TL;DR – January 1st, I start a countdown giving myself 1,000,000 calories for all of 2019.
My cousin decided to do a push-up challenge in 2018 in part to improve his health. He completed over 37,000 push-ups during the year. His dedication to a challenge that he set himself was really inspiring to me and made me wonder what I could do to challenge myself to improve my health or even just how I perceive health.
I am not one for running or jumping or doing push-ups, though I had considered challenging myself in a variety of physical fitness challenges. I know that, for myself, if I spend time in the gym, I have a harder time controlling what I eat. I know that in the past I haven’t found exercise fun or fulfilling and so if I hurt myself or feel pain, I quickly make excuses to not do it again. So I am going to focus on food. I know that I need to get back into better control over my food with conscious eating. I have had successes with managing food to improve my health before, but only over a few months, which just isn’t long enough.
I came up with an idea called the 1 Million Calories Challenge. It isn’t to lose weight or even to necessarily make myself fitter, but to bring more attention to what I’m eating, to be more mindful of the food I’m putting in my body and to reduce the potential of overeating, something I know that I do too often.
For some of you, this number might seem like too little and for others, you possibly can’t even fathom eating a million calories over a year. Everyone is different, and I have no idea what this will truly mean for me, but I have a gut feeling that I typically eat much more than this in a year.
I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life and have watched a number of my family members struggle with it as well. I’ve watched videos to lose weight and I’ve tried a ton of different fad diets. I did Weight Watchers for a while, I’ve tried modified Keto diets, I’ve tried calorie restriction, I’ve even hired personal trainers before to try to get my weight under control.
But it seems like no matter what I try, I quickly give up and end up gaining around one pound that sticks around each and every month. When I see the scale tipping over 300 pounds, I freak out and do whatever I can to fix that number, but after a while, I end up back there again and it is getting harder and harder to stay below that number.
I thought that when I became an adult, I’d have some magic revelation that would allow me to stick with things better and be more consistent in how I take care of myself. I assumed I would just know to eat better and exercise more. I don’t know why I thought these things, but I did. I could write a whole blog post about my assumptions about adulthood… Maybe another time.
Anyways, I remember watching Super Size Me and thinking “just how many calories is that guy eating over the course of his project?” There were estimates that he was eating over 5,000 calories per day, which is well above what someone of his size would need. And if I followed suit, I’d gain so much weight and this would be the Nearly Two Million Calorie Challenge. That’s not what I am looking for.
1.) For 2019, I have 1,000,000 calories available. I will be using MyFitnessPal to track the calories I use and transfer those values into a spreadsheet that helps keeps track of my progress.
2.) The challenge goes from when I wake up on January 1st through when I go to bed on December 31st.
3.) If I run out of calories, then I’ll be using multivitamins and water to sustain myself until the end date.
4.) Doing exercise of any sort does not earn me extra calories, but will hopefully allow me to lose a bit of the spare tire around my gut.
Why 1 Million Calories?
Using a variety of different tools, I calculated my basal metabolic rate (BMR), as well as my estimated daily caloric needs.
For those of you that don’t know, your basal metabolic rate is a calculation of how many calories you need to live without any additional energy expenditure. So if you were basically in a coma, it is how many calories your body would need to continue to function properly.
The average of this data showed that I need around 2,611 calories per day as a BMR and 3,134 calories per day for my total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) needs.
I think the daily caloric needs number is a little high and doesn’t really take into account how truly sedentary my life is, and the math for 3,134 calories per day over 365 days ended up being an ugly 1,143,910 calories for the year, and that doesn’t work well as a memorable challenge.
With one million calories, I have 2,739.726 calories per day over 2019, which should be more than enough to meet my current needs without starving myself and hopefully without gaining any weight. This whole thing has me excited to the point that I am already thinking about what more restrictive goal I might set for myself in 2020, maybe it’ll become the 750,000 calorie challenge then (which would still give me over 2,000 calories a day) or the 600,000 calorie challenge (which would help me lose a fair bit of weight with only 1643 calories per day).
More Stream of Consciousness
Previously, when trying to lose weight, I would give myself a calorie goal that was below my BMR according to different tools I was looking at. I tried going aggressively at one point by keeping my intake to just 1600 calories per day but quickly found that to be too difficult over the long term. I’ve tried periods of time where I kept myself below 2000 and another stint below 2400 and while they weren’t difficult, I was so focused on weight loss, that I ended up getting frustrated, distracted or too lazy to track and not continuing.
I am hopeful that since weight loss isn’t the goal of this challenge that I’ll be more likely to stick to it. I am also hoping that I can actually get through the year with calories left over. I am planning on having a fast day at least once a month, but aiming for once a week where I don’t consume more than 500 calories. This will allow me to bank calories for holidays, “cheat” days, and any other breaks in self-control I might run into.
My wife seems to think that I won’t have any calories left by December and that I’ll have to spend a month on a complete fast of only drinking water and taking multivitamins to survive. I definitely don’t want to prove her right, but if that happens, it’ll be my own fault.
Thankfully, my wife will also be doing a health challenge in 2019 but hers will be more like my cousin’s with a challenge to perform a simple exercise with an increasing difficulty through the year. I feel like with both of us challenging ourselves to be healthier and more mindful in 2019, we will be able to help each other when we get to the points where we feel mentally or physically low.
The Starting Line
Today, on the last day of 2018, I weigh 295 pounds. It isn’t my heaviest, and definitely not my lightest, but it is a BMI of around 37 (30 and above are obese).
My goal at the end of the year is to be the same or less than this. My neck is 19″, my chest is 50″, my stomach is 52″ and my hips are 50″. Ideally, all of these numbers will stay the same or go down as well. Wish me luck!
BMR Data Sources
For all of these tools, I tried to put in a weight of 297.6 which is what I weighed on December 16th, as well as 36 years old and 6 foot, 2 inches in height. If they asked if I was male or female, I put in male, and if they asked how active I was, I picked the lowest level of sedentary.
If the tool didn’t give a total daily calorie needs value, I used a 1.2x multiplier on BMI to reach that number.
Active.com – Received a BMR of 2618. Calculated a daily calorie need of 3142.
ManyTools.com – Received a BMR of 2597 and a daily calorie needs of 3116.
BodyBuilding.com – Received a BMR of 2616. Calculated a daily calorie need of 3139.
BMI-Calculator.net – Received a BMR of 2615. Calculated a daily calorie need of 3138.
I did try a few other tools, but in the end, I decided to remove the ones that ended up being wild edge cases with too much of a deviation from the rest of the values in this series. There were some saying my BMR was around 2000 and some that went as high as 2900, as well as some tools that said my TDEE was as low as 2200 and as high as 3500 calories. I am amazed that there can be so much variance in tools that seem to make it clear that BMR and TDEE are based on set calculations.