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Law of diminishing returns

As far as weight loss is concerned, I feel like I have a job where I’ve been told I have to work longer hours for half the pay. Back in the beginning, I could do some walking and eat pretty well and lose 2 or 3 pounds a week. Now I have to run several days a week, do my Pilates, and watch what I eat carefully in the hopes of losing a pound or half a pound a week. It doesn’t seem fair. I’ve entered a phase of where I have to work harder for less results.

The motivations are slightly less too since my weight loss from here on out is mostly for vanity and not health. I’m sure there will be some health benefits from losing the final 30 pounds, but I’m not concerned about suffocating in the night from sleep apnea anymore. I’m not worried that death’s carriage is going to make a stop by my apartment door like an Emily Dickenson poem.

Don’t worry, I’m still going to work towards goal. It’s just that all pounds are not created equal and these last 30 look like they’re going to be the hardest. I wonder how those remaining little fat cells feel, seeing their brothers and sisters vanishing like a magician’s assistant in a trick box. They’ve been huddling in the back when the other fat cells got drafted to leave, probably hoping I’d go back to eating pizza and doughnuts so they could stay home, comfortably lining the tissues of my belly and thighs. Hopefully they’ll be packing their bags and vacating the premise soon.

In some ways I envy the people who are just starting out now at the beginning of the year. Those first pounds are some of the easiest and most exciting to lose.

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28 Comments

fatkat • January 25, 2007 at 11:45 am

Gosh I’m one of those peeps in the beginning stage and I feel like I’m working my ass off to lose 2 pounds a week (which is alot). But it worries me because I can’t imagine how much more I can do. The trainer at my gym is trying to convince me to do 1 1/2 hr workouts every day! I have time for that this semester but…next semester when my weight loss will be slowing down? not so much.

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fatkat • January 25, 2007 at 12:01 pm

Sorry that last comment was kinda negative. I just got back from meeting with the trainer and I’m kinda stressed out about the regimen they put me on.

As a very wise woman (who lost >100 lbs) once said to me about those times when you are working hard and not losing, if you are taking in less calories than you are burning then it is only a matter of time before it pays off. You just gotta have faith and keep doing what you are doing.

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NicoleW • January 25, 2007 at 12:14 pm

Gah, this is SO true. And it’s totally not fair — I often think my body should give me extra credit for how much I’ve lost already. Mean body. Sigh.

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PastaQueen • January 25, 2007 at 12:46 pm

fatkat – Hey, it’s okay. I didn’t mean to imply losing weight is easy, because it sure as hell isn’t. But when I take into perspective my entire two year journey, the pounds I lost in the first month were the easiest to kick to the curb. And woah, 90 minutes a day of workouts? That sounds pretty hardcore.

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Jester • January 25, 2007 at 12:54 pm

I’m staring down the barrel of my last 10 pounds and I know exactly what you mean.

But on top of the law of diminishing returns, the little devil on my shoulder is trying to convince me to return to my former bad eating habits ’cause, “Gosh, don’t cookies taste great when eaten in vaste quantities!” It’s harder work to lose, my motivation has changed (like you, from serious health concerns to more appearance concerns), and in some ways I’ve let myself get into an eating and exercise rut.

For me, I’ve made my Weight Watchers meetings an absolute – I HAVE to go, and that’s what keeps me trying, even when I make some bad food choices during the week. PastaQueen, hopefully your bloggy royal court will help you the same way!

Jester

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Kitt • January 25, 2007 at 1:14 pm

Didn’t want to say anything a few weeks ago, but this is the part that really is the hardest to get beyond. You get incremental results despite working quite hard, and it seems as if it will never all go away.

The truth is that you may have your goal, but your body may have another. And at some point, you come to a mutual understanding that this is as hard as you plan to work, and your body says this is as low as I’m gonna go, and you agree to the stalemate. (Bear in mind you may be building up muscle now, which weighs more, and losing fat, without seeing number results.)

As long as you look good and you feel good and your doctor isn’t tsk tsking you, the numbers no longer matter.

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Jen • January 25, 2007 at 1:27 pm

I’m at the last-few-pounds stage too and, even though I know everyone talks about how hard they are to lose, it’s also not as hard to go through life as a close-to-goal person. Plus there’s the motivation of actually seeing the finish line.

I’m not saying my last few will melt away, but it’s easier to be patient when you already feel pretty good.

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dg • January 25, 2007 at 1:28 pm

PQ, you are a genius. that first line just sums it up so beautifully :) and the last line re envy, sings to me too.

if this were a real job we’d be on strike and on the picket line with angry signs in capital letters, hehe.

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PastaQueen • January 25, 2007 at 1:35 pm

Kitt – I’ve thought about the possibility of not getting to goal before and it doesn’t bother me that much, though it might disappoint some readers :) Mostly I just want to get to 186 so I can say I lost half my body weight. Anything after that is cake, so to speak.

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livingrainbowcolor • January 25, 2007 at 1:59 pm

Have you considered that you are actually in the stabilization mode? Physics states that your smaller body will need fewer calories to maintain than when you weighed twice as much. This means that you have to adjust your eating to match your body’s lower requirements. Your body also adapts to its intake, so it has also become more efficient. You might want to consider revving up your metabolism with a couple of high-energy meals.

Don’t think about it being harder to lose weight as much as it’s a path to your new normal-sized life.

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mal • January 25, 2007 at 2:01 pm

I have thought about this (in anticipation, of course, since it’s probably 2-3 years down the line for me). When I state my goal weight, I almost always say “200 pounds,” but The Magical Charts of Bullshit always say I should be at maximum around 180 or 185. But, I just can’t imagine that at 200 pounds I’ll be miserably pining the way I do now.

I’m probably one of those “fresh starts” that are frustrating to you right now, but I appreciate your continued blogging and continued hard work. It’s people like you who taught me, in the first place, about the slow down and about how important it is to concentrate on your health, rather than the numbers.

I’m envious. You’ve found your health. It’s so great to have seen in action. I love your attitude.

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Debbi • January 25, 2007 at 2:09 pm

All pounds certainly are not created equal, and the older you get, the more they love just hanging out on your belly, ass and thighs. Ask me how I know.

I’ve made the mistake of being a lifelong dieter. I’m 55 now, with a clean bill of health, no major injuries, excellent bloodwork … and 30 pounds to go the just nudge myself into a normal BMI.

For all of you who are trying to lose weight the first time, do everything you can to make it the last. This is my last time and I can’t believe how much more difficult it gets every time I make the attempt anew.

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Kate • January 25, 2007 at 4:38 pm

ONCE AGAIN, I agree of every stinking word in your post. I have come down to the nitty-gritty last bit of weight to lose, and I am finding it so, so, much harder than the first, oh, fifty pounds. (Which basically FLEW off.) Sigh. I don’t have any sort of lard-busting advice, but I DO think you’re a genius, if that helps.

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sara • January 25, 2007 at 5:38 pm

Oh WOW do I hear you… I started at 260 and got down to 180. I’ve been floating around there and 190 for about five years and that’s being pretty good with eating and working out at least 3 times a week. I’m so scared about the pushing to go lower. Is it a lifestyle I’m going to be able to maintain forever? I finally learned how to maintain the body of a 185 lb woman vs. a 250 lb, and now I have to learn how to act like a 150lb woman. It just seems so HARD. OK, there’s the pep talk you’ve been waiting for.

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Monica • January 25, 2007 at 6:00 pm

I would love to find the motivation you all seem to have. I moved to a new state, where I hardly know anyone and food has become my new best friend. Its sad, and I feel pathetic. Coming to this website makes me feel better, it gives me hope but at the end of the day, I know Ill probably succomb to the chips and dip that seem to be calling my name…

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Dori • January 25, 2007 at 7:26 pm

I hear what you said about the last 30 seem to be more for vanity … for me I had to get to the place where I decided what my happy weight and lifestyle would be. My happy weight is not set by weight watchers. After a 5 year maintained 60 pound loss I am at the top of my bmi and find peace with this the work beyond this seems excessive in my opinion.

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ann • January 25, 2007 at 8:56 pm

Your posts are so honest, and beautifully written! This blog is an inspiration.

Hang in! I looked at my weight chart yesterday, and realized that during the first month (a year and a half ago) I lost ten pounds – and during the last SIX months I have lost thirteen pounds, despite the fact that I am doing better than I did on month one, and am covering over twice the distance in my walk/jogs as I did when I started.

As a person gets closer to goal, I think the old bod tries to hang onto every fat cell for dear life.

Good luck!

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metamorphose • January 25, 2007 at 10:05 pm

Thanks for this post. Since I have just a few pounds to lose, I have to remind myself that’s it’s going to take longer. I’m glad I’m able to view your progress -it’s always inspiring. Keep it up!

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Erin • January 25, 2007 at 11:03 pm

Maybe during those last few pounds, when your body’s in good enough health to really maximize your potential as an athlete, or a body sculptor, or whatever you want to be, the real rewards will come from someplace deeper than vanity.

I honestly don’t know, because I’m one of the neophytes for this year and I never got to that place where I felt like I was thin enough to be in some sort of home stretch. It’s just that I watch the fit people in my gym working out and I always notice how incredibly focused and relaxed and in the moment they seem. Maybe that’s what it’s going to take for those last 30 pounds.

In any case, we’ll all be here rooting for you. You’re amazing, and it was a fabulous post as always.

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Lori W. • January 25, 2007 at 11:34 pm

My swim teacher was telling me this, that as I lost weight, I’d have to swim or work out harder and longer for the same results. I think I’m still in that period where it may not come off as easy as it did in the beginning but if I worked at it, it will still come off in a reasonable time.

But I’ve also come to the conclusion that if I want to keep it off, I have to do it anyway. I have to say the thing that worries me the most if I were to have an accident or be unable to MOVE. That’s one other reason for taking swimming lessons.

Thanks for your comment on my blog…I’m holding off on the trainer as my swim class starts next week. Yikes!

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Shrinkingmom • January 26, 2007 at 1:23 am

I know exactly what you mean! I just wrote about this very thing on my blog! The first 54 pounds were easy . . . but now? I realized I have to eat less to lose the last 22 and that somehow seems unfair!

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K • January 26, 2007 at 6:14 am

I think the important thing is not to drop the ball, even when you reach the point where you’re comfortable (whether that’s goal or not).

I have totally dropped the ball on exercise, mostly because I didn’t realise how dependent I was on the gym and running group to keep me moving… until circumstances (lack of job and sick husband) conspired to prevent me going.

When I move, I don’t feel fat. When I don’t move, I don’t like my body very much at all…

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jodi • January 26, 2007 at 8:54 am

yea, i have to agree – losing the first 5-10 pounds is awesome because that’s when people begin to notice and your clothes are bigger… i’ve never been one to lose 2 pounds a week so at least i’m used to losing very slowly… and i also try and not think about how much harder i have to work at this, compared to when i was 25, because i know i’m much healhier now… besides, i really feel that our bodies will let us know when its time to stop losing – accepting a higher weight than our ideal number is the hardest part…

have a great weekend… :o)

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Sarah • January 26, 2007 at 11:36 am

Yes, after losing 65 lbs, I feel like my brain and my body are suffering “dieter’s fatigue.” I just want it to be OVER WITH. Getting that last 10-15 lbs off is slower than molasses in January….boring, frustrating, but necessary. I am just bloody-minded about getting to “my” goal this time (75 lbs lost) and staying there for the rest of my natural born days!

I’ve been getting lazier about my exercise with the freezing weather, so I’ve just joined a “team” of co-workers to engage in a 4 mo. health improvement challenge, based on increasing exercise. Prayers to the Goddess that this will do the trick to finish the weight loss portion of the program….

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b • January 26, 2007 at 11:49 am

minor correction, you can only shrink the fat cells you have, you can’t lose them copmletely(which is a bummer!).

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Samiam • January 26, 2007 at 6:02 pm

The sad sucky truth is we never lose any of our fat cells, they just shrink!

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Debbie • January 27, 2007 at 10:43 pm

Isn’t it amazing that no matter how far we come in our weight battles, we always focus on the negative. That is, how much farther we have to go instead of how much we’ve already achieved.

With everyone I’ve ever known who’s lost a lot of weight, they always seem to “think fat.” I think it just becomes our self-image after a while.

Pastaqueen, you’ve done an amazing job. Be proud of yourself. And if it’s seems harder now, that’s because you’re so much closer to where you need to be.

Stay positive. You’re doing great.

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Carol • February 3, 2007 at 11:09 pm

well isn’t this something. i am just starting my battle to lose weight…and i just ran up on your blog a week or so ago and you are almost at the end of yours..well i want to say that you are a very inspiring person who has done a hell of a job…because i am just starting and i do not know how i am going to do it…but i will.. i have been reading your blog from the start to get some ideas on what to do..and its helping…but anyway..way to go…on the weightloss and your book.

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog JenFul.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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