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July 29th, 2005

weight loss - a rant

Disclaimer. This is a rant. It's written like one. That includes direct, potentially offensive language. If you know me well, you know I have more sympathy for individual people than this, and what I am attacking is the meme, the pattern I see in culture as reflected by the people on my friends list. Given that, if you choose to be offended, go for it.

But.

If you are trying to lose weight, then fine, that's your goal, whatever. But freaking recognize that weight changes slowly, with a large standard deviation (meaning fluctuations, and long periods of stagnation, are NORMAL), and will be a fucking frustrating, if not impossible, process. Not because of any personal failure on your part, not because you're doing something wrong, but because our bodies are evolutionarily designed to NOT STARVE.

Who'd'a thunk it?

Let me suggest an alternative strategy.

Rather than obsessing over every bite, every calorie, every grain of salt, how about paying attention to how different food makes you feel, both then and afterwards, and eat in a way that helps your body work well?

Seriously. Throw away the fucking scale. It contributes more to the collective blood pressure of America than sociopathic managers, psycho exes, and the latest contrived 'reality' show put together.

Instead, try exercising because it is useful to be able to run up a flight of stairs without getting winded. Eat vegetables instead of potato chips because it's nice to have the energy to get up off the couch once in a while. Allow it to be a slow value shift. Pay attention to the inside, not the outside, and one day you'll find your pants are too big for you, without any stress at all. And that, my friend, will feel far better than celebrating over every measly pound, only to be plunged into the depths of despair when it comes back the next week.

One part of the phsyiological stress reaction in the human body is to be ready to drop into starvation mode on a hairtrigger. After all, if something in your life is precarious enough to make you worried and anxious all the time, can an interruption in the food supply be far behind? In short, if you're stressing about calories, that, itself, makes your body hang on to them! Can we say 'counterproductive', boys and girls? I knew you could!

And lest I sound completely heartless, I do sympathize with how difficult it can be to shape your body into anything even vaguely approaching the modern ideal. I have about 40 pounds that has resisted anything and everything I've thrown at it for 15 years. My lowest weight ever was 131 when I was 16 and figure skating 20 hours a week, and even that is 10-15 pounds over what I "should" be for my frame and height.

But you know what? I don't care. I find out my weight when I go to the doctor, and even that's because turning away when they slide the numbers around gives the scale too much power - it's allowing that a few numbers to fuck with my head, and that is something I will not do. It hasn't been easy to get to the point of not caring, either, but the alternative is a miserable, calorie-obsessed life of learned helplessness.

For me, of course. Your mileage may vary. But for at least half a dozen of you and hundreds more I've known in my life, you are doing yourself nothing but a disservice by giving a fucking number so much power. Be yourself. Exercise and eat well because you like having a fully functioning, efficient body and you like pushing your limits; but to relegate a complex biological system, evolutionarily streamlined to keep you alive against far simpler pressures than that of modern America, to a single number, is to condemn your life to being defined by that number.

You're more than that. Prove it.

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