Why am I so fat?
May 3, 2015 10:05 PM   Subscribe

I am a 40 year old woman. I'm 5'6" and weigh about 200lbs. I know why I am so fat; I eat a lot and never exercise. But what I don't know is why I don't look after my body the way I do the rest of my life. I have read and heard lots of times that a lot of weight issues are related to emotional issues but I'm happy. I don't have any major issues. If you were like this, how did you finally motivate yourself to lose weight and get healthy?

My life is great. I don't have any problem getting motivated to do things in my love, social, work or academic life. I feel like everything is going well except that I am fat...and I am getting fatter by the year.

It is easy for me to be motivated to look after other areas in my life, I enjoy and want to do that stuff, but I have no inclination to actually do anything about my weight beyond thinking about it. Every now and then I resolve that this is it, I'm going to lose this weight, then I plan what changes I'm going to make and set goals for how much weight I want to lose by whenever, but next morning, I don't get up early and go for that walk. I don't have a big salad for lunch. I am disappointed but only mildy. I don't feel ashamed or anything.

I have tried to be more vain and care more about how I look in photos or to others, but I am a confident person and this kind of social pressure doesn't affect me. I like myself.

My health is fine. I have no pains or aches, I don't take any meds apart from occasional antibiotics when I need them. I can walk for hours with no discomfort. My best friend and I did a 20 mile fundraising walk recently. I got one blister (new shoes) and was tired but had no problem walking over hill and dale for 7 hours. I did this without any kind of training in the lead up.

I don't understand why my body is not my temple. I don't know why I won't Just Do It. When my best friend had her baby, after she was done breast feeding, she just went on a diet, exercised daily and lost all the babyweight. I don't understand why I can't just decide and do it like she seemed to.

I am a thinker and analysis comes naturally to me. I have thought about this a lot, for years, and come up blank. The closest thing I can get to as motivators are 1) setting a good example for my kids and 2) I love fashion, I could have more options if I were smaller. Unfortunately, these are two things that don't motivate me enough to actually do anything. I feel like for (1) I already set a good example in other ways and no one's perfect so its okay to be human and flawed while I teach them to be loving, kind, fun etc people. As for (2), I still fit into enough clothes that I can mostly dress how I like.

I'm looking for that psychological enlightenment that's going to make a material difference in how I treat my body.

So other happy, accomplished MeFites, why were you fat and what made a difference to you?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (59 answers total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
I have tried to be more vain and care more about how I look in photos or to others, but I am a confident person and this kind of social pressure doesn't affect me. I like myself.

My health is fine. I have no pains or aches, I don't take any meds apart from occasional antibiotics when I need them. I can walk for hours with no discomfort. My best friend and I did a 20 mile fundraising walk recently. I got one blister (new shoes) and was tired but had no problem walking over hill and dale for 7 hours. I did this without any kind of training in the lead up.

Just enjoy your life. You sound like you have a rich, full, healthy life. I'm assuming you have regular checkups, etc. Don't invent a problem where none exists. Enjoy your damn life! You are very lucky!
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 10:14 PM on May 3, 2015 [47 favorites]

You could look at issues of mobility later in life, with regards to wear and tear on your joints. I know I'll get blasted with counterexamples for even mentioning it, but I have to say that the older (60+) people I know who are very heavy are the same ones who are having trouble getting up and down out of chairs, up and down stairs, looking at knee replacements, etc. (Yes, this happens to skinny folks too, especially if they overexercise! But I can't forget a half dozen people I know who went from "obese" to "just overweight" because of illness or diet in their 60s-80s and suddenly had a much higher quality of life, mobility wise.) Conflicting studies come out all the time, but if you believe longevity and quality of life are linked to a healthy weight range, maybe that's your tangible goal that links in with your kids.

I have a relative who changed bad habits (smoking, heavy drinking) and adopted radically new ones (daily gentle exercise, eating better) simply after he realized he wanted to be around (and active) as long as possible for his children. Divorcing questions of diet from issues of shame or or self-judgement or cosmetic issues and reframing it as self-care for the sake of yourself and your family might make it feel as urgent as you'd like it to feel.
posted by blue suede stockings at 10:25 PM on May 3, 2015 [17 favorites]

You read a lot of things that say, for example, gluten's evil. Gluten's making you sick. Gluten's destroying lives! But you have a diet that's got a fair quantity of pasta and bread in it--and you feel totally fine. How do you stop eating gluten? You don't. You stop eating gluten if you don't feel fine, and if it makes you feel better, great. But if you're fine, you're not going to stop eating bread.

So long as everything else is going well and your health is good, focus on keeping your health good, not your waistline. If at some point you really, really, really want to fit into a size 10 for the sake of a dress you love, or you really, really want to run a marathon--then you seem perfectly capable of achieving these things. Abstracts don't count. You want to lose weight like a lot of people want to learn a foreign language. Until there's some urgency or a ton of spare energy and you desperately need a new project, it's going to be right up there with learning another language and reading all those classic novels you're not actually going to read.

Look at the possible concrete goals around it, and maybe you'll find something you actually find worth doing. Maybe you really do secretly long to run a marathon or start a vegetable garden or be able to do 100 push ups or make bento lunches or whatever. When those things come up, do those things. But if your weight does or doesn't change in the course of that, meh.
posted by Sequence at 10:36 PM on May 3, 2015 [7 favorites]

Well since you asked: I was fat because I was stressed out and overeating is an escape that was fun while it lasted ("it" = whatever delicious empty calories I was eating at the moment). But I always seemed to end up less happy when I was done with whatever I was eating. I have lots of small examples. Example 1: not fitting into some cute clothes I had in my closet. Nothing crazy, just a couple of cute cotton tops that I was sad I couldn't wear anymore. Example 2: getting out of breath faster than I remembered I had before I was fat. There's this steep stairwell at work and I have to use it a few times a week to bring packages upstairs...yeah, it started getting hard, noticeably so. Not something I noticed from walking, even long walks...but this super steep stairwell while carrying a few boxes of things...yeah. Noticed.

Anyway, there was more to it, but overall I just wanted those little things back. Wanted to wear my cute clothes (and buy new ones!). Wanted to bring packages up the stupid work stairwell with ease. And to echo what someone said above: I started thinking about the future, and how in 20 years I want to look good and be healthy like I see lots of 60-somethings in my town still looking and being....going on hikes, getting dressed up in nice clothes for a night out and feeling great...still having lots of energy well into my 60's++, well that can't happen if I'm 30, 60, etc lbs overweight.

I'm a scientist and I love data. For me, the counting of calories (I use Weight Watchers but whatever works, works), the graphing of progress, the measuring of things (on myself, and my food) is all very satisfying, especially when my weight graph goes down down down, and my steps per day go up up up, etc.

I've lost 30lbs since February and have 30 to go. I'm excited, it's fun, and even when I screw up and have a few too many beers (this past Friday), overall I'm happier. Noticing many little things that bring me joy now because of losing the weight. I mean hey, I wore one of my cute tops today. It's even, maybe, a tad too big.
posted by rio at 11:04 PM on May 3, 2015 [6 favorites]

I agree with the previous posters in that I don't think that you should try to force yourself to value losing weight if you are happy and healthy as-is. However, what might help you to add MORE happiness and health to your life, is to think of it just like that: you want to ADD strength, flexibility, stamina, power, instead of trying to make yourself "lose" something or deprive yourself. Join a dance or aerobics class, do yoga, take up running. Add a power shake to your morning breakfast, learn to cook something tasty with veggies. Basically, use health to enhance how you feel, and maybe get your body toned up in the process, but for enjoyment and enrichment not out of obligation - does that make sense?
posted by celtalitha at 11:07 PM on May 3, 2015 [31 favorites]

I was finally motivated to lose weight because of hiking. I was able to hike just fine at my heavier weight, but one day as I was taking off my backpack I realized that weight-wise I was carrying the equivalent of two extra packs. And somehow that image was enough to motivate me to change-- thinking about what carrying even one less backpack would mean to my knees later.

I didn't do any big program to lose the weight, though. I made some small adjustments to my diet which felt right (started walking to the train instead of taking the bus, cut down on red meat and added more beans/olives into the mix) and the weight took me 2 years to lose-- .3 pounds a week or so). If I'd had to do something bigger I'm not sure I could have done it, but the image of shedding extra backpacks was enough to motivate me through the relatively minor structural change in lifestyle.
posted by frumiousb at 11:12 PM on May 3, 2015 [8 favorites]

Most North Americans are overweight or obese (66%, last I checked). Not everyone who'd be given those descriptors by their doctors is dealing with psychopathology. A lot of them just live a typical North American lifestyle. My guess is if anything's wrong with you, that's it.

Many people who lose weight are prompted by some kind of significant life change, like a divorce or a health scare. There's a window of opportunity, and they're ready to act on it. (There's research on this, but I'm not able to find it right now.) This was true for me; I gained weight after taking Paxil, and lost it after upheaval in multiple life domains at once.

For me, it felt like a mission to establish a sense of control over my life - over my body, if nothing else. I was most interested in the fitness side, though, and I didn't start out with a super ambitious weight loss goal. I thought "I should lose some weight", but mostly wanted to feel strong, and felt most rewarded by seeing improvements in the things I could *do*. I liked the daily discipline (i.e., sense of order), and the mood boost on its own was a lifesaver. I felt empowered by my results and sense of well-being. The pounds dropped off once I committed to the lifestyle, and I well overshot my initial (hazy) scale goals.

It doesn't sound like you're anywhere near that kind of place, though. So it makes sense that you're kind of ok with your weight. I think others are right that in your case, you'd have more success making changes that demonstrably and immediately add pleasure to your life, and engaging in activities you could get excited about.

Even a small reduction in weight can improve your risk profile for the diseases that tend to go along with obesity (diabetes, etc.), as blue suede stockings points out. Sparing your joints would be a boon to future you. (I'm sure you've heard it, but I'll mention that every pound of weight is another three on the knees.) What if you went with a very conservative goal, like 10 lbs, and did it by taking up dancing (or whatever you like)? You might want to keep going, you might not - you could just see how you feel once you get there.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:35 PM on May 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Loving your life is not the same thing as having discipline.

You can love your life and still lack discipline. Having discipline means being able to do things even if you don't really want to. When the dishes need to be cleaned do you put it off until later as they pile up? What about other errands/chores? When it's time to shop for groceries do you just get whatever you fancy or are you able to discipline yourself into getting healthier options instead?

I'm not overweight per se, but I could lose a few pounds and I am unhealthy. For me the main problem is that I hate cooking. To me it is a lot of work and very time consuming... and all just to achieve an end something to that is never going to have an end- hunger. I'll just get hungry again a few hours later and need to do the work all over again. I would much rather just eat whatever is easy for me to get without my having to do any work. Sure- I could make myself a healthy meal, but it would be less work and less cleaning of dishes if I just cross the street and get myself a slice of pizza or a donut instead. You've heard of emotional eaters and I'm what I call a "convenience eater". Unfortunately the more convenient the food the less healthy it's likely to be.

Still I found that I was able change my ways (for a few months before stuff happened that made me return) when i simply tried to discipline my meal times. I would schedule a specific time for each meal and stick to that schedule. Somehow this alone helped me to lose weight and eat healthier. I think it's because the discipline required to keep an eating schedule bled into the actual eating of the food and hence my eating habits became more disciplined as well.
posted by manderin at 12:07 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

Don't know if this answer is of any help but here my 2cents worth: I wish I had lost weight with 40. Now I am 50 it is not going to happen that easy any more, yes, I am working on it but it is hard.
When I was 40 it did not bother me much to be overweight, I enjoyed the ample curves and my body was not as saggy as it is now. My outlook was similar to what you describe: I was happy despite the surplus 30 pounds. No physical problems.
Now however I can feel the 30 pounds I carry so much more than 10 years ago, and wish I had done something then. I know it is not too late but can't help thinking I should have done something sooner.
What does help me now is to see a therapist, not about food or eating specifically, but I find seeing a therapist impacts this area quite a lot. It makes me realise the role of food in my life, how I compensate certain needs with food unconsciously.
posted by 15L06 at 2:25 AM on May 4, 2015 [8 favorites]

I hate running but not as much as I love being done running.

What you're missing is the connection between exercise and the endorphins you get from exercise. Once you get into regular workouts where you do some cardio, you sweat, you lift heavy weight, you do intense yoga, etc., you may find yourself extremely happy at the end of the workout and for much of the rest of the day.

You think you feel good now, and that's great, but I think you're going to be kind of amazingly and happily shocked at how much better regular exercise makes you feel. I suggest getting a decent pair of running shoes and workout clothes, load up whatever vessel you use for music with some kickass music, and get outside for at least 45 minutes every other day. As a person of logic, try it as an experiment for a month and see if you not only look forward to being outdoors and running/walking, but may even feel blah on days you don't.

Another reason I suggest getting outside more is for your kids and showing by example what a healthy lifestyle looks like. I never forced any of my 3 kids to run with me, but now as young adults, they all run and do yoga and play on ultimate frisbee teams. Growing up they saw that getting outside and exercising was just something that I did and I was better for it. Throughout their lives, they've been able to use exercise to regulate their moods, and that's been a healthy coping strategy for them all.
posted by kinetic at 3:05 AM on May 4, 2015 [13 favorites]

The BBC did a recent programme where they looked at people who were overweight and found three main causes. There's a test you can take to see how you fit in with those, and different advice on changing your diet based on which group you fall into. I imagine you can find the programmes online (I'm not sure if they're on IPlayer or if you can see it from where you are) if it looks helpful.
posted by crocomancer at 3:27 AM on May 4, 2015 [13 favorites]

I know what you mean! After years of body issues, I was baffled as to why I not only wasn't losing the extra 20 pounds I had gained after pregnancy, but also didn't feel at all motivated to lose the weight. I was at the heaviest I'd ever been, and yet I thought I looked and felt fine, so it was hard to get off my butt and do it. (My main motivation is that none of my old clothes fit anymore and I hate shopping!) What has been working for me over the past few months is to establish an exercise routine, and focus on my body getting stronger and doing things I wasn't able to do easily before rather than losing the weight. At first I didn't like it, but now that it's a routine it feels good to both do the exercise and to get better at it. I probably could have lost all the weight by now if I were taking a more intensive approach, but exercising 3-4 times a week and incidentally eating healthier because I don't want to feel gross during my workout has been working well so far. I don't know if this is the same for you, but for me, even though I generally felt happy with myself, I definitely had binge eating episodes I wasn't so proud of, and I didn't like how quickly I would get out of breath when I was running after my kids. Both of those things have improved. I think once you start doing something healthier that fits into your life and that you don't hate, it snowballs and has positive effects.
posted by chickenmagazine at 3:38 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Over the course of a few years I lost a bit over a hundred pounds, and I've maintained my current weight (plus or minus five pounds) for about...eighteen months now? I've tried to lose weight in the past, but it never really stuck. Frankly, I didn't much care, aside from vanity. Sure, it would have been nice to shop in "normal" stores, but being tall I was always used to being at the upper end of normal anyway. And I didn't have any major health issues in terms of blood sugar/blood pressure/joint pain/etc. I wasn't really active, but then again I'd never been particularly sporty.

So what worked for me? (Keep in mind, these are very personal, and mileage may very. I'm sure someone else may read this in horror, but...there you go.)

1. I was getting very close to 40, and I knew it would only get harder in the future. I was starting to get concerned that my good health was really a product of my relative youth more than anything else, I wanted to start doing everything I could to maintain my health and mobility. (Frankly, I'd also noticed that many of the fat-positive voices and blogs that I'd been inspired by were written by people on the younger side.)

2. I started working with a trainer once a week and approached it from the perspective of getting in shape rather than losing weight. I figured that whatever weight loss happened/didn't happen once I upped my activity and cleaned up my diet, I would be okay with it, but it wasn't the main goal. I weighed myself about once every 3 - 4 weeks to make sure everything stayed on a downward trend, but I didn't let myself do it more often.

3. In the past I'd lost a pile of weight using Weight Watchers, but I found the counting and monitoring ultimately unsustainable and it made me neurotic. This time, I made a couple of easy choices (stopped buying soda and eating fast food, focused on cooking for myself and eating more vegetables and proteins and less simple carbs) but I didn't forbid myself anything. Most importantly, I learned to pay attention to when I was actually hungry. I realized one of my big issues was portions, so I started filling my plate less - or having a large salad with a smaller entree rather than the other way around. I was afraid of being hungry and cranky all the time, so I gave myself permission to eat if I really wanted to. My catchphrase was, "You can always have more." I'd have a smaller serving and say, "Hey, if you want more, you can always have seconds. There's plenty of food there, and you can always have more." And most of the time...I didn't really want any more! It was kind of amazing to learn my body's cues, and to learn that I actually liked it better when I felt satisfied-but-not-full instead of stuffing myself. I didn't want to diet. I wanted to make changes that I'd be able to live with long-term rather than having an end goal in sight where I'd go back to "normal" eating. So far, it's worked. This is my new normal, and I like it.

4. I did some reading about food companies and all of the work and research they put into making their foods as addictive as possible, loading them up with excess sugars and fats and calories just so we'll buy more. I started seeing it as a game, where they'd been trying to pull the wool over my eyes and I saw now what they were doing. I didn't want to buy as much junk once I had the attitude that they were trying to trick me and I didn't want to be tricked.

5. Once I'd lost a good chunk of weight, I actually started to *like* exercise and being active. I had a friend get me into endurance events, especially triathlon, and I've fallen in love with it. I need to have some kind of event I'm training for to keep me motivated, and I love love love the long-term planning that comes from having a major goal. Three or four years ago I never would have dreamed I'd run more than a few miles at a time, and now I just completed my second 70.3 tri with a pretty respectable time and I'm training for my first Ironman this fall. Yeah, it's nice to be able to walk into a regular store and usually find something that fits, but more than that I've been amazed at how much my body is capable of doing. I'm 40 and in the best shape of my life and I *love* being able to physically do things I never even thought I was capable of.

I hope that helps you out! Feel free to email me if you'd like.
posted by Salieri at 3:54 AM on May 4, 2015 [30 favorites]

But what I don't know is why I don't look after my body the way I do the rest of my life.

Because "looking after your body" in the sense of "being thin" is bullshit and you know it and you are awesome for that. Also because "bad" food is delicious and exercise takes a lot of sustained effort and if you are doing either of those to be a size six you are going to be really unhappy the whole time.

Please believe me when I say that being overweight and confident is a much, much better example to set for your kids than perpetually chasing thinness.

All that said: I used to be over 200 pounds, and I lost a lot of weight and kept it off for years (I'm still hanging on to 20 extra pounds from a recent pregnancy, and that's unlikely to come off without a good bit of effort and prioritizing weight loss over the other million things in my life, plus who knows how my metabolism's changed, so the idea of your friend "just" doing it makes me want to do that sitcom thing where you start laughing and suddenly switch into crying, whatever that's called) and I wouldn't have done it without finding inherent value in eating well and exercising. If I had done it for the weight loss alone, I wouldn't have stuck with it. But I run because I like the way it makes me feel, and when I eat a salad instead of a large bowl of pasta, it's because I like the way the salad tastes and I like not feeling that carby bloaty tiredness. Find value in healthy activities even if you don't lose weight, and you'll be healthy and feel good.

Your body is a temple, but you don't have to remodel your temple to attract visitors from the street. It's your temple, and taking care of the inside is more important.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:00 AM on May 4, 2015 [13 favorites]

1. Driving.

2... that's it.
posted by Coaticass at 4:30 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

For context, I'm a similar size / weight; and working on establishing an exercise regime for mental health reasons. I've not nailed it yet - so no great solution from me! Just some thoughts.

I noticed what you said about being a thinker, trying to analyse this, and looking for psychological enlightenment. I wonder if you suffer from something I have: the idea that you have to solve it intellectually or emotionally to be able to do it - that you've got to be really intellectually convinced, or feel emotionally good about it, to do it.

My experience is that, for some areas of my life, my emotional and intellectual instincts are just off-base. I might resolve something intellectually, and then feel like I'm done - although I've not taken any actual action. Or I might not emotionally feel like doing something, and so I assume doing it won't make me feel any better. But when I've tested this out, I find my own insticts are often wrong. Actually doing 'the thing' often makes me feel better. I'm really just sharing quite standard therapy theory here - the 'do it anyway' idea is called behavioural activation.

Another thing I've noted about my own life is that my excercise and weight patterns vary a lot over time. Sometimes one is just low in motivational energy, because it is all used up on other matters.

It's lovely to hear that you're happy & don't have major issues. Maybe that's enough for now?
posted by yesbut at 4:51 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

I was a lot like you a couple of years ago. Could walk very long distances, had no mobility/health issues, probably comparatively around the same size (weighed a little less, but shorter). I had a falling out with my brother and sister-in-law about 2.5 years ago, that left me really, really hurt, and really, really angry. I've come to realize that I've let a lot of shit in my life pile on (like pounds?), because I wanted to be the person to make others happy, to have others like me, and didn't want to be that girl/woman who caused any sort of trouble or discomfort. Hell, my *name* means "agreeable." It came on kind of suddenly and full force, but after that falling out (where I thought things were totally fine and I was totally happy), I quickly reached "I have not a fraction of a fuck to give" level. I recommend dealing with shit in your life and not always letting it just roll off you, lest you go from "ok with everything" to "fuckthatshit" over the course of days/weeks/etc. But I found the emotional buildup (that I didn't know existed). And it needed to get out.

I tried painting, and that was ok. But exercise allowed me to really get it out. It started out slow, and went like 8-9 months without weighing myself. I've lost a total of 55lbs, which I'm kind of confused by. I completely don't deprive myself of food, never counted calories, but the weight just came off, and some days I'm not so sure how. There must have been a calorie deficit, but the emotional weight off my shoulders of not worrying about making someone uncomfortable by speaking up and standing up for myself, was FAR more than those 55lbs. And while the weightloss is great, the feelings of knowing that I'm stronger (physically, mentally, emotionally) now is huge. I run, I dance, started strength training, and started taking boxing classes a couple of weeks ago.

I thought I was a pretty content person before. Pretty easy-going and fine with things. Didn't feel bothered by my weight, or size, or looks, or whatever. But don't discount a lurking emotional component. My life is far from perfect, and I have much to work on and figure out. But the weight thing? I feel really confident that I got this thing. For starters, I didn't start out trying to lose weight at all. My goal was really just to get the anger and hurt out of my body. That toxicity was worse than any extra poundage. I've reached a level of fitness now that I can do things I've never done before - I'm strong, athletic, and omg I have hamstrings. It unlocked a kind of internal confidence that's like a 6th sense I didn't know existed. Do it for that. Wishing you all the best.
posted by raztaj at 5:02 AM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

I don't know if this will help you. its a scare story. Recently my much loved aunt died. There's been several major family events since then so I keep having incidental conversations about her with people who loved her.

She is remembered most fondly for the great fun she was, the parties she threw, her genorosity and kindness. But also, always, people say how fat she was. It makes me sad that it is such a big part of what people think of when they think of her. They just can't help commenting on her size. This is how she is remembered.

And yes, she was fat. And she did get fatter and fatter every year. Until the year she turned 65 and died 6 weeks after she was diagnosed with cancer. She was so fat that she didnt notice the tumor growing in her abdomen until it was the size of a football. She was so unhealthy that she could not recover from the surgery of having the tumour removed in time to have chemo.

Her daughters are in their 20s. They're growing up and hitting some big special milestones without her. It makes me so sad. I miss her.
posted by stellathon at 5:13 AM on May 4, 2015 [6 favorites]

I can't help you with your motivation question, but I do want to comment on this:

My health is fine. I have no pains or aches, I don't take any meds apart from occasional antibiotics when I need them. I can walk for hours with no discomfort. My best friend and I did a 20 mile fundraising walk recently. I got one blister (new shoes) and was tired but had no problem walking over hill and dale for 7 hours. I did this without any kind of training in the lead up.

I would have said the exact same thing six months ago. I was overweight, but my health was fine, I was reasonably fit, taking long walks and hikes, etc. No complaints. I was in a doctor's appointment in November and the doctor told me my blood pressure was a little high, and I should try and work on lowering it. One of the easiest ways to lower it is to lose a little bit of weight, so off I went. I started Christmas day, lost a little bit of weight into January, and realized... holy shit, I feel a hell of a lot better!

I didn't realize how much things were easier if you weigh less. I didn't realize that I could walk longer and feel a little less tired afterwards. I didn't realize that I had aches and pains until I no longer had those aches and pains. I didn't realize I wasn't sleeping well, that my joints ached, that I was feeling lethargic, etc. I didn't realize that I was mentally hazy. I thought what I was feeling was totally normal - that "my health is fine" - because I didn't realize what "normal" actually was.

As of Friday, I've lost 50 lbs. I've got more to lose. I am never going back to my old self.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:19 AM on May 4, 2015 [7 favorites]

You mention that you are an analytical type of person so my bet why you are, as you say, fat is because you don't see a reward great enough for the expenditure in effort it would take to lose weight. You are happy, confident and currently healthy so there probably doesn't feel like there is much of a benefit in losing the weight.

Your situation sounds similar to many of my sleep apnea patients who should be using CPAP but don't. They don't feel any different with or without the CPAP and so the hassle and effort of using it is greater than the perceived rewards. This is not the case, actually, as untreated sleep apnea carries with it a very substantial increase in lifetime cardiovascular risk. As does obesity.
My patients who have an increase in their energy and wake up feeling more rested always use their CPAP because the reward is both more tangible (as opposed to cardiovascular risk reduction) and immediate.

We do cost benefit analyses constantly throughout our daily lives and I'd bet the one you repeatedly do each day regarding your weight falls in favor of the status quo.
posted by teamnap at 5:37 AM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

I think a lot of it is just built in to our modern lifestyle. Our ancestors weren't exercise-mad Puritans with wills of steel, they just had daily lives that forced them to make a lot more physical effort than our daily lives do today. I find exercise easiest to fit into my life when it's part of my daily routine, so I live close enough to walk to work instead of driving. People are, collectively, lazy critters and it's no good to beat ourselves up for that, so I try to build a life that requires active things instead of making them optional.
posted by MsMolly at 5:45 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Go walk into a nearby nursing home.
Wander the halls and see how age and ill health has affected those people.

One of my early jobs was delivering medications to these nursing homes and I was horrified at what I saw on many levels. That's my motivation to stay healthy and become financially independent. I never want to be in one of those homes.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 5:59 AM on May 4, 2015 [8 favorites]

If you do decide you want to lose weight do it now. If you do it after menopause your skin will be less likely to shrink to fit, so to speak.
posted by mareli at 6:01 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Another reason to Do It Now: every extra pound equals an extra five pounds on your joints, making it harder and harder to move around. This fact becomes more and more important as we age.
posted by mmiddle at 6:39 AM on May 4, 2015

Every now and then I resolve that this is it, I'm going to lose this weight, then I plan what changes I'm going to make and set goals for how much weight I want to lose by whenever, but next morning, I don't get up early and go for that walk. I don't have a big salad for lunch.

One thing that can help a lot is not trying to make the exercise changes and the food changes all in one go (especially since starting an exercise program is likely to make you hungrier for a while). And for exercise, do you enjoy walking? Is there something else that sounds like it would be more fun? It's easier to get yourself over the hurdle if it's something you enjoy and/or you're doing it with other people.

I am disappointed but only mildly. I don't feel ashamed or anything.

And also, sometimes things just aren't possible until something clicks in our heads. I know I often have to play with the idea of doing something for a while before I can take any concrete steps. If anything, your lack of agonizing shame after making these resolutions probably makes it easier for you to pick the idea up again when you're ready to think about it a little more!
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 7:09 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

You might like reading "Mindless Eating". It discusses, in part, how we make unconscious choices that result in eating more than we are aware of, the cumulative effect of which is weight gain over time. I found that after reading it I was more aware of what I was eating and ended up losing weight just by being more aware of what I was eating.
posted by procrastination at 7:25 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Because it's a lot more complicated than that.

A lot of people equate being skinny with being virtuous. The mental link goes, that if you are skinny it is because you have lots of good traits like self-discipline and good mental health = good person, and if you are fat you are a disgusting, lazy, weak slob = bad person. There is a magical thinking binary going on.

Worse yet there is a belief that in order to be virtuous you have to suffer. You are only virtuous if you deprive yourself or make yourself doing things that are unpleasant.

It takes roughly the same amount of willpower to diet down from 200 lbs to 140 lbs as it does to diet down from 140 lbs to dead of starvation. It is not in your best interests to have this kind of control over your appetite and weight loss. Appetite and weight gain are a finally tuned mechanism that is supposed to be instinctive. In the ordinary run of things you will crave oysters when you have a selenium deficiency and absent mindedly leave half a piece of toast on your breakfast plate when you have had enough. When your anxieties about food cause you to deprive yourself of oysters because smoked oysters = high fat = evil you will unconsciously compensate by eating some selenium rich mushrooms, and when your anxieties about food cause you to force yourself to eat that piece of toast because wasting food = evil, you will unconsciously compensate by giving the macaroons a miss at lunch time.

But we do have the ability to starve ourselves in situations when the anxiety is really high because long ago we had an ancestor who was sitting huddled in a cave in February wondering if the dried mammoth jerky would last until the spring shoots came up and had enough carbohydrates in them to replace the jerky. If she ate just enough to feel comfortable and well fed there would be nothing to eat between March and June, but if she ate just enough to keep her strong enough to keep the fire going, she was going to survive. Being highly anxious about surviving she had the strength of will to diet herself down from a comfortably pudgy 140 lbs to a gaunt 120 lbs and still had the strength to pick some carbohydrate rich shoots and made it to the next year and a succession of adorable cave babies in fur buntings.

In order to diet you really have to be motivated to override your natural eating patterns. There are some naturally anxious people to whom the status gained from being skinny is enough to motivate them to diet. They are not the most mentally healthy people in the world. You may have heard of various high status beautiful women running into problems with excessive weight loss, drug abuse, etc. However, for most people who successfully diet the prerequisite is being anxious all of the time.

Which brings me to the next question. If the mechanism of appetite is so darned good, how do it let you get fat? Supposing it's just a matter of you making bad food choices, and if you made good food choices you would end up healthy and virtuous?

It could be your food choices - but, like a selenium deficiency triggering a desire for oysters and mushrooms your appetite has to be in the presence of the right kind of food to trigger the right kind of craving. If you had never encountered oysters you would only crave mushrooms, not knowing that certain shellfish are delectable morsels as opposed to picturesque mermaid brassieres. Your cravings and your appetite are doing their level best to aim you at the type of food you need to eat, but are hampered by the fact that the food you need to eat is not generally available.

Take tomatoes. Wander out into the garden, pick a sun-warmed ripe tomato and take a bite out of it. Wow! Now get into your car, drive to the supermarket, park, etc. and purchase a tomato. Your "fresh" tomato has been bred carefully over the last couple of centuries to rot as slowly as possible. It has not been bred to retain nutritious content as long as possible since that is pretty much the opposite of not rotting quickly. In order to provide tomatoes for everybody we need to have the petrified kind of tomato instead of the fresh kind. It's the trade off that comes from needing to feed umpteen million people without there being one gardener out of every five and nobody living north of the frost line.

So when you crave tomatoes you are getting.... miserable trace elements of the nutrition that you would be getting if you lived in the Garden of Eden. Your body therefore has to make do with what's available and sometimes this results in you being hungry... for something... but you're not quite sure what. Or you know exactly what you need and you eat your way through and entire deep-dish five-pound four-cheese lasagna, all because it's the only way you can get those lycophenes found in the thirty-seven tomatoes that had to be boiled down to make the tomato paste.

Now a healthy body can pick and choose how much nutrition to pack away into adipose storage and you have probably met the odd person who cheerfully eats an entire deep-dish five-pound four-cheese lasagna and pops their bony body onto their bicycle and drives out to the Cape and back and never gains an ounce. There's no point grumbling that it's not fair, because along with their metabolic package they got some other genes you don't know about and what they have will result in early onset deafness, or impotence, or heartburn, or skin cancer, or merely getting killed in traffic while riding a bicycle back from the Cape.

Meanwhile your body is being assailed by some stresses that cause it to store adipose tissue, just in case, as a precaution. For example, women need a certain amount of fat to be fertile and to keep their hormonal levels stable. You have definitely been exposed to certain endocrine disrupting petro-chemical by-products, to which your body is liable to react by trying to control your hormone levels with a layer of chub.

Other stressors in your life similarly cue the body to put down a fat store, simply because it is dangerous and competitive out there and in dangerous and competitive situations food supplies often become lethally limited and an extra fifteen pounds in November can be the difference between staggering out of the cave in April or being entombed therein in March. Two particular stressors that signal "gain weight!!" that you are almost certainly subject to are contact with strangers no closely genetically related to you, and having to navigate in traffic. It is unlikely that you consider either of these factors major stressors in your life - "Pfft. I've been taking the subway to school since I was five and seeing a thousand unfamiliar people every day off my life." You may be used to it, but it still signals through various mysterious endochrine and pheremone pathways that there is likely to be a lot of competition for food resources come the next shortage... And for some people it means a steady five to ten pound weight gain. If you think you are not stressed by strangers, ask yourself why there are no children

If you lived on a nice savannah with no dangerous wild life you could amble along diagonally, eyes half closed in the sleepy sun, treading familiar trails or leaving them, secure in the knowledge that you can't possibly get lost, run into trouble or strangers. You'd be home in your home foraging ground.

Contrast that with life in a city where your whole life is bounded by painted lines on the road, invisible fences and two inch high curbs. Three steps unwarily in the wrong direction chasing an errant hat plucked from your head by the wind means death. Thirty five seconds at the wheel of your car trying to answer your cell phone (let alone a text message!) means an abrupt blood-drenched tragedy. You walk or drive among buildings with their locked doors and blank eyed windows projecting the message: This is not your territory. Do not go here. Stay out. We are so well schooled to avoid conflict with others that many of us wouldn't dream of cutting diagonally across some strangers un-fenced lawn. The border between concrete sidewalk and grassy dirt is as solid as barbed wire. But the mental effect can be like living amid barbed wire. It's all so normal you don't register it. Your body registers it. I must stay on high alert to survive. Store some calories so that I don't have to go outside if I get sick or preoccupied.

So there is the why to how come you, a well organized, dutiful, sensible person hasn't slimmed down to a virtuous weight. It's because it's not a question of virtue at all. People are saying: You MUST lose weight and giving lots of reasons why, but their reasons are primarily ones that work on your anxiety level to make your more anxious. It think it rather telling that nobody is saying, "Getting skinny is a blast! I never had so much fun. What a treat to start eating all the diet food! Working out a diet plan was so interesting." The only argument they have is that not dieting could maybe make you more miserable than dieting will definitely do. They are telling you to suffer for your own good. Being sensible and mentally healthy you are not entirely sold on the whole diet plan thing.

You have probably heard the story of the fat woman who went on a diet and gained it all back. Her story is common enough. And then there is the story of the fat woman who went on a diet and lost weight - and did not become either happier or more beautiful, she just got skinny. Also the story of the woman who went on a diet but still died in her sixties...

Knowing these true stories is probably another factor that is slowing down your commitment to losing weight. It's not that I am trying to discourage you from losing weight - although I bet this discourse may seem like it! - but rather that your health goals will be more successful if they are based on reality rather than magical thinking. Dieting does not mean you are guaranteed good health. Exercise does not mean that you are guaranteed more vitality. Wouldn't it be nice it is was! And I bet you can find someone who will get really indignant and angry if they read the assertion that Exercise Does Not Guarantee More Vitality because it is a tenet of their faith that it does and you threaten their entire belief system if you point out that the people who dropped out of the running program because it made them too tired to continue are providing relevant data just as much as the ones were able to profit from the running program.

I suggest then that you find some things that you want to do which would enhance your health, rather than trying to motivate yourself to do things that you decidedly do not want to do. For example, let us say that you happen to love cherries and grapes but have not been eating them very often because they are expensive. However, regularly eating more fruit and vegetables is good for you and almost certainly is an improvement to your diet. So give yourself permission to indulge in out of season fruit and expensive fruit. You may not lose any weight or become magically immune to cancer, but will get the pay-off of having enjoyed the fruit.

Similarly rather than taking up a grueling running program that requires masochism to put yourself through, find a healthy activity that you want to pursue and pursue it for its own sake. Find several. Reward yourself with bird watching walks on a hiking trail, slapstick incompetent badminton games that leave you exhausted from laughing, sleepy Sunday afternoon yoga sessions that involve stretching on a mat in the sun until the light coming rosy through your closed eyelids make you feel like purring like a cat.

Don't forget to factor in the trade-offs. Maybe you would like to do Mediterranean cooking but it would require you to spend your Saturday morning shopping, so you have been settling for frozen entree trays of spaghetti Bolognese. Those frozen entrees are pretty darn boring after awhile but you are not going to switch to cooking something more delicious and more healthy if losing your Saturday morning ruins your whole weekend.

The ideal health program is not one that makes you feel you have been sufficiently punished so that you deserve to be healthy, it is the one that you look back at at the end of the day and feel happily indulged by the delicious food you have eaten and the relaxed feeling that a child has at the end of a day of active play.
posted by Jane the Brown at 7:43 AM on May 4, 2015 [23 favorites]

I am also not motivated by vanity or a desire to lose weight, but what really helps get me running or to the gym when I don't want to are the many proven neurobiological benefits of exercise. My intellect is such a central part of my self-identity, and I see regular exercise as an important way to maintain it throughout my life.

I also would have described myself as fairly happy before, but I still noticed a significant decrease in free-floating anxiety and stress when I began exercising (not too strenuously or very long! Just getting moving!) daily. Now I am EVEN MORE chill and happy!
posted by EmilyFlew at 7:50 AM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

I am a thinker and analysis comes naturally to me.

Me too.

If there's one thing playing drums has taught me, it's that thinking about and doing are two completely different things.

Sometimes it doesn't matter why things are hard. Sometimes the best thing to do is simply accept that hard things are hard, and get on with doing them anyway, and just live with the fundamental unsatisfactoriness of that until they become so habitual that they're not hard any more.
posted by flabdablet at 7:58 AM on May 4, 2015 [8 favorites]

Haven't read the other comments above, but you don't sound "so fat" to me. I just plugged "5'6" 200 lbs." into this site, and those "look" like normal women to me. Obviously YMMV since I don't know "you" or your overall health beyond what you describe (body fat percentage, BMI, etc., would be good to know), but you sound otherwise healthy from your description of what you can do with that totally normal body of yours.

Think about it this way. Is your weight/body: (1) something you really want to change or (2) something you think you should really want to change? It sounds like (2) suits you better, like you're inviting people to talk you into why you should care. I think that actual thought is unhealthy. Unless you get an obesity diagnosis or are told you are going to die by a doctor, I wouldn't sweat it; being merely "overweight" is a very fluid and often subjective thing. Because if you're anything like the ladies in those pictures, you look like an awful lot of other healthy women out there.
posted by resurrexit at 8:07 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

I was spurred to lose weight seeing my mother dying in a hospital bed and realizing that she was me in 30 years if I did nothing about my weight. You can get away with sendentary and fat for such a long time with no repercussions until you can't. It killed my mother with liver disease from being very overweight/loving wine at 68. In her case she got away with it until she about 60. But by then she was so set in her ways she refused to change. And now I don't have a mom.

You (and I at 43) are still at the getting away with it stage. No health ramifications, no aches and pains. But they are inevitable without change. Your body can only put up with abuse for so long.
posted by cecic at 8:11 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Reading what you've written, and going on my own experience: what do you like to do? Sometimes I think to myself that I need to exercise more, get a little more physical activity into my life. Luckily, I'm ten years younger than you, and a man, and my BMI is just a bit into the "overweight" category, and you probably wouldn't even guess that by looking at me due to the distribution of my weight. I'm healthy and have no issues getting around. My diet could be better, but it's not terrible.

Still, exercise is good for you and I should start now, while I'm young. But I don't - because the truth is I hate exercise. The only forms of physical activity I consistently enjoy are walking and having sex. Running? Hate it. Playing sports? I'm a terrible athlete and I think I'll embarrass myself. Swimming? The activity itself is OK, but the whole procedure of going to the gym and changing and drying yourself off is very annoying. I like hiking, but I live in a very big city with a very variable climate and it's not really something I can do year-round. I've tried, with varying degrees of success, to incorporate longish walks into my daily routine but it's hard.

That's how you sound, more or less. You don't like exercise, and you have no pressing reason to take it, up, so you don't. You have no trouble motivating yourself to do other things, but you like those other things, or least derive some meaningful satisfaction from them. I'd rather learn a skill, or write, or take a class in my free time than do reps at the gym or force myself to jog.

One more thing: you say "I don't understand why my body is not my temple." It isn't because it isn't. I recall a comment on the blue awhile back, where a poster was talking about how some people are very body-conscious, and some people aren't, and it's a continuum. I strongly suspect that you - like me - are not particularly conscious of your body. It's just the vessel in which you go through the world. Sure, there are things you like about it and things you don't like about it, but ultimately as long as it functions reasonably well you have no reason to think about it much. Some people are truly devoted to fine-tuning their bodies to optimum performance, and some people are equally devoted to abusing their bodies. But a lot of people - especially if you are healthy, and normal-sized, and normal-looking, and weren't given much positive or negative feedback about your body growing up - just don't have much reason to think about their bodies at all.
posted by breakin' the law at 8:14 AM on May 4, 2015

While there are numerous ways that I am sure you model great behavior to your kids, eating behaviors and patterns are an incredibly important foundation that people build their lives on. I think it is worth reconsidering whether it is actually reasonable, loving and kind to be modeling disordered eating patterns for your children. This current crop of kids are already growing up in an incredibly obesogenic environment, and giving them tools to make good choices and build good habits in spite of that is important.
posted by anthropophagous at 8:39 AM on May 4, 2015

I'm not overweight, but for a long time, because of work and a preference for sedentary hobbies, I got very little activity. There's ample evidence that being sedentary shortens your lifespan and increases the risk of many diseases. I think physical appearance is beside the point here- it's great that you're not overly worried about how you look. But this is about living a longer and healthier life.

Sometimes it doesn't matter why things are hard. Sometimes the best thing to do is simply accept that hard things are hard, and get on with doing them anyway

This is really, really true. If you keep looking for a magical answer for motivation, you may never find it. But if you just slowly start experimenting with a healthier life (daily walks, maybe, or something similarly easy to begin with), it can eventually become a habit that maintains itself.
posted by three_red_balloons at 8:41 AM on May 4, 2015

The BBC did a recent programme where they looked at people who were overweight and found three main causes. There's a test you can take to see how you fit in with those, and different advice on changing your diet based on which group you fall into. I imagine you can find the programmes online (I'm not sure if they're on IPlayer or if you can see it from where you are) if it looks helpful.
posted by crocomancer at 3:27 AM on May 4

I have the programme crocomancer mentioned (as mp4s I can share) if you're interested and can't find it anywhere online. It's definitely worth watching, even if only to have some scientific research behind your understanding of what and how you eat. It's called "What's the Right Diet For You?"
posted by guster4lovers at 8:59 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

I think you should ignore the scare tactics here and just live your life. I became much happier when I learned to love my body and stop feeling shitty for not being skinny. At my last doctor visit, I was healthy as can be, and I weigh more than you. If exercising or eating "better" makes you feel good then by all means do those things. But being fat isn't a moral failing, nor does it necessarily indicate a health problem.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 9:00 AM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

Agree 100% with masquesoporfavor. Ignore the people here and elsewhere wagging their fingers at you and telling you that you'll wind up infirm and miserable in a nursing home. I can tell you I'm a bunch of years older than you and I'm exactly your height and weigh just a few pounds less -- no health problems, no high blood pressure, and I'm quite active (go to the gym, walk a ton, etc.).

My diet is pretty lousy, I will say -- lots of carbs and too much sugar, although I try to get in a lot of fruit and vegetables as well, and I don't eat fast food -- so that's why I have the extra pounds, but you know, my life is pretty damn good, so I don't see why I need to go around self-flagellating and wringing my hands that maybe I'm going to wind up in an nursing home because I'm so fat that it's inevitable (or whatever the point was there) or dying in six months because I don't notice a tumor in my giant stomach (for fuck's sake). My mother is in her mid-70s and isn't thin either, never has been, and I promise you she is not sitting at home nursing her poor joints. (I would say she's about 5'4" and about 190 pounds or so.) Nor did my grandmother or grandfather, neither of whom were thin (grandfather died at 81 of cancer, grandmother died at 89 of unclear natural causes, although she had Parkinson's).

By contrast: my father is 6'2", never weighed more than 180 pounds, was an exercise fiend (tennis; biking; stretching and weightlifting every morning), and had a near-perfect diet (few processed foods, never ever ever ate in between meals). He is currently in a nursing home with late-stage Alzheimer's with which he was diagnosed at 79, although as a practical matter he started deteriorating before that; he is now 84. I can tell you he's not in good shape there, and it wasn't because he was fat.

This is all anecdata, of course, but so are the scare stories and finger-wagging above. Seems to me that more than anything, you've internalized the idea that fat = immoral and PROBABLY EARLY DEATH!!!!!!! There is no particularly compelling medical evidence that being overweight automatically equates to ill health; a lot of that is just part of the narrative that skinny means virtuous.

If you're actually, after you put aside all the shit that people throw at you to make you feel inadequate, happy at your weight, that's fine, both for you and everyone else. Make sure you work on living the best, most productive life you can and fuck the rest of it.
posted by Button-down sock at 9:32 AM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

I would like to share what led me to take active steps in weight loss.

I have lost around 65-70 pounds slowly, over the course of maybe the last 3 years. The first 30 came off with little effort, except that my diet started to mirror my partner. That held for about a year or so, in which time I had a very similar attitude towards my weight that you have now. The same attitude I had had for years. I thought about a need to lose weight in an abstract sense but took no steps to fulfill that.

It was intense, but what got me started on a path to lose the next 35-40 (and any more I lose from this point on) was a CT scan image of someone with a very similar body type to mine (a lot of weight around the torso). I don't want to be graphic or add additional stress to the thoughts you have on this subject, but the way the fat sat around the organs helped me to see fat not as a moral or aesthetic problem (my partner loves me very much and I am confident in their attraction to me) but rather as a visceral problem of my body. I would think about how hard my organs would have to work with all that fat around them. I was healthy then, but past performance is no guarantee of future results. There was a part of me that was affecting other parts of me negatively and I needed to stop thinking about it and start taking active steps to fix it.
posted by coreywilliam at 9:39 AM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

I'm going to take you at your word that you vaguely want to lose the extra weight but can't quite motivate yourself to do it. No value judgment on whether you should or shouldn't, or how you should or shouldn't feel about it.

Reading the rest of your post, I wonder if you're maybe trying to do too much at once. People are different; all or nothing may work for some, and not for others. Me, I have to do big sweeping changes that I put up in flaming letters twenty stories high in order to motivate myself. For other people, something small is a much better start.

Honestly, at your height and weight you are not so overweight you need drastic measures to be enacted in a short time frame. Maybe, instead of telling yourself "Tomorrow I will get up early and walk, and have a big salad for lunch" you can tell yourself "Tomorrow, I'll do one thing differently."

Like, maybe ditch all carbs from your evening meal, and make 8pm your cut-off for eating at night. Or if you're a soda person, switch to drinking water for a week to see how it goes. Skip breakfast every other day. Don't do all of it at once - just pick one, and see how it goes for a few days. Weight loss depends far more on diet than it does on exercise, so screw the walk and sleep in - getting good sleep is also important. That's another change you can test out - "Tonight, I'll go to bed earlier and sleep 8 hours." Doesn't have to be any of these things, though - pick one thing you can spot in your current lifestyle that might help, and do just that one thing.

When you're not doing anything to change, even a small change can make a difference. Maybe roll with that instead of a big sweeping life overhaul.
posted by kythuen at 9:55 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

I lost weight and kept it off because I like being strong--I can move my own furniture around, whenever the whim strikes me. I like my muscles more than I ever liked my rolls/folds/curves. I don't like cardio, and I like food, but at the end of the day, my moods got better because of my activity level. It's all very well to tell you to just be fat and confident, but I think trying to keep up that confidence facade is wearing.
I started by cutting down on carbs, walking more often, and then I joined a gym. I also cut out drinking--I like wine with dinner, but I'd moved up to wine before, during and after--those extra glasses were calories I didn't need.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:58 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

The bit that would concern me is that you are getting fatter by the year. Perhaps you don't see any negative effects from your weight now. Great! What about 10 years from now when you weigh 50lbs more? What about 20 years from now when you weigh 100lbs more?

A friend of mine is a big dude. He's always been a big dude. He was 250lbs in college and gained about 10lbs a year since then. He never had any health problems, so he just enjoyed being a big, fat guy who loved food. Then he turned 50 and realized that he was out of breath a lot and had some other problems that he'd never really noticed before. He went to the doctor and said that he wanted to make sure that he was healthy enough to spend time with his grandkids (who don't exist yet, but he's planning ahead). The doctors told him that grandkids were the least of his problems. His youngest just entered college and he was told that he might not live to see her graduate.

He's made a super-human effort and lost a lot of weight and his blood pressure is way down and his diabetes is in remission and he's doing a lot better, but he was scared as hell for a while and it would all have been a lot easier if he'd taken steps in his 30s to slow or stop the weight gain.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:07 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Every now and then I resolve that this is it, I'm going to lose this weight, then I plan what changes I'm going to make and set goals for how much weight I want to lose by whenever, but next morning, I don't get up early and go for that walk. I don't have a big salad for lunch. I am disappointed but only mildy. I don't feel ashamed or anything.

As I understand it, your question is that, since you're heavier than you'd like (hence the diet goals, etc), you wonder why you can't/won't do anything to lose weight?

Of course you shouldn't feel ashamed that, on any given day, you didn't do every single possible thing to minimize what you weigh. Ffs there's nothing wrong with you for not feeling ashamed of yourself. There doesn't need to be a value judgement attached to this stuff.

What we're talking about is just eating and working out. For the most part, it's really not that deep or meaningful. If you want to be slimmer, that's totally OK and not vain or neurotic. If you're OK being heavier, that's totally fine and not evidence of moral decrepitude. Your weight isn't revealing some ~deep inner truth~ about you, it's just your weight, and spending time trying to find some ~deep meaning~ in it is pointless imo. Spend that brainpower reading Walden Pond or musing about how we're all made of stardust or something. Don't waste it on teasing out ~exactly~ why you like eating a sandwich rather than a salad at lunchtime, honestly. Your brainpower and time is worth more than that.

Personally, I want to be slimmer and am currently trying to lose some weight because it would improve my running performance. But I'm also worried that if I lose weight, I'll lose my ass, which only gets to be an OK size when I'm a little heavier. So I'm not trying ESPECIALLY hard to drop the pounds right now. I like my ass and am sort of ambivalent about the tradeoff. That ambivalence (longer mileage v. bigger/nicer ass?!) is NOT DEEP or meaningful at all. Maybe you're also ambivalent about losing weight because you really enjoy your eating habits now or think your ass looks good at this weight or whatever. Again, NOT DEEP. Not worth wracking your brain about. If you want to be slimmer, that's cool. Worry about the how, not the why. And don't even stress that much about the how, because it's pretty much just eating lighter and maybe exercising. This stuff is completely based in the material world and is not that abstract or complicated.

Anyway, say you decide that regardless of the tradeoffs (such as, if you lose weight, your ass will become smaller. Etc), you still want to lose some weight. I think the reason you're not losing weight now isn't because you're not doing enough in an absolute sense. You don't have to eat only salads AND get up with the larks to exercise AND etc etc etc. You can make a much smaller change (like maybe going on after-work walks with a neighborhood friend?), but the important thing is to be consistent about that change.

In terms of your health -- time and habit are your friends. It's like with compound interest. Even if you're just putting five dollars a week in the bank, compound interest will help you out and give you a pretty great nest egg over time. What DOESN'T work in getting you to that nest egg is pinching your budget to the bone to get $100 into the bank this week, and then the next week going on a buying binge and taking out $100 extra to make up for it, and getting into that sort of feast-or-famine lifestyle.

So what I mean is, it's great that you went on that 20 mile walk with your friend! But that's not really going to matter in terms of fitness or weight loss, it's just great in terms of it being a cool experience. What matters in terms of fitness or weight loss is the two mile walk you take with your friend pretty much every day for years. Same with food -- what matters isn't the day that you're visiting Philadelphia as a tourist and just NEED to chow down on cheesesteaks. That's totally fine and you're not suddenly going to clog your arteries and gain five pounds because you acted like a tourist one day! What matters is that on any given day/pretty much every day, you have tea after dinner instead of dessert (for example).

What matters isn't what happens on any given day, it's about being consistent and about what you consistently do. What convinced me personally about the power of consistency is kind of silly. I have a fish tank where I keep a few different kinds of fish and grow aquatic plants. At first, the lighting was just some shop lights that I turned on whenever I woke up in the morning and turned off in the evening when I thought about it. They were on for a long enough period, but they weren't on a very strict schedule. Same thing for feeding, I just fed when I ate breakfast and again when I ate dinner, so not a very strict schedule. The fish and plants did OK. Then I got a light that I put on a timer, and an automatic feeder that has a timer, too. The lights come on and go off at the same time every day, and the fishes' breakfast and dinner is at the same time every day. The plants and fish have *thrived* from that. The fish and plants have grown so much, and the fish have all these cool/interesting behaviors, and everything is looking great. I thought about how fantastic the fish and plants have done on super-regular consistency, and thought, "Hmmmm maybe *my* body would thrive on a regular schedule, too?" So now, daily consistency is something I aim for. And if a habit doesn't seem sustainable over the long term, it worries me. Not just because the habit itself might not be that great if it's so hard to keep up but also/mostly because I don't want to make my whole schedule chaotic just trying to accommodate and compensate for this one probably-temporary-by-necessity "habit."

Anyway, so if you want to lose weight, pick maybe one eating habit and one exercise habit that you think will be helpful and reasonably pleasant, and make them real HABITS. Like a "brushing your teeth"-level habit or a "turn off the lights to sleep"-level habit, that is such a normal part of your life that you don't really think of it as a habit at all, just as "normal."

And if one day you don't keep to your habit(s) for some reason (like maybe you have dessert instead of tea after dinner some night because you're at a friend's and she bought some fancy pastries for you guys, or maybe some night you don't turn off the lights before you fall asleep because you conked out while you reading a book), that's completely fine and not something to beat yourself up over or something that means you won't go back to your version of "normal" the next day.

Eventually, you'll reach some new normal, where every day you (for example), go on a walk with your buddy for an hour and skip dessert in favor of chamomile tea, and probably weigh a bit less or are a bit leaner than you are now. But maybe you'll still want to be more fit or slimmer for some reason. OK, then you can add some other new habit, like maybe you go swimming every Sunday or something, and see how things shake out from that over the long term. If you're working toward a long-term but super-concrete-not-at-all-abstract goal, that work really doesn't have to be that complicated or require that much thought, and it doesn't have to mean that lots of aspects of your life have to change. Just pick one or two changes and do them consistently and gradually (VERY GRADUALLY, you've got to be very patient. Retirement-planning-level patient) the impact of those changes will build on itself and produce a big result.
posted by rue72 at 10:14 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

The thing is, for me fat was always kind of framed in my mind as a feminist issue and I felt like if I was worrying about my weight then I was bowing to the patriarchy.

My main insight a few years ago, when I was not-coincidentally 39, was that biology trumps my feminism, not in terms of holding me to any kind of preconceived ideal of beauty or nurturing, but in wanting to live as long as possible, and all the evidence seeming to point to being active and eating healthily as how to do that.

These factors converged:

1. I got a high blood pressure reading for the first time in my life.
2. My dad had an aneurysm and my mum had a stroke, both in their mid-60s, so really, really young. They would have said about the same as you -- they're both walkers, felt generally good and healthy. They're both overweight, one into obese. Did the weight cause their events? Possibly not, but it is a factor they could work on vs. some they cannot.
3. I did the math on how old I am likely to be when grandchildren come along and everything I can do to be a mobile, active granny, is good stuff.
4. I was writing a lot about women at midlife and beyond and I noticed that the ones who were doing the coolest stuff were the ones who were not having major health issues (or in a few cases were cancer survivors)...leaving them time and energy to focus on the cool stuff.

I did Weight Watchers to kick off the weight loss because that worked for me, and I lost 40 lbs, had another baby, have ended up 5 lbs up from there 4 years later. I am currently doing yoga, biking and running, which I've discovered I love, but I've also tried some other classes and am thinking about martial arts. I sometimes eat junk, which I am working on changing one habit at a time -- I gave up pop entirely, worked on developing a taste for more veggies, and this year I have given up chips. This approach works for me but YMMV. There are things I won't give up, like cheese. :)
posted by warriorqueen at 10:18 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

Put 20-40 pounds of weight into a backpack, and then carry it around all day, no breaks.

There is no value in being ashamed of having more fat than you would like, but it is, objectively, literally, a weight that you are carrying around with you.
Wouldn't it be awesome if you could put it down? Take it off?
You did that run with the equivalent of a backpack on. Firstly, go you! Imagine taking it off - you'd be superwoman! It has probably been a useful source of fitness in one way, because you're basically doing a little bit of weightlifting all the time. But there is a point at which it really doesn't help that you can't put it down, especially if you are sick or get a mild injury. Weightlifting where you can put the weight down at the end of the exercise is much easier.

At the very least, decide what point you are happy with (now? Now seems fine?), and at which point you don't want to be adding weight to that backpack.

Oh, and seriously, don't follow any diet plans that'll screw with your muscle mass - keep muscle! Muscle is great! I think many people get into that yoyo cycle because they've lost muscle, and are now too puffed to exercise, etc.
posted by Elysum at 10:21 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure there's any magical psychological enlightenment that made me Do The Thing instead of just Thinking About The Thing. It was more just a gradual tipping over from "this is acceptable to me" to "actually, you know what, this isn't so acceptable to me." After that it was strictly a matter of discipline.

It did help that at the time I really didn't have much else going on, so the whole going-to-the-gym process had some immediate gratification to it--at least I was out of the house, doing a thing, being in the world. This was critical because honestly, progress was sloooooooooooooow. I was really unfit, and at first was ravenously hungry, and the weight didn't really budge and my endurance didn't really budge and so on. The psychological enlightenment came later: about 6 or 7 months into my new workout regimen, the weight started to fall off. Suddenly my mile time was inching down to 9 or 10 minutes, which had never ever EVER in my life been the case.

But this wasn't the enlightenment part. The enlightenment part was coming to realize that I had, on some level, always assumed that my body was:

-out of my control, and
-actively hostile to me

Why would I want to try and control a thing that's out of my control? Why would I want to take care of a body that was actively hostile to me, that had never brought me any pleasure or enjoyment? So yeah, those emotional reasons were actually in there. I just didn't know it until I accidentally disproved them all, and realized the extent to which they'd prevented me from ever eating better or exercising or taking care of myself.

So I guess my advice to you is just, start first, think later. Forget about the whole body as a temple thing or the "omg nursing homes!" thing. After all, you brush your teeth every day, and not because your body is a temple or because you've made a reasoned assessment of your gingivitis development. You brush your teeth because ya just do. So try to think of a daily exercise thing as something you just do, because. Or decide that salads are for lunch because that's what lunch is, and there's no "why." Try that for like 6 months to a year, see what comes up.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:53 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

What you're missing is the connection between exercise and the endorphins you get from exercise.

This definitely happens, but with a lot of activities (e.g., running, bootcamp classes, etc.), there's a (usually ~1 month) ramp up to it that can involve discomfort because of the new stressors on the body, and you need to be highly motivated to get through it, imo/ime.

If you do actually want to lose, or not gain* , I think your best bet is to frame the whole enterprise as not about loss or deprivation (or vanity, or neurosis, etc.), but about gaining pleasure, value, strength - amplifying the sense of abundance in your life. I think you'll have better luck, too, with things that give you some kind of payoff right off the bat (and not too much pain).

(Hence my dancing suggestion - but gardening burns calories, and it's nice to be in the sun and play with earth. I get a lot, aesthetically, out of walking by the lake, or in the park - there's nothing quite like being around water or green things. Just the rhythm of walking, in sync with my heartbeat, encourages a meditative state, where I can let thoughts wander and come back really totally freely [or as freely as I'm built for] - some of them turn into creative ideas I might pick up later. Some people, like my friends who meet for baseball once a week, enjoy the social aspects of team sports. Here's a quiz that suggests activities based on motivations they think might go along with Myers-Briggs type [so, huge grain of salt, obviously, but it might offer a starting point for reflection.])

(Another finger-waggy point related to neurocognitive benefits - exercise is thought to be protective against Alzheimer's.)

*because everyone gains as the years go on; some just gain less, and it's the people who make specific choices in terms of nutrition and exercise. And it doesn't have to be boot camp or whatever - walking is the activity most long-term losers get into.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:16 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

To keep it short, everything else being equal, you can't go wrong with yoga. The motivation is flexibility, and the first time you realize your stomach is getting the way of doing something you enjoy you will start to treat it like a friend that's gone slightly off course.
posted by ptm at 12:16 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

As I got older, I was living the same lifestyle (maybe a little more sedentary but not a ton, and eating out a little more but not a ton) and putting on weight where I had normally stayed pretty stable. I'm not sure if it was the slightly different lifestyle or my metabolism or a combination but I realized if I did the same things and didn't change anything that how I felt now was going to be as good as I felt. I decided that wasn't good enough. That the big deal for me was being in good enough shape that I wasn't knocked down by the general killers (stroke, heart disease, osteoporosis) which had more to do with fitness than just weight but my weight was an easy thing I could actually pay attention to and see improvement/change. And I was (am!) in love with a guy and both of us really want to maximize our time together, so that meant making changes (he quit smoking, I lost some weight, we both exercise a lot more and have made it something we do together and it's a way to show love towards one another)

So that was what worked for me. And, like other people here, I found when I lost some weight (I'm 5' 2" and was maybe 170 and I'm now in the 125/130 range) I noticed some big differences like ability to go up/down stairs better, wear more clothes I liked, look better in more pictures, have more energy. The downside is that I'm cold more often and I need to stay on top of the whole thing or else if I just do nothing, the weight creeps back on. I dislike that, but it's my life and it's a realistic approach to my life that is sustainable. So I'm not sure what would work for you or make sense but it seemed like you wanted to hear people's stories and that is mine.
posted by jessamyn at 12:36 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

It sounds like you have kids and a job and generally a very full life. It can be really hard to fit yet another agenda into such a life. So I will suggest that this mostly that you just don't have time and mental energy to spare for this.

I agree with the assertion above that historically people weren't all virtuous, they just had to work harder and so on. Also, historically, city planners took health into consideration when making plans and rules about our built environment, something that tends to not be done anymore. I agree with the suggestion that it will be easier to get exercise if you arrange your life such that doing more walking is a normal, natural part of getting other things done rather than a separate chore you need to carve out time for on top of all your other responsibilities.

I was a size 24-26 (or 2x-3x) at one time. I still don't have the flat stomach I would like, but I am more like a L-XL these days. I did not diet or count calories or join a gym. I did give up my car and I do walk a lot these days just to get around. I also got a diagnosis for a medical condition and I did a lot of research on diet with an eye towards controlling my medical problem. I had no goal to lose weight. In fact, I had mixed feelings about inadvertently losing the weight as my health improved because I was involved with a guy who preferred a BBW and liked me the way I was before I began losing the weight. (Yeah, he's history.)

Also, my younger son was pretty plump at one time. He has mild kyphosis (a spine disorder, similar to scoliosis, but the curvature issue is in a different direction) and when he reached a point where the excess weight was really putting a lot of pressure on his spine, I had a discussion with his brother about what he was eating and learned he was inhaling chocolate pop tarts like there was no tomorrow. I informed him we would be going shopping for better quality, dark chocolate. After being supplied with a chocolate source that contained more actual chocolate per calorie, he stopped inhaling the pop tarts and began shrinking. We never revisited the issue again. He was a size 2x at one time and wears size medium shorts these days (though, yeah, he walks more than he used to as well and there are other factors, still, none of us counts calories or anything like that).

I have long believed that if you are continuing to eat in spite of being heavy, you are doing so because you are eating foods that are failing to meet your nutritional needs. I lost weight without counting calories because I was researching what my nutritional needs are in the face of my medical condition and I was adding foods to my diet that had a high nutrient value for the specific nutrients I needed more of. My experience has been that foods high in nutritional value and targeted at my specific nutritional needs make me feel sated and no longer hungry sooner than foods that are low in nutritional value. So, when I eat the right foods, I just naturally eat less without trying to exercise self discipline or count calories or whatever. (In fact, because of my medical condition, it would be a bad idea for me to count calories and deprive myself -- my doctor never suggested I diet when I was quite large because my condition usually causes one to be severely underweight.)

So I will suggest that you keep a food diary, figure out what foods you keep eating, try to infer which nutrients you are trying to get more of by continuing to eat these things long after you have hit the number of calories you need for the day, and then look for a substitute food that is more nutrient dense and try eating that. You may find that, like my son craving chocolate, if you get enough of the thing you are actually craving in a more dense form, your overall calorie intake will go down without any need to exercise "self discipline." If you combine that with a few lifestyle changes that incorporate more walking as a normal means to get around, over time, you may be shocked at how much weight comes off without paying any real attention to the issue or putting any real effort into it or carving out time for exercise...etc.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 12:37 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't know why you don't take care of your health better. But you can change. I recommend a chart with goals and stars for accomplishing specific incremental tasks. Feels silly but works well. Increase the amount of vegetable you eat. Plan meals, and plan the veg. first. Look, we have sweet potatoes. Roasted sweet potatoes, plus arugula, salsa, rice & beans in whole wheat wraps. Add exercise to your life; it's really central to your health. Park further from the door at work and the store, walk a little further, take the stairs. Lift weights at home or a gym. For both a healthier diet and exercise, be practical and realistic. I've joined gyms, and hate going. But I like to dance, so a dance class works. Buying prepared vegetables is more expensive, but I'm more likely to have a salad if there's coleslaw in the fridge and all I have to do is add a light dressing.

Losing weight - if you think you are using weight as a shield or eating emotionally, maybe see a therapist, but America is getting fatter, so it's harder to see it as different, and America is designed for cars, so people don't walk. Calories are everywhere and are cheap and so full of salt, sugar & fat that anyone with taste buds wants to eat more yummy calories.

The goal can be improving your health, and it feels so good to make even small progress. After being ill for a while, I've been able to be more active and have been eating well, and it's just so great. Also, as I get older, I realize I want to live longer, so diet and exercise are pretty important.
posted by theora55 at 1:08 PM on May 4, 2015

My mental process sounds a lot like yours. I'm like "yeah I should eat better!" but then I remember how much I like butterscotch icecream and just get some, and like, what the heck is that? Am I completely spineless?

I also don't think I have any underlying mental health issues that cause this, but I do like food and I don't really like exercising and I don't feel unhappy enough with the way I look to really do anything about it. I guess I'm just unmotivated.

I occasionally eat paleo or slow carb or ketogenic or something for awhile, and I find the tracking and science part of it fun and motivating, but you have to be MORE motivated than I really am, because you have to be able to avoid all temptations and eventually I'll just end up eating a soft pretzel and drinking an energy drink, just because I want to.

Something that helps for me is to not get discouraged by my lack of motivation and occasional weakness. Like, I'm eating paleo now. I'm buying the fruits and veggies and eating them and having a breakfast with 30 grams of protein and other interesting stuff, and on the weekend I ate a bunch of perogies. But, instead of feeling like a garbage human who can't diet and is just useless and terrible, I'm going to ignore that whole issue, and just continue on with my healthier eating. I have found often that I'm able to talk myself out of this kind of thing by discouraging myself, which I'm trying to stop. Oh, you ate all those perogies, you might as well have a milkshake and eat like 40 pieces of toast with nutella on it, it's delicious and dieting sucks.

I always forget how much I actually enjoy fruits and vegetables and meals based that way when I am lost in a cloud of icecream, but it's actually a pretty enjoyable way to eat. I also eat like a mad cow when I'm on paleo, because vegetables are NOT calorie dense and you can eat a ridiculous amount of them if you want to. So if I'm grumpy and I want to eat like, an entire bag of radishes? I just do it.

My personal "trick" to staying motivated is like the opposite of everyone else's, who want you to slowly introduce changes. That doesn't work for me. I prefer to go whole hog on something (An interesting diet is Tim Ferris' Slow Carb from the 4-hour body) and do it as intensely as I want to (which is very intensely) and then, when I start getting bored, I allow some of my older habits to creep back in, but not too many, and not too much at once. Then I clean it back up after a little bit of easing, and I feel more engaged by the lifestyle again. It ends up a LITTLE "yo-yo" which is bad, but I at least can stay semi-interested in the process, which helps me a lot.
posted by euphoria066 at 1:20 PM on May 4, 2015

I'm 22, 5'6, and 198.5 lbs the last time I checked the scale. I gained 50 lbs or 3 sizes (from a 10 to a 16) in the past five years of college, and this is after an immense battle with my mental health, coming out, and doing a lot of very amazing, stressful things. Overeating is one of the ways I coped emotionally, until I stopped.

Now I'm fantastically in great health, mental and physical, and now I'm like, "woops, 200 lbs." The way I'm motivating myself is to not really focus on the weight, but to focus on the things I want to do. I'm already working on focusing on intuitive eating where I see how fruits, vegetables, good oils, and fiber makes me feel great versus high fats, carbs, and meat. I also really want to be able to lift weights, heavy things, and run for a longer distance without feeling winded, since I admire strong female characters like Korra, who is drawn as super ripped and athletic. And a very small percentage is looking at my old clothes.

My mom is obsessed with my weight due to internalized fat shaming, but I just ignore it and try to tell her that I'm really happy. If you are really happy, and need stronger motivation to lose weight, think about if losing weight would give you additional avenues to happiness in other ways. Like learning a foreign language so you can get lost in a country for a while, being more physically fit can lead to other ways of living life that is super new. And fat people can be physically fit, and often are. There's really nothing wrong with that.
posted by yueliang at 2:09 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Get a hobby that involves exercise. If you like it, it's not a chore. Swimming, walking, and cycling are all things that can be done in a social manner (in exotic locales even!). I like bicycling, so I go to bicycle parades, social rides, and I do distance cycling for charity. I bicycle to work when weather permits. It's fun for me, so I actually look forward to it. I have less success with dieting, which always makes me cranky, but I've lost a bit of weight and my cholesterol is fantastic. I've even started running at the local pub's running club events. There's 2-for-1 beer after. :)

If you like charity events, see if there are any coming up in your area and volunteer to organize group training for couch potatoes who might not otherwise join. It's a great way to meet people.
posted by domo at 2:43 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

And if you try something and you don't like it, that's fine! I went through a lot of hobbies before I settled on cycling. If you aren't looking forward to it and you don't want to go, then don't beat yourself up about not going! So many people try one thing, don't like it, and think that they're some kind of failure. Not liking an activity is just that. You didn't like it. That's ok.
posted by domo at 2:50 PM on May 4, 2015

I don't know why you feel like that but I have felt like that for most of my life too. I recently decided to lose weight, I'm not really sure why even, maybe it was just time. Below is the only diet that is working for me in case we are similar in that way too (maybe you don't hate frozen meals or a lack of variety, and you hate the idea of dieting forever and overly-organized dieting and exercise other than gardening etc).

During the week have something for breakfast (like a banana or cereal bar or yogurt or veggie chips), something for lunch (like a boring sandwich - 99% of the time I have peanut butter because its not yucky if I make it the night before) and a frozen meal for dinner (any, but be careful of ~150 calorie ones because that's really not enough to function on unless you make it up with tons of fruits/veggies on the side), no snacks, no soda with sugar, fruit and veggies and coffee allowed (or whatever customizations you want); during the weekend you eat whatever you want. That's it.

I don't actually end up going that wild on weekends, but its weirdly important to me that I could if I wanted to. Anyway, good luck!
posted by meepmeow at 6:59 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Hello female me! I'm just going to ramble for a while.

I've got a gorgeous wife and two beautiful boys. I have an awesome disciplined job I love and I'm widely respected in my chosen disciplined field. I have enough discipline to manage work, family and study in way that keeps everybody happy. I've travelled the world. I like myself. I think I'm well liked by others. I'm very, very content.

So why the hell am I fat? If it's a discipline thing, then it only applies to eating. It's not a ' because I'm a busy grownup' thing, because I've always been fat, even as a kid. It's not a stress thing, because apart from a couple of years of my career, I don't think I've ever been seriously stressed.

And it's not an education thing. It's not like I don't know how to fix it. I can write you a 1200 / 1800 / 2000 / 2400 / whatever calorie eating plan for 5-2 / Atkins / Weight Watchers / CSIRO / Mediterranean / paleo / whatever diet right now. I know all the tricks for increasing my calorie burning. I can stick to it for maybe 12 weeks, losing up to 15kg / 33 lbs. It's easy when I'm doing it. It requires no particular effort. The planning isn't hard. I enjoy the food. I don't feel deprived.

And then I'm back to where I started, and then some. There's no particular reason other than habit - the old ones slip back, the new ones don't take. There's no dramatic 'oh my god I'm off the wagon' or 'damn it all to hell I'll eat what I want!' moment. It's like slipping into comfy tracksuit pants.

And therein lies the rub. The question isn't really 'why can't I lose weight', and all the nice people here saying 'oh, here's how you lose weight!' are well-intentioned but they just don't get it. The question, as you clearly know, is 'why am I even fat in the first place?' I'm not poor, unable to afford nutritious food; I'm not unhappy, drowning my sorrows in Chunky Monkey; I don't have 'bad genes' as far as I know. So why do I eat so much?

The Hackers Diet offers an intriguing hypothesis - people like you and I have broken thermostats. The little internal sensor that says to most people 'you ate a lot this morning, so I'll make you feel less hungry at dinner', or 'it's getting cold, maybe move a bit less and eat a bit more to put on a little winter padding; don't worry, you'll feel like lighter fare in spring', or even something as basic as 'you're full, stop eating' just doesn't work.

For a lot of people (hello, obesity crisis), the thermostat is at least wildly inaccurate, with on-off sensors set at anything from pot belly to love handles to beer gut. In my case, it's flat out fucked, if it was ever installed in the first place. I can eat and eat and eat until I feel like physically bursting, but only pause long enough for that feeling to go away before I eat and eat some more. I don't feel sick - there's just a signal that nothing else will physically fit in there anymore. And coupled with an entirely automatic, unthinking, mindless approach to a fair chunk of my eating - I'll just hoover up those leftovers, because food - I'm gonna have a bad time.

Aaaand I don't have any answers. I've done everything suggested by the good folks up top, and more. But these just attack symptoms. They don't fix the thermostat, which the more I think about it, is a straight up eating disorder. They're like putting on a sweater or hiding under a blanket because your heating is busted. That's fine for a while, but winter is coming, and that fucker needs fixing. Or there's always pudding. Warm, sweet, abundant pudding.

Say, are you going to eat that?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 9:58 PM on May 4, 2015 [7 favorites]

I'm very similar to you - been fat all my life, at peace with being fat, relatively confident, generally happy. Active busy life, physical health fine except for high blood pressure. The only other material way my weight has negatively affected my life has been a lack of confidence in tackling physical activity.

I started exercising this February. It felt like a personal development goal for me, as I have always been very lazy and unfit. I also have health anxiety and starting to exercise seemed like a good way of alleviating these stress symptoms and reassuring myself that I was doing something positive for my health.

Exercise was not a magic button that miraculously took away my anxieties and made me feel physically better. I don't feel emotionally loads better after a workout. I don't really feel any different. On the physical side, I have experienced a lot of minor injuries - a pulled muscle here, a strained ankle there, shin splits, plantar fasciitis, you name it.

The level of commitment you need in order to implement a regular exercise regime is no joke. It's not something you just decide to do. It requires a real investment of time and sometimes money. In my case I had to dig deep into my pockets for workout clothes, a gym bag, gym 'stuff' and of course a gym membership. Even if you're just walking instead of driving, you do need to invest in good shoes.

However! I would say it has been a very worthwhile change of pace for me and one I intend to stick to. My level of physical confidence has skyrocketed. I can undertake physical tasks that I never would have been able to before. I never used to think I was particularly unfit, but I couldn't do then what I can now. I walk much faster. I can lift heavier things. I can squat to the ground to pet a cat or play with my niece - I never used to be able to do that before! Just the other day, I was running for the bus, up a hilly street, while weighed down with bags of shopping, and it was only once I made the bus that I realised it had been instinctive and easy and I wasn't wheezing. On a more regular basis, I just feel physically better in my skin. I had a top to toe physical a few weeks ago and my blood pressure was excellent; my bloodwork also showed zero cause for concern. My doctor was pretty surprised and pleased, but not as much as me!

I have no idea whether I've lost weight. And I don't really care.

TL;DR - screw the cultural messages and stop worrying about being fat. But, if you don't have a regular exercise regime, see how you feel about trying one. Don't let it have anything to do with how much you weigh or what you look like. I genuinely think you will be surprised by the physical benefits, even if they aren't what you expect.

I have never successfully dieted and I have nothing to say about intentionally restricting your food intake.

Whatever you decide, I wish you good luck. It's great you're happy and living a good life. The way you are, you are setting an amazing example for your kids!
posted by Ziggy500 at 6:36 AM on May 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

After watching friends hit this wall, with no twee asshole bullshit implied, try a low carb diet.

If you eat too many carbs, you're going to overeat and gain weight. Salads aren't filling, and are awful if you try to eat them all the time.

Try eating more bacon. At the very least, it's probably a weight loss plan you haven't tried before.
posted by talldean at 7:53 PM on May 8, 2015

Also? Maybe read Taubes "why we get fat", which is the researched version of "processed carbs are awful for humans."
posted by talldean at 7:55 PM on May 8, 2015

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