16 09 2008

(a cautionary tale)

I am a fat guy who just turned 60. Nine years ago I began staying at home most of the day and working on my computer. I then weighed about 200 lbs. (And that itself was very high for my height of 5′ 6″!). I got virtually no exercise. I ballooned to 300 lbs. over the next four years. Five years ago I changed to working in an office. I then gradually upped the activity level to walking outdoors thirty minutes a day a few days a week, plus whatever exercise I got dragging my bulk around the hallways of my place of employment. Result: down to 285 lbs. And every exercise walk I took was an exercise all right–in enduring pain.

It is now September 16, 2008. At the beginning of April of this year I switched to walking to/from work 3-5 days a week (Round trip distance: 1.8 miles. It’s a 50 minute walk for me). Sparing you the intervening details, I can say this: Based on the way my clothing fits, I seem to have lost some weight from the last benchmark above. And, people, ONLY NOW, AFTER OVER 5 MONTHS OF DOING THIS AM I ABLE TO DO IT EASILY AND WITHOUT PAIN!

So if all of the adjectives in the title of this note except “old” applies to you, be aware that, no, you will not always be able to “lose it easily if I want to”. Research has shown that people who are overweight as children develop an extra large number of fat cells which they will keep for a lifetime. Those cells are always in there, waiting to swell up like balloons with what, when we lived in roving and often hungry foraging bands, could be lifesaving fat. What that means for you now, unfortunately, is what you may well have learned for yourself–that your body expands and contracts much more quickly than most other peoples’ as the amount of what you habitually eat and the amount you move each day change.

What I’ve found is that the desired overall contraction gets much harder to come by when you get old! Not only does this seem to be a natural physiological characteristic of the fat-prone body (mine, at least), it also stems from the fact that high weight becomes increasingly incapacitating due to the increasing tendency of the aging body to produce pain when used. I believe that I (barring some event producing a broken foot, leg, etc.) am now on the road to escaping a truly awful feedback system that could have become permanent for me: The more weight I gained the more exercise hurt so the less of it I did so the more I expanded–and so on and so on, perhaps all the way into physical grotesquery and complete body breakdown.

It’s best to get out and move, folks.