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What’s the rush?

October 28, 2008

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.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. October 28, 2008 10:26 am

    Slow and steady is the only option for weight loss. Eat right, excersice, and stick to it for more than a month.

    Great blog post!

  2. Moni permalink
    October 28, 2008 1:09 pm

    I’m deliberately trying to lose no more than 5 pounds every 2 months. If I hit a plateau, my plan is to simply maintain that weight and not gain until I leave the plateau. It’s going to take me 3 or 4 years to get to my goal weight, and I’m fine with that.

  3. October 28, 2008 1:21 pm

    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.

    Are you sure this doesn’t have something to do with the 109 lbs?

  4. October 28, 2008 1:39 pm

    I’m not clear on your meaning, wriggles?

    If you mean do I think that being a fat kid who was put on several diet programs before the age of 13 gave me some issues with food? Yes and no. On one hand, I probably felt the need to hide a lot of eating which led to eating fast and eating more than I needed. OTOH, I totally rebelled against dieting by the time I was 15 or so and was trying to practice HAES principles before I graduated high school so a lot of the 109 pounds happened after I had given up food restriction.

  5. October 28, 2008 1:40 pm

    I lost around thirty pounds in a year. If I decide to lose more weight, right now, I’m maintaining, it will be slow weight loss. I won’t try to lose more than a pound or two a month. Slow weight loss is the best way to lose weight. Try to add exercise. You should be more consider about getting healthy than getting thinner. Focus on exercise and eating healthy food.

    If it takes you ten years to lose the weight so be it. It shouldn’t be a diet (fad diet), but I lifetime change. Fast weight loss isn’t healthy and you’re bound to feel deprived and regain the weight. Slow is the only way to go.

  6. October 28, 2008 1:56 pm

    I started on the Atkins plan when I first tried losing weight. Some women at my company said they lost like 10 pounds the first week (probably water) they went on it, so the fact that weight loss was very slow going for me often made me frustrated. My mom and I are complete opposites in most ways, but she offered me a constructive piece of advice then: “You didn’t put it on overnight and you can’t expect to take it off overnight.”

    And simply adopting healthier eating habits and relationship with food and increasing physical fitness to a healthy level will itself improve health, even if you never lose a pound.

  7. Ann permalink
    October 28, 2008 3:40 pm

    Exactly – great post. Honestly, I think the expectation that weight loss should be rapid is the main reason that “diets don’t work.” People expect the weight to melt right off, and when it doesn’t go as fast as they think it should, they give up, convinced that they’ve failed and that weight loss is therefore impossible. But the truth is, that’s not how it works. It’s a slow process, and it should be be a slow process. Of course, it also informs why radical, crazy fad diets generally don’t work permanently – in those cases, they may in fact lead to rapid weight loss, but they’re not sustainable. Of course once you stop, the weight comes back once you revert to your old habits. None of this is magic, and I wish more people in FA would (like you have) recognize this.

  8. gnomeprincess permalink
    October 28, 2008 4:14 pm

    Hmm. I want to disagree because I was someone who gained 40lbs in a summer before, and one time I spent 3 months losing 20lbs, only to regain the whole thing and MORE in TWO WEEKS.

    It takes me a month to lose 5lbs, and a day to gain it back. So I can kind of see why some people wish they could lose weight as fast as they gained it, because I can certainly gain weight a LOT faster than I can lose it. Now I do have hypothyroidism, but I don’t know if that plays into this or not.

  9. October 28, 2008 8:26 pm

    Getting to the weight I wanted took 2 1/2 years, and if you told me it would in the beginning, I wouldn’t have even tried. In retrospect, it was the way it had to be. Since I had to change my eating and amount of motion for keeps, by the time I got to the weight I wanted, I had lived this way so long, it was no longer a big deal. It is just the way it is.

  10. October 28, 2008 8:28 pm

    Hi, Great Post. It’s true, people want instant results. It takes time to take the weight off and it’s not healthy losing too much too fast.

  11. October 29, 2008 3:25 pm

    If you mean do I think that being a fat kid who was put on several diet programs before the age of 13 …….

    Sorry if I’m being a pain, but wow!

    Hunger and appetite signals exist purely to tell us when we need to eat.

    Dieting, totally ignores them-especially diets of the past.

    The problem with this is that when you ignore signals of any kind you force the body to respond to this, it becomes part of the feedback loop and your body adjusts, sometimes by increasing those signals making them stronger and stronger.
    As rachel said on the other thread, if you do not eat the correct nutrient make up, this can keep your hunger signals on even if you’ve had sufficient calories.

    Anyhow, the upshot is that your signals can sometimes take a long time to recover from this onslaught, some people’s actually never seem to fully recover their shape and tension. It’s funny but the title of this post is appropriate, why do we think that the body’s recovery from dieting is so short?

    I get the impression though that you may not need to hear this right now, so I’ll leave it at that.

  12. October 29, 2008 4:02 pm

    Wriggles,

    Don’t worry about offending me or anything. I like information, honestly and try my best to be open to ideas – even those I may not want to hear.

    In terms of being put on diets as a kid, I was never made to be hungry. My mom truly wanted what she believed was best for me and, while I wouldn’t put a child on a diet, she did make sure to consult professionals who understood that my nutritional needs were paramount.

    However, I will say that I learned to associate ‘healthy’ eating with restriction just by watching how the women I saw around me dieted.

  13. October 30, 2008 8:47 am

    Thank you for that attrice, I do have a tendency to go on at times and sometimes let my need to discuss ideas overtake what people are able to take in, there are times when I’m not ready to hear certain things!

    Also, I wanted to say this before but didn’t have time, I’m not criticising your mother or parents at all, as you said, the best advice available then as now is calorie restriction, even for children. I’m sure she wanted the best for you and I know how worrying the weight question is in terms of parental anxiety.

    For me, it’s not so much what we consciously learn about food from dieting, that is the nub of the problem-that mostly comes out of what dieting does to the body, rather than the other way around.

    It’s a structural thing, the way the body tells us what it needs. What we eat is worked out according to our actual needs- and experiences of what we’ve eaten in the past our likes and dislikes.
    As we know the smooth flow of this can be derailed by emotions, hormones, stress and so many other factors, because it takes these into account when working out what we need.
    The mistake we’ve made is to assume that means that the mechanisms that regulate eating don’t exist, and it’s all totally conscious, it isn’t, that is where we become aware of them, as well as the only direct means we have of affecting them.

    If they are not working properly or as well as we should, then the answer is not to overide them-as diets do- but to find a way to get the mechanisms back in synch.
    Like when you break you leg, they reset the bone into the correct position and hold it there with plaster, and allow it to heal itself, in a way, that’s what we are still learning to do with eating and weight. Trying to find a way to reset it, support it in that position and allow it to heal.

    Of course, all we have directly under our control, is our consicous mind so it’s even more tricky, we need to find out more and I feel that the proclaiming diets(I know you aren’t but that is what we are sold) as the ultimate solution is gettng in the way of this.

  14. December 15, 2008 9:21 am

    Everybody that starts a diet wants to lose his or her pounds as fast as possible. Nutrition is like religion based on instinct. For many people it’s only important that pound less is one pound less and they don’t really care where the lost weight came from. Let me clarify something: Between weight loss and fat loss there is a large difference.

    Obesity doesn’t only mean weight gain, but the accumulation of excess body fat. That’s why reaching the ideal weight isn’t only question of how much weight you lose. It also involves the reduction of excess body fat.

    Your body weight consist of water, fat, muscle and your supporting apparatus (bones, sinews, etc. ). For convenience we are going to look at the body as a two-parted system: pure fat on the one side and pure body fat on the other. The percentage of fat is all the body fat divided by your weight. If you want to reach your ideal body weight you can’t do this with a magic formula.
    http://fastfreeweightloss.blogspot.com/

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