Progress Update 6: A brief discussion of discouragement

Despite doing everything "right", this week I found myself "gaining" weight.

I knew this was inevitable, so I've found myself drafting this post in my head for when this day eventually came. There are going to be those weeks where you do everything right - maybe even more than right - and the numbers just don't seem to reflect that. Objectively, I had a great week for me, and yet, come in my weigh-in this morning, I was "up" a pound.

There are a variety of logical reasons for this. Perhaps I gained more muscle than I lost - you can somewhat measure this through body fat percentage, which my scale claims to do, but I don't really trust it. I included a couple graphs of data from it so you can see what I mean. It does generally follow my big weight trends over the years, but other than that it jumps around like crazy. You can also measure certain areas of the body, to see if there's been a physical reduction in mass. I've gone ahead and ordered cheap tools to do both, and will add those to future progress updates.

It could also just be as simple as the fact that we don't exist at a static weight, we have a weight range, and I could simply be weighing in at the high end of that range for whatever reason. We saw an example of this earlier when I "lost" 5 pounds in a week, which obviously isn't a real thing that happened. Instead, I must've weighed in at a high point of the range one week, and a low point of the range in the next. I try to reduce the chance of this by weighing in at roughly the same time and day, but it doesn't by any means guarantee consistency. Fitness and weight loss are about trends, not about single points of measurements taken during those trends, and while I objectively understand that fact, it's difficult to have patience, especially considering you have to wait a week (or longer) to see if that's actually the case or not.

Another possibility is that my calorie in and out estimates are grossly off. The systems and tools we have in place for tracking this data are incredibly primitive, which is why I always try to underestimate calorie burn and overestimate calorie consumption. Sometimes, though, even that isn't enough.

The last, and most terrifying possibility, is that what I'm doing simply isn't working anymore. The human body tends to adapt to what we throw at it, which is why we hit plateaus. This is terrifying not just because it means a change in my already-somewhat-fragile routine, but also because it could mean I'm essentially spinning my wheels for a few weeks just to figure out if it really is a long-term plateau. This likely isn't the case just yet, and it's certainly to early to assume such, but this sort of frustration and doubt is the root of the sort of discouragement that can completely undermine a weight loss routine.

People who have never really struggled with weight loss might look at my history and wonder how I could've fallen out of my routine not once, but twice. The root of it at all are when a day like this becomes a month like this, or becomes three months like this. You start to feel like you have to kick your own ass just to maintain where you are - which in turn feels fundamentally unfair as you watch people who objectively exercise far less than you holding steady at a weight that is far under yours.

Next week I'll hopefully be adding waist measurements and body fat measurements to the numbers below, so that I'll have other ways of seeing progress, and, ideally, can avoid the sort of long-term discouragement that has sabotaged me in the past.

  • Current Weight: 215 (+1)
  • Miles run: 16.3
  • Miles biked (outdoors): 24.2
  • Miles biked (indoors): 60
  • Minutes of strength training: 80
  • Minutes of meditation: 60
  • Calories in (est.): 15649
  • Calories out (est.): 19066