Friday, August 10, 2007

Believe Me, I Scare Myself Too

It's been on my mind ever since I posted it. I knew people were going to try to "explain" it to me... even though I think I already "get it." But now I just can't let it go.

I mentioned that I could not figure out how a person could lose two and a half pounds overnight without using the bathroom, and drinking a cup of tea. Someone left a link to an article about glycogen storage. It was interesting, but it didn't answer my question.

Because this is a simple application of the Law of Conservation of Mass: it doesn't matter where your food goes or what it turns into inside of your body. If you don't poop it, pee it, sweat it, flatulate it, sneeze it, puke it, cry it, or ooze it in some other manner, you will weigh the sum total of all the food you've put in your mouth. End of story.

Here is a way to visualize it:

Step on the scale. It says you weigh 100 lbs. (And, by the way, I might have to get catty about that.)

Now find a bag of marbles and weigh it. The scale says the marbles weigh 2 lbs.

What would you weigh if you stepped on the scale while HOLDING the bag of marbles? (I'll give you time to calculate.) If you said 102 pounds, you are right.

Now, think of every piece of food that you eat as a bag of marbles. Some folks have been known to call these marbles "atoms," but we'll call them marbles here because marbles don't make people want to run to the nearest corner, curl up in a ball, and start rocking back and forth while repeatedly muttering "Please don't make me do chemistry. I never did like chemistry."

So, you and your marbles weigh 102 pounds. Now step off the scale and open the bag of marbles. Put some in your pockets. Put a few in your underwear. Hold the rest in your hands. Just make sure you have all the marbles on your person, somewhere... and we'll agree that I won't ask you where you put them all, okay?

Now, step back on the scale. How much do you weigh?

102 pounds.

Rearrange those marbles any way you want. Make new groups, LET THE MARBLES MINGLE! It doesn't matter. No matter where you put the marbles, you will still weigh the same. (In other words, store it as fat, store it as glycogen, make a new cell out of it... it just doesn't matter. All the atoms you ate still weigh the same, even if they've been re-grouped and made into something new inside your body.)

The only way to lose weight is to lose marbles. BURNING ENERGY ISN'T WHAT MAKES YOU LOSE WEIGHT. "Burning energy" is the term we use when we mean "break the bonds that are holding atoms together." In other words, we need to use energy to pull apart the marbles that are stuck together. But pulling them apart doesn't make us weigh less. Excreting them does. In order for us to lose weight, a molecule of fat, for example, has to be pulled apart, made into smaller pieces, and sent OUT OF THE BODY. (The ultimate out-of-body experience, eh?)

But I didn't do any major, uh, marble removal that night... yet I lost 2.5 pounds!

So the question has been sitting in the back of my head for over two weeks now. Brewing. Gaining information. Resulting in furrowed brow and far-off looks as I pondered: How in the world is it possible to lose weight while you are sleeping? I know we are always giving off water vapor, but it didn't seem like water vapor could account for the entire loss I experienced that night.

And then it hit me: Breathing.

Yes, you can lose weight by breathing.

It's brilliant.

Because here's the deal: We inhale oxygen (made of 2 oxygen atoms.) But what do we exhale? Carbon dioxide, which is the same two oxygen atoms, but with an extra carbon attached. So, with every breath, we are actually losing weight by getting rid of some of our carbon marbles.

I needed to check this out, so I stayed up way too late last night looking for some basic information and calculating the amount of carbon lost by the average person in a day.

Oh, I am not kidding.

I used the value that Wikipedia lists as the volume of carbon dioxide exhaled in one day by the average person. The temperature of the gas will affect the volume, but I used average room temperature, and also average atmospheric pressure. From these I used the Ideal Gas Equation and the atomic mass of carbon to figure out how much carbon that would be in grams. Then converted to pounds.

My temperature and pressure values were only estimates, and I suspect they throw the results off. This guy gets a different mass than I do. And I did not try to correct for the fact that the gas we exhale is generally warmer than room temp. But, from what I calculated, I determined that the average person loses 0.49 pounds every day just by exhaling carbon dioxide. (There you have it! Scientific proof that we are all losing our marbles!)

Adjusting that to reflect the six (probably fewer) hours that I was sleeping, allows me to conclude the following:

The average person loses NOWHERE NEAR 2.5 POUNDS of exhaled carbon while they are sleeping!

BUT, what I did learn is that if I don't eat or drink all day and make sure that I keep up with my breathing, I'm pretty much guaranteed to lose about a half a pound!


Someone call the marketing gurus... I've got a new diet to share with the world!

The Breather's Diet?

No, I got it -

How to Lose Weight in 1000 Easy Breaths

(I'm gonna be famous...)

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Blogger BooMama said...

Not only did you come up with a theory, but you used NUMBERS and FORMULAS to prove your theory.

There are no words for how frightened I am.

Fri Aug 10, 04:56:00 PM  
Blogger Carla said...

Now that's just a wee bit frightening. What I think I found the most frightening is the fact that I followed it, formulas and all.

Fri Aug 10, 06:35:00 PM  
Blogger Brenda said...

Well, that does it. I'm scrapping my plans to try to the South Beached Whale diet.

Thanks! :)

Fri Aug 10, 08:21:00 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

You are insane.

And I mean that in the most loving of ways.

This line cracked me up:
"Scientific proof that we are all losing our marbles!"

Ha ha ha ha. I didn't need scientific proof - some things you just KNOW.

And now I'm off to breathe - very vigorously - with the intention of losing another 5 to 10 pounds.


Sat Aug 11, 02:15:00 AM  
Blogger Luisa Perkins said...

I have to say that I'm usually not into the scatologically related stuff, but right now I'm fascinated by the idea of losing mass through flatulence...

Seriously--thanks for explaining this. I get it now.

Sat Aug 11, 08:08:00 AM  
Blogger Noodle said...

This is one of the most wonderful things I've read in a while! And I'm not scared by it. I'm encouraged and enlightened (ah, yes, pun intended). :)

Sat Aug 11, 09:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Jenny said...

I can't tell you how thrilled I am to see you are still using PV=nRT. I love it! As one exhausted-but-finding-a-moment-to-myself-online-after-bedtime mom to another: Thanks for brightening my day! I need to visit your blog more often!

Sat Aug 11, 09:59:00 PM  
Blogger Candace Salima (LDS Nora Roberts) said...

Don't eat all day and breathe alot. Hmmmm.

Sun Aug 12, 12:12:00 AM  
Blogger Robin said...

I would have listened to you in Chemistry. Unfortunately, I had Prof. Vern Wood--she made the plants die with her voice. I was lucky enough to get her again in college after she quit working for the high school. Still dead plants.

My point is--that was cool!

Sun Aug 12, 03:55:00 PM  
Blogger Jennifer, Snapshot said...

I'm panting here. Ha Ha.

Mon Aug 13, 02:40:00 PM  
Blogger ComfyDenim said...

I found you because from CoffeeMom's blog. And I don't think I would have come up with a new diet like you did - I'd have gone to buy a new scale. So you will probably be famous - just remember the rest of us out there. *LOL*

Tue Aug 14, 03:26:00 PM  
Blogger ammo said...

yeah, if this was really the case though, no one would ever gain weight.

Wed Aug 15, 08:04:00 PM  

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