Predictability is Important!

It’s cold here in Wisconsin, but it is, after all, January 8th.  This picture was taken through the window where I am now sitting and writing.  The sun is out (a mood booster!) and the view is peaceful and pretty, so . . . no complaints!  I am thinking about predictability, so stick with me while I draw a connection between the weather and physical health and weight control.

If this were June 18th and it looked like THAT outside my window, I would not be as upbeat about it.  Because this is very predictable for where I live (and, I remind myself, where I have CHOSEN to live – maybe I’m nuts!), it is easier to take when Mother Nature dumps 10 inches of snow overnight.  I’m used to it.  I wear extra layers inside and outside, and when the dogs sink to their armpits in snow (and God only knows how they take care of business while they are submerged), I see the entertainment value.

Predictability with our health and weight is similar.  No one likes it when they put on 10 pounds seemingly overnight without understanding why it happened.  If it makes sense, we may not like it, but hey, we deserved it, right?  And, more importantly, since we know why it came on in the first place, we have a clue about how to take it off.  What drives people crazy, and into crazy styles of eating, is when it just doesn’t seem to make sense.  Sometimes there is a legitimate health reason that creates a change, like the development of a thyroid issue, but usually it is just self-induced craziness that I see.

I’ll tell you what I mean.  Let’s say you assume you should eat 1200 calories a day to lose weight, because you read it somewhere or heard someone say it on TV.  Not many people would be satisfied on 1200 calories a day, so it makes sense that you would expect something back for your efforts.  If you suffer a lot, you will probably expect a lot in return!  Let’s also say that you are weighing yourself daily and trying to connect the dots between your eating and your weight.   In this case, you are predicting that the scale will be a reliable indicator of what you have eaten the day before (and how “good” you have been).  You would be really frustrated if nothing happened for several days, or, worse yet, if you GAINED weight one day, right?  Yet this is how real weight loss happens; it goes down a little, then it may go up a little, and some days there is no change at all.

The downward TREND is what’s important.  That is what you can realistically predict if you are taking in fewer calories than you burn over time.  If nothing seems to make sense, do you think you might get frustrated enough (and hungry enough!) to throw up your hands and give up, at least temporarily.  I see it happen all the time.

When people don’t know what to expect, it creates fear and doubt about what to do to meet personal goals.  Eating can, and often does, become reactionary.  In other words, “I ate a cookie yesterday, and today my weight is up, so I can never eat cookies if I want to lose weight,” or “I really have to cut back today, because my weight is up (even though I have been cautious about what I eat).”  These reactionary methods are filled with anxiety, because honestly there is a feeling that there is no rhyme or reason to the ups and downs.

A better method:  Just be consistent and reasonable about eating and exercise, and laugh at the ups and downs on the scale.  Those of us who can learn to enjoy the roller coaster ride will not react to meaningless information like daily weights and will feel much less anxious about the whole experience.  Be sure to get a good idea of what you can predict.  A metabolic test can be helpful for this purpose.  Let the New Year be a time for putting the crazy reactionary habits behind and learning to enjoy the ride.  Like everything else we experience, when we can stop trying to over-control outcomes and just get into a healthy rhythm, everything is easier.  Give it a try!

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