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Weight for it

I have come to realize that maintaining weight is the easiest thing to do, as far as weight is concerned.  To gain weight or to lose weight is more difficult.  There is one mathematical/biological reason for this.  The more your body weighs, the higher your basal metabolic rate is.  That is, the number of calories your body needs simply to live (not counting any movement that you actually do throughout the day) increases as you grow bigger and decreases as you grow smaller.  Thus, the number of calories needed to maintain weight correlates positively with body weight.

How does this phenomenon affect weight change and goals of weight change?  Well, it makes it difficult to gain weight.  Why?  Because as you gain weight, you need to eat more calories to gain more weight.  Right now, to maintain my current weight, I need to eat roughly 2,500 calories.  When I was 285 pounds, I needed to eat roughly 3,000 calories.  So, if I'm trying to gain weight--say I want to get to 300 pounds--right now I can gain weight by eating 3,000 calories per day, but once I gain 30 pounds or so, I will need to increase my daily intake of food in order to continue gaining weight.  I'll eventually need to eat 3,500 or 4,000 or more.  The bigger I get, the more I need to eat to keep growing.

Everyone is different.  We all have different genes that dictate how our bodies act to food and fat storage.  Even where we store the fat and what shape the fat takes differs from person to person.  For some people, it is impossible to get fat.  For other people, it is impossible not to be fat.  But, here I'm just speaking in general terms, not to any specific person or eir biological nature.  For me personally, I found it very difficult to get past 280 pounds.  I simply couldn't eat enough food to get any bigger.  I would stuff myself until I couldn't eat any more and still wouldn't be able to get in the needed number of calories to grow.  As soon as I stopped stuffing myself and just ate as much food as I felt like eating, I dropped 20 pounds very rapidly without even trying.

Now I'm trying to lose weight.  When I was 285, this was very easy.  As I just said, all I had to do was just eat as much food as my body asked for and no more.  I dropped to 260 without effort, to 240 with a little bit of conscious effort and some exercise.  Since then, I've taken nearly a year to drop another 30 pounds and that's with diet control and exercise combined.  Why has it been so difficult to lose weight?  Well, perhaps one reason is that I've gained muscle mass, which isn't a bad thing at all, so I'm not discouraged by that prospect.  But, for the sake of the argument, I'll just talk about body fat weight, not total body weight.  I still have an above-normal amount of body fat.

Why has it been more difficult to lose weight?  Because before if I ate 2500 calories per day, I would lose 1 pound of fat per week.  If I eat that much now I maintain body weight.  I need to aim for 2000 or 2200 calories in order to lose weight--or make up for the extra calories I eat through exercise.

It's the same phenomenon that I was fighting against before, it's just working the other way.  An analogy is the concept of inertia.  Bodies at rest stay at rest.  Bodies in motion stay in motion.  This is how it feels when I try to change my body weight.  There's resistance to move either way--bigger or smaller.  Of course there are other factors involved as well, but this one thing is something that oddly works both ways.  It is easy to maintain weight, but difficult to gain or lose.  Active effort must be put in to change weight.

"But I gained 50 pounds over the last 10 years and I wasn't trying to get fat."  Yes.  There are other factors involved.  For example, it's likely that your metabolism slowed down during that time.  In some people's cases it's also a matter of physical activity.  A person who was athletic in high school or college may find emself less active later in life and growing because of that change. But, virtually everyone reaches a certain weight and basically stops growing.  Even when no effort is made to control the weight, it simply stays controlled.

From my own personal experience, gaining weight is hard but losing weight is harder.  Losing weight is discouraging.  I look at my belly and see it still there, even after losing 75 pounds and it's hard not to be discouraged.  I can easily imagine why many people do get discouraged and give up on their weight loss goals.  It seems as though the goal will never be achieved.  It seems as though no progress has been made because the progress is so slow.  This is why I've taken pictures and measurements, so I can have a qualitative and quantitative measurement of how my progress has gone.  I've gone from a 48" belly to a 36" belly.

One thing that I know makes it easier for someone to achieve eir weight goals (or any goal, really) is socialization.  Even just being accountable to someone, but more so working toward a similar goal with a friend.  Gym buddies are great for encouraging each other to work out and tracking each others' fitness goals.  When I was gaining weight, the more people I had encouraging me to gain weight the easier it was to gain.  Now that I'm losing weight, the more people I have encouraging me to lose weight the easier it is to lose.  Encouragement is very powerful.

I think that a healthy outlook on body image also helps.  I think that the culture of fat shaming that we have or the counter culture of fat pride that we have might sometimes lead to unhealthy self-image or other-image.  The pressure from society and media to look like a gym fitness model is strong indeed.  The emphasis on body weight is also unhealthy.  Personally, I feel like there is no single body shape, composition, appearance, or weight that is ideal for everyone.  Some people look good fat.  Some people look good thin.  Some people may look good fat but have many obesity-related health complications.  Some people may look good thin but feel dissatisfied or have health issues with being underweight.  It's a very personal thing and people should feel free to choose their own goals for their own bodies--or even no goal at all.  Factors that I feel are important are health and self-confidence.

I think it's invalid to equate "getting healthy" with "losing weight" and "being unhealthy" with "gaining weight".  Some people may need to gain weight in order to be healthier, and some people may become unhealthy by losing weight.  But health isn't an end-all-be-all.  It may be that some people value other things more than health.  Smoking has been shown to cause lung cancer.  People who smoke value the effects of nicotine more than their health.  They should be allowed to make this judgment call.  Similarly, people who put their health at risk by maintaining a certain diet/lifestyle should be allowed to make that judgment call.  Health isn't the only factor involved in decisions that people make about their bodies.  In my opinion, it's an important one, but it doesn't have to be important to everyone.  And it certainly doesn't have to override every other factor that could be considered.

One last thought, about losing weight.  Another reason that I think it's more difficult to lose weight than to gain it is exercise.  It takes a lot more time and patience to build muscle than to build fat.  To gain a pound of fat all you need to do is eat an excess of 3500 calories.  To gain a pound of muscle, you need to eat an excess of calories but also work your muscles so they will increase in mass from being stressed.  You can gain a pound of fat very rapidly--even in a day or two.  But a pound of muscle takes much longer to gain.  And, yes, you can lose weight without gaining muscle.  I don't recommend it, but it is possible.  It's also more difficult.  Muscle is more difficult to maintain than fat or some other tissues.  It requires more calories to upkeep, so having more muscle mass increases your basal metabolic rate.  That is, a 200 pound person with 15% body fat will burn more calories sitting around doing nothing than a 200 pound person with 30% body fat.  So building muscle helps burn fat in this way.  Of course, if the goal is to simply lose weight rather than body fat, then gaining muscle will further hinder the effort because the weight of the muscle gained must be offset by greater weight of fat lost.  So, in that way gaining muscle inhibits losing weight.

At any rate, by BMI, the normal range for someone my height is between 180 and 210 pounds.  I am currently in that range, and I intend to stay in that range.  My personal goal is to be around 190-200 pounds with roughly 10-12% body fat.  There are two main components of my motivation for this goal--health and appearance.  I want to be fit, to be physically capable of running and moving without being short of breath.  I want to reduce my risk of heart disease or other health complications.  (And I have.  When I was fatter, my blood pressure was often over 150 and now it's almost always under 120.)  I want to be able to bend down and touch my toes without bending my knees.  I also want to return to the slenderer look I had a few years ago.  I want to wear a tuxedo for my wedding and have a thin waist with a tight cummerbund.

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