Open Source Weight Loss Week 9: Backtracking

When I started the Open Source Weight Loss series, I promised readers a true look at my progress (and failures) over the year. Unfortunately, this week hasn’t been one of progress but a lesson that complacency is not an option when you have a goal that needs to be reached and requires some level of determination. Needless to say, I lost my sense of motivation last week and the scale shows it.

The video below is not of myself, but someone I greatly admire from the YouTube community who has been struggling with his own weight issues for the majority of his life. His name is Boogie (stage name, obviously) and he weighs around 500 lbs. In the video, he sheds some light on how the morbidly obese (a category I fit into even in the 200s) tend to backtrack and gain weight back. In fact, statistics show that 80% of the morbidly obese who lose all of their excess weight gain it back shortly after reaching their goals.

Week 9 Report
Start — 287.4
Middle — 292.1
End — 291.2
Total Weight Lost (Full Program) — 8.4 Pounds

Addiction to Food

The addiction to food, much like a gambler’s addiction to the roulette table or a smoker’s addiction to tobacco, is a chemical response from the brain. It’s a damned tricky one at that. I know I’ve felt the influence of this particular beast. Describing the feeling you get after gorging on something you really enjoy is as difficult as describing the feeling of receiving that much-deserved pat on the back after a particularly trying week or crossing the finish line ahead of the competition. It’s a euphoria that you might not recognize for what it is, but it’s certainly present.

Extreme risk-takers have a similar addiction. An adrenaline rush from skating faster than you’ve ever skated before fades after a while and can quickly be replaced by grinding on curbs. Once you’ve done that long enough, you may move up to grinding on flat rails and then inclines. The buzz and adrenaline fades once an action becomes normal to you. Before you know it, you’re pushing yourself harder and faster than ever before.

Addiction to Exercise

Folks who exercise regularly describe a similar feeling while working out due to the endorphins that fire off during heavy activity. While it might seem strange to a lot of folks reading this particular series, people get very addicted to working out. Therein may rest the very key to healthy weight loss.

When I started doing regular walks at the beginning of OSWL, I was surprised to find that I wanted to go outside and walk in regular intervals. Before long, it became a reward for finishing an article or getting some other daily task done. Three or four walks per day were easy.

Solving the Mental Side of Weight Gain

I’ve seen so many documentaries and talked to a half-dozen doctors over the years about weight gain. My slow climb over the past 10 years from 185 to 297.8 has been a constant struggle for me. It would be easy to blame my sedentary work for my weight gain, though there are plenty of people who sit around all day with sub-par metabolism that do just fine. I could blame a lack of availability of good foods, but you and I both know that it really doesn’t cost (or take) much to eat healthy.

Bottom line: it comes down to a combination between your genetic disposition and mental position. There are some folks blessed with high metabolism who burn off as many calories as they take in, and some of them eat a great deal more than I ever have. I’m not one of those people, but that doesn’t mean I can’t look like they do by disciplining myself a little better.

As for the mental side, something is driving me to use food as a coping mechanism. Food is comfort to folks like me, and it’s something of a language that only (and I hate to be exclusionary here) we chubby folks can really understand. We know in the back of our minds that food has a calming and empowering effect on us and we use it to make other people in our company feel the same way. It isn’t that we’re lazy or greedy; it’s just how the chemicals in our brain fire off.

I have a very bad problem in tight spaces and crowds. Because I’m big, I feel as though there’s something wrong with me that would make people uncomfortable around me. For that reason, I hate going to movie theaters and concerts. I used to love going to them, but now it makes me so physically anxious that I can’t really feel comfortable in those situations. I can blab online until my face turns blue, but that same social prowess doesn’t translate to the physical world for me. I’m too busy thinking about whether or not my teeth, hair, shirt, etc. look presentable. Because I’m big, I worry about how clothes look on me almost all the time. So I turn to the one thing I can control: food.

Question of the Week

This type of social anxiety is common — very common, in fact. I’d like to challenge any reader here to share what they feel (anonymously if they prefer) is their mental barrier to a healthier lifestyle. Is it social anxiety, dealing with some issue not yet resolved, or perhaps a reason you haven’t yet identified? Can you relate to food being a comfort or shield against this feeling?

You can share your response and ask questions of your own on Together, we can help each other identify our barriers and perhaps provide some motivation to reach our weight and health goals.

How I’m Hoping to Overcome Backtracking

Today, I’m pushing to get back into that swing after two weeks sidelined by an illness brought on by dehydration. I used that illness as an excuse to relax and spend more time in front of the computer. In Texas heat, walking outdoors can really only happen at specific times of the day to avoid overheating. That’s another obstacle I need to overcome. Perhaps a gym membership is in order for me.

Either way, it’s important that you identify when these backtracks happen. If you have a food addiction — as I do — they inevitably will. Something as simple as being sidelined from a sprained ankle or stomach flu can send you back into that spiral as your brain seeks out the high you had originally replaced with exercise. For me and many others, that high is food.

I’m also going to pre-plan my meals and restrict myself to only what I’ve put aside. This means having to spend some extra time at the end of each day plotting out exactly what it is I’m going to take in the next day. While it might sound like a pain in the butt, it’s the best advice I’ve received thus far to avoid impulse eating that extra piece of bread, granola bar, or piece of candy along the way.

Perhaps through my sharing these hurdles and small achievements, you might be able to avoid falling into the traps I have. Being out of it shouldn’t mean giving up your goals or avoiding a return to your healthy lifestyle. I really could have handled the past two weeks better, but it’ll just stand as further motivation to my success throughout the next two weeks.


Week 0: Will You Join Me?
Week 1: the Rollercoaster
Week 2: the Burn
Week 3: Slow and Steady
Week 4: Always Be Training
Week 5: Hydration is Key
Week 6: Taking Breaks
Week 7-8: Five Drinks to Avoid

Measure Tape by Petr Kratochvil

6 comments On Open Source Weight Loss Week 9: Backtracking

  • Hang in there, Ryan! I feel your pain. I’ve been in plateau phase for over a month and it is wreaking havoc with my motivation. But Saturday I “competed” in both a 10K and a 5K… in the same day (mostly walking) and it was terrific! I too am trying to get back on track.

    We’ve kind of lost touch the last month, but let’s keep each other posted. You can do it. Hang in there!

  • Hey Ryan, thanks for being very transparent in these posts. While I’m not in your shoes, I do admire you for keeping on.

    Have you considered getting a fitness/health coach? Maybe you do and I missed it but to have someone helping you step by step in your journey could really push you to the next level. Some of the beachbody coaches are great (like

    Keep on truckin’!!!

  • I have an addiction to food and sugar. I’m trying to replace it with an addiction to exercise and water, but that’s easier said than done.

    I was on vacation this past week and tried so hard to exercise, eat right AND not be a burden to the family we were staying with – and failed. Everyone tried to be nice and say “You can eat this, or we can make you that,” while they ate whatever they wanted to eat. I didn’t want them to cook something special just for me, so what did I do but eat the pizza, the rice, etc. I’d start each day with a banana and occasionally go hide in my room while they all had whatever for lunch, dessert, etc. It wasn’t a vacation, it was TORTURE.
    I gained a pound back this past week. 🙁 I’m SO glad I am home now – so I don’t have to watch everyone ordering my favorite comfort foods and deserts.

    Keep up the honesty and hard work Ryan. We’re here for you.

  • Matt,
    I’ve been watching from afar. Inspired. And I was last week where you are today. Trickled off 4 lbs. over six weeks. Watching portion size, Quality of food. Leaving fried food behind. Increasing fruits and vegetables. And increasing the amount of walking that I do. Parking in the far side of the lot. Walking stairs and not taking the elevator – finding ways to increase the amount of natural exercise that I get.

    Then I stepped on the scale yesterday and I was at 8.5 lbs. I realized that something in my body had clicked. “I’m actually going to have to shed some of this weight.” I think my body said. Now I have to watch I don’t rebound. Just keep up the slow and steady loss.

    Lose It (both the app and the web version) has totally been working for me. I work a lot of funky night shifts that had become just an excuse to eat.Tracking made me realize that I was eating six meals a day instead of three. The other thing that happened was totally unexpected. The automatic posting to Facebook. It brought out a few closet friends that are on the same journey and that are now supporting each other. I hadn’t realized how important that would be to me.

    Thanks for the transparency. May the motivation stay high!

  • Looking for more than Week 9? Either I’m not looking in the right place or motivation has dropped way off. What’s happening?

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Ryan Matthew Pierson