Why Am I Fat? Various Approaches to Understanding My Body.
I've got to be honest with you. I'm a pretty big guy. And by 'pretty big guy' I mean that I'm fat. I'm not super fat, just plain fat. I wouldn't qualify to be on The Biggest Loser, but your grandma would describe me as "husky". You know, big enough that I can feel it walking up the stairs. I have been for a while actually. When you have been fat for as long as I have (almost a decade now) you get to be really good at it. My baseball coach in high school told me once to practice my swing until it became like second nature: you didn't think about it any more, you just did it. That's kind of the way I am with food, sometimes I just find a cookie in my hand and I don't even know where I got it. But it sure tastes good. I have had moderate success with dieting and healthy eating plans. I've done Nutrisystem, The South Beach Diet, P90X, The Biggest Loser Healthy Eating Plan, Bowflex, Nordic Trac, gym memberships, and even yoga. But I always seem to end up right back where I am now: six feet tall and 275 pounds of bliss. Except that it isn't 'bliss', it is a little more frustrating than that. So that's where the inspiration for this article came from. I'm going to jump into my own psyche and see if I can root around for some reasons as to why I'm fat. Maybe that way I can conquer the source this time and get rid of this excess weight forever.
The Scientific Approach
The first way to tackle the question of 'why am I fat?' is to look at it from a purely scientific and numbers perspective. That is to say that I consume more calories during the day than I burn from (lack of) activity. My body then takes those extra calories and turns them into fat and chooses to place that fat in areas where it will be most inconvenient (Have you ever tried to tie your shoes with a big belly? Yeah, not as easy as it looks). The more calories I consume, the more my body is conditioned to be supplied with excess. My body uses this 'conditioning of excess' to make me absolutely miserable when I deprive it of the calories it is used to by eating things like vegetables. Headaches, intense cravings, moodiness, lethargy, and a burning desire to hold up a Krispy Kreme store are soon to follow as my body protests my soiree into a 'healthy eating plan'. Essentially it is a deepening spiral of misery as I feed my body foods that are bad for it and it therefore demands more of that bad food.
The Scientific Solution
The dieting gods state that if your daily intake of calories (the cheeseburger you had for lunch) is less than amount of calories you burn during the day (the energy it takes walking around looking for the cheeseburger you had for lunch) then you will burn off your extra calories (the ring around your middle that developed because you eat cheeseburgers for lunch). This is obviously oversimplified here, but essentially that is how the equation works: calories in minus calories out equals gaining or losing weight. Science also says that while the 'detoxifying' process is difficult, over time (4-8 weeks or so) the more you feed your body healthy foods the more it will crave oatmeal and fruit instead of a milkshake and tater tots for breakfast.
The Drill Sergeant Approach
You are fat because you are lazy and you eat like the food is trying to escape.
The Drill Sergeant Solution
Get off the damn couch and do some push-ups. Then go running until you throw up. Stop crying. If you need to feel sorry for something feel sorry for the couch that has to hold up your fat ass.
The Psychological Approach
I crave food when I am happy. I crave food when I am sad. I crave food when I'm stressed or when I just want to relax. I find ways to crave food for everything in between, like celebrating waking up on time or making it through the light before it turned red. Basically I crave food when I'm awake. Food plays a role in my life that is, pun intended, quite unhealthy. I use food to make myself feel better when I'm down AND I use food to celebrate feeling good. This is an unsustainable cycle. I need a hug.
The Psychological Solution
I need to find something else to supplant the role food has in my life. Identifying what need food is fulfilling is critical to this solution. I need to recognize that I use the good feelings I get when I eat as a crutch to get me through the day, week, or month. I need to find other rewards to focus on when things are going well and I definitely need to find something else to pick me up when I'm feeling down (exercise anyone?). I feel like it might be important to understand why I associate food with my feelings, but more importantly, I believe, is simply knowing that I do so. In the moment, when I feel the craving, I need to remember to check my emotional state and make sure I'm not just overreacting. Oh, and sometimes an eclair is just an eclair, Mr. Freud.
The Trainer/Life Coach Approach
The 'why' behind being fat is a big deal, but it isn't the most important piece. The most important piece is what you're doing right now to change your life. What are your goals? Dreams? Aspirations? Why do you want to be thinner? Why is that important to you? You need to ask yourself why you aren't focused on those ideas. Why is being fat and eating the same bad foods and falling into the same rut week in and week out more important than achieving your dreams? Don't you want to look amazing in spandex?
The Trainer/Life Coach Solution
Identify those goals you have. Write them down and read them every day. Share them with your family and friends to create an accountability network. Pick yourself up when you fail and get back to it. Don't give up. Every morning you wake up you have a choice, and that choice is followed by another, and another, and another. Start right now by making the right choice. Choose to be the person you want to be. Now. No, we can't celebrate this new direction with lattes. How about a smoothie?
The Realistic Approach
The reality is that I am fat for all of the reasons listed above. I do eat too many calories, I am lazy on some days, I do have an attachment to food that goes well beyond eating for sustenance, and yes, being fat is holding me back from achieving my goals and dreams. Depending on the day I cycle through moments of all of the above reasons for being fat. So what am I going to do about it (besides not celebrate writing this with a donut)?
The Realistic Solution
Some days I need a swift kick in the pants, some days a motivator and coach, and somedays I probably need a shrink. And ultimately it does come down to the science of it all and whether I am willing to eat less and move more. The more I explore these options and pay better attention to what my brain and body are trying to tell me, the better chance I will have of taking my dog for a walk instead of making nachos and taking a nap. Is this a comprehensive list? No, this is more personal and how I see it for myself. Maybe you can relate, or maybe you think I'm an idiot (both may be true). Whatever the case, I wish you the best of luck in your journey. Remember that its not a sprint, it's a marathon (which I realize coming from me is a slightly ironic metaphor) and feel free to insert any kitschy motivational phrase here you would like. Hopefully I'll someday be able to write an article about all the success I've had becoming a skinny, rich, motivational speaker!
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