds per week.  Based on results I must be at the active activity level, OR I have a lot more muscle than fat (which I suspect.)  But I am not surprised by the skewing of the intake requirements, because there is no way on God's green earth I have ever eaten 3,000 calories a day to maintain the overweight I have.

And now I am about ready to get a bodybugg because my metabolism is an enduring mystery.

DailyKos: the "Free Ice Cream for Everybody" crowd!

[ Parent ]

• ##### And if you want to take a diary slot...(8+ / 0-)

...reply to my comment and I'll be happy to add you to the list.

• ##### Thanks - perfect timing!(7+ / 0-)

I have quit smoking with GUS across the way, and as ususal, put on some weight :(  Your calculations make a lot of sense, and are perhaps an explanation of why I haven't (in the past) lost as much or as fast as I'd hoped.  I will be using your method of calculating up from goal weight - and right now, that's a difference of 75 calories a day!

• ##### Welcome to the cheery mob! we're always happy to (3+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
ChocolateChris, ebbv, debbieleft

encourage people.

• ##### My BMR is just under(7+ / 0-)

1700 calories per day, which means, in order to lose a pound a week, I eat 1200 calories per day (or more if I work out).

Yes, counting calories is tedious business, but it seems to be working and the good side is that I can eat just about anything, it is simply a matter of how much of it I can eat while losing weight.

If I feel that there is an event that will test my skills, I got for a "maintenance" day and allow myself to eat up to 1700 calories.  Really nice for an occasional girl's night out.

Repubs - the people in power are not secretly plotting against you. They don't need to. They already beat you in public. (Bill Maher)

• ##### This is helpful!(8+ / 0-)

I have been operating on a 1600 cal per day limit which should be a 700 calorie deficit, but with your new math I am just breaking even or making a little headway. I think I need to reel back to 1400 cal per day to make this weight loss work.

Excellent and informative. Thanks!

• ##### I am going to calculate(3+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
Wee Mama, debbieleft, Edward Spurlock

It seems that I need to be at less than 1200 calories to lose ~1 lb per week, which is way less than conventional wisdom tells me.

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. - Andy Warhol

• ##### Hmmmm(3+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
Wee Mama, debbieleft, Edward Spurlock

Tells me my BMR is 1250 at my goal weight. With light exercise, to maintain at that would require 1718 calories per day. With moderate exercise, I should maintain at 1937 calories per day.

I am about 5 lbs over my goal weight, and being pretty active daily plus running at least 10-12 miles a week, I don't lose any weight unless I eat about 1000 calories a day.

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. - Andy Warhol

[ Parent ]

• ##### As you approach your goal weight(3+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
Wee Mama, 1864 House, debbieleft

it becomes more and more difficult to lose.

Repubs - the people in power are not secretly plotting against you. They don't need to. They already beat you in public. (Bill Maher)

[ Parent ]

• ##### Part of this is challenging the system....(2+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
Wee Mama, 1864 House

the body adapts so quickly to diet and an exercise routine that you are not forcing the increase in metabolism that comes when you challenge the system.

If you run the same mile at the same pace ever day, the system may consume a total extra burn of "250 calories" until your body adjusts. It will do this in less than two weeks if you don't exercise much and within a week if you exercise frequently and are in good shape. Thus in week three of example above, you may be burning only 150 calories total burn.

The same holds true for diet. Hold calories low for 3-5 days and then shock the system by eating at maintenance level for 2-3 days. Then go back to eating 500 calories below total energy expended in a day.

• ##### I'm starting to worry...(6+ / 0-)

...if maybe I shouldn't have posted this.

I didn't intend to make people start to think they had to starve themselves to lose weight. My interest is more about showing why people may have to take a longer view (the Turtle Way, as some might say).

If you're of small stature, a goal of losing a pound a week may be too ambitious, unless you're able to do a lot of exercise (without increasing your calorie intake to compensate, as the Time Magazine article reminds us).

• ##### Don't worry!(4+ / 0-)

I am not going to starve myself. I'm short (5'3") and small boned and in my mid-50s, and I am also realistic. If I don't gain, I am okay.

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. - Andy Warhol

[ Parent ]

• ##### I agree with Edward,(0+ / 0-)

the numbers are helpful but you need to be careful not to cut too low. If your body faces too much of a deficit it will go to starvation mode and lower your metabolism. This is the beginning of an awful cycle, initial weight loss, lower metabolism, going off diet, significant weight gain.

If you are stuck, you need to consider, as counterintuitive as it seems, that you may need more calories. Healthy calories. If you cut to much, your body will fight you every step of the way.

• ##### Never go under 1200(7+ / 0-)

1200 calories is the minimum (for women, men are higher).

If you want to make your 500 calorie deficit, you can do so by exercise.  That said.  I use the calculator at Calorie Count and it seems to work for me.  I started this eating plan 20 days ago and have shed 4 pounds.  I don't expect rapid weight loss or overnight miracles, just a slow and steady reduction.

Repubs - the people in power are not secretly plotting against you. They don't need to. They already beat you in public. (Bill Maher)

[ Parent ]

• ##### I don't go that low! (4+ / 0-)

My daughter is a dietician and I have pretty healthy eating habits. If I want to lose that last 5 lbs I will just have to kick up the exercise.

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. - Andy Warhol

[ Parent ]

• ##### I don't know if I will ever get (2+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
Wee Mama, 1864 House

within 5 lbs of the ultimate goal since I haven't seen that weight in the last 20 plus years, but I would be happy if my index didn't say "moderately overweight" (which is what is just started saying this week due to the four pound loss).

Repubs - the people in power are not secretly plotting against you. They don't need to. They already beat you in public. (Bill Maher)

[ Parent ]

• ##### I finally broke through my plateau...(3+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
Wee Mama, Sychotic1, 1864 House

after almost 4 months of 212-218 weight. I got on the scales this morning and for three straight days I have been below 205. It has been over 30 years since I was this weight. I still have 25 lbs to go but I am damn determined.

Thanks, folks.

• ##### What a happy day! Congratulations - your (2+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
Sychotic1, 1864 House

persistence is an encouragement to everyone.

• ##### Yeah!(1+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
Sychotic1

For breaking through the plateau!!

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. - Andy Warhol

[ Parent ]

• ##### It's interesting that some of the analyses of low(3+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
ebbv, debbieleft, Edward Spurlock

carbohydrate diets find that in practice people are eating about a 500 calorie deficit - it's just that they arrive at it a bit differently. If you cut out muffins and candy and bagels and pasta, it's easy to see how you could end up with fewer calories.