What’s the rush?
When I was 14, I had reached my adult height, 5’5″, and I weighed 180 pounds. That number isn’t meant to horrify or anything, although I naturally assumed that I was the fattest person who had ever lived, but so did my bff who was like 130 soaking wet. Ah to be a teenage girl.
When I was 24, I hit my top weight of 289 pounds. Again, no horror or shame here – just a number.
Point is, somewhere along the way I gained 109 pounds. I didn’t start any medication that could have contributed to weight gain. The one and only crazy crash diet I went on resulted in a net gain of only 5 pounds. I didn’t spend a year severely depressed where I gained most of that weight. It just crept on. I saw a doctor fairly regularly and never had a huge jump in weight from one appointment to the next.
The way it probably happened was in fits and starts. A few pounds in a month followed by several months of maintenance at the new weight.
However, so I can make a point, let’s average that weight gain out. 109 pounds in 10 years is an average of 10.9 pounds per year. Take that number and divide it by 12 months and you get about .91 pounds a month. Less than a pound per month. How many people would even notice that? My weight fluctuates about 5 pounds just before my period so even if I had been paying super close attention to my weight every day, I would definitely have ignored my weight going up less than a pound in four weeks.
Very few people who gain significant amounts of weight do it in a very short amount of time. The body seems to fight against rapid weight gain (remember that prisoner study where the men had to eat up to 10,000 calories in a day to quickly gain weight?)
So why in the name of all that is holy do so many people expect to quickly lose weight? They buy pills and pre-packaged meals and books that promise ridiculous things like “20lbs in a month!” They get on the scale everyday and expect to see that number move down.
And even people who listen to experts who tell them that healthy weight loss is at most 1-2lbs per week fall into this way of thinking. They must lose 2lbs every. single. week.
This way of thinking isn’t just about the scale though, it will effect every aspect of a person’s life. No matter what their eating habits were like before, they now must eat a perfectly healthy diet and they must go to they gym 5 days a week even if they’re not used to exercising at all.
Of course, I understand not wanting to spend a decade losing weight. I want to lose more than a pound a month, definitely. However, I understand that it did take years to adjust to a lifestyle that allowed me to maintain a higher weight so I don’t expect the switch to a different lifestyle to be instantaneous.
When I was taken to Weight Watchers as a kid, I remember feeling that it was utterly idiotic to be praised when my weight was down by half a pound. While I still think that placing ultimate importance on weight loss – make fitness improvements as big of a deal as weight loss goals at the very least – I do understand more what they were getting at. If your goal is weight loss, then your aim is to eat less than the number of calories you need to maintain your weight. Whether, in a given week, you eat 3500 calories under maintenance or 500 calories under maintenance, your body will have to make up the difference.
And honestly, I write this for my own benefit. It is easy in a society saturated with hatred of fat people and incredibly stupid dieting ideas to lose site of reason when it comes to weight loss. Really learning to eat differently isn’t as easy as giving up whole groups of food or blindly following a plan laid out by other people. It’s slow. But hey, so was the weight gain and I didn’t seem to have a problem maintaining that, right? So some weeks I lose weight and some I don’t. The week right before my period, my weight goes up like 5-7lbs sometimes. Instead of focusing on each week, I follow the general trend of my weight over time.
It may not be as exciting as “20lbs of pure ultra fat burning every second” or whatever diet quacks are promising these days, but exciting and quick pretty much never equals effective.