Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sometimes You Have to Rant

I came across a post by a successful weight-loss blogger this week that made me want to scream. This woman has done and continues to do all the right things. She has lost 100+ pounds and has turned from a couch potato into a respectable amateur athlete who's training for a marathon, bikes dozens of miles a week, watches what she eats like a hawk...you know the drill.

"Ms. Success", as we'll call her, talked about being an anomaly in her post. She had just finished a week of intense exercise and spotless eating, only to find that her scale registered a 1/2 pound weight gain. Doing the math should have led to a weight loss and not a gain. She thinks she's an anomaly. I think not.

The mathematics and biology of weight loss or gain are so much more complicated than the weight loss industry would have us believe. We are told that it's all quite simple: ingest fewer calories, expend more energy and voilĂ !, you will lose weight. Do the contrary, and suffer the ugly, depressing consequences. And this is true, but only to a certain extent. And I think it becomes less and less true, the more you change your body composition.

Initial weight loss is fast and is often composed of mostly water loss. Then comes the long slog downwards (and sometimes sideways and often even upwards). The more weight one has to lose, the more the initial losses will look spectacular, but we all get to the point where a pound a week becomes a disappointment (for me, a pound every two months makes me deliriously happy, but I guess I'm an "anomaly" lol).

Add exercise to the mix and weight loss becomes even less clear. If you are taking your exercise seriously, you will be building muscle, which weighs more than fat. So you have to start calculating the percentage of fat in your body, rather than just your weight loss.

Then there's water retention, the bane of all women.

And of course, there's your body's overwhelming desire to conserve fat. It's the unfortunate relic we carry around from the Stone Age. Women need to fat to be fertile. In the days when having enough food to eat was far from guaranteed (and this is still the case in much of the Third World, let's not forget), our bodies were constantly and desperately trying to hold on to fat to tide us over during the lean times. The more we starve ourselves, the more the body will hold on to its fat.

Fundamental research is not sexy. It's much easier and more profitable to devise Lean Cuisine meals than it is to understand what's going on in the body that yields a 1/2 pound gain after following and exceeding all the rules of weight loss. Aren't there any scientists out there looking at that?

So I just want to shake Ms. Success back into reality. She's done a great job. She should continue to eat well and exercise. And she should get that 1/2 pound bogey-man off her shoulder.

Rant over.

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