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The 10-minute test that can help you lose weight


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Pop quiz: What’s your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR)?

Your RMR is the number of calories you burn by lying in bed all day watching Downton Abby. In other words, the fuel your body needs before factoring in any movement or caloric expenditure like exercise.

In my case, it’s very, very low. Just 1,180. Unlike cholesterol and body fat, you actually want a high number on this medical test.

My score indicates that my body naturally burns just 1,180 calories per day. The activities of life—e.g. walking to the subway, grocery shopping, playing with your kids—only adds another 20 percent to this number. This means if I eat more than 1,416 calories a day, I’ll gain unwanted weight. Of course deliberate, intense exercise helps. But not as much as I’d thought.

The math is helpful. “Without knowing what someone burns it’s hard to suggest lifestyle changes,” says Alycea Ungaro, whose Real Pilates studio recently started offering the test for $85. “People put themselves on arbitrary diets. First they need to know what they’re burning.”

A RMR test in action

Until now, finding a quick, reliable professional to administer the test has been strangely lacking in New York City. Yes, some nutritionists offer the test, but you have to be a client. There were no easy, on-the-go, a la carte options. Ungaro changed that recently when she began a program for clinical nutrition.

An intake form at Real Pilates is followed by a 10-minute test during which calipers are attached to your nose. You breathe through a special mouthpiece for several minutes. Your oxygen consumption while at rest is measured and the BodyGem program spits out a RMR score along with your body fat percentage (said to be almost as accurate as DEXA, the best body-composition test there is).

Ungaro sympathized with my low number. “I’m 1,150,” she said. As for the ranges she typically sees in active New York women?

“We’ve seen as low as 1050 and as high as 1,800,” she says. “What most women don’t realize is what their starting number is and how that’s a factor in so many lifestyle choices they make.” —Alexia Brue

Real Pilates, 177 Duane St., Tribeca, 212-625-0777, www.realpilates.com