Programmer on a Diet

For the past 20 days, I’ve been keeping meticulous track of every single calorie I have put in my body. I’ve read the nutrition labels on everything and I’ve weighed and measured it. When I can’t find a nutrition label, or can’t weigh it, I check online and make an estimate. I’ve been logging all of this, plus a target calorie intake, to a big spreadsheet that keeps a running calorie balance.

I’ve been working very hard to keep this balance equal to zero.

The balance started out at -3720 kcal/day, the amount I needed to eat to stay at my current weight. Each day after that, a computer program has been emailing me a new target intake: 3682, 3645, 3607, 3570 and so on, that I have input into my spreadsheet as a negative number.

These numbers don’t reflect my metabolic rate anymore. Rather, they are gradually zeroing in on a calorie deficit of 1100 kcal/day, scheduled to happen in about 10 days. At that point, I will be dropping about 1 kg/week. I have about 80 kg to drop until I reach an ideal weight.

“Why the computer program?”, you may ask. Well, it turns out that metabolic rates depend on your current weight, height and age. If you’re tall, heavy and young, you need more calories than if you’re short, light and old. And I’ll necessarily be getting lighter and older as the diet progresses.

No matter how much you weigh, a 1100 kcal/day deficit gives a weight loss of about 1 kg/week. To maintain it as your weight drops, your calorie intake must slowly decrease over time, to reflect the lower metabolic rate caused by your prior weight loss. If you don’t take that into account, your weight will eventually plateau instead of falling at a steady rate.

If I were to do that calculation by hand, I would be doing this every day:

MR = 1.2 × (88.362 + (13.397 × kg) + (4.799 × cm) – (5.677 × years)) – 1100

And it would actually be even more complex, because I’ve been slowly stepping up that 1100 kcal/day deficit over the course of 30 days, so I’d actually have to start at 0 and add 36⅓ to it every day.

Instead of all that hassle, I opted to write my own computer program. It sends me emails like this every day:

Day ? of ?

Current weight: ? kg
Target intake: ? kcal

Breakfast: ~? kcal
Lunch: ~? kcal
Dinner: ~? kcal
Supper: ~? kcal

Remember to log what you eat!

The “Current weight” value is an estimate based on how much weight I should have dropped. I don’t own a bathroom scale at the moment, so this is how I’m tracking my progress.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that this diet doesn’t seem to involve any specific foods. That’s because I’m not eating anything out of the ordinary. All I’m doing is controlling my calories.

I can eat unhealthy food if I want to, but because my calorie balance is kept as strict as a bank account, it has to replace another meal I was going to have that day. There have been days when my “dinner” was a bag of potato chips, because, well, I wanted potato chips. I stayed within my calorie budget, and had normal food the next day. No problem.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to lately. Wish me luck!

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