June 30, 2009

Ask Cranky Fitness: Weight Loss Issues

This is a lopsided Ask Cranky Fitness. Ms. Crabby is off buying garlic to scare off all her overly friendly mosquitoes. (Garlic provides a lot of healthy nutrients, plus it's also good at keeping away sparkly vampires, which can't hurt.) So if you disagree with any of the answers, direct your beef towards me, Merry.

Another anomaly is that one of these questions was actually sent in by a real reader! See if you can spot which one.

Dear Cranky Fitness,

I’m not a competitive person. I like to encourage and support my friends in their weight-loss endeavors. But I’ve got an etiquette dilemma, and maybe you can help.

Last week I ate right, slept well, and worked out more than Madonna – only to have the scale tell me I’d gained a pound. During the same week, a fiendishly cunning evil nemesis pal did no exercise at all, merely cut out wheat from her diet and ate chocolate and potato chips instead. By the end of the week, she’d lost five pounds. My question is: would it be overkill to hire a hit man to take her out? If so, I’ll exercise restraint and merely egg her house. Please advise.

signed, Jealous in Jersey

Dear JJ,


Bad idea. Eggs do not contain wheat. If you really want to be mean, forget the hit man and bring on the pizza delivery man. Or go on at great length about the great new pasta place that you just found. Or... you get the idea. Of course, you could just grit your teeth and congratulate her. One of these days it's going to be your turn -- do you really want to spend an afternoon trying to scrape egg residue off your house?

- Merry

Dear Cranky Fitness,

My bff and I go to a weight loss meeting each week. It’s supposed to help me stay accountable to get weighed in public and listen to people talk about their weight loss efforts. The problem is, I don’t care about anyone else’s weight loss problems; I have enough of my own. I don’t want to alienate my friend – how can I get out of this meeting without hurting her feelings?

- signed, Selfish Friend in SF

Dear SF,

I suppose this is going to sound movie-of-the-week trite, but if she's your friend, can't you talk to her? Work it up tactfully, like "Y'know, instead of going to the meeting, let's go to the gym and work out. Lots of hot sweaty guys in the gym on Monday nights."

On the other hand, maybe going to these meetings will make you a better person. Or a better friend. If they're really helpful to your friend, you might want to keep going for awhile, see if things get better. Or buy ear plugs and spend the hour fantasizing about all the guys in the gym.

- Merry

Dear Cranky Fitness,

This is a question I often get and I find it both compelling, annoying and completely frustrating as I cannot find an answer that satisfies me: How do you not realize your pants are getting tighter, see that you've gained weight on the scale, or notice that you're expanding to the size of a blimp and not just STOP right then and there? How can you put on 20, 50, 100+ pounds without first acknowledging and handling the situation?

As someone who went from a healthy weight to morbidly obese in the span of a couple years - I feel I should have a brilliant answer. i don't.

- Annabel

Great question, Annabel!

Weight gain acts on your body like a recession on your savings account. If you sit still, inflation's going to catch up to you. Treat your body like a house with a bad mortgage and the 'balloon loan' effect will land you in an unhealthy situation. But until fatty liver or diabetes or such shows up with foreclosure papers, it's easy to ignore reality.

After the first 20, your subconscious kicks in. The average subconscious never wants to face an issue like weight gain, so the natural impulse is to distract the conscious mind with a Bright Shiny Thought or provide anodynes to dull the awareness.

If you don't like your shape, there's a tendency to wear baggy clothes anyway. Harder to face the unpalatable truth if you can find "comfortable" pants that have elastic or a drawstring rather than an unforgiving waistband that gets too tight to be comfortable. A tight waistband is a sign for the subconscious to get to work explaining the problem away.

Common rationalizations sent up from a subconscious can include:

- These pants must have shrunk in the wash.
- Must be that time of the month. (Harder to believe this if the subconscious is male or in the body of a menopausal woman, but hey, a sneaky subconscious will try anything.)
- It's not me, it's the jeans.Clothing manufacturers always mess with size labels.
- I've got too much to deal with right now. I deserve some pizza and television. I'll worry about these pants later. (Notice how the subconscious neatly blames the problem on the pants instead of the body?)

So if you've suffered from the 'balloon loan' effect, it's a sign that you have a Annoyingly Smug Subconscious. Best antidotes for an ASS dilemma are:

- Trying on swimsuits. Fluorescent lighting is a cruel but effective reality check.
- Going to a high school reunion. When you see what time and gravity have done to Suzy Cheerleader or Randy Studlington, it's harder to avoid your own reflection.
- Family reunions. Someone invariably insists on taking your photo at these things. Then they distribute the pics to everyone in the family. The odds of having a family composed 100% of people 'too polite to tell you you've gained weight' are ... well, fairly astronomical.

- Merry

Do you have any better ways to deal with sneaky weight gain, or people who attend weight loss meetings, or for that matter people who manage to lose tons of weight while eating chocolate and potato chips?


  1. P.S. I was kidding about the hit man. Honest.

  2. OK, that cracked me up. I too harbor feelings of jealousy for those who can eat whatever they want with no consequences. And I've never been one for support meetings, which is kind of ironic, because I was a licensed therapist for many years and it was part of my JOB to listen and be supportive.

    Or maybe that's why I wouldn't want to do it on my free time?

    Anyway, the nefarious Pizza Delivery idea is an excellent one!

  3. Too funny!

    Hey, I work out 3 times harder than other people to keep fit. I am short & my body type... it sucks but it is what it is AND I eat healthy too! Maybe the friend had a wheat allergy & was so bloated that once she stopped, it did not matter what she ate OR maybe she was eating a loaf of whole wheat bread a day. Oh crap, we all know some people are luckier than others at not having to work as hard.. sucks again!

    The meetings, maybe you will learn a way to handle some of your own weight issues or learn how to do something better.. if not, tell your friend the meetings are not helping but hurting you more & you rather take a walk or exercise instead.

    As for Annabel and I love her blog, I think any of us fools ourselves at some point whether it be weight or some other issue. We keep doing that until we are ready to face the ugly facts of it all & deal with it. YES, I have things non weight related that I am just not ready to deal with yet so I pretend they are not there!

    Thx for a great post!

  4. Always good to get a post from Merry to cheer me up!

  5. Great post! And with that person who does whatever they want with no consequences, it comes back to bite them later.

    We had a woman come in who was so out of shape that she could barely work the elliptical trainer for 2 minutes. And she was a size 6ish.

    A couple of women were thrilled to see her struggle, but mostly I just felt glad I'm working on not being that woman by starting early.

  6. Hilarious! And all with a grain of truth in there. I've never really liked support groups either - I'm too much of a hypochondriac and they just give me more things to worry about!

  7. I needed the giggle today! Thanks!

  8. Thanks for the great post, Merry!

    Made my day start with a smile :)

  9. No words of wisdom, but being married to a 27-year-old man, I can so relate to the first one. He's already fit despite not doing a lot of exercise, and all he has to do to lose weight is cut his Mt. Dew consumption to 1 liter per day instead of 2. Where's the justice in that???

  10. I'm going with the metabolism defense. As the middle child with two annoying slender siblings all during childhood, I thought I was doomed to always be the one in the family who "let herself go". They would inhale Twinkies and Ring Dings and gain nothing whereas a mere whiff of these nuclear-war resistant snacks would pack on an easy 5 pounds to me.

    However, there are some bonuses about turning 50, like waning metabolisms - and not just mine but theirs too! Yay, let's hear it for fair fat! Why, I might very well be "the skinny one" (relatively speaking) at my father's upcoming 80th birthday next week.

  11. Loved this! I adore getting my daily dose of cranky fitness.

    Merry I'd take your advice any day. Especially regarding the hit man ;)

    Also this: "As someone who went from a healthy weight to morbidly obese in the span of a couple years - I feel I should have a brilliant answer. i don't." is really profound.

  12. I love the hit man comment. Too cute. :)

  13. Man, I TOTALLY relate to Annabel. I think my ASS (hee!) generally defaults to the last tactic, though:
    - I've got too much to deal with right now. I deserve some pizza and television. I'll worry about these pants later. (Notice how the subconscious neatly blames the problem on the pants instead of the body?)
    Man, I do that ALL THE TIME. I'm working on it, but it's freakin' hard to break that mindset.

    Also, if you decide on a hit man, be sure and open a bank account in Switzerland or the Bahamas and route the money through there. They'll NEVER find you that way! Mwahahahahaa!!! (Um. Except that now it's on the internet. So you might be screwed, after all. Oops.)

  14. All I know is that Jealous in Jersey sounds so familiar....hmm...where did I hear soemthing like this? Any ideas Merry? :-)

  15. For some reason, this is reminding me of the meetings we had to go to after 9/11 to "process" what had happened, and we SO DID NOT WANT TO DO THAT. It was the dumbest stuff I've ever seen. No doubt very well-intentioned. Group meetings are not for everyone.

    And I am so chagrined. Last week I went to my annual checkup and found that I was doing so well maintaining the weight I got to after my Fatbet that I totally and smugly SLACKED OFF, and even went and bought some extra creamy Breyer's vanilla and have been eating it every day, and now I feel fat a week later. I bet I've put it all back on. So the lesson is, I guess, don't get smug.

    Anybody want to do a FatBet?

  16. Patty, any resemblance between me and Jealous in Jersey are merely... um, coincidental. Mostly ;)

  17. LOL.

    I see beautiful people everywhere and it just encourages me more to work hard at myself!

  18. I used to attend group weight loss meetings, until I realized they were acting as a trigger. I's get so freakin' depressed at the meetings that I'd come home and binge.
    And I, too, work out like a maniac 6 days a week, prepare and eat healthy food, and I STILL gained 30 pounds in the past 4 years! My husband works out once a week, eats ice cream every night and is thin and buff.
    (I suppose I could be jealous, but he's so nice to look at, lol!)

  19. Muscle weighs more than fat and you may be just hitting a wall. Keep working out and you to will have weeks where you do little and lose weight not knowing how.

    Also, maybe she is fronting. Really working harder behind the scenes but making it seem like she isn't.

  20. Too funny! Thanks for a laugh to start my day Merry.

  21. Oh dear. This post makes me Consider The Facts, in order to come to A Sensible Conclusion. I just hate it when that happens. But one must do what one must do:

    1) Merry is my friend and she loves me
    2) I gave up wheat last week as a sort of experiment, because I had "digestive issues"
    3) To compensate for this horribly devastating loss, I went waaay overboard with crap foods I haven't eaten in YEARS. Plus the usual chocolate
    4) I was totally completely effing shocked to get on the scale after a week and see I had LOST WEIGHT
    5) or maybe 6) I, of course, shared this amazing news with My Good Friend Merry
    7) Never mind that, taken as a percentage of the whole, those five pounds were almost negligible

    Conclusion: Merry did not, in fact, write a blog post suggesting people should send hit men to my house with eggs as weapons of mass obliteration (see #1 above).

    This week, I'm adding Cautious Use Of Treadmill to the mix. Have plans in place to torment Merry further next week. What are friends for, after all?

  22. You all noticed that, didn't you? Nowhere in that list of facts was it stated exactly what "in fact" she planned to use the treadmill for. She only stated that its use was going to be cautious.
    If I get injured next week in a freak treadmill accident, you guys will all back me up in front of the judge, right?

  23. Just FYI: I take 2 capsules of garlic oil each night, which does help drive off mosquitoes. They no likey!!! Vee at http://www.veegettinghealthy.blogspot.com

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