Mar 14, 2011

On Negativity During Weight Loss

Sitting in my Blogger Profile are at least two unfinished blog posts which read as honest yet very negative with hopeless frustration. Part of me wants to go ahead and publish them because they're my honest-to-God thoughts - and at the very least, down the line they'll be a useful account of what I went through during this period of my life. A probably wiser part of me figures that nobody wants to read me complaining and acting like a child. And, as always, there's that Curious Observer hanging out in my brain, who watches with intense interest the soap opera of improvements or vicissitudes of my mental state.

I want to focus in this blog post on that third person, but to satisfy the first person I'm first going to summarize the frustrations, and to satisfy the second person I'm going to keep the summary very brief:

1.) Intense mental pressure due to slower-than expected weight loss and an ambitious race calendar that counts on weight loss.
2.) Demoralizing and endless weight loss plateaus
3.) The irresistible urge to raise my own running ability at least to the standards of my peers (going from the back of the pack to the middle or front.)
4.) Still feeling fat despite concrete results
5.) Jealousy towards people who don't have the weight problems that I do

moving on to the soap opera.. I'm going to try my best to write this as the third person - The Curious Observer.

So I've noticed something about myself that I find very interesting. It's no secret that for me food is a drug that I run to for comfort and satisfaction. And when I deny myself that food, there is nothing there to replace it. Combine that with the theory that caloric deprivation causes moodiness by itself and what you have with me is a pretty crabby guy that my poor wife and kid have to deal with. I'm not proud of that.

I figure that is also the reason why the focus of my attention has been so negative. Analytical and intensely competitive by nature, it has been difficult for me to approach my current weight loss goals with the conservative strategy that I've implemented, especially as the results are coming slower than expected. Past experience has taught me that drastic strategies can have dramatic results, but they have also proven to be unsustainable, probably because of the mental factors I discussed in the previous paragraph.

The thing is, I can't tell whether these negative thoughts are having a beneficial, detrimental, or neutral effect on my results. Conventional wisdom may be that hopeless frustrations lead to comfort in the form of food, making it detrimental. One therefore might not be able to imagine that they can be beneficial, unless what if they inspire me to implement more dramatic (drastic?) strategies or perhaps renew my resolve to be disciplined in the strategy I've chosen? Or, it might be making no difference whatsoever; negative food decisions I'm making are due to other factors and would be occurring regardless of negative thoughts. All seem plausible. And The Curious Observer in me can't decide which one is true. I honestly see evidence that all three are in play, though due to their contradictory nature, that can't be the case.

The Curious Observer, however, is sure of one thing - I will never be satisfied with my results, even if I lose 100 lbs. I am too obsessed with this issue of weight loss and body image to ever be satisfied at a healthy weight. It's downright irrational, but I know it to be a fact. The negative thoughts are thus here to stay. And I ought to learn to live with them. I need to be aware of them, so I can adapt my actions to the reality that the thoughts are not rational.

I hope, like all people do, that one day The Curious Observer will become the dominant character in my personality so that my behavior isn't so intensely influenced by emotional swings.

On a completely different topic, this weekend I will be running in the New Jersey Ultra Festival 50 miler. My current 50-mile PR is 13:16, and unless I have a bad day I'm confident that I can annihilate that. Two weeks after I'm running Umstead, a 100-mile race, so this weekend is going to be a useful "dress rehearsal" for the first half of that race. If I comfortably run 12:30, then I know that's a pace to shoot for at Umstead. Will post about it next week.

1 comment:

  1. Steve, I so know where you are coming from with this. Food and weight issues are a tough road and undoubtably harder than any ultra you've run. For me, the hardest thing was learning that the lifestyle changes and dietary changes I made to lose weight have to be a go-forward thing. You can't go back to doing what you did. So, you have to find healthy activities you love and healthy food you love. And the longer you do this, the stronger your desire to not slip back will be. My opinion is that one of the biggest issues in North America is that we use food as a reward. As pleasure... and indulgence. Really, it's fuel. You put junk in the tank and you sputter and eventually break down on the side of the road.

    I have by no means mastered this myself. I still struggle, too. But I keep looking to others for inspiration. There is an abundance of inspirational stories out there. So, feel sorry for yourself in small doses and then pick yourself up and know that YOU, my friend, are one of those inspiring people. And you can do this.