Friday, May 18, 2012

" . . . weight change, up or down, takes a very, very long time"

I'm diverting briefly from The Power of Habit, but staying on the topic of habits. An article about a mathematician, Carson Chow, who works on obesity for a branch of the National Institutes of Health caught my attention. (May 15th, NYTimes) Here are the high — or low lights. A new perspective that can be a bummer or can be a relief.

• It's not true that 3500 calories less is what it takes to lose a pound of fat. The number of calories depends on many factors.
• The fatter we get, the easier it is to gain weight, the thinner, the harder.
• Huge variations in daily food intake won't cause variations in weight because weight generally averages out over a year.
• The body responds very slowly to more food — or less food; it takes a long time to gain weight and a long time to lose it.
• The mathematical model Chow and colleagues have developed, predicts that if you eat 100 calories a day fewer than you do now, in three years you will on average lose 10 pounds!

Yes, it's slightly depressing, but according to Chow, it's realistic. Maybe better than buying lots of diet cookbooks, reading all the pop psychology books about weight loss, or buying tons of magazines with the "secret" to weight loss, is the recognition that it's a slow, unexciting process, but not difficult or demanding. Maybe if you cut out 200 calories a day and stick with it , you can lose 20 popunds in 1.5 years? I'm beginning to get the drift. This is the way of changing all habits — "it takes a very, very, long time." I started in January — not losing weight, but meditating 5 days a week first thing in the morning. Five months later, I still "forget" and jump into my old habit of making coffee, feeding the cat, getting the paper, dressing, making breakfast, reading the paper. I suddenly remember that I have "forgotten" the new habit I'm trying to acquire and have returned reflexively to my previous long-time AM ritual. Now I know it'll take me 3 years to get it right, I'm actually relieved.

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