I’ve had a weight problem for about ten years now.
Being overweight didn’t used to be a problem. It meant you had eaten more than you needed to survive – thus, you were a successful person. And most people become overweight simply by eating when and what their body tells them to, because our biology has not caught up with our sociology – it is no longer necessary to put weight on as a safeguard against starvation later. In fact, in this day and age, being overweight is like hanging a permanent sign around your neck that reads, “I have no self-discipline”.
Except that I do have self-discipline. I have done things that required serious self-discipline in the past and will do more of such things in the future. Why am I still having trouble with this?
I am six feet, four inches tall. I weigh about three hundred and forty pounds. Because of my height, I am not really rotund, but I still weigh about a hundred pounds more than I should.
About two years ago, I seriously started on a plan to lose weight. I did some research, reading books like The Hacker’s Diet. I then got off caffeine, drank only water, took vitamins every day, and ate a very small number of calories (around 1800). I also worked out at home at least three times a week. My workout consisted of playing Dance Dance Revolution for about fifteen minutes to get my heart rate up, then doing a series of calisthenics. I burned about 250 calories per workout. The very low number of calories was quite difficult to maintain, but I told myself that every time my stomach growled it meant I was losing weight.
Initially, this worked great. The pounds seemed to melt right off, and it appeared that I would reach my goal of 240 far faster than I thought I would. I don’t know exactly how much weight I lost because my scale was not reading right (something I didn’t find out until later) but I probably lost about 35-40 pounds. My legs looked great, and I started having to tighten my belt lest my pants fall off. A female co-worker of mine told me I was looking “splendid”, which was quite encouraging.
But I was overdoing it. For a 340-pound male, 1800 calories is practically nothing. After about three months of this, my body went into starvation mode and I stopped losing weight. This was also when I discovered that my spring scale was not accurate, since it was telling me that I weighed 295 but the new digital scale I bought, which went up to 300, refused to weigh me. So I didn’t even know how much I’d lost.
After about a month of continuing to practically starve myself with no results, I got frustrated. I stopped exercising and started eating “normally” again. And all that weight came right back on.
My story is a very common one. Despite all the research I had done and all the good intentions I had, I had gone about this project exactly wrong. The worst thing you can do to lose weight is temporarily alter how you exercise and eat, because even if they work, once you reach your target weight you will go back to normal…and the weight will come back on.
My weight is a consequence of my eating habits and exercise habits. Thus, if I want to change my weight permanently, I must also change those habits permanently. There is no way I can maintain a healthy weight drinking as much soda as I do, so I must stop drinking soda – permanently. There is no way I can maintain a healthy weight exercising as little as I do, so I must start exercising – permanently. And there is no way I can maintain a healthy weight eating as much mayonnaise as I do, so I must stop eating mayonnaise – permanently. I must break myself of my bad habits and replace them with good ones, and I must continually reinforce the good habits lest my decades of bad habitting reassert themselves.
So I’m going to start again, within the next week or two. I’m going to do a little preparation and then I’m going to start back down the road to good health…more gently, this time. It will take longer and be more difficult, but the result will be permanent success.