Nov 102014

I’m pretty confident I’m not the only American who battles their weight. In fact, I bet most of us do. Recently I’ve been poking around a community of people trying to lose weight on a website called Reddit. The community is called LoseIt, and while I don’t wade into the conversation much because my own struggles pale in comparison to some, I do read it every now and then. I do it partly to be encouraged, partly to encourage others, and partly just because it’s interesting.

Chickpastor and I were talking the other day about weight loss and LoseIt (over breakfast, no less), and we realized that we had made the same observation. That observation was that for most people trying to lose weight, the first option was usually exercise. It seems to be our default. We all seem to think that we should work our way to weight gain. It makes sense.  After all, we’re Americans. We’ve been raised to believe that we can achieve anything through hard work. We apply this to everything: jobs, school, weight loss, relationships. Just work harder, we’re told, and you can have everything you want.

But we have both found that weight loss doesn’t work that way, and most of the folks on LoseIt agree. Exercise alone was not enough for either of us to lose weight. We have both had to reduce our calories. The pace of that decline is such that by the time we’re sixty lunch will be two carrot sticks and an apple. Nonetheless, that was the only way either of us could do it. We couldn’t work harder and lose weight. We had to eat less. We had to take things away.

This doesn’t seem very American to me.  If I just work hard enough, I should have want what I want, when I want it. Of course I want to be super skinny and have chickens wings for dinner and chocolate cake every night. But I can’t anymore. I just can’t. I can’t work hard enough to have it all. I can be skinny, or I can eat a lot of chicken wings and cake. It’s simple, but it’s hard, and it’s harder than hard work. It’s harder to give up things I love than it is to work a little extra. But that’s what I’ve had to do.  Whether it’s weight loss, or relationships, or work, or school, sometimes we need to give up good things if we want something better. No matter how hard I work, I can’t have everything, and that’s the hardest part of all.


  1. Bill Coffin says:

    I think a big part of the challenge is that people see it as “losing weight,” that is, getting rid of something they don’t want, instead of seeking to gain something they do want. it your goal is fitness, then it’s much easier, because you’re always making forward progress, and the hard work of exercise and the discipline with eating all feel like they are building toward something. When you simply decide to deny yourself something so you can gain something else, therein lies all kinds of wiggle room to opt out whenever you feel like it.

    Something else worth considering: if you want to see big changes, you need to make big changes. There simply is no other way. There is a multi-billion-dollar industry that tells people they can have the body they want without having to alter their behaviors significantly. This is false. It just is.

    A final note: It’s a whole lot easier when you seek fitness as a family. Everybody has days when they don’t want to train or when they want to have cake for dinner, or whatever. When you’re all doing it together, though, you mutually support each other, and it becomes much easier to stay on track.