Skinny Daily Post

Invincible.

The holiday dance is over, and all the fun behind us is right there, behind us. A bit more jiggle in the seat. A bit more fluff around the middle. And so we heave a sigh and commit ourselves to any diet program we think will quickly pull off the pounds that have been creeping on for the past few months or years.

This is the season of the crash diet, 2-week diets, 1-month diets, patches, pills, bars and drinks. We’ll adopt any diet no matter how foreign to our nature, so long as it promises to melt the pounds off fast and without effort.

In this country we have developed a passion for taking off weight as quickly as possible, mainly because we use such miserable methods to do it. If these diets lasted any longer, we’d lose our minds long before we lost our paunches. As if the physical discomfort of these crash diets — hunger, dizziness, bad breath, constipation, sleeplessness — weren’t enough, the sad fact is, they’re just plain dangerous.

Of course we all know losing weight quickly is something we should never do deliberately. Fast weight loss signals our bodies that something is very wrong. Fast weight loss heralds illness or a period of fasting ahead, and our bodies are programmed to respond by slowing our metabolisms down so that we can heal or survive without losing weight on fewer and fewer calories. Anyone who’s stuck to a diet for more than a month understands that no matter how strict we are, we will reach a plateau where our bodies learn to live on less.

Fast weight loss can wreak other kinds of havoc, too, throwing hormones off balance, leeching calcium from bones, eating up lean tissues, bringing anemia, irregular heartbeat, hair loss. It’s just not a good way to lose the weight you probably took months or years to put on.

The most annoying thing about fast weight loss is that it is almost always followed by fast weight gain. Our bodies want to achieve a healthy stability. What your brain perceives as normal is not a weight on a chart in your doctor’s office. Your brain only knows what’s normal for you. So if you’re normally overweight, losing weight puts your system on alert that something may be wrong.

On the other hand, if you lose weight very, very slowly, your system can adjust, can manage the loss more easily. Keep your weight loss to 1 pound, or certainly under 2 pounds per week, and you’re far more likely to keep the weight off over the long haul.

Slow weight loss gives both your body and your mind a chance to adjust to the new lifestyle you will need to adopt to keep your weight off. Small, permanent changes are the key to taking that weight off. And one of those permanent changes ought to be, of course, daily exercise.

Oh yes. I said it. Daily exercise. If you want drama, if you want momentous change, if you want to feel better quickly, the best resolution you can make this year for a fitter 2005 is a resolution to add daily exercise to your life. Adding a half hour to an hour of moderate exercise per day can, without changing your diet dramatically, help you lose as much as a pound a week. While you lose weight safely, you’re likely to feel happier, sleep better, and enjoy constantly improving health. It is the only magic I know, it’s available everywhere, and it’s absolutely free.

Happy 2005, friends. I hope it’s a healthy one for you.

8 thoughts on “Slow Down

  1. Jeanne says:

    To reach back to a previous S.D.: there’s a theory among knitters that one is either a “product” or a “process” knitter. That is, you’re either focused on finishing what’s on the needles, or all caught up in what you’re learning (Dig me! I just cabled!). From the many bags of sweaters/socks/hats scattered around my living room in various stages of completion, it’s pretty obvious that I’m one of the “process” tribe.

    My point? I’m going to make one of the “small, permanent changes” that the pros recommend, and stop thinking of losing weight as Mission Accomplished once the needle on the scale hits the magic number. The only way I’ll ever stay at a reasonable weight, with good physical and mental health, is to approach this as a PROCESS, little daily steps down the road. There will be smooth days and rocky ones, but this journey won’t end until I do.

    This will also free me from the daily lashings of the dominatrix in my mind – you know her; she’s the voice that says, “It’s all of nothing – screw up and You’re Fat Forever!” It’s going to be a real treat to go through my days without her! ;D

    Thank you, Julie, for the inspiration. Here’s to a Happy, Healthy New Year to all!

  2. Mari says:

    I admire process people. The hardest thing for me about things happening slowly is that you have no tangible reward or proof of your progress. If you lose four pounds in a week, you know that it’s working. I find it hard to go on doing something difficult for weeks without even knowing if it’s working.
    That was the whining, I know you are right.
    Thank you for reminding me.

  3. rebeka says:

    Thanks so much. I feel like every entry you write is just for me. Got to put all those lessons back into action now that the holiday is over.

  4. victoria says:

    wise contribution, as always. as I have prepared myself mentally for today, my back to basics day, I feel like I am just picking up where I left off a little less than a week ago. I am grateful not to have joined the ranks of those mindlessly stuffing themselves while repeating the mantra of “only until the new year, then everything changes, I’ll lose 30 pounds each month”…unrealistic goals that are sure to disappoint. thanks for keeping us grounded in reality once again!

  5. Connie says:

    Good column. Just wanted to add a few things I’ve read recently. According to a recent study reported in Prevention magazine, the fast weight loss diets, if they have any staying power at all, will end up with a 1-2lb loss over a period of time, just like a regular-watch-what-you-eat diet. Exercise is still the key and eating in a way that empowers your personal style. High protein is not for everyone. Low fat is not for everyone. Each person needs to find what works for them and stick with it.

  6. minerva says:

    it is so true that slow weight loss is the only weight loss that really works, and stays. i lost a total of fifty pounds, 20 pounds of which i lost in a period of three months in a bad period of my life where my exercise and food consumption were not what they should have been. not surprisingly, i’ve gained back 15 pounds in the past year and a half because while i have not returned to old habits, i’ve returned to normal habits and my body made up for that. so there you go 🙂

  7. Marisa says:

    Thank you for the motivation and inpiration. I’m winding down from the holidays and a lunch outing to the Cheesecake Factory. I was struck by the obscene portion sizes. Most of us had salads, and they were wonderful, but they were served in enormous bowls the size of my serving bowls at home. Sandwiches were similarly huge and served on platters, not plates. Soft drinks were served in glasses larger than any I’ve ever seen before. And all this against the background of misery and privation in SE Asia. Being too well-fed is becoming as much a moral as a health issue for me.

    I’ve lost some weight slowly, and hope to lose more as I improve my exercise program this year. I have no problem with overeating, really, only with sugar addiction (identified after reading a column here) and lack of exercise. I think that eliminating most sugar and exercising daily will do it for me.

    Happy new yeara to all!

  8. Sandra says:

    I have been losing weight veeerrrry sloooowly for the past 2 years, BUT, have not gained any back…. slow but sure does work…. however, it can get frustrating!! Have lost 25 and another 30 to go. My New Year’s resolution is to lose it ALL this year! Thanks for the inspirations.

    Happy 2005!!

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