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Fit with the Flyer, Installment 2: Food and metabolism

In my previous post about trying to get in shape, I mentioned that I’d be meeting with a nutritionist and also getting a reading of my resting metabolic rate.

First, the metabolic rate. As I suspected, I have a low “resting metabolic rate,” meaning I burn calories at a slower level than someone with a higher rate (that is, those annoying people who can eat pretty much whatever they want and not gain weight).

Getting my metabolism checked

I had it tested at Nourish Family Nutrition in Roland Park and it was pretty simple if not exactly attractive. You just breathe into a tube for 10 minutes while your nose is plugged.

Here’s what the Nourish website says about the test:

“While the equations used by websites, apps, and nutritionists to estimate calorie needs are based upon scientific evidence, even the best equation can only be an estimation. Knowing your exact calorie needs can make the difference between achieving your goals and feeling frustrated with feeling that you are doing everything right yet still seeing no results. The test is also useful for athletes to optimize performance.

The BodyGem test takes only about 10 minutes. All you have to do is breathe into the device (officially called an indirect calorimeter) and you will have your results. That simple. This is the same technology that has been used for decades in hospitals. We are excited to be able to offer this to our clients right in our office.”

My resting metabolic rate is 1,150, meaning that’s how many calories I’d burn in 24 hours if I just sat on the couch and did nothing. (Does lifting the remote to click to the next episode of “Game of Thrones” count?)

So given my goal of losing 40 pounds by the end of 2018 and the fact that I’m exercising three to four days per week, I should be eating 1,174 calories per day.

“Of course, it gets complicated because we don’t metabolize all foods the same. We don’t absorb all the calories from higher protein and higher fat foods as well as do from foods that are mostly carbohydrates,” said Diana Sugiuchi, the owner of Nourish. “And to confound things, calorie amounts on labels are notoriously inaccurate, and in fact, food companies are allowed 20% leeway +/- on their nutrition labels. So that 100 calorie pack could have 120 or 80 calories.”

Diana Sugiuchi of Nourish in her Roland Park office

Diana encouraged me to not only eat fewer calories, but to also incorporate weight lifting into my workout routine, because that helps strengthen bones and will increase my muscle mass — which in turn will increase my resting metabolic rate. (Luckily, weight training is part of the p.r.e.p. program I’m doing at ACAC.)

She also advised that I focus on eating enough protein (I’m a vegetarian), getting enough sleep (at least seven hours per night but preferably eight), and drinking plenty of water (at least 60 ounces). And I should be eating throughout the day so I don’t get hungry.

I met with Diana for free as part of this story, but Nourish takes all forms of insurance, and most plans cover appointments. They have offices in Roland Park, Green Spring Station and Bel Air.

Speaking of eating, I also had a couple of appointments with Mandy Katz, the in-store nutritionist at Giant Food in Timonium. She’s a registered dietitian, and anyone can meet with her for free. (OK, technically it’s not free; after your appointment you must buy a $25 gift card to Giant — which you can then go spend on groceries. So unless you buy the gift card and throw it in the trash, the visit is free in my book.)

Mandy Katz in her office at Giant

She said based on a calorie goal of 1,200 (let’s just round up 1,174 to 1,200, shall we?), I should be eating three meals that are each 300 calories, and then have two snacks that are each 150 calories.

She had asked me to prepare for our appointment by writing down everything I eat in a normal day (before this getting-in-shape extravaganza) so we could see what worked and what needed to be overhauled or tweaked. I forgot to save a copy of the list but I think it was something like:

protein shake for breakfast
handful of tortilla chips here and there
handful of almonds or peanuts here and there
cheese and crackers
tofu and veggie stir fry

It doesn’t sound too horrible, right? I mean, you don’t see cake or ice cream or cookies on the list.

But she asked me more about the protein shake — what’s in it exactly?

baby spinach (healthy!)
unsweetened almond milk (healthy!)
hemp hearts (healthy!)
flax seed (healthy!)
a banana (healthy!)
protein powder (healthy!)

But let’s break it down:

baby spinach (20 calories)
unsweetened almond milk (60 calories)
hemp hearts (170 calories)
flax seed (100 calories)
a banana (105 calories)
protein powder (165 calories)
For a grand total of 620 calories, which is more than twice what I should be consuming for breakfast if I want to lose weight. Ugh.

So I tweaked it and next time this is what I had: 3 oz. of spinach (20 calories); 1.5 cups unsweetened almond milk (45 calories); 1 small banana (90 calories); 2 tablespoons chia seeds (120 calories); 1.5 scoops protein powder (165 calories) = 440 calories.

440 calories

Obviously that banana has got to go. And fewer chia seeds? Swap in some water instead of almond milk? Dang, this is not easy.

Here is the full day:

Mandy also took me on a tour of the grocery store, which sounds kind of weird but is actually really helpful. Most of us rush through the store and get what’s on our list, which means we might tune out and not notice things we weren’t looking for.

Case in point: I didn’t realize Giant had so many veggies that are pre-cut. They even have spiralized squash noodles and cauliflower rice — something I have probably Pinned a dozen times but had never tried.

And I’ve still not tried it. Honestly, I’m getting a little overwhelmed thinking so much about food and calories. I’ve never tried Weight Watchers because it really sounds like a drag, keeping track of every little bite. Although I think the weigh-ins and accountability sound kind of useful. So for now I’m kind of living on protein shakes (something I’ve always done) and yogurt and other basics.

I’ll get into that more next time, and also tell you how a Panera salad changed my life. And in the meantime, I’ll be looking for more healthy meal options.

(Do you have any go-to healthy recipes? Share them in the comment section below!) 

As for my visits to the ACAC gym, they are going well. I’ve gone every other day since starting two and a half weeks ago. For me, that’s kind of a big deal.

I mentioned before that watching “VEEP” makes the time on the elliptical fly by. But I’ve switched to “Big Little Lies” and I only let myself watch it when I’m working out, which makes the elliptical or the recumbent bike seem sort of like a treat. Sort of.

p.r.e.p. area of ACAC

I asked Rick, one of the trainers, to help me find new ways to work my biceps and triceps, because I was finding the machines a bit awkward. So now I use both individual dumbbells and a barbell for my biceps, and a dumbbell for tricep kickbacks, as well as the machine where you pull down on a rope to work the triceps.

I’m glad I asked; these feel like a better fit for me and give my routine a little more variety.

Progress so far: 

Pounds lost: 4.3 of 40
Inches lost: ? of 7

I’m told it’s easier to lose weight at the beginning of a plan, so I don’t want to get overly excited here. But it’s still good to see things moving in the right direction.

(I had actually been down 5 pounds, but then some of it creeped back in. That likely happened on Oct. 2, when the world got news of both the Las Vegas massacre and the death of my all-time-favorite, Tom Petty. Sometimes you just need a big bowl of popcorn and a gin & tonic.)

-Kris Henry,
Towson Flyer

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