The Physics of Physiques

It’s a little known fact that Sir Isaac Newton struggled with weight for much of his life. I know that most of the portraits we see of him show a relatively slender figure. It’s also a little known fact that he was extremely vain, and commanded portraitists to depict him as thinner than he was for much of his life.*

*However, unbeknownst** to Newton, the local pastry chef re-named the fruit-filled cookies that he loved and that contributed significantly to his weight problems after him: Big Newtons. Somewhere along the way, “big” became “fig.” I don’t care what you heard on “The Big Bang Theory.” 

**I’m pretty certain that the reference above is the first time in my life I’ve ever written the word “unbeknownst.” I think it’s one of those words that always looks wrong written. In fact, as I look at it, I wonder if it is truly even a word. 

Isaac Newton as he probably actually looked. No surprise that he "discovered" gravity.

Isaac Newton as he probably actually looked. No surprise that he “discovered” gravity.

In fact, his personal experience with yo-yo dieting prompted his First Law of Emotion: A body obese tends to stay obese. A body losing weight tends to stay losing weight, unless acted on by an external force.***

***A corollary is his First Law of Getting In Motion: A body at rest tends to stay obese. 

Newton’s law applies to me, and I imagine that most people would recognize it in their own weight loss experiences. I’ve discovered that for me, losing weight is all about momentum.

In previous posts, I’ve written about how difficult it was to start losing weight. I’ve listed several reasons I have for losing weight. A number of those have manifested themselves for a long period of time, but each one independently was not enough to get me started.

Actually, that’s not quite correct; they were enough to get me started, but not enough to sustain me. Instead, what would usually happen is that I would say I was starting a diet, and might even start for a day or two, but it wouldn’t last. Having just started, I usually didn’t have the commitment to make it through the first few difficult days of a weight loss program. I found that it was always easy to make an excuse: OK, I deviated today, but I’ll REALLY start tomorrow…I’ll wait until Monday; it’s easiest to start on a Monday…Wait, I forgot to have my one last pre-weight loss pig out…etc.

It’s perhaps a miracle that I ever get past that stage. As I’ve tried to explain in other posts, somehow these multiple reasons for weight loss all converge at once into what acts as the external force that puts me in motion. And, once I’ve gotten past the first three or four days, momentum sets in again, but this time as a positive force. Everything goes great. Weight loss seems almost easy, and I make tremendous progress.

Until the next outside influence impedes my motion. I can generally survive a single event–a splurge here, a missed workout there–but it doesn’t take much more than a couple of events to stop my weight loss in its tracks. Then the bad momentum sets in, and I find it difficult to get back “on the wagon.”

That’s where I find myself now. I’ve been treading water for almost two months now. In fact, my weight this past Thursday, October 30 was only .6 pounds lower than it was two months earlier, on August 30. I thought I had things back on course in mid-October, but a weekend deviation from the plan erased the progress I made in the first part of the month.

And that’s how diets end. It seems like each successive deviation from the plan is easier to make than the one before it. After a long period of no progress but no significant gain (what I’ve heard dieters refer to as a “plateau”****), the diet just sort of disappears, and the weight starts coming back. Slowly, at first, but steadily, until several months later, I’m back to my pre-loss weight.

But I’m determined that this is not that time.

****Which is interesting, because it begins with the word “plate”. 



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