The peak is not the peak.
I need to lose 15 pounds.
Do those words make you feel anything? Depending on your relationship with bodyweight, maybe you felt nothing. Perhaps you felt an urge to encourage me. Maybe you were triggered in some negative way.
Those six words weigh more than the 15 pounds they describe.
Today, those six words are a declaration of my agency, and my right to determine what I need and what’s best for me. I didn’t say I want to lose 15 pounds. I said I need to.
Over the last four years, I’ve lost 35 pounds. Shedding that weight has created a significant change in the trajectory of my future health outcomes. I am now much less likely to get type 2 diabetes, heart disease, a stroke, and many forms of cancer.
The weight loss started with regular exercise. Then it shifted to changes in my diet. Then there was the elimination of drinking. Then the temporary removal of sugar. Better sleep. It was a flywheel, each turn generating momentum for the next one.
These changes weren’t just improving my physical health outlook; they improved my self-esteem and cognition. I’ve been sharper and performing better in pretty much everything I do.
There are problems with weight loss, though.
As social creatures, we have something in us that makes us want to fit in. Funny enough, focusing on healthy behaviors like losing weight is not fitting in. Sure, people on TV or Instagram look to be in fantastic shape. But on the whole, humanity is getting more obese and unhealthy. That’s our social norm.
Getting healthy, or even talking about wanting to get fit, can have the unfortunate side effect of isolating one’s self. Sometimes it inspires the people around us to take action, but sometimes it threatens them.
This is hardwired into our brains. We’ve been programmed for thousands of years with a binary switch, optimized for survival. Engage rewards, avoid threats. The problem is, the threats the brain was programmed for no longer exist. We’re not in nature fending for our lives anymore. We’re now in social jungles where the threats are an injury to our status.
I’ve used the goal of weight loss, but I could replace that with monetary goals, vacation goals, virtue goals or any achievement that could make someone else feel self-conscious about their social status in that area of life.
For the last three months, I’ve been stuck around 220 pounds. I’m a completely different person than I was a year ago health-wise, and I’m grateful for that. But I’m stuck, and I’m not where I want to be.
I ran out of my desire to get healthier. I lost inspiration because I improved so much that I assumed this was what success looked like. In a way, it did.
What I realized just this weekend is I have a self-defeating conversation running in my head. It’s time to get out of my head and into the world.
Part of me is afraid that people will think I’m vain and “body-obsessed” or “body dysmorphic” if I say I need to shed another 15 pounds. I’m afraid that I will trigger other people to feel bad about themselves rather than inspire them. I’m fearful that bizarrely, people will lose respect for me if I seek to shed more weight.
On Saturday, three things happened that revealed this inner conversation:
1) I was alone long enough to sit with my thoughts, watch my behavior, and determine that I was living my life in this way based on what I thought other people thought about me.
2) I used an app with technology from NASA called HealthReel to measure my body stats. It’s in beta, so you need Testflight on an iPhone to use it. It confirmed what I knew deep down. My body composition is a B+. Literally, that’s the score it gave me. I am healthy, but I am right on the line. If I slipped 5 pounds, I’d be overweight. I could be healthier, no question.
3) I watched UFC Fight Night and saw Jared Cannonier win in style in the main event. Jared used to be a UFC Heavyweight, which means he weighed around 220 pounds. He did ok there, then he dropped to Light Heavyweight at 205 and did terribly. Now he is a Middleweight at 185 and is fantastic. If you only saw him today, you couldn’t imagine that he used to compete in the UFC weighing 35 more pounds than he does now.
When I was in High School, I wrestled at 185 pounds. I haven’t gotten much taller since then. I certainly can get down to 205 pounds. There’s no question.
So, what do I do now?
I start by declaring it, which I’ve done here.
Now, I seek help because I have no idea how to do this properly. I’ve been fasting, meditating, sober, and recently eating a plant-based diet. But none of that without proper direction and adherence to a plan will get me to my goal.
I ask the people in my life to support the goal and know it will make me a healthier, happier version of myself.
I hunker down and reset. I arrived at a plateau, and I need to transform it into a basecamp. I need to conserve energy, build a team, chart a course, and prepare to set out. I’m not going to set out until my team and plan is in place. I can hang out at 220 for a bit, no biggie.
This is not just about body weight; it’s about any plateau. We will hit plateaus over and over in life, and we have to be curious enough to ask ourselves, “Is this it?” We have to recognize when we are making ourselves small to fit in with others. When the threats to our status we perceive are only in our heads.
I am happy to be at 220. But I have peaked. And the peak is not the peak. I can do more. Eyes up to 205.
Have a grateful day.