Stop trying to lose weight

You probably wouldn’t be reading this unless you were trying to lose some weight.

My message is simple — stop it. Stop trying to lose weight.

But don’t go away yet, because I’ve got a great plan B, and it doesn’t involve magic thinking or fad diets.  First some disclaimers:

  1. I’m not a medical professional.
  2. If you’re severely overweight, especially if you’ve got type 2 diabetes, I recommend considering gastric bypass surgery.
  3. Although I can sure get a spare tire if I’m not careful, keeping slim is relatively easy for me, so I can’t claim to have walked in an overweight person’s shoes. But someone near and dear died way too young from overweight, so I know this can be an extremely hard problem to solve, and I’ve thought seriously about it.

Consider the upcoming holiday season with its puddings, pies, gravy boats, doughnuts, mixed nuts, eggnog, and cookies for Santa. Suppose you gained just a couple of pounds during that entire season.  Do that for the next 10 years, and you’d be carrying around 20 extra pounds of holiday fat.  That’s as heavy as a Thanksgiving turkey!

Except for the few string beans among us that struggle to keep up their weight, we all know how much harder it is to burn fat than to put it on. (Our ancestors’ evolution in a tougher world programmed us to hold on to body fat, because a famine was always around the corner. Our brains are rewarded with delicious pleasure when we eat and punished with gnawing pain when we can’t.)

Maybe you’ll make a deal with yourself that after the holidays you’ll exercise, eat right and burn it all off again.  It could happen, I guess, just as someday the Cubbies might win another Series.  But do you want to bet your life on it?

Wouldn’t it be easier in the long run to just say ‘thanks, but no thanks’ to all that fattening stuff and get through this holiday season without gaining any weight? I’m not saying it’ll be easy.  Obviously it won’t. I’m saying it will be much easier than undoing the damage.

Aside: For me, the most effective way to avoid that fattening stuff is to associate it with disgust instead of forbidden pleasure. Imagine it, say, as stinky garbage.

That’s Plan B in a nutshell. Stop trying to lose weight, and start trying never to gain weight.

Now here are the details.

Resolve that you will never, ever — not even for a day — weigh more than you do right now. Go weigh yourself and remember that number. Then first thing each and every morning, weigh yourself again.

How do you go about keeping yourself on this side of the line? That’s your problem. People are different and there are lots of theories that might work for you, such as IF (intermittent fasting), the Karl Lagerfeld diet, and on and on.

But with daily feedback you’ll find out what works for you and what doesn’t. The goal is to find a lifestyle you can live with and not gain weight. That’s harder than it sounds.

You know the clichés. You’ve got to walk before you can run. First, stop the bleeding. Stabilize the patient. But they’re clichés because they’re true.

Do it for a year, and you’ll truly have something to celebrate 12 months from now.

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Aside: Imagine if we celebrated with dance instead of with food and drink. I recall a bright summer day waiting to pick up a friend in a Silicon Valley parking lot. Workers repairing a roof were playing “Oye Como Va” on their boom box. A woman stepping out into the Santana sun spontaneously burst into dance, and for a few moments it was like living in a Hollywood musical.

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4 Comments

  1. Weight gain is measured in pounds, but weight loss is measured in ounces.

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  2. Losing weight has got to be one of the hardest things one can do, especially as one ages. Unlike other “addictions” such as tobacco or habit forming drugs, one cannot go cold turkey on food. We have to eat. We cannot eliminate food from our lives. Rather than looking at fattening foods as “stinky garbage”, we should limit the amount we eat. “Everything in moderation” really is the key. Rather than being the self righteous martyr, giving up all the wonderful yummy things that we could eat, limit the quantity we consume. Rather than use chemical substitutes that may be found to be carcinogenic twenty years from now, limit ourselves to moderate amounts of the real thing; sugar, for example. This s especially true as the holiday season creeps up. If there’s a holiday party on Friday, limit the calories we consume leading up to the day of the party. Use salad sized plates rather than dinner sized plates to fool our eyes into thinking we are getting a plate “full”. There are so many tricks we can play on our minds in order to satisfy our souls. Most important is to be comfortable in one’s own skin. Love yourself and maintain a “healthy” weight which is not necessarily an ultra thin, super model weight.

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    • Yes, “Losing weight has got to be one of the hardest things one can do”. That’s the whole point — It’s hard to lose it, so don’t gain it. If you gain fat each year you will surely not maintain a “healthy” weight. Unless you currently weigh the same as an “ultra thin, super model”, then resolving not to gain weight is entirely sensible. In my case, avoiding garbage food, and instead only eating healthy food, did the trick.

      But whatever caloric restriction tactic you use, stop gaining weight.

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