Skinny Daily Post


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!

4 thoughts on “The Driverís Seat

  1. Andrea says:

    Your post couldn’t have come at a better time! A couple weeks ago my doctor took me off a medication that I no longer needed (hooray), but the side effect has been an increase in fluid retention, and since that time my weight loss (which up to this point has been slow and steady) has come to a complete halt. I’ve been keeping track of my food intake and exercise in my journal, so I know that hasn’t changed, which leads to a good bit of frustration. But as your post so concisely states, this is something that is out of my direct control: my body will take its time adjusting to this new situation, and until then I just have to be patient and continue with my good habits. Thanks for giving me an extra boost of motivation as I go through this!

  2. Denise says:

    I had my best weight loss year ever (and kept it off) when I stopped trying to control my body (and the scale).

    I stopped making goals like: I will lose 2 lbs this week. (Like somehow I actually had control over that?????) I will wear a size 10 when I go on vacation. I will weigh 135 at Thanksgiving.

    I changed my focus to behavior goals: I’ll eat all my fruits and vegs this week. I will exercise before typing on the computer tomorrow. I won’t eat any fast food this week.

    When I started focusing on things which I actually could control, the scale co-operated.

    I can’t control the scale, but I can control my behavior.

  3. Lisha says:

    This is such a great site – I get the daily e-mail and I encourage you to do so. There are great arcives to help if the daily one doesnt apply. The is great wisdom here from people who have been there done that!!!!

  4. Mj says:

    I finally asked the podiatrist (who is still trying, sans MRI, to diagnose what’s going on in my foot) if I CAUSED THE INJURY or if it was ‘just’ a congenital weakness that gave way. I also asked if my current weight is a determining factor.

    He said no, I didn’t ’cause’ it; yes, it is a C-W; and no, my weight is not a primary factor. Considering the excessive demands I’ve put on my body – even when my body has been heavy/out of shape – I have been fortunate up till now. And now I MUST acknowledge that “I’m not 21 any more” and I must be more mindful of myself.

    OK. Fine. As you say, Jonathan, it is only reasonable to treat my body the way I treat MY car… because I’d really like it to last a long time.

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