This article is about the unfortunate paradox that seems to occur when constant dieting and the over-attention to one’s own body weight results in the difficulty in maintaining or achieving a lean physique.
The situation can be summed up like this:
The more you care about being lean or looking a certain way—> The harder it becomes to be lean
The more fucks you give–> The more difficult losing weight will be
This reminds me of the following adage from Alan Watts . “I knew a little girl to whom someone gave a bunny rabbit. She was so delighted with the bunny rabbit and so afraid of losing it, that taking it home in the car, she squeezed it to death with love.”
For many people, myself included, there seems to be a direct relationship between the amount of anxious energy given on a daily basis to either losing weight or maintaining a weight and the difficulty that then occurs in the effort to achieve that outcome.
Now this is obviously not the case for everyone. But if you’re reading this, I BET you can relate.
Here are some signs of falling into this cycle
-You constantly watch what you eat because you feel you should be leaner or are afraid of gaining weight if you eat too much
-You compulsively count calories/macros aiming for your caloric goal each day with anxiety of going over. If you do go over then you are ridden with guilt and shame.
-You spend exorbitant amounts of mental energy on what you are going to eat and how you look. You become irritated when life gets in the way and prevents you from being able to stick to your regimine.
-You find that despite the time and energy you give, you still can’t lose weight or your weight constantly fluctuates.
Calorie and Macro Counting
Now calorie and macro counting work for many people. I am not writing this to knock these programs.
However these programs come at a cost for some individuals who simply want to maintain a healthy body weight
If you have to track your macros to become or stay lean and are so rigid with your diet and exercise regimens as a result (squeezing the rabbit to death), is that a quality life you want to live?
Macro counting does not teach you anything about how to eat or listen to your body. These methods can be great for short term weight loss but I think are a very poor behaviors to chronically engage in and rely upon as you never learn how to eat without a calculator.
Wouldn’t the ideal situation be to maintain your healthy weight without having to track calories?
Why don’t more people strive for this?
Is this just a metaphysical phenomenon?
In a 2016 Study at Cornell Food & Brand Lab researches looked at the eating habits of 168 healthy adults.
Those who voluntarily signed up for the registry answered a series of questions about diet, exercise and daily routines.
Slighty less less than half of the participants were constant dieters, people who obsess daily about gaining weight and structered their life and eating habits around controlling their weight.
The other group, the “mindlessly slim” group, said they never dieted or payed too much stress to their weight, even though they remained at a healthy body weight.
Researchers found that mindlessly slim individuals used strategies that differ from “traditional” diet recommendations. Eating high-quality foods, cooking at home, and listening to inner cues were some of the strategies used by the group of individuals who weren’t overly concerned with their weight.
It was also found that, “… they didn’t indicate feeling as guilty as the other group about overeating. Furthermore, mindlessly slim people were more likely to have an enjoyment-based, internally informed approach to food and eating.”
From a quality of life perspective- these people were winning.
What is there to do?
There are many mechanisms at play here. A big part is the psychological aspect of disordered eating which I will not delve into deeply here, but will say that this seems to be the root of why people over-engage in restrictive eating patterns to begin with.
Addressing why you engage in these behaviours is paramount to having a healthy relationship with food and remaining at a healthy body weight
So how to we stay and become lean if when we apply effort to stay and become lean we actually move away from out goal
The Buddha (hear me out) is known for saying desire is the route of our troubles. Many people heard this and would then go and try to stop desiring. They found their efforts were subdued when they noticed they were desiring not to desire. They were in a stalemate with themselves.
The same issue can be applied to constant dieting. You want to be and maintain a very lean physique (achieve enlightenment), but know that your anxious efforts (desire) are not working to get you there as they are causing disordered eating habits (unhappiness). So the only option you have is to stop the psychological desire to be lean (stop desiring). But can you see that by intentionally stopping desiring a lean body, you still are desiring the lean body?
Holy fuck is right!
There IS an answer to this predicament though! There are steps to take to get out of this vicious cycle.
I will talk about them in the next article!
Without making this into sales article, I will say this. Having food prepared and ready to go creastes extraordinary results for individuals stuck in this cycle.
The more you think about food, the worse these patterns become. Having your food all prepared takes out so much anxious mental energy that feeds into negative thought patterns. This allows you to think more clearly and regain higher level thinking that allows you to look at your behaviors so you can then decide, “I’m not going to feed into these patterns anymore.”