I hear this from people all the time: “I want to lose __ pounds.”
My response is always the same: “And then what?”
Why? Because losing weight is not a goal. It’s a temporary and finite experience. And it’s integral to the yo-yo experience. Sure you feel good for the accomplishment. But how long does that last? If you dieted to get there (ie, deprived yourself of fuel), you’ll be starving. And we know what happens next.
But it’s not your fault. We’re all confused. We swim in a sea of “tips” and “plans” and “experts”—and look at us. We have the highest rates of obesity and chronic illness in history.
What we really need are explanations.
Here’s one: weight is the wrong number to watch. What you need to pay attention to is the ratio between your lean mass (muscle, skin, hair, organs, bones) and your fat mass. The number is expressed as a percentage. Why is this important? Because the more lean mass you have, the higher your metabolism. The higher your metabolism, the faster you burn through fuel, ie. food.
The problem with losing weight (and being on diets) is that usually you lose lean mass. Muscle and tissue can quickly be turned into energy which is all your brain cares about, so your body happily eats itself. Your hormone levels are out of balance also, so your body will not release your fat. When it comes to energy, fat is extremely precious.
Losing mass decreases your metabolism which puts you in the position to not only regain, but to gain more weight than you lost on the diet. How? When you start to eat again, your new slower metabolism doesn’t need the extra fuel you’re consuming, so it will store it as, you guessed it, fat.
If we only consider how we feel, the side effects of that extra fat feel pretty lousy. You’re sluggish and unhappy with yourself. If instead, you increase your lean mass, you feel strong and full of energy. (And you look pretty good, too.) Studies show now that correct exercise is creating younger cells. How does that sound for a side effect?
So rather than get stuck in the experience of losing weight, and losing it again and again, why not make a plan for something else? A useful goal.
My target is to live strong. Yes, I stole that from Lance Armstrong, but I really believe it. I plan to live strong until my last breath, to not fear any challenge, to move about as I wish, independently. I know it’s entirely possible. And besides living great, another side effect is I’ll be looking great—well as great as a 98 year old woman can.
So if you think you want to lose weight, I ask you: and then what?