Reflections on Weight Loss and Homeostasis
Friday, April 26, 2013
To begin, I have been overweight since childhood. In middle school I stopped growing but kept...growing...if you know what I mean. In fact, today I am pretty much the same height AND weight as when I was 12. Consider this. My body has been used to this weight for the better part of my life. Even more than that, as a thinking/feeling person I have daily, through the years eaten the same amount since before I was allowed to watch MTV. Lifestyle is of course the correct word but what I'm focusing on is that it's a constant, and ingrained.
I am not a yo-yo dieter, I've never weighed 200 lbs nor dropped below 130. In 10 years my heaviest to lightest weight has still varied less than 30 lbs, which is not the case for many people. Therefore, this is where my thoughts have been: homeostasis. My body LOVES to find a weight and stick to it. Yea, if it's more inclined to go up or down, I certainly have a talent for gaining, but once I gain (or lose) those couple of pounds that's what I weigh for months or even years.
I'm 26 and have been trying to deal with my weight since I was 18. But it wasn't until grad school and really after that I finally started to get smart about health. College was spent skipping meals and drinking too much coffee, going on PUDDING diets, or trying to eat only fruit for two days. It was ridiculous! For awhile I had a rule that I could eat anything I wanted so long as my stomach, not my emotions, mind, or mouth told me I was hungry. That was kind of on the right track but the operative word was "anything." Too often I would finally hear that tummy grumble and then run stuff my face with chocolate cake. I am not exaggerating. And don't even get me started on Metamucil. !!!
So now that I'm older, wiser, and not so myopic in diet/fitness choices there is still is that constant, which is my body's stubbornness. It yearns for homeostasis. Last year on vacation I gained 5 lbs and stayed exactly there no matter what until CHRISTMAS! Then what happened? Gained 2 lbs. Then we went on vacation again. Gained another 2 lbs. Where did my weight sit until about 2 weeks ago? Exactly where I'd been since February.
All of this is to say that what I'm fighting against is actually a very healthy process. While it's not healthy to be overweight, my body has an indomitable will. I have to respect it for wanting to be stable, because ultimately it's way healthier than the alternative. It's like a greater force than myself, and while that doesn't mean I will bow to it, I'm at least thankful that I don't have to deal with manic fluctuations. Even more, no matter how much I hate being overweight, I have identified something healthy about the way my body works.
Everyone's struggle/history/habits are different, so we are all fighting a differently battle. However, what is similar is that we are all thinking critically and creatively about how to reach our goals. We are trying to stay positive while challenging ourselves to always do better. So when I think about my weight and homeostasis the image that comes to mind is one that I've used over the years in many situations: I must learn to use my thorn as a sword.