random thoughts on diets and exercise

A few weeks ago, I’d realized that I’d gained weight. Not a significant amount. Basically, my weight varies a little from day to day, but I have a 5-pound range where I tend to hover. I noticed that the 5-pound range had shifted upward by about 3 or 4 pounds.

This seems insignificant, I know, but I’ve found that it’s a hell of a lot easier to lose 3-5 pounds than it is to lose, say, 20. So, for a couple of weeks, I cut out all processed foods – restricted myself to veggies, fruit, and meat, nothing else. (Not even any dairy, except for a splash of milk in my coffee in the morning. Because even I have limits.) And I lost the weight pretty easily by doing that. I got back to my usual weight range, and I’m pretty pleased with that.

It got me thinking about diets and exercise programs, and which ones have worked for me over the years, and which ones haven’t. And I have come up with a theory about weight loss that might be complete b.s., but it makes sense to me.

I think that in order to successfully lose weight, you have to find the delicate balance between two factors:
1. A diet that works for your body.
2. A diet that works for your brain.

See, I don’t think every diet works for every person. A couple of years ago, I tried Jenny Craig. It did nothing for me except make me hungry and grumpy and feel like crap. I know some people are very successful on those types of programs, and hey, good for them! I think something about the pre-made processed food just turns my metabolism to sludge. That’s just me and my body.

The brain part is trickier, but I think it’s why I’ve had a lot of “false starts” with diets where I planned to start some new strategy, and then completely failed. Like, I had a doctor who told me to try a liquid diet for 2 weeks. I basically white-knuckled it and barely made it to day 5 before I caved. It was a mental hang-up that I had, I couldn’t cope with it.

I know some people can’t do the diet approach works for me. I know that vigilantly checking your weight every day, and dieting the minute that you start to gain does border on being a little obsessive. I get that it wouldn’t work for everybody’s personality type. And not everyone can do the whole “eliminate all processed foods” super-restricted diet that works for me.

I don’t really know what my point is here, just that you shouldn’t be discouraged if you hit a plateau or need to quit your latest weight-loss endeavor before you hit your goal. It just means you need to keep trying different approaches until you find the one that works for your body and your brain.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


While I’m on this whole diet/exercise rant, running has been my “exercise of choice” for a pretty long time now. Over a year, I guess. I started off really slow – I used the Doctor Mama approach of “run so slowly that you would be embarrassed if anyone saw you.” (I tried various interval training programs over the years, couch-to-5K type things, but this “go sloooow” approach is the only thing I’ve found that works for me and doesn’t kill my knees.)

And for a really long time, I only ran on my treadmill in my house, because I was embarrassed about how slow and awful I was at running. All the panting! The needing to stop to blow my nose or get a gulp of water! Mortifying.

And I’ve gotten a lot better. I started running outside when the weather got nice a couple of months ago, and I’m sure I’ll be back on the treadmill when it gets too hot later this summer, but right now I just run in the morning before it gets too unbearable.

I’ve gradually increased both my speed (I’m still slow compared to most runners, I average about a 5 mph pace), and the length of my runs. I’m now running close to 3 miles, 5 days a week. No lie, I’m pretty proud of that.

I like running because I can let my mind wander. It calms my anxiety, and it helps me gather my thoughts and figure myself out. Kind of a zen thing, I guess.

Today, for some reason, I started thinking about pain. On “House of Cards,” at the very beginning of the first episode (the scene with the dog, for those of you who know what I’m talking about), Frank Underwood talks about the two types of pain – how there’s the pain that makes you stronger, and there’s pain that’s useless.

And I thought about how that applies to running. See, I don’t mind it when my legs hurt while I run, because I figure they’re getting stronger. And I’m ok when my heart is pounding and my lungs feel like they’re going to explode out of my chest, because I know I’m building up my endurance.

The one thing I can’t handle? When sweat drips into my eyes. There’s no benefit there. My eyes aren’t going to get stronger because of it. It’s just stupid and it hurts. Useless pain.

So, yeah. Maybe using the treadmill in the air-conditioning isn’t such a bad idea after all.