Friday, December 23, 2011
I love Spark People, but there are times when reading the message boards and blog posts makes me intensely sad. Because I see people completely ignoring the message of Spark People and continuing to make the terrible mistakes the the multi-billion-dollar diet industry thrives upon. I see 200-pound people talking about their 1200-calorie eating regime, I see people exercising at a high intensity for 3 or 4 hours a day, every day. I watch people crowing over this week's triumph, and know that they are setting themselves up for next year's disaster.
But I feel like I can't just go around to everyone's journal and play Cassandra, continually predicting future sorrow and woe. For one thing, like Cassandra's, my words would be very unwelcome and mostly ignored, anyway.
So I'll get this off my chest here and now: nothing you are doing to lose weight and get into shape will be successful unless it's sustainable for the rest of your life.
If we look at the research and statistics, it's clear that weightloss is a health improvement with terrible long-term results. Between 75% and 95% of the people who lose weight using any method regain it - and often even more, ending up heavier than when they started. Furthermore, the weight they lose is generally at least 1/3 lean muscle mass, while the weight they gain back is almost completely fat. So when they get back to their original weight, they are actually in much worse shape than if they'd never lost the weight in the first place.
The sad thing is that I'm probably not telling anyone reading this anything that they don't already know. And yet here we all are, striving to be the ones who beat those odds.
That's not a bad thing, in and of itself. Working hard to improve ourselves is generally a good thing to do. But doing it in a way that sabotages our own efforts is foolish and crazy.
Dramatically undereating damages our metabolisms and actually slows weightloss. It also means that when we go back to eating normally we will gain weight much faster. Our bodies use about 10 calories per pound just for normal, baseline functioning. So that 200-pound person has a maintenance level of 2000 calories. If she works out enough to burn 300 additional calories a day, her maintenance level is 2300 calories. Therefore, to lose at a safe, 1 pound a week rate, she should be at a 500 calorie deficit, and so eating 1800 calories a day. Minimum. If she eats only 1200 calories a day, her body will perceive itself as starving, she will stop losing weight, and her energy level will bottom out. Then when her body demands food again and she find herself eating uncontrollably, those extra calories will pack on extra pounds because her metabolism is trained to use them much too efficiently. Self-sacrifice = failure, time and time again.
Likewise, it's great to train hard, but if that training is so hard that we eventually suffer injury or are otherwise unable to continue with that level of training, our bodies will deteriorate at an appalling rate. Again, self sacrifice = failure.
So how do we actually succeed at this game? By doing now what we will be able to sustain and accepting that our level of sustainability might not lead us to our "perfect" weight, but can get us to our ideal weight, the weight at which we can live a healthy and sustainable life. That's probably a higher weight than your dream. It's probably a size 10-12, rather than a size 4-6.
Yes, some women will find this notion appalling. But ask yourself: would you rather have years of pictures to look back on where you're a size that can be bought in any department store, or a handful of pictures from those few months when you were spectacularly skinny to dwell over for all the years you're a size 20 or larger?
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Stuck at the airport for many hours, still two more before we depart, assuming the plane doesn't end up even later. Doing Spark on my iPhone, which is a slow and clunky process. But hey, it's not like I'm going anywhere!
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
I've been on Spark for 3 months now. What have I accomplished?
-20 pounds lost
-Increased flexibility and stamina
-10,000 Spark Points earned, as of posting this blog entry
-Increased awareness of my health
-I've had fun!
I've managed to inherit a Spark Team, become a Spark Community Member, and found a tremendous amount of inspiration and support here.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
I worked out extra-hard yesterday, and wow am I feeling it today. It's time for me to go do my workout, and my body is not extracting itself from this couch with any alacrity.
But hey, if we only work out on the days when it's easy, pretty soon there aren't any days when it's easy. So I am on my way, because I feel more positive every single day that I start with my workout.
Monday, December 19, 2011
I've seen a few blog entries around here from people who are dreading the Christmas dinners their families put on, and instead are bringing their own food and intending to eat it in a kind of Christmas dinner solitary confinement
Now, I have more than a few pounds of extra padding. I have struggled with weight my entire life, and weight has pretty much won the battle. But I really wanted to respond that I'd rather be fat than to have to eat like that.
Food is more than just fuel for our bodies. It's an integral part of our social structure, and sharing meals is a bonding experience that carries tradition into our times together and memories out of those times. A good meal, particularly a festive meal shared with family or friends (or both), feeds more than just our stomachs: it is pleasing to the eye, pleasing to the sense of smell, tactile, and even pleasing to the sense of hearing as conversation and laughter fill the room. A shared meal should fulfill all five senses.
We have gotten out of the habit of lingering at table, and food tends to be bolted down in front of the TV or the computer--I'm just as guilty as anyone else about this most of the time. It's partially because of this that the disconnect between fueling our systems and the true nourishment of dining has occurred. Even though dining out used to be considered a lingering experience, some fine restaurants are now making reservations for three separate seatings per table per evening, because they know that they can hustle diners in and out without the customers feeling rushed; they are so used to eating on a fast food schedule now that they don't even notice. Much of the time, they barely notice what they are eating.
There is some pushback going on in response to this speed-eating insanity. Restaurants like San Francisco's Saison are decreasing the number of tables and taking reservations for only one seating in an evening, with the expectation that diners will linger, talking and eating small portions of numerous courses over several hours. It's the kind of dining experience that was once common, and now is a sort of novelty.
How sad for us all. Where we used to spend time with family and friends, we now rush off to watch TV or play on the internet. Where we used to make memories of shared times - some good, some bad, some funny, some tragic - we zap something in the microwave and stuff forgettable food into our mouths. And wonder why we feel unfulfilled.
The holidays are often all we have left of those shared traditions. A group of people coming together to prepare and share a meal has a certain sacred, ritual nature to it. That nature doesn't belong to any one faith or creed; it doesn't depend on believing in anything - except the value of each other as human beings.
Yeah, lots of us suffer from difficult relationships with our families. Yeah, there can be division of labor issues with who does the cooking and cleaning up. But these issues don't detract from the bedrock nature of sharing both food and ourselves. Nurture is not just about providing the proper number of kcals and nutrients to ensure our internal combustion engines run at optimal efficiency. It's about feeding our minds and our souls as well, if not with the family of your birth, then with the family of your choosing: friends and loved ones.
And I come back to the idea of those bloggers surrounded by lovingly-made food, eating their solitary dinner while regarding the dishes around them as a sort of enemy, rejecting the love and caring that went into them in favor of food they've prepared only for themselves, and brought only for their own benefit. Will they feel smug and superior as they eat their spartan meal? Will they feel resentment? Will their families look at their plate with ridicule, guilt, hurt feelings that they have rejected their traditions in favor of something so meager? What will or won't be said because of their choices? What opportunities will be lost?
I'm not saying that the notions of healthy eating should be tossed to the winds and people should stuff themselves sick just because it's Christmas. But imagine that instead of setting themselves apart from family ritual, they'd brought a big green salad and some roasted brussel sprouts to share? That instead of turning their noses up at the ham or tenderloin or prime rib, they'd asked for just a sliver of a slice? That instead of closing themselves inward to the food-is-fuel mentality, they'd embraced the idea of dining-is-sharing? For them, Christmas dinner is an ordeal to be overcome, instead of a communion of family. And it doesn't have to be.
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