Wouldn’t it be nice to press a few buttons and simply transform into the desired weight you inputted? Nearly all of us have trouble gaining, losing, and maintaining weight—the latter two being my main focus. Everything we ingest comes at a price; that is, nothing slips by the bodily systems without instant inspection. Calories, which are measurements of energy, are calibrated meticulously throughout the anatomy. Any food you consume gets tallied up and is weighed against the calories you’ve expended, the results being how you appear in reality, in this dimension at least. Shedding pounds is a perennial battle against your own psyche, but you decide who comes out victorious. Nevertheless, we are constrained by the boundaries of our allotted willpower, physique, and metabolism—all of which we had no hand in creating. There are no free lunches in nature, and the old adage is correct:“You are what you eat.” All of the training you did before a holiday can fall by the wayside by a weekend of binge eating and drinking. Let me explain why all of this is unfair…
Think about spending a tiresome 30 minutes on the treadmill. The treadmill exhausts (for a person weighing 200 pounds), depending on your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and body mass index (BMI), about 350 to 550 calories—let’s just say 450 for a point of comparison. Now, what is the equivalent in food and drink, you ask? Guzzling four Budweisers (12. oz., 143 cals.) would earn you more calories than the 450 you just arduously burned off. Any more than three crunchy tacos from Taco Bell (170 cals.) will have you regretting your decision immediately. Even a 12″ low-fat turkey breast sub on wheat bread from Subway catapults you to 560 calories. Six traditional medium wings (not including blue cheese) from Buffalo Wild Wings costs you 470 calories, which is absurd considering I’ve had over 35 in a sitting. Last but not least, the coveted Caesar salad is, on average, a whopping 500 calories. All of these are much larger than the exercise time of 30 minutes without factoring in the concomitant metabolic increase you’re subsequently faced with. A pound is equivalent to 3,500 calories, and you tell me what’s easier: eating 3,500 calories or burning 3,500 calories? The answer is a no-brainer; the former takes one tenth of the time, with 50 more smiles.
Mentally, it is unrewarding, unnerving, and unfair when looking at it from this standpoint. We seem to be in the thrall of our willpower, also. I recently read a book titled You Are Now Less Dumb by David McRaney, and he expounded on the idea of “ego depletion.” Ego depletion is the exhaustible resource that is directly associated with willpower. For example, if you remain in abstaining from bad foods one day, you’ll be more inclined to falter the following day because that resource has been depleted. But willpower is similar to a muscle, in that it can be expanded through training. The next time you decide to eat healthy, notice how hard it is the following day to eat as nutritiously. Those who’ve honed this ability tend to be better at controlling their weight. Remarkably, Hollywood actor Christian Bale lost 62 pounds for his role in the film The Machinist, with a noxious diet consisting of black coffee and a can of tuna OR an apple every day. Although he’s incentivized by money and perfection, I’m sure his willpower is stronger than most of ours. Resisting that nagging urge to consume unhealthy food and managing the hunger pangs will pay huge dividends. Temptations interfere with our sense of self-control, only to lead us down the route to regret.
Eating is a cinch; it’s a couple chews away from a swallow. This is the easiest, most rewarding task we face every day. Most people undertake the “sunk cost fallacy” when they’re in the midst of a meal, meaning that since they paid the money for something that’s either too low in quality or high in quantity, they must finish it because they paid for it. The cost of the meal is a sunk cost—you won’t get that back, so eat until you’re satisfied, not until you’re full (or have gotten every dollar’s worth). If eating consisted of getting an electric shock per chew or you somehow had to run a government-mandated mile afterwards then I’m sure we’d all be in better shape. Obesity is plaguing our nation, and I think many people are just cowering from the intimidation of putting in the necessary work to lose the calories. Yes, it’s absolutely unfair how hard it is to get in shape versus how easy it is get out of a shape, but it takes time and consistent work—a lifestyle change. Overnight weight loss is illusory; focus on a realistic, long-term goal that will gradually bring you to your desired destination. Diet and exercise are the fundamentals of a healthy way of life. We must recognize this or continually be at war with ourselves.