Two and a half years ago, I wrote my only post directly discussing my fitness and weight loss journey, focusing most of it on the nutrition side. For the last two years on and off, I drafted multiple sequels, none of which I saw fit to publish and most of them still sit in the draft box partially completed. What got my attention as I was going through them: the volume of work, the number of subject matters covered, and the way some of my views have evolved over the last four years, as well as topics that I wouldn’t have thought relevant that are quite relevant to my experiences.
With the amount of subjects available, not including the reader-suggested topics which I’m also happy to address, I thought I would make an ongoing series here at Ordinary Times. I’m not sure what to call it. I’ve kicked around a few titles. Misadventures in Exercise is the Facebook group I run, but the series will cover much more. Titles like the Outlier Chronicles and the Exception to the Rule are appropriate given my story given that I’m one of a small percentage of people that have lost weight and kept it off long-term. Part of the reason for that was transitioning from a sedentary lifestyle to a very active lifestyle as, for lack of a term, an amateur non-competitive bodybuilder (meaning I train in the style but won’t compete). I’d say that’s one of the main reasons I don’t call myself a weight loss success story since I made a significant lifestyle change and modified things accordingly. I can address these topics in future installments, but I’m trying to keep this introduction as high-level as I can.
Why am I getting into this?
About a year ago, I was approached and complimented by a younger guy. He was a semi-regular and I’d see him from time to time but I didn’t know him all that well. He said that looking at me and seeing me train the way I do makes him want to train harder and more regularly. It was a kind thing to say and I thanked him for the compliment with some words of encouragement. In my mind, I downplayed it. This lifestyle has been about me and something I do for myself. I’ve never seen myself as an influence, an inspiration or anything that anyone should look up to.
One of our regular contributors who shall remain nameless corrected me on that point, and he was probably right. I made the mistake of seeing myself as being alone in this journey because I train alone, started alone and don’t spend a lot of time discussing this with other people. However, I had support at key points to allow for the self-sufficiency I have, some of which has brought to me to this point. I know where to get support. I know what kind of support I need and when I need it. Support matters, and if there’s one example that’s relevant to this discussion, in one of the key studies demonstrating long-term weight loss success, the Look Ahead study (hat tip Yoni Freedhoff), the support interventions played a key role in maintaining long-term weight loss maintenance for periods up to five years.
I’m not in the business of telling people what to do or how to do it. When it comes to health, fitness, weight, etc., it’s your body and your business, and as the poster child for body neutrality, I don’t care about body shapes or sizes. However, if I can help people with their goals or help them come to decisions about these topics, I’m happy to help.
I hear about and read about people in the same situation I was in a few years ago. Changes in lifestyle, habits, family situation, job situation, etc. etc. led to a situation where activity levels declined and food choices became less of a priority, the result of which is people becoming fatter. Whether by necessity or by choice, whether for health reasons or just because people want to change, they may want to lose weight, get more active, perhaps pursue a fitness lifestyle or all of the above. These are people that are trying to look and feel better. It’s what I see more of every day (1).
I followed a unique path which has led me to where I am. I’m not going to go into the gory details here, but I made certain lifestyle changes that morphed into other changes which led me down a path that I think few people follow. I went from sedentary lifestyle and shitty diet to a very active lifestyle and a careful approach to nutrition. Perhaps without my knowledge or understanding, it differentiates me.
Still, I see a world where:
— People want it all and want it now. Weight loss and fitness need to be achieved in the shortest time possible, hence the popularity of fad diets, crash diets, high intensity exercise for novices and anything else that produces maximum results in minimal time.
— Information is overabundant and conflicting. That’s probably nothing new but with the internet and social media, it makes the problem that much worse. This applies to almost every subject.
— Expectations are completely out of whack. I can’t provide a link but I recall reading somewhere that a study or survey found that most people considered weight loss of 17% of body weight as disappointing or unsuccessful (success was almost double that amount). By comparison, weight loss success in the scientific literature is between 5% and 10% of starting body weight.
— The public narrative on diet and exercise is beyond fished up. The narrative has never been fair because of the way our society has moralized weight, health, nutrition, etc. It used to be that if you failed on a diet, you were a weak, lazy, fat glutton (sadly, it’s still the case in many circles). The public narrative is pushing back against this, but my fear is that it’s going too far the other way. Where it used to be that hard work, discipline, and motivation can make things work for everyone, we’re going towards nothing works so don’t even try. In a world where obesity is one of the most significant public health issues of our time, I find this unacceptable.
— As I’m a bit of a meathead, I’m not sure if I am describing my last catch all point accurately but I’ll try. When it comes to weight, health, fitness, etc., there are multiple aspects that are on a collision course with one another. There are aspects related to:
- The individual (physical and psychological health).
- The culture (i.e. weight stigma, beauty standards, morality)
- The environment (obesigenic food environment, technology, sedentary lifestyles)
- Economics (how wealth or lack thereof play into this)
- Public health as it relates to the increase in obesity rates, especially among children
- Social justice (fat acceptance, body positivity and the battles against diet culture, unrealistic beauty standards, etc.)
Some of these points affect people more than others but over the past year or so, I’ve seen a lot of intersection between these different points of contact. I’ve become fascinated with some of these interactions and hope to shed light on them as I work through this series. Hopefully, this interests people, because there’s a lot more subject material to cover than diet, health or fitness tips. There are touch points that go directly into the fabric of what this site is about.
Before I take the deep dive into the series, I want to make a few things perfectly clear from the onset. Once you start reading the installments, hopefully you’ll understand why I’m doing this ahead of time.
First, since this series will address subjects related to bodies, weight, health, etc., I need to make it perfectly clear that people’s weights, health, fitness levels, etc. are neither my business nor moral obligations. I don’t care what people do so no one is getting judged for that. To borrow a term being kicked around in certain social justice circles, I am the poster child for body neutrality. Seriously. I couldn’t care less how fat or thin or anything else you are. I’ll probably have to link to this post so I don’t have to write a 1,000 word disclaimer every time I dive deep into controversy.
Being as I don’t give a shit about bodies, I have the luxury of being able to speak of responsibility without any kind of connection to morality. For example, over the course of several years, I gained weight. It was my fault. I take all the responsibility for it, yet at no point did I feel ashamed of myself or morally inferior. Crudely put, I was in a caloric surplus for an extended period of time. This is not a moral judgment but rather a cold fact. Nothing more.
That is how I carry myself and will address these topics: opinionated, yet judgment free.
If anyone has suggestions for topics, fire away in the comments section below.
(1) Make no mistake, given my fitness pursuits and the kind of training I enjoy, I’m well aware of diet culture and hope to address it at some point.
Old image used.