Everyone knows losing weight boils down to a very simple formula, which is this:
Burn more calories than you consume + time = weight loss.
Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
It turns out there is no scientific formula for weight loss. It’s actually an entirely random process operated by a receptionist called Linda, who lives inside your brain. This is Linda:
Linda doesn’t make the rules, she just follows them. Sometimes, when Linda’s having a particularly bad day, she follows them extra hard.
A conversation with Linda might go something like this:
You: Morning Linda, I’ve come for my daily weigh-in.
Linda: Step on the scales for me please.
You [standing on scales, surprised at number]: That can’t be right. I’ve been sticking religiously to my diet plan for weeks now – are you sure I haven’t lost weight?
Linda [without checking the scales again]: That’s what the scales say.
You: But it just doesn’t make sense. I’ve been doing loads of exercise and I’ve been tracking my calories and I’m definitely burning more than I consume.
Linda [tapping absently at computer]: There’s nothing I can do about that I’m afraid, this is the random weight the system has assigned to you today. Is there anything else I can help you with?
You: Sorry? A random weight?
Linda: Yes, it’s the random weight policy. [Points at sign about random weight policy].
You: But that’s absurd! I’ve been working so hard. This week I’ve recorded a total calorie deficit of 3,000. I thought 3,000 calories was equivalent to a pound of fat?
Linda [represses sigh]: Sorry, it’s just the way the system works.
You: Well can I see the system?
Linda: No, that would be against policy. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.
You: So who does make the rules?
Linda: They’re randomly generated.
You: So basically I can just eat whatever the hell I want and it won’t matter?
Linda: Sometimes. But not always.
You: This is ridiculous.
Linda [finally looking up from screen]: If you’d like to lodge a complaint you’ll have to fill out an online form.
You: Will complaining make any difference?
Linda: Absolutely none at all.
You: Then no, thank you.
Linda [back to typing]: Okay then, have a nice day.
Do you ever feel like that? That your body totally defies logic? That no matter how strict you are, how hungry you get, how hard you work out, there’s no discernible pattern to the fluctuations in your weight?
Me and my sister (the brilliant talent behind the illustration of Linda and my new Whalebeings logo) have been discussing this phenomenon recently and we both experience it. It’s fine – weight loss is not the be all and end all of life, but it is still quite baffling.
I think the truth really is that weight loss is a lot more complex than ‘eat less, move more’. It’s to do with genetics, your gut biome, your metabolism and probably a bunch of other stuff too. That’s why we shouldn’t feel disappointed or annoyed when we see the number on the scales. It’s not a race, or a competition: it’s nothing, really. Just the sum total of your beautiful body parts.
The body is eternally interesting, and constantly surprising.
I suppose at least Linda the tiny receptionist who lives inside our brains keeps us all on our toes.