The Easy Part of Weight Loss
In the European world of my ancestors, there was a living belief in magic. You can see this influence in the wonderful stories of the Grimm Brothers, filled with magical people and creatures. More recently great authors like J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis have dipped liberally from that stream of cultural myth, to create wonderful stories. Movies and television shows have often used magic as a foundational element in the plot.
A belief in magic carries over into many lives today, and expresses itself in various ways. There are superstitions, like not walking under a ladder, or being afraid of Friday the thirteenth. Some people worry about black cats crossing their paths, and others carry lucky charms, like a rabbit's foot, even though 4 of them didn't seem to do that particular rabbit much good.
Most superstitions are relatively harmless, but there are other forms of magic that cause us more difficulty. There are medical quacks, who still peddle magical cures for this or that ailment, usually running off with a fair amount of cash, while the unfortunate dupe who believed them lost his money, while retaining his original unhappy condition. And you can count on that quack taking all the credit for the rare psychosomatic case, when the belief in his magic appears to have cured the ailment.
An even more widespread form of magical quackery is to be found in the very lucrative "weight loss industry." Have you ever tried to count the number of pills, and diet schemes that are offered to the unsuspecting public these days? It is unbelievable. No tactic is too low for them to try either. (Just do a search on "Dotti's Weight Loss Zone" sometime in Google and see all of the hits that you get for sites having nothing at all to do with DWLZ. Most of these people are dishonestly trying to cash in on Dotti's name in order to hawk their products, which Dotti has done nothing to promote or endorse.)
At some level, we all want to believe. The idea of a "Fairy Godmother" popping up to set things right is a very happy one. When something wonderful happens in someone's life, it is described as a "Cinderella story." It looked like magic made it happen, and we just love magic.
Fad diets are based upon this very thing. People want to believe if they can just find the right trick to play on their bodies, all of the weight will just go away, and they will then be able to go back to living their lives just like before, but as thin people. It would take real magic to make that happen!
Magic of Science
If you could take a few items—things that we would consider to be everyday and mundane—back to a time a few hundred years ago, the locals would think you were a powerful magician, and your trinkets were loaded with magical spells. A flashlight would produce light with no apparent source of flame; it must be magic! A ball point pen would write without an ink well. A set of walkie-talkies would be great magic indeed to those who had never conceived of electronics, and a MP3 player would appear to be utterly enchanted. But as we know, magic has nothing to do with any of these things. Each of them is based upon an understanding of the laws of physics.
We rely upon science to light our houses at night, and to move us up many floors without effort in very tall buildings. We allow science to move our cars without horses, and to take us up into the clouds, and across the country, or the sea. A medieval man would think that we lived in very magical world if he were suddenly brought here. We, on the other hand, realize that it is science, not magic, that makes all of these wonders real. There are over 6 billion people on the planet right now, and that would not be possible without science aiding agriculture.
Magic Still Overcomes Science
Even so, we want to believe. We watch movies and television shows, and we read books about magic, all for entertainment. However, in order for a story to work, it must get the reader, or viewer, to buy into the basic premise as being at least possible in some way. If we didn't have some inner belief that magic might happen, we wouldn't be entertained. It would be too disconnected from our existence, and would be something that we could not relate to.
Another common example, of our wish to believe, is the ever-present con man, trying to sell you something of no real value, but that appears to have value when you believe in his magic.
I remember when I was a young teenager, and I spotted an ad in a comic book for X-Ray Glasses. All I had to do was send in my money, and the company would send me back a pair of these wonderful (and obviously magical) glasses that would allow me to see right through things.
I eagerly waited for my glasses to arrive, just thinking about all of the cool things I could do with x-ray vision. When the glasses arrived, I was very disappointed to find that what the glasses actually did was to blur your vision in such a way, so that you saw two images that were offset slightly from each other. As a result, the overlapping part of the two images looked darker than the rest. This made the fingers of my hand appear to be nearly double their normal thickness, and there was a dark strip down the middle that simulated "bone." It was a very poor optical illusion, and I learned a very valuable lesson: That which appears to be too good to be true, is.
Even things that are described in ways to make them appear to be based up scientific principles (like the mythical magical Superman) can often be calling to our inner desire to believe in magic. Reading through the ads for weight loss products makes one think of a "magician" hawking his amulets. If you believed his patter, you would think that all you had to do was give this wonderful magician your money, and you will lose all of your excess weight instantly! Not only that; then you can go on to eat anything you want, and remain thin forever. It is almost creepy reading the ads making impossible promises to desperate people, knowing that many of those people are going to actually believe the lies. Only magic could supply what the charlatans are offering, and we so much want to believe in magic. The con man is counting on that belief, and many of them make a lot of dishonest money because far too many of us have it.
The Enchanted Diet
There seems to be a new diet that hits our society every week or two. All you have to do is give up this food group, or eat only this type of food, and the weight will fall off. If some new weird way of eating has yet to be proposed as the magical solution, it will be showing up on the bookshelves of your Borders or Barnes and Noble tomorrow or the next day, and the author will be on a talk show telling how well his magic works. With these fad diets there is always some magical formula that must be followed, like making the right incantation over a pot boiling with just the right ingredients, and you too can have your weight magically removed.
Fad diets play to our inner belief in magic. People rush out and buy the books and try the fad diet, thinking to themselves, "Hey, it might work!" Belief in magic is a powerful tool to be used by those who would take your money.
Magic is great, as escapism fiction, and can be very entertaining. However—just like the magical cures and snake oil sold to people for medical conditions—as a real solution to your weight problems, magic will be a complete disaster.
All Weight Loss Has a Scientific Heart
Just like with getting a plane into the air, science, not magic, is what makes weight loss happen.
What lifts a plane into the air? I was amazed to read that the air, which is carried in a Boeing 747 to pressurize its cabin, weighs over 2000 pounds. That sounds like a lot of air! However, the 747 can also carry 85,000 pounds of luggage, and 490 passengers. It is rated at being able to get into the air with a gross weight of 700,000 pounds, or 350 tons. How does such a lot of weight get into the air?
Physics comes to the rescue. The wings of a 747 have over an eighth of an acre of surface area. That comes to over 800,000 square inches. Although we normally don't notice it—except when we use it to drink through a straw—in our atmosphere each square inch of surface area has 14.7 pounds pushing against it. That means, sitting on the runway while waiting to take off, there are nearly 12 million pounds, or 6000 tons, of pressure pushing upon both the top and the bottom of the 747's wings. The pressure pushes up and down equally hard, and the apparent result to the passengers looking out of their windows is the same as if there were no pressure at all.
The design of a wing is such that as the plane moves forward, the air on top of the wing has to travel a longer distance than the air on the bottom. The faster the wing goes through air, the greater that difference becomes. The air moving over the top of the wing, by being thinned out this way, actually decreases in pressure. The air pressure on the bottom of the wing remains constant, pushing upwards with its 6000 tons. As the plane picks up speed, less and less pressure is felt on the top of the wing, and "lift" is created by that difference. As speed increases, that increases the lift. At somewhere over 100 or 150 mph the lift is great enough for a safe takeoff, and the plane leaves the ground.
It is physics, not magic that makes a 747 fly, with its 350 tons, and it is physics, not magic that will actually control our weight loss.
The Reserve Tank
Many trucks have what is called a "reserve tank." When the main tank runs out of gas, the driver is not left stranded, because he can switch over to the reserve tank in order to make it to a gas station. In an aircraft, having reserve fuel is even more critical, because you aren't just left stranded at the side of the road if you run out of fuel in the air.
The human body also has a reserve tank where it stores its fuel. We call it fat. It is an automatic system that the body uses to keep us from starving. When we have an abundance of food, the body tucks the excess away for future use in our "reserve tank." This is great feature if we should be faced with a "no-food" situation.
Unfortunately, this system is not limited, like the reserve tank on a truck. If you try to put too much fuel into a gas tank, the excess just pours back out the spout and onto the ground. But in our bodies, we have an expandable tank, and it will just keep growing if we put in too much fuel.
If a truck's tank did that, we would see the tank take over more and more of the truck. If we continued to fill it, a point would be reached where the truck would be unusable for hauling anything else. A plane reaching that condition would be grounded, completely unable to fly.
Unfortunately, we do face that situation. As our reserve tank fills up to larger and larger levels, it begins to take over more of our lives. Instead of merely providing an anti-starvation safety net, it makes walking up stairs hard. Later, as the process continues, just walking at all becomes difficult. We have difficulty tying our shoes, and we are always tired. Even more frightening is the fact that serious medical issues can be created by an over expanded reserve tank. Our joints can start to go bad, and we face a real risk of diabetes, or heart attack.
The Easy Part of Weight Loss
We all know that there are very difficult parts of the weight loss journey, but the physics behind weight loss are very simple when compared with the rest. The reserve tank is storing excess calories. Once you stop eating more calories than your bodily engine is burning, you will no longer have any excess calories to store in the tank. In other words, you have turned off the pump that was filling the reserve tank.
Next, if you eat fewer calories still, to where your engine is burning more than what you eat, your body will turn to your reserve tank and start to use those calories for the energy it needs. Your reserve tank will start to drain off its excess, and weight loss will have begun.
Understanding this principle of how to lose weight is the easy part. The difficult part is applying that knowledge. Most of the articles in this series have been, and will continue to be, aimed at that more difficult aspect of our journey, but this time we are going to focus on the "nuts and bolts" of the process: the easy part.
Buying a Car or Building Your Own
There are two approaches that you can take to your own weight loss. You can either join a currently existing program, or build your own.
There are many programs available to you today. Dotti and I are very fond of the Weight Watchers system, especially their 1, 2, 3 Success program. That is what we both used to successfully lose weight. Weight Watchers couples a selection of very good eating plans with group support sessions, which are very helpful. Dotti relied upon those meetings a great deal when she lost 100 pounds in 1997 and 1998.
Of course there are other programs like Jenny Craig, and LA Weight Loss. When you choose a plan, you need to make sure it is one that you can work with easily.
Some Advantages of using a preexisting plan:
A few disadvantages to these professional plans:
Having said that, I feel that the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages in using a solid professional program like Weight Watchers. Here's why:
Copyright and disclaimer
Disclaimer - - This essay is not meant to be a substitute for any professional advice, guidance, or counseling. We are not doctors. Any information contained hearin reflects our own opinions and experiences. It is not intended in any way to serve as or take the place of medical advice from a physician.