Pain and Goals (a weight loss post)


Back in early November, when I was planning out all these posts, I threw “Pain” and “Goals” together because I figured I wouldn’t have a lot to say about them. But this is the last of the posts I had planned, and it turns out that these two things go together better than I expected.

For instance, I had no specific goal when I started; I just wanted to try to lose some weight. Then, a few weeks back, I was talking about this with my family and my son said: “I want you to be below 220 so we can ride the flight simulator together.”

So there you go. I’m going to try for 210, which means a loss of about 90 lbs, so my son and I can go back the Air and Space Museum and ride that little ride. That’s as good as anything, right?

Now, about my pain and how it ties in with my goals.

As I’ve mentioned before, I started seriously trying to lose weight because a number of people spoke publicly about their successes. People like John Scalzi, Elizabeth Bear, and Scott Lynch all recorded the steps they took to shrink themselves down. What’s more, Ta Nehisi-Coates wrote, almost off-handedly, that when he weighed 300 pounds, his legs hurt all the time.

As for me, my legs have always been a problem: I was born with both legs twisted so that my toes pointed at each other. The first 18 months of my life were spent in special shoes with a metal bar between them to make my legs grow straight, and I’ve suffered knee and ankle pain on and off since I was very small.

But for the past few years every day brought me some degree of pain. It really became commonplace and it didn’t seem that there was anything I could do about it. People would try to press Tylenol or whatever on me, but I’d refuse; taking drugs for this pain would mean dosing myself several times a day for the rest of my life. The weight is already enough of a strain on my health.

Then I started on the weight loss program, and the first few pounds were reasonably easy. I counted calories and I went hungry sometimes between meals. Sure, hunger pangs suck, but I had gotten used to pain. Hunger discomfort was nothing like the shooting pains I’d get in my legs, or the way my feet would feel as though they were bruised all over.

Even better, after I dropped the first 15, my leg pains (mostly) went away. Now I can walk around, shop, hike, whatever, and actually enjoy myself.

Then I read this article in the NYTimes.

I’ve always known that most people who take the weight off put it on again. I didn’t know if that would happen to me, but I wanted to try anyway. What’s more, I’m well aware that recent studies have been splashing cold water on some of the assumptions people have always made about diets and obesity–not that people want to hear it[1].

But the science suggest that our bodies “defend the weight.” (That’s the term they use, anyway.) Our bodies want to return to an unhealthy weight, and constantly try to force us to acquire calories. I know this; I’m expecting it. But one thing this article really drove home for me was this:

By attempting to lose weight and keep it off, I may be planning to spend the rest of my life in pain. It would be a kind of pain that doesn’t ease when I sit down or ice. I can’t stretch it away. I can’t put it off for a day by staying inside. It would be hunger pain, and they would never really go away.

At the moment, I can get by on 500-700 calorie meals. The high end will last me a while and the low end is fine for days when I’m ready to be suffer an empty stomach. But most times, I walk away from those meals feeling hungry, and no, big glasses of water don’t do the trick [2]. It’s becoming commonplace for me to finish eating while I still feel full.

I’m okay with it for now [3]. I’m curious to see how this plays out. Am I going to be hungry all the time, for the rest of my life? Because that would suck.

Finally, I don’t have any more of these posts planned. I may write about the subject again at some point, but probably not.

[1] The article linked above does not allow comments, but the writer runs an NYT wellness blog, and of course she links to her article from there. The commenters on that blog post are the usual despicable assholes you see in any online discussion of obesity, from the tedious ones reciting their One True Eating Plan to the haughty scolds and eye-rollers who think people should just stop playing xbox six hours a day.

[2] No advice, please.

[3] For the record: After gaining weight over the holidays, I’m back down to 270 and back in the habit of recording my calories.