Yesterday while I was out running, I was ruminating on the extent to which we truly control our physical bodies. Its probably because a friend said of an upcoming surgical procedure ďmy body will heal at the rate it decides to heal.Ē It struck me that there are times when we control our bodies (making our limbs move, swallowing, batting our eyes) and there are times when our bodies just chug along and do their own thing. And as people who spend some amount of attention on our weight, I think thereís an important distinction here.
I have a nice car Ė fancy but not luxurious, clean, runs well, and gets decent mileage. I drive it a lot and it responds to my signals (gas pedal, brake pedal, windshield wiper, radio controls, etc.). Lately, however, the engine has been making little pinging sounds. Thereís no control in the car that can change that, and I havenít the faintest idea of what goes on inside that engine underneath the hood thatís making it happen.
Now its possible that this mechanical problem is the result of something I did (drove too fast, accelerated too quickly, etc.) but thereís an equal chance it had nothing to do with me. It could be normal wear and tear. It could be a defect. It might be something that happened to the car while it was parked on the street. So I canít really ďblameĒ myself for this problem, and I canít really be mad at the car for behaving like the inanimate object it is.
Sometimes when we get on that scale, we see information which directly correlates to our actions (ate less, exercised less, drank more water, etc.). We have control over a limited number of inputs (food, exercise, sleep) and we do have objective evidence that those controls provide results. Sometimes, however, that number can be a bit of a mystery. Things happen that we do not consciously control (hormonal changes, metabolic forces, the aging process, etc.). Some of these things manifest no direct symptoms or signals.
So its okay to get a reading of your weight, reflect upon the actions you have taken in recent days, and draw a linkage between them. In particular, this connection is evident when we record data over a long period of time and average out the results.
At the same time, its wise for us not to Ďblameí our bodies for what happens on that scale. They are fantasic wonders of nature with amazingly intricate interplays of physiological systems. They are designed, like my car, to be useable with only a few conscious controls (i.e. I donít have to WILL my kidneys to function). We absolutely have the power to accelerate, brake, and idle our bodies, and to that extent we can affect their weight (and to some degree, their shape). But we donít have conscious mastery of all of the bodyís functions, and we canít always know if what is happening at one moment is an immediate result of our most recent mental actions.
I guess the way I see it, I have to treat my body the way I do my car. Keep it clean, have it looked after by professionals, drive it safely, and understand its limits. So far its served me pretty well. And Iím not angry that I have to take it to the mechanic next week. I just hope its not something I did!