Sunday, September 11, 2011

In defense of excuses

I have written a couple of posts about excuses, "Top 10 excuses for staying fat and unhealthy," and "Top 10 excuses for weight gain." Though I took a snarky tone with these posts, I didn't mean that none of the excuses were ever true.  It's true, for example, that after lifting weights your sore muscles are probably retaining fluid. It's also true that having young children can make it hard for parents to fit in time for exercise and healthy meal planning.

I think excuses are actually useful at times.  Weight gains, for example, can sometimes be mysterious things. Though a lot of people take a mechanistic "Calories in, Calories out" approach to weight loss, there can be plenty of mysterious fluctuations along the path to healthy weight loss. Also, though this mechanistic approach has its appeal, your body is not actually a machine.  A car, for example, can't become more fuel efficient if there is less gas in the tank and less efficient if you have just filled up. Your body can. I think that excuses for weight gain like the ones I posted can be useful if you are eating healthfully and exercising but the scale is doing weird things. Better to console yourself with an excuse than with cookies.

The excuses for staying fat and unhealthy might come in handy if you have a pushy friend or relative who thinks that your weight is his or her business when it isn't.  I find, though, that explaining yourself with a reason just invites further debate.  I think the best thing to say in this situation might be to try to change the subject or tell the person outright that you don't want to discuss it with them.

But if you find you are making excuses to yourself, and you really do want to make a change, then you can use your excuses as a guide to the roadblocks that you need to find a way around.  As Holly L. said in a comment on that post, the truest answer for a lot of us might be "Maybe I'm flailing around because I'm just not ready for the effort required to lose this weight." In my mind, there is nothing wrong with admitting that. Maybe telling ourselves the truth is the real pathway to long-term success. I have been thinking a lot about the mysteries of body fat and scale weight because I got another unexpected compliment yesterday. This time it was a friend I haven't seen in a while who said, "You look great! How much have you lost?" The truth, according to my records, is that I haven't lost any weight and my body fat percentage is about the same. I have been training harder lately and I do feel like my body is changing, but it still isn't showing up on my Tanita scale as weight or fat loss. I'm not sure what is going on. I'm just going to stick to the program and hope for a Whoosh, I think.


  1. Thanks for this, Jen. It makes perfect sense. The trick is to use the excuses in the ways you describe, instead of an out to eat more cookies. It's so easy to fall into that thinking. Been there, done that, fighting my way back.

  2. Great post Jen. I always know deep down in my heart when I say one of those things on the list in your previous post whether it is a "reason" or an "excuse". sometimes i've got dressed and thought, "my jeans must have shrank in the wash" and the next thought follows "yeah, right!". then it's a matter of whether I do something about that right away or just sit with the knowledge that i'm making an excuse for awhile. interesting :)

    so cool about the compliment! there's been a whoosh of those lately! :)

  3. Hi Jen,

    I came across your blog when I Googled "Weight Watchers website sucks." I poked around a bit, read a few posts, and like your writing style. Thanks for putting some good content out there.


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07