Measuring Calorie Expenditure with a BodyMedia

 know I’ve been M.I.A. for a long time, but I’m back because I have something really interesting to talk about: my BodyMedia!

What’s a BodyMedia?

A BodyMedia is a on-body device that tracks your footsteps, heartrate, sleeping patterns, and daily calorie expenditure, and then uploads them to an online dashboard for you to easily view and track.

It looks like a wristwatch worn on your upper left arm, but in fact it’s a sophisticated device that constantly captures data on your movement, skin temperature, and energy expenditure, then uses this information to determine your caloric burn. It’s more sophisticated than a pedometer or heart rate monitor because neither of those can accurately measure calorie expenditure–this does. Of all the products out there, this is the most accurate, with no guesswork or estimation on your part. You can learn more at the BodyMedia website.

Why Use A BodyMedia?

The BodyMedia produces so much data that I haven’t had time to explore all of it’s potential uses, but for now I’m going to focus on calorie tracking. If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, chances are at some point you’ve thought about calories. Too many people obsess over counting and measuring and tracking every bite of food in order to hit some magic calorie goal without ever stopping to consider whether this is the right amount for their body and weight loss goals. Or they spend hours surfing the web and reading articles and crunching numbers trying to figure out how many calories they just burned at the gym and how many miles they need to run to “burn off” last night’s dinner. Or they get hung up on hitting the right number of “net calories” *cough everyone on tumblr cough*, a concept that is inherently meaningless.

None of this makes sense, and none of this is the right way to think about food, exercise, and weight loss. It doesn’t make sense to pull a calorie goal out of thin air without first considering your calorie expenditure. It doesn’t make sense to meticulously track your exercise calories when they’re really just a rough estimate. And it doesn’t make sense to fixate on the calories you burn in an hour at the gym without thinking about the calories you burn during the other 23.

Calories aren’t just something that you burn off running on the treadmill; they’re units of energy that your body uses constantly to survive. Your body doesn’t just shut off when you’re not formally exercising; it’s burning calories constantly as your working, studying, eating, sleeping, and otherwise going through the motions of daily life. This is why trying to eat back your “exercise calories” to hit 1200 “net calories” is so silly: your body doesn’t differentiate between “exercise calories” and any other calories–all that matters is that your intake is less than your output.

Problem is, how do you know your calorie output? A magazine article can’t tell you. An online calculator can’t tell you. And the computer screen on the elliptical sure as heck can’t tell you. These estimates are a good place to start, and they’re certainly better than pulling a number out of thin air. But if you’re going to let your life revolve around those numbers, then you should at least make sure they’re the right numbers, right?

And that’s where the BodyMedia comes in. It eliminates the calculations and estimations and guesswork by giving you an accurate picture of your daily calorie expenditure. It tells you more about your own body than a doctor, trainer, or one-size-fits-all formula ever could. If your goal is to lose weight, it will enable you to calculate exactly how much you need to eat to reach your weight loss goals, allowing you to avoid sabotaging yourself by eating too much or too little. Moreover, you will be able to see the impact that different exercises, activities, and eating styles have on your body both at the time and throughout the day, helping you to find the lifestyle that is best for YOU.

Why I’m Using A BodyMedia

I get asked this all the time at work when my coworkers or tables see my BodyMedia! Right now I’m just using it to gather data and learn more about my body. I’m not actively trying to lose weight in the sense that I’m tracking or limiting my calorie intake–I’m just curious about my calorie expenditure. Specifically I’m interested in how weight-lifting impacts calorie expenditure in the short-term (how much does it increase calorie burn on a daily basis) as well as the long-term (can it permanently increase your metabolism?) I’m also curious about how much I’m burning at work waiting tables.

My BodyMedia Data

First here’s some background on me: I’m 22 years old, 5’8, and about 150 lbs. For the past month, I’ve been lifting heavy weights for 30-75 minutes 4-5x/week. I also have a very active job waiting tables 30-40 hours/week, and am usually fairly active when I’m not at work (biking, housework, running errands etc). Based on BMR calculations, my BMR should be around 1520 calories, meaning that my calorie expenditure should be about 2600 – 2900 assuming a high activity level. I’d estimate I eat about 3000 calories per day, but that’s just a guess since I don’t currently track calories.

I’ve been wearing the BodyMedia since November 9. Shown below are 17 days worth of data (rounded to nearest 10):

During this 17 period, I burned an average of 3290 calories per day. My calorie expenditure ranged from 2430 to 3860 calories. I expended over 3000 calories on 13 out of the 17 days.

My first reaction was, holy shit, no wonder I’m always hungry! This explains why I eat so much! My second reaction was to wonder about the variance from day to day–that’s almost a 1500 difference between the highest and lowest days!

However, this disparity makes sense if you take into account my activity level, particularly the two biggest factors: lifting weights and working. I’ve reproduced the data below using an “L” to indicate days that I lifted, and “W” to indicate days that I worked.

During this 17 day period, I worked 14 days and lifted 10 days. There were 8 days when I lifted and worked, 6 when I worked but didn’t lift, 2 when I lifted but didn’t work, and 1 when I did neither. I summarized the averages for each category below:

  • Worked and lifted (8 days): 3540
  • Worked but didn’t lift (6 days): 3100
  • Lifted but didn’t work (2 days): 3260
  • Didn’t lift or work (1 day): 2430
  • Overall worked vs didn’t work (14 days/3 days): 3350 vs 2980
  • Overall lifted vs didn’t lift (10 days/7 days): 3490 vs 3000

Conclusions

Right now my conclusions are preliminary because I don’t have much data–I just wanted to share what I had now! However, here’s a few of my thoughts right off the bat:

  1. First off all, I’m burning a LOT of calories. Significantly more than you’d expect based on standardized calculations for my age, size, and activity level. It’s a good reminder that estimations are just that–estimations–and the standard 2000 calories/day doesn’t apply to everyone–if you’re young and active you probably can and should be eating more than that.
  2. Lifting makes a difference. I average almost 500 calories more on days that I lift versus days that I don’t (3490 vs 3000). HOWEVER, this doesn’t mean that I necessarily burned 500 calories during that particular hour of lifting–just that lifting increases overall daily burn (the BodyMedia can show the exact calorie burn during a particular time to prove my point, I just haven’t analyzed it that deeply yet).
  3. Also just because I average 3000 calories per day on my days off from lifting doesn’t mean I’d burn 3000 calories anyway if I’d never picked up a weight. Your metabolism depends on your general pattern of activity, not just your day-to-day activity, and I have a feeling that if I took a month off lifting, my baseline would be much lower. I’m not going to do this on purpose, but it might occur naturally, hence my effort to constantly gather data for comparison purposes.
  4. Activity level matters too: an active lifestyle beats hours of cardio. Over these 17 days I averaged 370 calories more on days that I worked (3350 vs 2980). Moreover, when I look at the breakdown of individual days, I can see a big difference–all the days I hit over 3600 calories were ones I worked long, busy shifts and/or was active outside of work (in addition to lifting). Note that none of this is “formal exercise” but it still burns calories.
  5. My metabolism didn’t used to be this fast. In fact, my whole life I thought I had a pretty slow metabolism, based on the fact that I was overweight as a kid despite having normal eating habits. But I believe that you can increase your metabolism by weight lifting and by EATING, and this supports my belief.
  6. On the other hand, I don’t think I’m eating and expending exponentially more calories than the average person–I just think I’m more aware of it. Most people can and do eat more than they realize, but they aren’t really tracking their intake so they just assume they’re eating the “normal” amount you commonly hear thrown about: 1500, 1800, 2000 etc. When people do track calories it’s usually because they’re trying to lose weight, so that number isn’t going to be representative of an average day. And everyone underestimates.
  7. Based on this you can see why low-calorie diets are often doomed to fail. If Joe Schmo thinks he’s eating about 2000 calories a day, since that’s what the cereal box says (seriously, I’m pretty sure this is where I got my idea of a”normal” amount of calories from), then a 1500-calorie weightloss plan sounds reasonable. But in reality, he’s eating more like 3500 calories a day, he just doesn’t know it. So when he goes on a 1500 calorie doctor-approved diet plan, he feels like he’s starving–because he literally is. After a few days he can’t take it anymore and goes on a fast food binge. Or decides dieting is impossible and gives up altogether. Whereas if he had changed his target to 2500 calories he could having stuck to the diet for much longer, steadily losing 2 lbs/week until he hits his goal.

Stay Tuned…

I need to wrap it up for now, but I’ll be back with more posts as I get more data and delve more deeply into the data I have. I hope this was helpful and feel free to get in touch with any questions; I intend to be more active on here from here on out!

My New Place!

What’s the only thing better than living on the beach?

Living in a waterfront mansion on the Florida Intercoastal:

with a pool:

…and a poolroom!

A ginormous kitchen:

A patio right off my bedroom:

…and waking up to this view every morning:

(Boat not included)

In case you’re wondering, no I didn’t win the lottery! Four other people live here and I’m filling a vacancy in the fifth room. The house is right on the Florida Intercoastal Waterway about four miles from my boyfriend’s apartment (aka my current place). It’s absolutely enormous: 5000 square feet, five bedrooms, two staircases, two big living rooms, poolroom, pool, dock. My bedroom is on the ground floor and opens right onto the patio; it comes furnished with a queen-size bed, 2 dressers, desk, and closet.

My new roommates are 3 guys and 1 girl in their mid-late 20’s. I’ve met two of the four so far and they seem really fun and nice. They told me throw parties and barbeques every weekend and there’s always people around, which is exactly what I’m looking for! I miss that atmosphere from college and want to meet new people in Ft Lauderdale besides just my coworkers and boyfriend’s friends.

I was also happy to see that least two of my new roommates are also in relationships and that their S.O.’s spend a lot of time at the house. It was important to me to find a place where my boyfriend was also welcome, and I prefer roommates who are also coupled up–less drama! It’s going to be weird living apart from my boyfriend, but I think it will be valuable for me to meet new people and build my own roots in Ft Lauderdale. And if everything goes to plan we will have many years ahead to live together… :)

I move in on Saturday and will post pictures of my room once I get it set up! Now I’m off to spend the rest of the night packing, but I couldn’t wait to share this news because I am SO EXCITED!!!!! Here’s to the next chapter and I’ll keep y’all posted!

PS I’ve been HORRIBLE about updating this but slightly better about updating my tumblr; if you’re curious about my life over the past two months you can check it out here: (Or brief summary: Waiting tables at beachside restaurant. Busy busy busy. Haven’t been to the gym in AGES–it turned out to be too far away. But switching one really close to my new place; between that and finally having a kitchen again I will hopefully have more health & fitness material for this!)

 

Scenes from Fiji Kava

Today was a slow, exhausting day at Fiji Kava tea bar. Slow because barely anyone showed up, and exhausting because I didn’t get out until 3am last night and I had to open at 9am this morning. I spent most of the day reading and trying not to fall asleep.

The day took a more eventful turn at 5pm when I found this unexpected visitor in the sink:

We caught that sucker and liberated him into the outdoors…adios iguana!

Now I’m just hanging out killing time until my shift ends at 6.

Later tonight I’m meeting my aunt and uncle for dinner. They’re vacationing in West Palm Beach and had plans eat at a tropical/Hawaiian restaurant in Ft Lauderdale which turned out to be just a couple miles away from my apartment. Unfortunately my boyfriend is working so they won’t be able to meet them, but I’m glad I’ll get a chance to see them!

Last but not least, I discovered these “Healthy Protein Cookies” at the convenience store next door and have become obsessed with them. Each cookie has 230 calories, 26g protein, 20g carbs, 5g fat; and they’re delicious! I’ve been eating one pretty much every shift.

Well that’s all for now! Hope you all are enjoying as great weather as we’re having here in Florida–after a week of rain from Tropical Storm Debby we finally got beach weather, and I’m excited to enjoy it on my day off tomorrow! Along with shopping for khaki pants and black shoes for my first day waitressing. And GOING TO THE GYM!! No excuses :)

Work and Life

 

  1. I picked up another job waitressing at Aruba Beach Cafe! I’m so excited because I’ve wanted to work there since the first time I ate there back in May. It’s a great place to work: been around for 30 years, right on the beach, always busy, and amazing food. And now I’m officially ITB (In The Biz ie the service industry) which is sort of like joining a sorority/fraternity–everyone knows each other, hangs out, and parties at each other’s restaurant/bars. I start training at 8:30am Sunday morning–a little rough because I work at the Kava bar until 2am, but such is life.
  2. Fiji Kava, the kava tea bar that I’ve been bartending at, has been SO slow (summer is the off-season here in Florida.) It’s a chill job because I can read, go on my laptop, etc, but we work mostly for tips and I’m just not making enough money to work here five days a week. So I cut back my shifts to Wednesday daytime (9am – 6pm) and Saturday nights (6pm – 2am). I think this is the best of both worlds because I can keep that connection for if/when business picks up, while still making real money at Aruba. And I’ll have two days to read/write/tumble, which is the perfect amount.
  3. I’m actually at work right now–I switched shifts with my coworker Liz since today was her birthday. The good news is that she brought a ton of her friends in to celebrate so I actually made good money tonight–almost $50! And it was fun working with a big crowd of people here. I also volunteered to cover daytime tomorrow which means I have to be back here at 9am tomorrow–I don’t know what I was thinking. Oh well…
  4. A couple more job-related irons in the fire right now, but I’m keeping them under wraps until I see what pans out. Right now I’m just trying to make money, keep busy, and have fun.
  5. I must get to the gym, I must get to the gym, I must get to the gym. I didn’t go yesterday or today, and I probably won’t tomorrow because I’m meeting my aunt and uncle for dinner after work (they’re on vacation in West Palm Beach), but definitely Friday and Saturday! No excuses!

Backyard :)

tumblr_m68zazofZx1rrj59io1_500

My backyard! I still can’t believe I get to LIVE here.

Ft Lauderdale Update

  • Worked at the Kava Tea Bar 6-2am Sunday and 9-6pm Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I don’t think that job is going to work out for much longer though, because it’s too slow so I don’t make enough. I talked to the owner and he understands–I’m going to cut back to one day shift and one night shift most likely.
  • Speaking of jobs, I was approached and hired by a promoter to promote clubs, brands, products, etc. I’m starting with email promotions but eventually will be out promoting clubs in Ft Lauderdale and Miami. Over the past 2 days I made $100 cash for 3 hours work. I hope this pans out because it’s the easiest money I ever made.
  • I might also start swimsuit modeling. Not that I’m going out of my way to try and model but if someone hands me an opportunity paying $250-500 for a three hour photoshoot I am not going to turn that down! More details later if it ends up working out.
  • Finally, I have a couple irons in the fire with restaurants for waitressing or bartending through connections with Billy’s friends. That pays really well too. Again more details later!
  • I STARTED DRIVING AGAIN!!! This is kind of a Big Deal because I hadn’t driven since my accident last August. Now I love it. I feel like it’s opened up a whole new world. For example, I didn’t know there was a mall 3 miles away from me!! And now I can do all the apartment shopping that I’ve been desperately wanting to.
  • There is SO much to do here. Billy’s apartment is in a hotel, and the lobby has a restaurant, salon, and 24 hour coffee shop. Walk out the door and there’s the beach, along with a pool, hot tub, and tiki bar. Branch out a couple miles and there’s tons of shops, restaurants, grocery stores, coffee shops, bars, salons, etc…everything you could possibly need is in a 5 mile radius. Downtown Ft Lauderdale is 15 minutes away. Miami is 45 minutes away. Orlando aka Disney World and Universal Studios is just 2-3 hours away–I’m trying to go to Harry Potter World when my sister visits!
  • Not to mention I have a million other things I want to do! Finish adding to the apartment. Get a library card. Hang drapes. Check out the used bookstore. Take a yoga class on the beach. Check out the other classes at my gym. Print out and display pictures from Costa Rica. Start Shaun T Insanity again (finally I have space!) Clean out the car. Go sailing. Learn to surf, dive, and paddleboard. Rent a jet ski. Go kite-surfing. Find mango and avocado trees. Start running again. Start drawing again. Photography. I don’t think I’ll ever be bored here.
  • Last night was a lot of fun–we went downtown to celebrate the Miami Heat win. I DD’d. Even though I wasn’t drinking I had a lot of fun. I met a bunch of Billy’s friends and I’ll actually be able to remember them. Same thing Tuesday night–we hit up three or four local bars and I DD’d and met a ton of people. I think I like going out sober sometimes.
  • Speaking of Billy, things are amazing. Better every day. I am beyond happy.
  • We didn’t get to bed until 5am last night and consequently slept through most of the day…oh well, it was rainy anyway. Now I’m going to clean and FINALLY go to Target to shop for the room. So excited! Probably hit the gym after that. And Billy’s working at the tiki bar right at the hotel tonight, which makes me happy because I can just run down and visit him. Bye!!

High-Protein, Low-Carb Foods

Anon: what are some high-protein, low-carb foods I can eat?

Here are some suggestions:
  • Fish/seafood
  • Chicken
  • Any meat
  • Eggs
  • Plain greek yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Whey protein powder
  • Tofu
  • Unsweetened soymilk
  • Some meat substitutes (check the label)
  • Some protein bars (check the label)
  • Natural peanut butter
  • Almonds/walnuts/other nuts

Any forms of animal (fish, chicken, turkey, ham, steak, etc) will be high-protein and low-carb. Eggs are great too!

Some meat substitutes have good amounts of protein relative to carbs, others are full of carbs and basically devoid of nutrition. Read the label and use common sense: avoid things like breading, bbq sauce, etc.

“Unsweetened” is your friend. Look for the plain/unsweetened versions of soy milk, almond milk, greek yogurt etc. Unsweetened versions have less calories too: (70 vs 140 for soy milk, 35 vs 90 for almond milk)

“Low fat” is not your friend. Usually that means they’ve compensated for removing fat by adding sugar, making the food higher in carbs, equal if not higher in calories, and crappy-tasting to boot.

Whey protein powder is a good way to add in protein and I’ve also found that it’s crucial for getting my smoothies to blend!

Some protein bars can be good sources of protein, although they’re not usually low-carb. I try to find bars with about or at least 1 gram of protein for every 10 calories, and not much more than 1 gram of carbohydrates for each gram of protein. I like Met-Rx Protein Plus bars (310-340 calories, 30-34g protein, 33-37g carbs) and ThinkThin bars (230 calories, 20g protein, 25g carbs). Cliff bars are the worst in my opinion–with 240 calories, 46g carbs, and only 10g protein you might as well just eat a bagel!

Cheeses are also good sources of protein–some have up to 8-10g protein for an 80 calorie serving! I avoid low-fat or fat-free cheeses because they taste nasty, and often less protein too.

Natural peanut butter/almonds/walnuts/other fats are primarily sources of fat, but they do have some protein–usually 5-10g a serving–for a small amount of carbs.

* * * *

Depending on your goals, you can choose proteins with a high amount of fat (salmon, steak, whole eggs, cheese, peanut butter, nuts, 2+% greek yogurt) or lower amounts of fat (chicken, egg whites, tilipia, tuna, whey powder, lean cuts of meat, 0% greek yogurt).

I personally believe animal proteins are superior, but you can also find protein from non-animal sources (tofu, soy-based meat substitutes, soy milk, peanut butter, nuts)–just be careful not to eat

As always, you want to think about the balance in your diet overall. Almost any food can fit into your desired macros if you make room for it, and ultimately, your overall ratio of protein, carbs, and fats on a daily and weekly basis is more important than the content of any individual food! 
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