Monday, May 28, 2007

Which Weigh?

People have started telling me that I've lost weight. I've been working hard on that project since November. It's gratifying that my efforts are visible to others, but couldn't they have seen the difference sooner? Couldn't all my hard work have paid off sooner?

Weight loss requires sustained effort over the long haul. The rewards come slowly. Painfully slowly, with frequent up-turns that leave me wondering whether I'm making progress at all. Am I still on the right path? Has my body figured out what I'm doing and adjusted its metabolism accordingly? Do I need to change something to continue my progress or should I just wait it out?

The diet part of the plan turned out to be easier than I thought it would be. Calculating my body's caloric requirements helped me see how I'd gotten where I am. From there, it was a small matter of mathematics to figure out how many calories I ought to consume in order to lose weight in a safe and sane manner. Online nutrition databases help me determine the calorie counts of the foods I eat. After a few weeks of planning and preparing my new style of meals, it's been pretty easy to stay on track.

Exercising in the cold of winter also turned out to be relatively easy. I ordered some exercise videos to keep me going even when it's miserable outside. Some days, I have to kick my butt in order to start the DVD so it can kick my butt, but most of the time I enjoy the workouts. I started with Kathy Smith's Project: YOU. Now I mix things up with Turbo Jam and my water aerobics course.

Mixing things up turns out to be important. Our bodies adapt to our routines. In order to keep things moving, we need to give our bodies new challenges to keep them on their toes. The biggest mistake I made in this weight loss odyssey was eating too few calories. My body decided we were in for a famine and lowered my metabolism, hanging on to every ounce of fat for dear life. I upped my calories a bit, and my body said, "Oh, okay, I guess I can let some of this fat go."

Our bodies didn't evolve in a world of plenty. They evolved in a world of seasonal famine. Storing fat for the winter was prudent, letting it go too soon could be deadly. My body has its own survival mathematics, with formulas that were not designed for perpetually well-stocked grocery stores.

Weight is a mystery. I weigh myself at the same time every morning, under conditions as identical as I can make them. My weight fluctuates dramatically. Sometimes, I can trace the fluctuations to physical factors, but, quite often, they are utterly mysterious and not in sync with my activities.

I've started wondering whether burning fat is a two-stage process, whether the fat first gets converted into something heavier and then it gets burned off. Nothing I have read suggests that this is the case, but my own experience makes me wonder. Once every ten days or so, I jump to a new low. Over the next few days, my weight jumps back up a couple of pounds, then it goes back to hover at the middle of the range before climbing back down near the previous low. Then it takes another jump down. What is happening during those jumps?

Social support is helpful for weight loss. I've heard people talk about friends and family undermining their efforts, but everyone in my life has been supportive. This online support site has been invaluable in finding information, resources, and atta-girls along the way.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Civic Duty

On Memorial Day weekend, my town business association hosts a big bash called the Art and Wine Festival (locals occasionally call it other, less polite names). From Saturday morning through Monday afternoon, the only road that runs through our town is clogged with traffic north and south.

On Friday afternoon, therefore, the locals go to town to stock up on groceries. Most of us, particularly those of us who live north of town, will spend the weekend holed up in our houses, thinking dark Puritanical thoughts about art, wine, and the long lines of automobiles that keep us from our accustomed activities.

By Friday afternoon, the main street is lined with booths, and the vendors have arrived. The grocery stores are filled with people with carts piled high. Stockers work late in the evening, and all the registers are busy. The clerks rush around, too busy to stop for a chat, and too harried to laugh at my jokes.

We're all a little awkward this Friday afternoon, not quite comfortable with what is happening in our sleepy little town. Sure, the festival pays for important civic goods like the street-sweeper and public trash receptacles. For a weekend, however, our town is an alien place full of alien forces. The vendors come from all over, and they bring items that were made in China or Malaysia. Visiting tourists crowd the pavement, sipping wine.

On Monday, we'll take possession of our town again. It will take a few days to clean up after the mess, but, soon enough, the town will slide into its summer routine. By the 4th of July, we'll have forgotten the inconvenience of this weekend and settle in to enjoy the parade.