The First Attempt – April

April 6

Today’s Stats

Basal Metabollic Output – 2300

Total Caloric Outtake – 850

Total Caloric Intake – 1240

Total Caloric excess/deficit – (1910)

Cumulative Caloric excess/deficit – (1910)

The Verdict

Today I started the day with a simple, delicious breakfast and a good solid workout. I was itching to get back into it, so it wasn’t actually that difficult to motivate myself. So far so good. Not a bad start to the program. A good workout program is imperative for successful weight loss and I accomplished that. If I was to be picky I would say I should be eating ore than 1240 calories a day – that is not sustainable and will not help in boosting the metabolic rate needed to lose significant amounts of weight long term. But the food I ate was mostly fresh and included fruits and salad vegetables as well as whole grains and lean protein. So its a start.

Follow Up Research

When people begin a weight loss program they tend to think very one dimensionally. Common schools of thought include;

  • The less I eat the more weight I will lose, and
  • Diet is 80% of weight loss. Exercise is only 20%.
  • I barely burn of a Mars Bar with a on hour workout, so what’s the point of exercise?

In truth, any weight loss plan relies on much deeper biological factors than can be expressed in one simple mantra. Our bodies are endlessly complicated and we should treat them as such when considering how we will approach altering them for the long term.

Let’s take the first point above for example, which has paved the way for all manner of low calorie, (or very low calorie), diets. American Diabetes Association spokeswoman Andrea Giancoli notes:

“When you … consume too few calories, your body thinks it is starving and adjusts the metabolism,” she says. “But when you go back to eating normally, your metabolism doesn’t readjust and therefore you need fewer calories than before — otherwise known as the yo-yo syndrome.”

As for points 2 and 3, Michael Jensen MD from the Mayo Clinic explains; “Exercise is very, very important for maintaining lost weight, and people who are not physically active are more likely to gain weight. We think it’s partly because in the extra calories burned from physical activity, you have a bit more flexibility in food intake, so you’re not so much relying on ridged changes in eating habits; it makes it more tolerable.” Furthermore, some forms of higher intensity exercise can continue calorie burning for a few hours following a workout, and should they lead to an increase in lean muscle mass they will ultimately lead to a higher metabolic rate – the ultimate goal for anyone trying to lose weight.

For more reading about the pros and cons of moderate and rapid weight loss, check out:

Why Moderate Weight Loss is more Successful than Rapid Weight Loss – Better Health Victoria

Diets that Don’t Work

Michael Jensen’s Biography and Body of Work

List of other Michael Jensen Publications

Today’s Favourite Workout Tune

Gin Wigmore, ‘Black Sheep’


April 7

Today’s Stats

Basal Metabollic Output – 2300

Total Caloric Outtake – 850

Total Caloric Intake – 1928

Total Caloric excess/deficit – (1421)

Cumulative Caloric excess/deficit – (3332)

The Verdict

I really really didn’t feel like exercising this morning. It’s pretty uncommon for me to not feel like doing a workout, but I had been up all night with my daughter, who for some reason decided last night that important conversations are best started at 1 am. And 2 am. And 4 am.

Anyway, I was damn tired this morning and I had a lot to get done today. It would have been so easy not to do it. So I did what I promised myself I would do every time I felt like having a break from a healthier lifestyle. I went and looked in the mirror and asked myself – is this the best version of myself? Do I deserve a day off yet?

Obviously the answer is no. So I decided to start walking and see where my motivation lead me. I turned up my iPod, (see my recommendation below for a cracking running tune), and started walking. And after a few minutes I realised that if I’m going to take an hour to exercise when I have a mountain of work piling up I may as well be running instead of walking. So I ran. And then I biked. And eventually I was half way through a pretty awesome workout. And I feel much better for it.

As for diet today, we went out for dinner and I still managed to stay just about within my caloric limits by making some pretty good choices. So I guess that’s a small win!

Follow Up Research

I came across this article while researching my details for my spreadsheet formulas. It’s another one from the Mayo Clinic and it gives a perfect (and simple) definition of how the metabolic rate works with weight loss. With so many ‘magic bullet’ solutions misrepresented to the public, weight loss has become a sound byte when it is exponentially more complicated than one. This article gives basic background information which may help people to understand why weight loss takes time. So strap yourself in; if you’re planning on losing weight, you’ll need to be in it for the long haul.


Today’s Favourite Workout Tune

Christina Aguilera, ‘Fighter’

April 8

Today’s Stats

Basal Metabollic Output – 2300

Total Caloric Outtake – 1050

Total Caloric Intake – 1847

Total Caloric excess/deficit – (1503)

Cumulative Caloric excess/deficit – (4835)

The Verdict

It’s fair to say I’m battling with my motivation, which is a first for me. I’ve always put poor lifestyle choices down to lack or time, which was probably fair enough in some ways. But today I actually spent ten minutes talking to the cat about why it wouldn’t matter if I skip just one workout.

I didn’t. The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time and the only way to change my lifestyle is to put one foot in front of the other. So off we went, (though my dog had a lot more enthusiasm than me), and we made it through an hour. And I ran faster than I did yesterday. If a client had come to me expressing concerns over their motivation to exercise I would have suggested to them to mentally commit to daily workouts for one week and one day. Getting through the first week with white knuckles is possible, but starting the second week is hard. It’s so easy to make excuses to take a day off. But if you start that second week committed, you’ll most likely get through it. And that makes starting the third week that much easier because by then its becoming part of your habitual routine.

I may seem to be focusing a lot on the exercise part of the equation. I have found it takes very little to improve my diet when I’m in a routine and don’t have to think about it. During the day I have already established a pretty solid routine. I’m loving having berries for breakfast with some yoghurt and oats and wraps for lunch. They are easy to calorie count and so delicious I actually look forward to eating them. But I must remember that food is primarily for sustenance. If it’s just part of my daily habit I can continue eating well indefinitely.

Dinners are always a challenge because I’m tired and desperate for a quick treat after a very full long day. Once their kids are in bed some people grab a glass of wine to treat themselves, but I’ve never been much of a drinker. Eating badly at night is a tough habit to break because my defences are already down. Last night was Thai food, so completely out of routine. Tonight I’m planning eggs for dinner on some very grainy bread with a side salad. Let’s see if I can stick to that.

Follow Up Research

One of the things that gets simplified when people talk about weight loss is the psychological process of changing your current embedded lifestyle habits. It’s pretty tough, and I would wager it’s one of the major reasons that people fail in their weight loss and lifestyle endeavours. Part of the reason that change is so difficult to catalyse is that our bodies are programmed to seek homeostasis – they want to be stable. Our hormones are actually working against us when it comes to breaking habits, as this article from the US National Institute of Health explains.


Today’s Favourite Workout Tune

Gossip ‘Heavy Cross’

 April 23

Today’s Stats

There are no stats for today – they will return as soon as I am well. Cumulative deficit remains at (4835).

The Verdict

It’s been almost two weeks since I have trained or kept track of my calorie intake/outake. This is not because I have fallen off the wagon. I began this endeavour three weeks ago and was struggling more than usual with motivation; feeling more lethargic and less energetic than usual. Over the weekend at the end of my first week I developed an upper respiratory problem – not uncommon at this time of year with two small children in the house. Since then I have had little rest. As most mothers will tell you when you have a sick child you get very little sleep and no respite during the day. It’s a pretty familiar story, but in this case I really did fail to look after myself nutritionally and otherwise and ended up getting sicker and sicker. As a result I have developed pneumonia. It’s a wake up call, not only because it meant being weighed and poked and prodded by doctors, (never fun when you are overweight), but more importantly because it means I am that much further away from reaching my goals.

I played with the idea of just starting this experiment over again once I am well, but the truth is I have taken those first steps and I intend to stick to the plan. It is so easy for work, stress, illness or other intrusions get in the way of taking care of yourself and improving your lifestyle. But it still needs to be done. So while I might deviate slightly until I am well, I have started this undertaking and I will use this momentum to follow it through.

You may wonder why I am not taking stats at the moment. The answer is actually quite simple. My weight loss model is based on the theory that I need to burn 7700 calories to lose one kilogram, and that I can reliably and (somewhat) accurately calculate my net caloric intake/outtake. While I can still count my calories consumed (intake) I will not be training so my exercise based outtake will be zero. It would be counterproductive both long term and in the immediate future to exercise right now as the article below explains. And my basal metabolic rate which determines the net intake/outtake is likely to be unreliable as my body fights this illness. Added to that, my appetite is non existent, so the caloric intake number would be misleading as well. Since the stats are not reliable I am putting them on hold. I am down half a kilo so far in the stats, and that will be where I pick up again hopefully next week.

I want to do this and do it right. In the meantime, I am assuming these last two weeks and one to follow will have zero impact overall. While it’s possible there may be some variation in the stats that mean its not actually a net caloric impact of zero, the starting point for this model has always been arbitrary. There is a very good reason why I don’t weigh myself – I will talk about that tomorrow – and my plan doesn’t require that I do. I am concentrating purely on calories, which I can control and which equate directly to weight loss. So in essence a three week break from statistics shouldn’t matter terribly much even if there is some variation in the statistics.

For now, my plan is to get well and begin again (health pending) on April 7. It will be a slow week workout wise, maybe two or three, but I will track my caloric intake and basal metabolic outtake regardless, starting tomorrow. And I’ll use the time from this moment until I can begin working out again (and hopefully beyond) to work on two small goals;

  1. Get completely on track with my caloric intake. It was wobbly when I was taking stats and I can do better.
  2. Keep hydrated.

I’m beginning today with my standard glass of iced water, muesli, berries and yoghurt.

Follow Up Research

In my career as a personal trainer, I encountered three main reasons for cancellations; stress, time constraints and illness. I was often asked whether or not a client should train when they are sick. Inevitably, this depends on the type of sickness, and ultimately the only person that can really make the decision is the client. For all the information I could give, I don’t know how the client is generally feeling so it is impossible for me to truly know whether it is in their best interest to train.

I will say that momentum is an incredible thing. Once someone gets into the routine of making exercise part of their lifestyle it is surprisingly easy to maintain. Until something changes – often beyond our control – and lifestyle takes a back seat to the general hustle and bustle of life. At all costs, I would counsel clients to maintain that momentum as long as possible and make it a priority to exercise when the juggling act of day to day life became difficult. Illness is probably the one exception where I wouldn’t push a client to train, which sounds obvious but it isn’t always. While I would always leave this decision to the individual, there are some points that bear deliberation.

Sometimes stress, time constraints and illness are real issues that we need to carefully consider with respect to an exercise plan. Other times they are convenient ways to get out of doing something we really don’t feel like doing in that moment.

Stress can actually be helped by exercise so except in particular circumstances, (heart conditions, mental illness or anxiety), I would usually suggest continuing with exercise. The articles below explain how stress can actually be reduced by exercise.



Time constraints are part of life and will come up from time to time. Again, except in extreme circumstances as above, or when a client has a temporary time constraint that just cannot be overcome, I would usually recommend continuing with an exercise program. Once you are off the bandwagon, it can be tough to jump back on, and many of us are frequently time poor. so it will be a constant battle. We need to find a way to program exercise into our daily lives even at these times. Especially at these times.

Illness, however, can be tricky, and as I said it’s really up to the individual living with illness. It’s very difficult to weigh up motivation levels against feeling awful and to balance a healthy lifestyle with common sense. For example, sometimes clients would want to cancel for a bad headache. Under these circumstances, (and assuming there is no history of migraines), it’s probably best for the client to train, as there are no foreseeable contrary medical consequences and a huge benefit to doing a workout as well as staying in a good routine. If a client has a flu and struggles to breathe or has a temperature, it is obviously not in their best interest to train. But what about the in between?

Some people use the Neck Test – if your symptoms are above the neck, it’s okay to exercise. So sore throats, head colds, head aches, congestion and snotty noses are fine, but any fever, aches or pains, shortness of breath or wheezing and you should refrain. If your symptoms are above the neck and you do train it may be advisable to step back your intensity for a few days. The first article below is a great summary of when and how hard you should train if you are not well. The second is a brief description of how our bodies fight disease, and the third explains how exercise affects white blood cell levels in our bodies. Given both exercise and illness have an affect on white blood cells levels, they are useful summaries.





 April 24

Today’s Stats

No Stats again today. Cumulative Caloric Deficit remains at (4835).

Follow Up Research

I’ve never recommended clients weigh themselves and for this experiment I won’t be weighing myself either. For the record, I know my weight and I know it is too high. But there are fundamental flaws with using weight as a measure for success on a weight loss (or rather fat loss) program.

I’m rather fond of this article below, in which Marsha Hudnall, (a registered dietician), answers questions about the scales in an interview with Melinda Johnston from US News. My favourite quote is this;

“I agree that the scale should be an objective measure that can sometimes give important information about health. But there’s too much baggage attached to the number on the scale for many people to be objective about it.”


Below is another link from the Huffington Post which argues the point in more detail;


You see the number has become something we tie our identity to and that’s not healthy. While some studies have shown that weekly weigh ins are optimal, (as opposed to daily), I find that people tend to focus too much on the number and not enough on the lifestyle changes they need to maintain. Weight loss is about long term lifestyle changes. It’s not about a number, (either weight or BMI which is a weight based measure). Using weight to determine success of fat loss takes into account only weight and only weight – not even height which obviously directly impacts a person’s weight. Furthermore, theoretically I could weigh myself then drink a litre of water and my weight would be one kilo different. So as a measure throughout the day, it’s constantly changing and therefore fairly weak.

While BMI takes both weight and height into account, it does not account for many other factors. Some people have high muscle mass and as muscle is denser than fat this will overestimate BMI. Some people have a denser bone structure than others and this will overestimate BMI.

I love this article from Medical News Today. It examines some of the ways in which weight fails as a measure of health.


The article points out, as an example, that;

“A 6ft-tall Olympic 100 meter sprinter weighing 90kg (200lbs) may have the same BMI (26) as a couch potato of the same height and weight.

A BMI calculation would class both of them as overweight.”

Doctors and scientists still use weight as a measure of some things because we don’t have anything quantitative that is better. But when it comes to fat loss, we focus too much on the number and not enough on the methodology. It is far more effective to employ a great weight loss program, with sensible and sustainable strategies that can form the fabric of a new healthier lifestyle than it is to worry about a number.

This fat loss model will be the antidote to the increasingly non credible offerings that are available in the health and fitness industry. In our society we are constantly trying to find faster ways of losing weight and the result is progressively worsening health, not decreasing waistlines. As a trainer, this cycle was my best friend. Most of my clients would tell me they had tried everything to lose weight. The truth is they hadn’t. They’d tried everything easy – and it didn’t work. They ended up bigger than before. They would reach their goal weight in record time and within six months they had put it all back on with interest. With each failed attempt they would get bigger and have more need for a personal trainer. It resulted in more clients.

They would come to me and say ‘But it worked, I lost weight!”

And my response was always – ‘If it worked, you wouldn’t need me. If it worked, you would have kept it off.’

I’ve helped hundreds of clients to lose weight – more accurately to lose fat. I know it’s not easy now that I’m experiencing it for myself. But I also know that tracking a number on a scale is not the answer because it focusses attention on one small measure of success and fails to promote a longer term strategy. What will the client do once they get to that magic number? Will they suddenly be happier and more knowledgable about their health and lifestyle? How will they maintain their new body and lifestyle? Are they set up for success for life or is this a constant cycle of poor decisions and resulting bad health?

Most clients that successfully keep fat off recognise that there are far more advantages to losing fat than just looking better. They are more capable. Stronger. More confident. More knowledgable. Fitter. Healthier. In the end, that is what got them to their goals. Not a number on a scale, but feeling better. Feeling great. If you can commit to changing your lifestyle the number on the scale will change, but once you are in the thick of it that number probably won’t motivate you anymore anyway.

I’m back with full statistics next week – and yes, there will be photos. (Gulp).

One thought on “The First Attempt – April

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