Friday, November 18, 2016

Weighty matters

People share all sorts of personal things on social media, including many things they probably shouldn’t. One thing that could be in either category is weight loss: Sure, it can be a proud achievement, or maybe a mockingly self-effacing “humble brag”, or it can be set-up for failure later on. Caution might be a good idea for this topic, as with so many other personal things.

Earlier this week, I posted my three-month update on where I’m at following my hospital adventure. I didn’t mention my weight in that update. It wasn’t deliberate, exactly, because I’ve mentioned it earlier updates, but it’s not something I like talking about, either (I’ve since added it in an update).

Like most people, perhaps, I’ve struggled to maintain—or regain—a healthy weight. Ten years ago, I made a major (and successful) effort to lose weight, and managed to keep most of it off for over a year. I know this because I’ve weighed myself every Friday and recorded the results, so I have a long-running record of how things have gone (or not).

Because of that, I can see how often I’ve lost/gained/lost the same few kilograms, so me saying “I lost X kilos this month” doesn’t really mean anything. This is why I don’t mention weight loss on social media, and it’s why I’m not keen on sharing it even in relevant blog posts.

However, the whole point in my sharing my health journey is that it might be helpful to someone in a similar situation, or for someone who knows someone who is. Not talking about weight loss undermines that goal.

The reality is, I’ve made great progress since my hospital stay, having lost, as of today, 6.4kg (14.1 pounds). That’s happened mostly because I eat less/better, since it’s only been recently that I’ve been able to move around much. As I’m able to increase my physical activity, the rate of weight loss will probably increase. At the very least, it’ll continue, which is the main thing. Update: I neglected to mention that this weight loss has included plenty of stalls, weeks in which I lost nothing at all, however, I haven't yet re-gained any lost weight.

Since I have so much data recorded, I know that I now weigh less than I did some 2½ years ago—which was when this particular journey began, with my visit to the doctor as part of the Tooth Tales adventure that began ALL of this. I actually reached that point last month, which was good, but when I lose a couple hundred more grams (less than half a pound) I’ll weigh the same as I did in December 2013 (and that was higher than I weighed in June of that same year; like I said, I’ve lost/gained/lost the same few kilograms many times).

The point is, as good as my accomplishment over the past three months has been—and I am proud of it—I nevertheless have a sense of perspective about it. Even now, despite what is absolutely good progress, I weigh quite a bit more than I did ten years ago, during that first effort at weight loss that started me recording it.

But that’s actually the bigger lesson in all this: For many of us, “weight” is an issue that can be a source of stress, frustration, and disappointment. Even so, what matters is not giving up—ever. I currently weigh 11.8kg (26 pounds) less than my highest weight ever in 2011 (of course I know that…). While my weight has fluctuated over the years since, I’ve never gone anywhere near matching that record, because I’ve never given up the fight.

There are really only three ways to lose weight and maintain that lower weight without surgery: Eat less, exercise more, or both. Other alternative solutions are quackery, nonsense, or involve drugs—and none of those alternative options can last for the long term. Even surgical solutions require some effort on a person’s part, so there truly is no magic answer to make this easy and effortless.

Which brings me back to people sharing their weight loss on social media. Because it’s so much damn work and effort to lose and then maintain weight, who can blame anyone for seeking, however obliquely some may do it, kudos and encouragement? It serves another function, too: Both a reminder and a reason to stay focused on the goal: No one wants to be embarrassed by having gained back weight they announced losing.

So, I haven’t usually shared weight loss numbers because I know my own history has been more like a rollercoaster I had to run along than it’s been like sliding effortlessly down a hill. But this is different for me. I’m not interested in getting social approval for having lost weight, and it's certainly not about vanity. I’m only interested in a healthier—and longer—life, and maybe my efforts to get there can be an example to those who, like me, struggle to reach that goal. This is also why I’ve talked about this at length: There are plenty of people waging this sort of battle.

Still, I’m only human: A little pat on the back every now and then, even from myself, isn’t a bad thing.


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