When your data is crap

One of the drawbacks of any diet is that it is prone to measurement errors. I have already mentioned this problem with the tape measure, and now I shall describe errors with food. For example, I was estimating my intake of nuts as 1/4 cup per serving, since this is the standard serving size on the packaging. Then I noticed the container I was using to carry them was actually bigger than my 1/4 cup measuring spoon. I weighed a typical serving on the food scale and found I was consuming 2.0 ounces per serving. 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds has 15 grams of fat but 2 ounces of sunflower seeds has 28 grams of fat. Because fat has 9 calories per gram a small error can lead to a lot of calories. The same error is surely applying to olive oil. I should probably start using measuring spoons for lard and butter as well.

I have been discovering these neat little nutrition facts over the last month or so, which is great and all, but I only keep records of calories consumed and not records what I actually ate, so I cannot go back and update the historical data. I now know that 1 oz of 80 proof booze has 65 calories, but I do not recall how many martinis I knocked back on that barcrawl two weekends ago (nor do I want to!) That means I don’t know my true caloric average that week. A few small errors is not a problem, but as they compound over the meals and days it renders the historical data more and more useless.

All I can ever say is that this week’s numbers are more likely accurate than last week’s numbers.

One thing that is objective is my weight, always taken on the same calibrated industrial scale every Friday at 12:05 pm. A man’s weight however can fluctuate by 1-2% a day depending on water retention (for women even more). 2% for me is about 2lbs, which is more than my target weekly weight loss, so the scale does not show progress week to week, but only trends over two or three week periods. Moreover, weight loss is not the goal, fat loss is. I would love to weigh 215 lbs, but at 10% body fat. In my twenties I weighed about 175 but I look leaner now at almost 200 after building more muscle in my 30s. I still have no real way of knowing what my lean body weight should be without paying a lot of money for a water displacement test.

The upshot of all this is that managing my nutrition and weight has been mostly a crapshoot for the last six weeks. Hardly any of my effort has been scientific. These are the kinds of problems that beset not only an individual dieter, but the whole diet and exercise medical-industrial complex, which is why there is so much confusion over how people should eat and exercise.

Anyway, for what it is worth I am still trending in the intended direction, now at 197. Over the last couple of weeks the rate of loss seems to be slowing, which makes sense because school has been out for two weeks and I have been partying it up, especially on the weekends when I emerge from my cocoon and turn into a social butterfly for 48 hours. Every Monday I am two pounds heavier than I was Friday. Maybe it is mostly water, but it still cannot be good for my overall progress.

So, over the next six weeks I hope to:

  • Become still more accurate in measuring calories.
  • Change around some of my portions, as I think I need a little more protein.
  • Make my weekend alcohol intake a little more reasonable.
  • Lose 10 to 12 lbs. This is a little bit of a stretch goal, 8 is probably more likely.

Weight lifting 1RMs are embarrassingly small so I am not going to report. I usually lift right when I get home from work, then eat dinner. Yesterday however I ate upon getting home, read for a couple of hours, and then hit the weights, and found that I felt stronger than at any other time in the last month. I even set a small personal record on the dips. So maybe eating with a digested meal in my belly is the key to effective exercise while in caloric deficit.


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