Monday, April 26, 2010


When I was growing up, one of my friends was rather obsessed about her weight. She wasn’t fat by any stretch of the imagination, but she wasn’t super thin. I’d say, in fact, that she was probably at a normal, healthy weight. She did, however, measure her waist and weigh herself frequently because she felt she could be trimmer. I think she looked at her mother’s slight middle-aged pudginess and feared that this was going to be her immediate fate, despite the fact that she was only about 14 years old.

My friend wanted to drop a few pounds, and she wanted to do it now. She would go out for a jog, come back home, and measure or weigh herself. She wanted immediate results and was willing to work harder to get them by exercising more. Her mother told her that weight loss "didn't work like that," meaning that you were never going to see immediate results for your hard work.

When many of us decide to do something about our unhappiness with our weight, we often become quite frantic about dealing with the problem as rapidly as possible. This leads to cutting calories back to painfully difficult to maintain levels and overdoing the exercise in the hopes of dropping more weight faster. Today, I had one of those hurried moments where I just wanted to push my body to drop weight faster (no doubt spurred on by my visual appraisal of myself a few days ago), and started to ponder what I could do to accomplish this goal.

One of the main issues for me when dealing with my problem has been my physical fragility. If I do too much exercise, I pay for it in pain. I want to get into lifting weights more, but I had incredible muscle pain from increasing reps "too quickly", which is to say anything beyond a glacial pace. I want to walk and move more, but I had incredible back pain from doing about 20 minutes more than I was accustomed to. There really can’t be much for me in the way of rushing this process beyond possibly cutting calories more.

And I've pondered the calorie cutting, and I don't think that anything less than 1500-1600 calories per day would be wise. Since I did 1200 a day early on in my "training" of myself to track my eating and learn delayed gratification, I know I can manage it, but it's very tough. I could probably do very low calorie eating for a short period of time, but not over the next few years of weight loss. I'm also dubious of the prospect of diminishing returns as the body can only metabolize so much fat per day. It's likely that 1200 wouldn't do enough for me relative to 1500, and it'd be a lot harder to live with.

In the end, I figured that what I need to deal with isn't increased exercise or more dramatically reduced calories. The thing I need to deal with is the psychology and the frantic sense of wanting to speed the process along by "trying harder". My progress is fine, and I doubt that making big changes would result in losses of any more than two or three pounds a month. The habits I've developed are good and my choices are ones that are sustainable for a prolonged period of time (forever, in fact). I have to internalize the fact that wanting to do the equivalent of going out for a jog and then measuring my waist to see if I've made progress isn't helpful, and is indeed harmful to my overall success.

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