My weight-loss mythology

I am losing weight. Yay, hurray! Twelve pounds in eight weeks. In this process I am discovering and deconstructing my own mythology about weight loss.

Myth number 1: The older I get, the harder it is to lose weight.

I am actually losing weight at nearly the same pace that I did in my 40s, on the same program, Weight Watchers (following a short juice fast).

It is true that I gain weight more easily as I age. I could probably put those 12 pounds back on in about two weeks. It is also true that my body is less forgiving of any slacking off. I rebound a bit after every weekend indulgence or day with no exercise. The rebound usually comes 3–4 days later.

Myth number 2: I can take the weight off just by exercising more.

For one thing, my increasing weight depleted my energy so it was becoming a chore to exercise every day. But even when I did, like last year when I was training for a century bike ride, my weight stayed steady. I need to follow the tried and true prescription of less food and more exercise.

The good thing is that as I lose weight I get immediate feedback in the form of increased energy and this makes it possible to exercise more. That energy gain is much more noticeable than it was when I was younger. The sensation of increased energy makes exercise extra rewarding. Yesterday I swam laps for a full hour and felt I could go on forever, at my sedate pace of 30 laps an hour. But lap swim was over at the Y and the kids were jumping in.

Myth number 3: I know how to eat in order to lose weight and maintain weight loss.

I am a good cook and have long followed a fair approximation of the Mediterranean diet: lots of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, a little protein, olive oil, very little dairy, red wine. I did not need to change what I eat; only how much. And I also needed to greatly cut down on the exceptions I had been making to this good diet. I made plenty of exceptions, especially when I ate out.

I am not good at estimating portions or paying attention to when I am full. This is where Weight Watchers comes in. (I do it online; I hate those meetings with testimonials and cheers for every half pound.) It introduces mathematical certainty to portion control and food choice. You can make exceptions to healthy choices but they take your point quota down fast. With a little forethought and calculation you can indulge in anything you want. But it is safer to stay with really healthful food.

I was shocked to discover how much I had been overeating—and, on the positive side, how happily I could survive on much less. Hunger has not been a problem.

I do not want to sound like a commercial for Weight Watchers. I enjoy “tracking” in a peculiar way. This may be a drag for others. I find, as I did years ago, that the program is, if anything, too lenient. I would never lose weight if I ate all my bonus points or exercise points. I have to stay close to the minimum daily allowance. And I may have to track points the rest of my life (sigh) because when I stopped, I regained the weight and more.

There is something more involved in all this, however; something at the intersection of spirit and body. I will explore it in another post.

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