Exercise, Weight Loss, and Your Perfect Weight

Weight LossWill sent me a video from the Vox folks, Things We Can’t Explain: Donald Trump’s Board Game. I think he thought it was just a comedy video. And he’s right: it is funny. But there’s Ezra Klein and Dylan Matthews. It’s fun to see them, and the video is worth checking out. But it led me to another Vox video, The Science Is In: Exercise Isn’t the Best Way to Lose Weight. I’m pretty sure I read the article when it first came out, so I wasn’t shocked. Just the same, the video had a greater resonance with me, since I had a recent weight loss.

Up until about 7 years ago, I was very skinny. I mean, very. I tried not to see my naked torso in the mirror because it reminded me of victims of Auschwitz. I mean, it wasn’t that bad, but it certainly brought back childhood memories of watching that Alfred Hitchcock documentary about the liberation of the camps and the horrors discovered. But about 7 years ago, I put on 50 pounds rather suddenly. And since then I’ve stayed at that weight consistently. It is easier to see myself in the mirror now.

Weight Gain, Weight Loss

But I wasn’t happy about the weight gain. I would have wished for something more like 25-30 pounds. So over the years I have changed my diet and exercised — all in an effort at weight loss. Nothing really happened. This wasn’t surprising. When I was skinny, I tried to gain weight, and experienced a similar lack of success. My body, it has always seemed, wants to be whatever weight it is.

Then, last week, I was walking over to my healthcare provider. I noticed that I had to keep pulling up my normally quite tight jeans. And sure enough, I found that I had lost about 10 pounds. I figured that my recent efforts to walk more (just to get away from the computer) had acted as a weight loss program without my noticing. But no.

It’s All About the Thyroid

My sister reminded me that I was on thyroid medication. Indeed I am! Three months ago, a blood test showed that while I was mostly in good health, my thyroid was greatly under-performing. A normal range is up to 4.5, and I was at almost 20. And two months later, on the medication, it is exactly where it should be: right about one. And this is undoubtedly why I lost weight. I’m sure that I’m back to a stable weight again.

One reason that exercise doesn’t help much with weight loss is because your behavior and metabolism change as a result. I know about the first part of that. When I used to exercise a lot — running every day — I ate a lot more. I wouldn’t doubt that my metabolism also slowed down during the rest of the day when I wasn’t running.

Exercise Can Help!

There is, of course, a great reason to exercise. It makes us feel better. It improves our attitude. It calms us. And maybe in that way, exercise can help with weight loss: by making us not care.

It reminds me of a poem by Kristen McHenry, “Perfect Weight.” I can’t find the book right now, but I did find this snippet (that I quoted), which contains the important part:

You will kneel to bless the dead
hive of your pelvis. The body
is an intermission; wait for the toss
and hurl of rebirth. Emerge, sanctified and black.
Hover above the scale; note
the number. This is your perfect weight.

Weight loss, I fear, is a capitalist plot.

5 thoughts on “Exercise, Weight Loss, and Your Perfect Weight

    • Everything is!

      What’s shocking is so few physicians have any training in how diet works. It really has to be geared towards the individual. There are things one can eat to (if not lose weight per se) feel better & be healthier. But it’s going to be different for everyone’s tastes and metabolisms. Which both change over time!

      Although I can say with certainty that people who consume hot peppers regularly are smarter, more charming, and better drivers.

      • Ah, I see you beat me to the line.

        Vox recently published, Medicine Is Failing Obese People. I haven’t read it, but it looks interesting. Of course, I would say that medicine is failing a lot people — especially drug addicts. But in that case, it is because they can’t get beyond a moralistic notion of drug use. That might also be the case with weight. “If you’d just…” is not good medical advice.

  1. Hi Frank, Nice article. There seems to have been heaps of discussion lately about whether ‘exercise is useless’ for weight loss or not. I agree that exercise isnt the most important ingredient when it comes to weight loss, but I still believe the right type of exercise plays a key role in weight management. I read the original Vox.com article and penned a follow up entitled The Exercise Myth: Science Says Exercise Not The Best Way To Burn Stomach Fat I thought you might be interested in.
    Keep up the good work.

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