So it is now month five of my continuing efforts to effectively divide myself in half, and by that of course I mean losing weight. It began way back in November, and since that time I’ve lost 20 pounds! Awesome, objective complete, game over, I win!
Wait, wait, wait, wait…
Then why do I still look like this?
No seriously, what the hell? You know what, this is why losing weight sucks, because:
3. Exercise Alone is not Enough
You know, I could deal with all the pain, and being labelled as a Bio-Hazard whenever I come home from the gym smelling like a landfill, if I could at least eat whatever I wanted when I got home. But you know what? I can’t. Cheeseburgers, french fries, pizza, cheesecake, there are a thousand delicious goodies out there beckoning me with their siren song of scrumptious, high calorie, high fat, high sugar beauty. Yet, if I indulge too much (and I always do when there are goodies in the house), five weeks at the gym can be erased in a single night of binge eating. How fair is that!? I mean, talk about punishment disproportional to the crime.
For instance, most doctors recommend keeping to a 2,000 calorie diet, and if you trying to lose weight you have to shave a couple hundred off that number anyway. You know how many calories are in a can of Pringles? 900, that’s half the calories I can eat in a day. You know how insane that is? Have you seen a can of Pringles? It’s not even that big. If you throw a soda into that mix, that’s it, you’ve just scoffed down an entire day of calories, congratulations. Even with exercise you can’t just keep eating whatever the hell you want. You also can’t just cut out eating all together, because then your body gets confused and starts going into starvation mode, and strangely enough your body would rather eat your muscles than burn fat. That’s why every single reputable diet program states that losing weight is a balance of exercise and healthy eating.
Over the past five months I’ve been transitioning from an almost exclusively junk food diet (I was practically subsisting on Halloween candy for most of November) to incorporating fruits and raw nuts. However, it’s been tough trying to keep from scarfing down everything in a two mile radius of my house like a zombie. Half the problem is just how easy it is to eat out, for instance, I love me some Dick’s Drive In and whenever I drive down to Seattle, like I just did recently for my nose, I can’ t help but stop and get a burger and fries. Dick’s Burgers are like the Borg: resistance is futile. However, I’ve been cutting down on the amount of food I get. I used to be able to scarf down 4 deluxe burgers plus fries, now I’m down to 2. Yet even that might be too much because:
2. Your Body is Constantly Working Against You
The human body is amazing when you think about it, trillions upon trillions of cells all cooperating to create an incredibly advance biochemical entity (that’s us). It’s a system so incredibly advanced that even with all our technological achievements, we have still been unable recreate it. The brain is still more advanced than even the biggest super computer, and our livers? If we could recreate the liver’s ability to repair cells and filter out toxins, we could solve a lot of today’s problems. Yup, anyway you look at it, the human body is amazing. In fact it’s so amazing that’s it really starting to piss me off.
For instance when I first started working out at the gym, I was doing 10 minutes on the elliptical for cardio and then 10 minutes of weight lifting, and as my body adapted to the strain, I was able to push myself to a half hour of each. That’s awesome, perfectly fine by me. And then the human body totally screws me over by giving me enough muscles that my normal 30/30 routine is still difficult, but my body has gotten so used to the routine that I no longer burn the same amount of calories as I did when I first started because it has now adapted to the strain of that exercise. On top of that, 20 less pounds strapped around my waist means that my body has to use less calories in order to move. Now I have to push myself even harder to make any headway at all in my weight loss. Using the elliptical now I’ve had to push the resistance up to level 3, leaving me even more exhausted than usual and lift even heavier weights.
And you know what really sucks? Just how quickly your body will write the stuff off if you don’t use them. The human body is like the lazy co-worker you have (and you all have at least one): it doesn’t do anything unless it absolutely has to. If your not using a muscle, your body will consume it and use the resources somewhere else because hey, it’s just sitting there wasting energy right? Every instinct tells us that working when you don’t actually have to is bad, I mean that’s just how we evolved. All the go-getting, early worm people all got eaten by Sabertooth Lions when they stupidly went out to enjoy the sunrise instead of remaining in their caves snoring like the rest of us. Every cell in the human body has become an expert at surviving the longest using the least resources necessary. The idea of intentional weight loss is completely alien to the human body, and it fights us tooth and nail when we try to lose weight.
And even after you’re doing everything right, there’s still one more problem:
1. You Have Nothing to Show for it Until the Very End
In other words, you know what the visual difference is between a guy weighing 350 pounds and a guy that weighs 330? Not a whole lot. My double chin has shrunk a bit, and my face has shrunk to the point where my cheeks no longer make me look like I’m sucking on a Jawbreaker.
However, anyone else who looked at me would not be able to tell I’d lost any weight at all. I’ve lost 20 pounds! That’s a huge amount of weight, and it’s exactly what I should be losing (most doctor’s say that losing 1-2 pounds per week is the ideal). 5 months is about 20 weeks = 1 pound a week (oh god I hope I have my math right, and if it’s not, I don’t want to hear a god damn thing from anybody).
There’s a concept in neurology/pyschology called the noticeable difference threshold, and it basically means we can’t tell the difference between anything if the difference is too slight. For example, stick your hand in a pot of boiling water (don’t actually do this), and then stick your hand in a pot of boiling water 5 degrees hotter. Your brain isn’t going to tell you anything different, except say “What the hell, man! Why would you do that twice!?” In other words, your brain can’t distinguish the difference until it passes a certain threshold. The same threshold applies to my huge body, it’s just so big and bulky that a 20 pound difference is like the difference between a 7000 pound elephant and a 6000 pound elephant: No matter which one sits on you, you’re still screwed.
But here I am, working my ass off and denying myself the food I want, and I don’t have a tangible difference to show to anybody, including me! When I finish writing a chapter in my book, I can look back and see all the pages I wrote. Playing a video game, I get a scoreboard telling me how I did (or better yet the bloody, mangled corpse of my enemy at my feet [I’m not crazy]). Yet, losing weight? You get absolutely no bragging rights until you’ve practically lost it all, and there’s an actual noticeable difference. I can see why most people quit exercising after only a few weeks. When you first tell people that you’re going to lose weight, people congratulate you and tell you you’re doing a great thing. So every couple of weeks they ask “So how’s it going?” and you say “I’ve lost four pounds!”, they kind of smile at you and maybe offer a half-hearted congratulations, but you know they’re thinking “Wow, that guy must be doing something wrong! Only four pounds in a month?” or worse they’re thinking “What a liar, he must be gorging himself at home.”
When you tell people you’re going to lose weight, they’re expecting those before and after shots they show you on weight loss commercials. Next time they see you, they expect you to be skinny as a rail, holding up your old size 55XXL jeans up and smiling, a picture of health. That’s the thing though, the after picture in those commercials are after people have already crossed the finish line and won their gold medal. Until you actually cross the finish line though, you’re just some guy running a long marathon in a blazing heatwave while the people on the sidelines scream at you to go faster…while eating donuts.
Hang in there!
Also, sorry to be the voice of doom, but I found the “initial noticeable success” part of my own weight loss really grating. Why? Because other people get jealous really quickly when your weight loss gets noticeable. They start offering junk food, they start trying to put you off. It’s disheartening, but you get through it. The fact that you have stuck to your plan this long already, achieved steady weight loss (if it comes off fast, it goes back on faster) and you’re still hanging on in there says to me that you’ll do it. You’ll do it and you’ll keep it off because your willpower is obviously far more solid than most people’s.
Try to appreciate this stage where your weight loss isn’t immediately obvious. You’ve shed 6% of your total body mass, which is huge. Your body will already be thanking you and people WILL notice the loss you’ve already achieved when, like you say, you cross that threshold of noticeability which is only a few per cent away. This stage, although recognition is always nice, is the only time you can get on with your regime quietly and without people commenting on your decreasing size every three minutes and trying to force chips on you. It’s like getting to work early and having all of the hard part done before your co-workers turn up and start pestering you – because honestly, you have done the hard part now.
You’re absolutely right. It does suck. Very much. Eating properly is by far the most important part. At least 80% of your weight loss will be determined by how you eat. It got a little easier for me when I realized that. From then on, I looked at exercise as a way get stronger, run faster, have better lung capacity and cardiovascular stamina but not to lose fat. Exercise and eating right are both important, but not for the same reasons.
I totally understand. In March 2011 I decided to lose some weight, so I changed my diet and tried to exercise but it didn’t really help.
Then some day I read about a diet (not a temporary diet, more of a lifestyle) called the “Paleolithic Diet”, which is a low-carb diet. I don’t eat any grains nor do I consume any oil besides olive oil, but I eat a lot of meat and vegetables so it’s pretty awesome (Oh, and I’m not fat anymore so it’s pretty cool too).
After a while I started feeling so good about myself that I decided to build some muscles, so I got in shape and I’m planning to become a soldier (either in my country’s army, the IDF, or in the French Foreign Legion).
Maybe you should try the paleo diet as well. It’s difficult at first but I can sincerely tell you that it’s worth it and eventually you stop missing grains. Also you should read about CrossFit because it’s a fun way to get in shape.
Oh, and don’t exercise to lose weight- leave that to your eating habits. Focus on improving your cardio and muscles.
Can I simply just say what a relief to discover somebody who actually knows what they’re discussing online. You definitely know how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people need to look at this and understand this side of the story. It’s surprising you’re not more popular since you most certainly possess the gift.
Hello, I wish for to subscribe for this webpage to take most recent updates, so where can i do it please assist.
Hi, thanks for writing in, glad you enjoyed it. You can subscribe to this page by clicking the subscribe button in the top right hand corner of the screen right below the search bar.
nice article except – once water is boiling, it will never get hotter…I got the point though
Well if I’d been good at science I would have become a doctor and not a writer haha. Thanks for the correction, and I’m glad you enjoyed reading it!
Thank you for this article! So encouraging! Its 2022 now. Can you give an update on your weight loss journey?
Hi Stephanie! Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for commenting! Hard to believe this was 10 years ago!
My weight loss journey since then has been a series of ups and downs. I began ballroom dancing in 2015 and from about 2018 to 2020 I worked with a personal trainer three times a week, and despite my claim in the very article that exercise isn’t enough… it actually kind of was. With no change in diet I ended up getting down to 284 pounds at my leanest, while also being the strongest and fittest I’d ever been. And then the freaking pandemic came…
I’m now back up to 330 pounds, which is what I was when I wrote this article, but at the same time my body is in much different shape. I gained a ton of weight during the pandemic, but the muscles I built up before that mostly stuck around, so even at 330 I don’t look as fat as I once did. When things started getting back to normal late 2021/early 2022 I began dancing again, and back in August started seeing a personal trainer again and hitting the gym 4 times a week.
At the time of writing this I was living in a studio apartment with no kitchen, so making my own food was difficult and relied a lot on fast food. But I’ve been slowly making my own meals more and more often since I bought my own place last year, so I’m hopeful that within the next year I’ll be back to where I was before the pandemic!