The Fat Trap Revisited

This is from a journal entry from the end of 2011, but it still feels true today.  I notice that back then my goal was 160 and now it’s 170 – perhaps that means I’ve gotten a bit more accepting of myself in the past couple of years?

People act like “it’s my metabolism” is just an excuse us fat people make for being overweight, and always discredit us when we claim to exercise as much (if not more) than many people.

An article in the Times got me thinking about my own weight struggles.  It cites a study finding that people who have lost 10% of their body weight actually burn calories more slowly than people who are naturally that lower weight – and, bonus, the pleasure centers of their brain respond more when they see food.

“After you’ve lost weight, your brain has a greater emotional response to food,” Rosenbaum says. “You want it more, but the areas of the brain involved in restraint are less active.” Combine that with a body that is now burning fewer calories than expected, he says, “and you’ve created the perfect storm for weight regain.”

Over the past 10 years or so I’ve lost about 55 pounds (and regained about 25 of it).  I’ve gone from 235 all the way down to 175, only to see my weight creep back up to 185 and then 195, and now right around 200.  That means at one point I’d lost about 23% of my total body weight and am now about 15% lighter than my starting weight.

A lot of my weight gain was having an office job that kept me at the computer 12+ hours a day, but even then I was seeing a trainer two or three times a week.  The trainer is what kept me around 190.  Now that we can no longer afford a trainer (and despite a honeymoon that involved hiking and tons of walking) say hello to 10 more pounds.

How did I make it down to 175?  Caloric restriction and exercise, plus sleeping 13 hours a day.  Yes, that’s right, 13 hours.  By the end of that year I was forcing myself to go to the gym, rarely ate out, and ate about a bowl of cereal and a sandwich a day.  When I told my doctor I felt listless and depressed even though I was getting more exercise than ever, she ran a blood test and discovered I had hypothyroidism.  Being put on synthroid to increase my thyroid hormones only seemed to make me hungrier (probably a good thing since my eating habits weren’t sustainable or particularly healthy).  I was living alone that year and rarely saw friends and family.  I might have been on my way to anorexia without even knowing it, which is ironic because I’ve always joked I don’t have the self-control for anorexia and, of course, all I got for my weight loss were compliments on how good I looked.  A woman has to be very thin indeed in this society for people to start telling her she’s too skinny.

Here I am, starting 2012 with the desire to once again shave 20% off my body weight and get down to 160 pounds, but now that I think more about it, I don’t know if that’s even a realistic goal.  The health magazines and purveyors of “diet du jour” (medically approved!, it’s your bowels!, turn to God!) tell you it’s possible to lose weight and experience a range of enhanced well being by the increased self-control of healthier eating, exercise, etc., and while I believe in the importance of a diet full of whole foods and low on the processed stuff, I’ve been living that way for a decade and it hasn’t kept my weight from moving back up the scale.

What it will take to lose even 20 pounds is an immense amount of effort on my part, both in exercising, and in forcing myself to eat much, much less than my 45 pounds lighter spouse.  It won’t seem fair.  It won’t be fun. This sounds harder than making it through law school…

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