‘How Do I Lose Weight?’ is the Wrong Question - VICE

Like in most other areas of my life, I’ve been privileged to come at the question of body weight without undue stress or anxiety: I’m male, and naturally skinny, so “lose weight” has never been a thing I felt the need to do.

Having good problems isn’t the same as not having problems, however, and my problem has always been the opposite: I’ve always felt too skinny, not strong enough, and had the various other ailments that accompany that, like a rounded upper back (and generally bad posture)1.

Lifting weights has a made a big difference to me, and this article explains why.

I have been in a healthy weight range all my life, and had this exact problem: I felt that I looked overweight, I hated how my body looked and more importantly felt like I didn’t understand why it did anything it did. I felt like if I ate even a little bit more than barely any food, I gained like three pounds each time. I only seemed to get fatter if I ate how much a normal person was supposed to, yet no one was about to help me with the weight loss I felt like I desperately needed to pursue.

Reverse all of the quantities in that statement (over with under, a little bit with a lot, fatter with thinner, loss with gain) and I could have written it.

My frustration was, even after I started lifting weights in university, I never really knew what I was doing. I eventually found a program2 a few years ago which made the difference by being one of the few resources I’ve ever seen actually geared towards the skinny guy who wants to gain in a healthy way3. Quoting from the article again:

Lifting weights was a fit for me because it makes resting and recovering equally as important as training. It lays extremely bare for people like me, who struggle to grasp what my body even might be for other than “constant source of resentment,” how it all works. Moving and feeling mobile, capable, and energetic is life-changing to me, and these feelings are supported by lifting and getting stronger; getting stronger is supported by eating and resting as well as actually lifting.

Once I had the experience of following a lifting program, with feedback, and measuring how many calories and macronutrients I was taking in, I could move my feelings about my body from vague “this sucks I hate it” to an experimental mindset: “uhoh, I’ve stopped gaining weight. Let me try adding another 250 calories to my diet.”

Regardless of our feelings of inadequacy, we are all, by being human, inheritors of athletic potential. Put another way, we were built for strenuous exercise, and, for most of us, when we feel bad about how our bodies look and function, some combination of exercise and mental work (e.g. therapy) is the answer.

  1. This reminds me of something I’d almost forgotten, which is that some jackass in high school used to call me “Quasimodo” because of my posture. While I don’t hold his being a jackass against him—I wasn’t necessarily that much better when I was the same age, I shat on people lower than me on the social totem pole in turn—I ought to acknowledge I’ve had a bit of a complex about my body even if it’s not been as severe as others’. Minimizing our own struggles is a problematical reflex. 

  2. Yes, that’s really what it’s called. I am not ashamed. 😂 

  3. For example, most “healthy” guides to nutrition assume you’re trying to minimize carb intake, whereas if I want to put on muscle I require ALL OF THE CARBS, thank you very much.