Weight loss: suggestions and inaction

Chris’s brother had always been self-conscious about his appearance and weight. A number of years ago, he had a traumatic incident at work, which left him wounded and wanting to seek change. So he sought therapy, changed his diet abruptly, and started an intense workout regimen that resulted in him slimming down so much to the point where people didn’t even recognize him. We were all very proud of him and his journey, and it’s made me happy to see how dedicated he is to exercise and how he’s made it a daily habit.

He said he hoped, as I did, that his journey would have encouraged and even inspired his mother to do something similar, or at least, finally get to a gym and exercise regularly. His mom, for as long as I have known her, never stops talking about her weight; she’s always been extremely insecure about being “fat” and constantly complaining about how much food she eats with us. While she does go on leisurely walks, she’s never committed herself to a real workout regimen that is that rigorous. And unfortunately, Ben’s journey was not inspiration enough. So this year, Ben did research and found his mom a nearby gym that fit her general criteria, and she finally committed to going about 2-3 times per week in February. Though she’s said she can feel herself getting more tone, she has complained daily since they arrived about her weight, once again.

This morning, Chris served his parents breakfast made of foods that were leftover from previous meals that I had made, and his mom complained, saying she didn’t understand why he was feeding them so much food. “I just have to stop eating!” she exclaimed a number of times. “Eating just makes me gain weight!”

I lightly suggested to her that since she now has a gym membership, perhaps she can increase her gym sessions to meet a weight loss goal. She insisted back that exercise didn’t work for her, and she didn’t have time to go to the gym more often (I refrained from responding to that last bit, especially given she barely works part-time. And I doubt Chris heard her say this when she said it). “Exercise just doesn’t help me. I’ve been active my whole life and I lose no weight!”

“Active” her whole life… according to whom?

I didn’t want to let this go, though, without a response. As someone who has been exercising regularly her entire adult life and had an interesting journey to figure out what works and what doesn’t, I know what I am saying is correct. In general, I just don’t think her relationship with exercise is fully rooted in facts, nor does she recognize that exercise can actually be fun, as she keeps insisting she wants to “get it out of the way” first thing in the morning… which then means she misses out on classes, which she has always said she enjoys most. You can’t be that committed to something like exercise unless you enjoy it, so you can have it one way or the other: look at it as yet another “chore” and “get it out of the way,” or actually look forward to it like a class, which she claims to like. I told her that I didn’t think that her exercise was rigorous enough in that her heart rate was unlikely going up to a point where her body could burn fat properly. Heart rate matters, especially as you get older, and you need to be challenged. Rest times between exercises matter. Making sure things aren’t “too easy” matters. It is pretty much impossible for someone doing regular, rigorous exercise to see zero results.

She wasn’t thrilled with my response, as she insisted that even without the gym, she walked regularly; some people just can’t lose weight while others do very easily (well, this changes as we age. But I could tell she thinks that I lose weight just by clicking my fingers, but she has no idea how much work it actually takes every day, plus the willpower to get up so early every morning to make this a daily habit). But I pushed back and said that if walking doesn’t do anything for her from a weight loss standpoint, then it’s clear she’s not walking fast enough (power walking) to burn fat. I sent her a calculator to figure out what her heart rate has to be to be in the “fat burning” zone. I hope she takes a look at it and considers it.

She continued to say that Chris made them eat too much while here. And I suggested seriously that she go to the gym with me each morning while here if she was really that concerned about eating too much. She hesitated and said she only had leggings and no t-shirt. I suggested she borrow a t-shirt from Chris, which would be easy. And she said, “We’ll see.” I don’t want to push her, but I do want her to recognize, even a little, how impossible her attitude is towards weight and exercise.

The truth is that she can’t have it both ways: she can’t complain about all the food she’s eating, then when given the opportunity to exercise, refuse. She’s basically saying she wants to take no accountability for her actions, blame Chris and food, do no exercise, but still wants to lose weight, which makes no sense. It’s hard to have empathy when all suggestions and offers are rejected repeatedly. Everyone has to take their health into their own hands; no one is going to give you a magic pill to solve all your health woes. Eating relatively well and exercising regularly are an investment in your health, and it’s odd that so many people don’t seem to understand this.

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