Mathematics is a beautiful science, if you happen to like it. But it has discouraged a lot of us from making an effort at girth control. It has been bruited about that “going on a diet” involves careful calculations in trigonometry, algebra, differential calculus and celestial navigation.
Be assured that all these scare stories are false. If you can do simple addition, you can do major subtraction— the latter in the form of too, too solid flesh.
And always you have a simple and infallible means of checking up on your reducing arithmetic: if your bathroom scales show that you are losing weight, then your arithmetic is perfect. If they show no weight loss after a reasonable time, or even a gain, then you know that you arrived at the wrong answer and that all you have to do is to subtract another hundred or two calories from your daily quota.
To take your basal metabolism test, you go without eating for 12 or 15 hours, lie on a cot, breathe in and out of a bag, and pretty soon your physician arrives at a plus or minus figure that is something like the score on a speedometer: the speedometer tells you how fast your car is going, and your basal metabolism figures tell you how fast your body is living. To be a little more precise, it tells the rate at which your body exchanges energy just to keep alive.
Taking a b. m. test is always more fun for the physician than for you, so as a normal, healthy person you might just as well figure that all that basal metabolism means to you is that you burn from 1400 to 1,700 calories per day before you do a lick of work.
If you are a woman weighing 125 pounds, the 1,400-calorie figure applies to you. If you are a man (or a woman) weighing close to 160 pounds, the 1,700-calorie figure applies. In-between weights have in-between values. These are close enough for all practical purposes because it is true that the basal metabolism rates of obese persons do not ordinarily differ much from normal.
To those basic calories you are entitled to add those representing energy consumed in working, walking, playing, singing in a barbershop quartet or persuading your husband to wear his rubbers. In fact, all of your daily activities except your favorite one of engaging in profound thought require a considerable number of calories for their continuance.
Thinking takes a few calories too: the calories provided by one peanut will keep your brain fired for two hours’ concentrated thought. Peanuts are probably one of the foods dieters should steer clear of, because they are so high in calories and the salt makes them almost addictive. Wrinkling the brow uses up more calories than thinking.
Extra calories to be added to your basal figure may vary anywhere from 800 a day on up, according to the nature of your occupation and activities.