Monday, 2 January 2017

Post 39: The Downsides of Weight Loss

Hi guys,

2016 has been and gone, and brought with it 36 glorious episodes of Cowlean! Global affairs aside, I’m 100% sure that 2016 was one of the most enjoyable years of your life, and that I am the main benefactor to your pleasure.

Looking forward to 2017, I’ve got some big plans which I’ll be revealing throughout the year as my efforts come to fruition, as well as the constant supply of Cowlean-y goodness each week. I’ve already got some post ideas worked out, but if there’s anything in particular you’d like to know about, I’d love to hear.

As to the topic of this week, I was considering expanding on the section on setting New Year’s resolutions but figured that last week’s post (found here) gave enough info for you to work it out yourself. I decided that speaking on the downsides of weight loss was a much more self-indulgent topic, and since it’s my blog and I make the rules...

Downsides to Weight Loss

We can all think of the many upsides of losing weight: having more vitality, living longer, and looking better, but what about the flipside? There is no free lunch, and weight loss is no exception. If you thought that it was going to be all meadows, rainbows, and rippling abs, then you were two-thirds incorrect.

Today I want to talk about the downsides which you might not have considered before, and delve deep into the dark side of this endeavour. Rather than discuss how it’s hard to avoid crappy food, I want to talk about societal and personality related changes that you could expect from weight loss. How does losing weight change how you are perceived and how you perceive the world?

Before we begin, I must also note that I’m referring to steady and sustainable weight loss, not yo-yo or crash diets. If we were, then there would need to be a little about the problems of rapid weight loss such as muscle loss. I also need to provide this disclaimer:

Disclaimer: this article is not to be taken as fodder for inaction. I’ve written about the top dieting excuses here (link), and excuses are exactly that. What is written here are merely precautions which will prepare you to reconcile your new life with your old one.

Social Downsides

These are the downsides which I’ve witnessed first hand and come from my own story. I’ve categorised them as either social, or personality, although there is an enormous endogeneity issue. One side affects the other, which then affects the original. Social downsides roughly relate to how you are perceived by the world around you.

I heard once that it takes three weeks of results for you to notice a visual difference, six weeks for your family to notice, and nine weeks for your friends and colleagues to notice.

As time rolls on, you’ll stack the results higher and higher, until people will be taken aback by what you’ve achieved. You’ve been able to do this by radically changing your mindset, and taking action. Eventually you’ll be known by your friends as the “healthy guy/gal” but until then there will be a disconnect in what people expect of you, and your actions (we should also draw attention to the fact that people will label and define you as health focused over everything else).

During this induction phase, people including your close friends and family will start to prod you and test your willpower. They’ll question why you do certain things, therefore it is important to understand why from a motivational and scientific point of view. The issue is that it is very easy to become “preachy”, and I was horrifically (and still am?...) guilty of this.

Remember that if people were already on your page then they would have made an effort to change. If you’re preaching to them, you’re wasting your time: it’s highly unlikely they haven’t heard and experienced such broad terms as paleo and low carb before. In fact, it will work against you, as the people prodding your position will backwards rationalise their own actions. Better yet, they’ll stick their head in the sand and refuse to acknowledge your arguments: as far as their logic is concerned, you must be a genetic freak and/or absolutely insane. Your efforts to convert, however good natured, will backfire.

The heart of this evil, however, lies in the motivation which drives their questioning: because deep down they want you to fail.

It doesn’t matter if it’s your brother, sister, sweet ol’ grandmother, or your best friend, they will secretly despise the fact that someone else might succeed where they have failed.

They hate the fact that the social order will change, and their previously fat friend will no longer give them the relative validation they’ve enjoyed thus far. It’s a bitter pill to swallow but an undeniable truth. Once armed with this knowledge, you’ll begin to notice the subtle ways that people try to derail you.

Personality Downsides

The changes I witness and warn against below are the changes which affect how you perceive the world.

There are many possible positive changes for your personality from weight loss. Eating clean will clear your brain fog and actually make you smarter, you’ll have more energy, and you’ll gain a quicker mind. This contributes towards you being a much more enjoyable person to be around. Having been successful, you’ll also have better sleep, giving you more time to pursue your ambitions and the reference points to motivate you.

This is the spillover effect of taking “right action”: you receive positive reference points from losing weight leading you to pursue excellence elsewhere.

This comes at a price, though, which I’ll illustrate through a personal story.

I grew up as a very healthy child, developing an appetite for all varieties of whole foods including copious vegetables. However, I felt jealous of other kids when they ate crisps, sweets, and junk food. Then, when I got my first after-school job, I suddenly found myself with more cash than a 13 year old boy would know what to do with combine with an unhealthy desire for crappy food.

I was led down a path of indulgence which only reversed eight years later. Although even now, I still have the nascent urge to binge, and it’s not even the pleasure of taste which drives me. If it was, I could eat a delicious grass-fed steak or go to a fancy restaurant. Instead, it’s the perverse pleasure of unleashing an inner glutton and doing something that I “shouldn’t”.

What I’m getting at here, is that when you starve someone of something, and then give them unlimited access to it, they will often swing back the other way and overreact. They don’t reset to “normal”, they reset to “fanatical”.

This works in two ways. Firstly, when losing weight you’re going to look better, and you will receive higher validation from others. This leads to entitlement and arrogance. If you become dependent on this validation: a vacuous personality ensues.

This can depress a lot of people. The simple truth is that attractive people are more successful and tend to earn more. They are seen as having higher “value”. To understand that we work on such a superficial level can be depressing (although really it shouldn’t be a surprise).

Secondly, society is rewarding you with validation for weight loss, and this heady drug makes weight loss and health your obsession. You feel like you should always be eating clean, and this will negatively affect your friendships and relationships.

To some extent, some ties need to be cut, and the relationships in your life will rotate. If your old friends won’t support you in your new state, they don’t deserve your friendship.

But often times you just need to get past that induction phase, to a point where what you’re doing meets their expectations of you as the “healthy guy”. The best outcome/course of action, in my opinion, is to maintain your old relationships, but also look at building new ones. Making new friends who think the same way as you is vital for your happiness because a) they help you keep up to date with new technologies and methods, and b) it feels good to be agreed with sometimes!


Okay, I admit that the above did not fit into neat categories as much as I would have hoped: the interplay between the concepts are too strong. Here’s this week’s takeaways (or perhaps that should be words of warning…):

  1. Don’t become “preachy”; be prepared to defend your position but be efficient in your answers. Don’t prepare high and mighty lectures to strike down your uninitiated and foolish friends.
  2. Be aware of how people may be helping or hindering your progress. Should you reduce the time with some people and increase the time with others?
  3. Take your newfound validation with a pinch of salt; think about how quickly it appeared and how it could be removed just as easily. Focus on staying a well rounded and enjoyable person.

That’s all from this “dark-side” post. I hope you enjoyed it and found it as insightful as ever. Welcome to 2017!

Until next time,


No comments:

Post a Comment