What’s the point in losing weight if it makes you miserable?

Step by step: Exercise is a means to an end – not a path to contentment

Your ideal weight is somewhere between living in a fast-food outlet because you can no longer fit out the door, and dreaming of snapping a lollipop from a child because you’re so hungry. Photograph: Thinkstock

Your ideal weight is somewhere between living in a fast-food outlet because you can no longer fit out the door, and dreaming of snapping a lollipop from a child because you’re so hungry. Photograph: Thinkstock

 

My wife feeds me when I’m grumpy.

I didn’t know anything about this correlation between mood and food until recently.

Apparently, my mother imparted this crucial tidbit of advice many years ago. It boiled down to: “When he’s in a strop, feed him.” Not listen to him, or entertain him, or try to find a compromise. No, just put a meal in front of him.

Food has always long been a close friend, and it has been a strange feeling of late ignoring frantic internal demands not to pass a takeaway, or not to pass the confectionary shelves in a shop, or not to ignore the biscuit barrel sitting on the kitchen counter. It feels like a betrayal, and often feels self-defeating.

What good is losing weight if it makes you miserable?

While the emotional and physical benefits of denying yourself unhealthy food are generally in the far distance, exercise has more short-term gain. At least, so the theory goes. Not only will you feel better when you shed the pounds in the months ahead, but experts tell us the exercise in itself is a great way to lift the spirits.

Feeling low? Go for a cycle. Stressed? Lift weights. Need a date? Go to the gym (where, apparently, despite being dressed in an old tracksuit and sporting a red-face and stinky, sweaty body, the advice columns promise you just can’t fail).

Chemical reactions

Endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin, dopamine – your brain releases all of them during physical activity and leaves the rest of the body relaxed and the mind in good shape too. If that’s true, why is my mood usually improved only after physical exercise because the physical exercise is over?

The amount of unhealthy food we eat is inversely proportional to our happiness (we don’t care what anyone says!).

Physical exercise is a means to an end – not a path to contentment.

There’s sacrifice, but the cost needs to be assessed. A healthy mind is just as important as a healthy body.

There is simply no point in chasing a smaller body shape that causes us to also lose a part of who we are mentally.

There are any number of mathematical formulas to calculate your “ideal weight”. They lurk on the internet waiting for the small and large to search for their dubious service. It’s the fault, apparently, of one Dr Pierre Paul Broca.

When he wasn’t investigating the human brain during the 19th century, the French surgeon and physician was shaping the perfect prescription to work out a human’s ideal weight.

“Broca’s Index” is height (in cm) minus 100 = ideal weight (in kg). Simple (and not at all worthy of a man who has part of the frontal lobe named after him).

My height, 183cm (6ft) minus 100 is 83kg, or 13st 1lb. So, despite being 30 pounds down since I started this fitness and health drive, according to one of the surgeons in Napoleon’s service (where presumably Broca found a use for his formula with new recruits), I still have another 18 pounds to go (I’m 14st 5lb).

That’s done nothing for my mood.

Ideal weight

The truth is, however, that your ideal weight can not be worked out using any figures – even your own. It’s certainly not your height multiplied or divided by anything.

Your ideal weight is surely the weight you are happiest wearing. It’s somewhere between living in a fast-food outlet because you can no longer fit out the door, and dreaming of snapping a lollipop from a child because you’re so hungry.

And, whatever it is, it’s not lower than the weight that brings with it a side of stress and mood swings. Regardless of what any physician or surgeon – even one who has his name engraved on the Eiffel Tower – has to say about it.

Best to error on the heavy side. 

Step by step
Intellectual approach to losing weight
Most apps on straps are rubbish
My daughter is trying to kill me
It’s not you, it’s me. Hold on, it’s you
You don’t have to turn into an ass
I met my next child’s godfather at a race
It’s tough when momentum runs out
No sweetness, and lite everything
Stopping the treadmill with your tummy
When it’s my turn to make dinner . . .
The kitchen table looks out for us
- Skinny friend eats like an elephant
Tomorrow we diet
How to get back into exercise
At what age do you fall apart?
I’d jog for wine
I’m a binge drinker
- What if losing weight makes you sad?
- 12 months later, time for health tips
- The ultimate global deception

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.