TW: If you have an eating disorder or any tendencies towards disordered eating, especially in relation to numbers, using the method I’ve laid out below could be potentially harmful. This tool should only be used by people for whom access to lots of numbers is safe.
TL;DR ($YOUR_CURRENT_WEIGHT – $YOUR_GOAL_WEIGHT) x 3500 = the amount of “caloric debt” (excess calories you’ll have to burn off) in order to reach your goal. There’s a spreadsheet to help you keep track as you chip away at this number!
Recently I read a post about how it might be helpful for some people to think of their weight loss as a debt that needs to be paid off. This comment by /u/Whack-a-med in particular really resonated with me–so much so, that I decided to actually see what the numbers might look like!
We know that a pound of fat is equivalent to 3500 calories. In other words, in order to lose a pound, you’d have to burn off 3500 more calories than you’ve consumed. Thus, you can calculate the total number of excess calories you will have to burn off by finding the delta between your current weight and your target weight, and then multiplying that by 3500. Then, if you subtract your calories consumed for the day from your TDEE, you can see how much you’ve chipped away at that sum for that day.
In order to play around with the numbers a little bit more, I decided to create a spreadsheet where you input your stats and goal weight, and then you can log your daily weight and calories. From there the spreadsheet will calculate your TDEE and subtract your calories from any given day, giving you the number of calories you’ve “paid back” to your caloric debt balance.
Instructions for use
You can access a public copy of this spreadsheet template here (Imperial units) and here (metric units). From there you can create your own private copy of the spreadsheet (“File” –> “Make a copy”) and input your data. You’ll notice that the sheet is prefilled with some starter data–that data is simply an example for demonstrative purposes; you will be overwriting it with your own.
On your private copy, go to the tab at the bottom titled “Information (fill this out first)”. Fill out each of the fields on that tab. (Note: it asks for gender as “M” or “F”–though this doesn’t encompass all identities, it’s what I saw the BMR formulas were based off of. Pick whichever label suits your needs best.) Then return to the main tab (labeled “Chart”), and fill in your data in the yellow columns! (When you add your weight for the day, the rest of the row should appear.)
Try not to mess with columns D through H unless it’s on purpose, as it could mess up the formulas. If your numbers suddenly start getting wonky or you get errors, check and make sure you haven’t accidentally overwritten any of the cells.
You can fill in your data starting from today, or if you have your calories and weight from previous days already logged somewhere else, you can backfill a few days in order to get a sense for how it works.
If you fill up the spreadsheet to the point where you’re sick of scrolling, you can either make a copy of your private spreadsheet or return to the template and make a copy of that. You’ll have to update the dates, but don’t worry about messing up formatting or anything (the dates don’t factor into any of the calculations, anyway).
Why I like this method
To be honest, on most tracking applications, I struggle to find meaning in the numbers. Yes, I log my 1200 a day (sigh life as a short girl), but when the scale fluctuates each morning for seemingly random reasons, especially during a plateau, it can feel like my work is meaningless and amounting to nothing. Sometimes I want more immediate gratification than my scale is able to offer me.
That’s where this technique becomes handy–it lays down in hard numbers the reality of the efforts you’re making. Even if the scale doesn’t budge (that fickle asshole), you can know that you are still making progress. For me at least, this gives an encouraging dopamine burst.
Furthermore, it’s fun to watch the “remaining balance” number go down each day. It’s fun in the same way paying off actual debt is fun–it almost turns it into a game. It can become really satisfying to see how much you can bring it down! (Having said that, please be careful to not let it become a game of how low you can go each day–remember to check in with yourself to make sure you’re not sliding in to risky behaviors.)
I will admit that it can seem a little daunting if your remaining balance is quite high–that’s why the “1st goal weight” is also on the spreadsheet. I recommend making that goal weight something within immediate sight–something you could achieve in a month or so. Breaking up the big number into smaller chunks helps with seeing progress. You can even hide the “Ultimate Remaining Balance” column and just focus on the immediate one.
This method isn’t perfect–TDEE and BMR calculations aren’t an exact science, and it might feel disheartening if the numbers you see here don’t match up with the numbers you see on the scale. However, hopefully this still is helpful to some people–it’s not for everyone, but if you’re a numbers-oriented person like I am, then it might be of some use for you.
I hope this is helpful. Please feel free to give this a try and let me know what you think! If you notice any bugs or anything, please also let me know and I can try to fix them. I’m excited to see what you all think!