Sunday, July 25, 2010

Instant Benefits

Back when I was in university, one of my college professors talked about a conversation that he had with a friend about never having energy to do the things he wanted to do. The professor said he advised his friend to ignore his fatigue and exercise, do his housework, or go out. He told him that doing these things would bring about more energy. Rather than focus on "rest" when he was tired, he encouraged his acquaintance to focus on activity.

A lot of women talk about how losing weight gives them energy, but a handful say that they don't experience such a change. I sometimes wonder if the energy that people gain from weight loss is as much, possibly more, about increased activity across the board rather than having a lighter body. Yes, it is less energy-consuming to move around a smaller body, but there are thin people who are tired and lethargic, too, and fat people who are bursting with energy. The primary change that people make when they want to lose weight is that they move around more.

I'm not only talking about moving around more by exercising; there is also the fact that they stop hiding in their homes and go out and do things they used to avoid doing because of bodily shame. Part of losing weight often involves swallowing your embarrassment and putting yourself out there. Interestingly, having to do this in turn builds confidence in yourself. You either go out and weather the abuse and learn to face it with your head up, or you give up and go back into hiding. Learning to deal with any sort of adversity in life will breed confidence.

I've been wondering as of late if weight loss is incidental to things like increased energy and improved confidence rather than a product of it. Perhaps it's as much about what the processes give you as the loss of pounds. "Looking better" is highly subjective, and any sense of confidence that people get from weight loss is like a balloon that is ready to be popped by the first person who looks them over and callously says, "you don't look like you've lost much weight."

I can't tell you how many women in weight loss forums talk about feeling great about themselves only to have someone say something that completely leaves them crestfallen. The confidence from "looking better" is a fragile illusion which places power outside of yourself. That which you derive from your actions is real and comes from the power inside of you.

This is good food for thought because it means some of the biggest non-aesthetic benefits of weight loss can be had by people regardless of how much (if any) they lose. Of course, if they don't lose, they get frustrated and give up and go back to old ways and believe they lose energy and confidence because they remain fat. However, if you focus on the actions (moving more, getting out and learning to cope with insults) rather than the results (losing weight), and just do what is best, perhaps there is satisfaction and improvement in quality of life to be had on those points alone. Rather than be tortured by the number on the scale, seek the "instant" benefits which are yours for the taking and be patient with the delivery of the long-term results.


AngryFatWoman said...

When I was really losing weight and exercising a couple hours per day, I definitely noticed I had more energy. At the same time, I also began to realize how heavy things are. Not long after losing about 50 pounds, I was carrying a 50-pound bag of something or other up a couple flights of stairs. That was a wake-up moment for me. Fifty pounds is heavy! It's no wonder heavy people complain of lacking energy, it takes a lot of effort to do anything when you've got all of that weight perpetually affixed to your body.

Val said...

Great post! I have been troubled this last week by some sort of lingering malaise: low energy, a cornucopia of aches n' pains (joints & feet mostly), and a deep fatigue which seems to persist no matter how many deep breaths or short naps I take...
Is it real? Or is it Memorex - as my body laboriously paces out the final days until my son gets home (which was last night). Unfortunately, his return didn't result in a miraculous burst of renewed energy.
I wish I knew!