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The Little Voice of Self-Destruction

14 May 2021

I am continuing my weight-loss and fitness journey, and I am objectively having success. I am back down to about my lowest adult weight from a few years ago. Although I am softer and weaker than I was three years ago, and have a ways to go before I recover all my strength. But I’m doing the work. I’ll get there.

If I’d written this post two days ago, I’d have felt differently. I went through a period of 9 days where I lost no weight despite strict adherence to my fitness and diet regimens. Including a massive, 19 mile, 8,100′ mountain trail run that burned 3,500 calories all by itself. And yet the scale was stubborn. I was despairing. I invented narratives: I’m fitter and my resting heart rate is lower, so I’m burning fewer calories.

That might be true. Certainly my RHR is down in the 30s now. But then, in the past two days, a bunch of weight came off the scale reading. It’s possible I was retaining water while healing from the big run. Or who knows what. Weight loss is a noisy process even when doing everything “right”. Only perseverance and commitment to a goal works for me over the longer term.

But the rewards are real; expensive clothes I’d given up on are in the rotation again. I like how I look and my energy is better. I’m sleeping better. I’m feeling productive and capable as I redevelop my strength and fitness. I’m achieving goals. So why is my brain trying to sabotage me?

Just now, proud of everything I’ve done, I was taking a walk and wondering about what I’d have for lunch, and I find myself thinking, “You’re at your lowest adult weight! You can have anything you want!”. I have a habit of self-sabotage that I have to stay on top of. I constantly try to convince myself I “deserve” things that I know are bad for me. While I haven’t had those feelings about alcohol in a long while, I have them about food, or a cigar, or skipping work, or you-name-it.

And that’s precisely why “diet and exercise don’t work.” They are only effective as long as I am able to adhere to the program. Monitor my intake. Don’t “reward” myself inappropriately. It’s far easier to eat a thousand calories than to run a thousand calories. And I’m not even at my first goal yet. I have 5.5 more pounds to go before I reach the initial goal I set for myself. My plan is to reevaluate when I get there, should I keep dropping, or increase my daily caloric intake to hold steady?

Whichever I choose, my old way of approaching food is over. I am not “on a diet”. I am trying to find an overall strategy of diet and exercise that results in health and satisfaction. A good relationship with my body and my fitness. Eventually, I think, I will increase my intake by a few hundred calories a day, and on days I exercise I’ll eat a little more to compensate for the extra burn. But I will be mindful about it, not subject to guesswork and a sense of “deserving” more.

Much like sobriety required a shift in how I think about my life, or how becoming an amateur endurance athlete required a shift in how I live and train, having a healthy diet and fitness routine to maintain a healthy metabolism is something that has required a fundamental change in how I think about myself and my eating. And it will require vigilance against my own sense of entitlement.

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