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TOPIC: The Doldrums

 
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October 8, 2012 7:46 AM
According to Wikipedia, "the Doldrums" is a colloquial expression derived from historical maritime usage for those parts of the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean affected by the Intertropical Convergence Zone, a low-pressure area around the equator where the prevailing winds are calm. The Doldrums are noted for calm periods when the winds disappear altogether, trapping sail-powered boats for periods of days or weeks.

The great seafaring explorers of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries would time the beginning of their voyages to coincide with favorable winds. However, due to meterological limitations of the day, no one could predict when or whether those winds would "die down" and leave great sailing ships foundering for days and weeks at a time. Sometimes, the Doldrums would provoke a crew to mutiny, or even group madness.

We, who are trying to improve our health through weight loss and fitness, know our very own version of the Doldrums. At the beginning of our weight loss journey, we have great determination, drive and enthusiasm. Most times, this is met with extraordinary results on the scale. For those of us with 100, 200 or even 300 pounds to lose, first week(s) losses of 5, 10, 15 or even 20 pounds are common. The first month or two of the journey tends to bring consistent rewards in the form of weight loss in the 3-5 pound per week range. Our spirits are buoyed by these successes, and the rapid descent of numbers on our respective scales.

And then, for "no reason," it happens. Days, weeks and even months pass when the scale barely budges a smidgy. This happens even though we know that we are eating within our calories and exercising faithfully. We look to the message boards for inspiration... to "jump start" our weight loss toward regular 3, 4 or even 5 pound per week losses once more. The drive to receive validation from the scale becomes just as maddening to us as the days and weeks trapped in the Doldrums did to sailors of yesteryear.

The trick is to remember that FAT loss is NOT the same as WEIGHT loss. The scale only measures weight loss. Not fat loss. Thus, in a week when your body has lost 3 pounds of fat, but gained 4 pounds of water or other non-fat substances due to sodium intake, fiber intake, exercise muscle repair, muscle gain, bowel habits, or time of the month, the scale will mask our 3 pound fat loss by revealing a 1 pound weight gain. Repeat this over 3-4 weeks or 3-4 months and you have a perfect recipe for Doldrums-inflicted madness and the potential for a junk food mutiny.

The purpose of this post is NOT to provide answers to the weight loss Doldrums. There are literally hundreds of posts spread out throughout MFP that perform that function. Some are grounded in sound science. Others are total nonsense and rubbish. Your task, on here, as in real life, is to sort out the information from the misinformation and do what is right for you.

In conclusion, I leave you with the words of Albert Einstein, who said, "You never fail until you stop trying." Sailors trapped in the Doldrums who tired of being patient often ended up dying in mutinies or committing suicide due to madness. The patient ones waited until atmospheric conditions changed and the winds once again filled their sails.

My wish for all of you is the patience and wisdom to wait out those times when the scale is unkind to you. I wish you the knowledge that if you are doing what you need to do to help yourselves, eventually, your fat loss sails will billow from a delightful and refreshing wind at your back once more.

Have a wonderful rest of your Monday.

Scott R. in Houston, Tx.
  14070015
October 8, 2012 7:52 AM
Thank you, thank you, thank you. I love reading all of your posts, but this one came at an extremely timely moment. :) I just keep keeping on, tweaking what I'm doing and know that I'm successful!
  24833656
October 8, 2012 8:05 AM
Well said! Thanks for that- after 18 months of ups and downs and 4 months at the same basic weight, its good to remember. The closer you get to your "goal" the more elusive it becomes.
  5768563
October 8, 2012 8:11 AM
Another great post, Mr. TFT! I believe (from experience) that you may have just hit on the primary cause of yo-yo dieting. The great rush at the beginning, followed by Doldrums, followed by giving up, just to repeat the cycle. Now that it has been named - it will be easier to fight!
October 8, 2012 8:21 AM
Just what I need to get my ass back in the game... thanks for the post Mr. Third!!
  1543079
October 8, 2012 9:08 AM
Another great post! Thank you!

This totally speaks to me. I feel like I have been in the "Doldrums" since August. I've barely lost any weight. however...I took my measurements today and just in my hips and chest, I've lost over 12 inches since the beginning of september. I've gotta be doing something right!
  25378070
October 8, 2012 9:46 AM
Will you please write a book?
October 8, 2012 10:02 AM
love the information and thanks for the perfect timing as alway!
  28245586
October 8, 2012 10:11 AM
Always well said. To another Happy Monday. *toast*
  7394180
October 8, 2012 10:53 AM
QUOTE:

Will you please write a book?

I second this, you are an excellent writer. And well timed too.
  4880864
October 8, 2012 11:23 AM
Great post!!
October 8, 2012 11:34 AM
I lived and worked on a sailboat for over 10 years. Luckily, that boat did have a motor :-) But I am certainly in the doldrums now. My scale has just bounced 3# up and down for a month. I can see why people give up too. But I am going to stick to my new lifestyle and see where it takes me (slow is better than no movement at all!).
October 8, 2012 11:42 AM
Thank you, I'm in the Doldrums and needed that tidbit of wisdom!
  20065917
October 8, 2012 12:09 PM
Thank you Scott , I needed that!!!
  25467269
October 8, 2012 12:13 PM
Perfect Monday post
October 8, 2012 12:51 PM
thank you for sharing... knowing that others out there encounter the same bumps in the road is very reassuring. makes me feel like i'm not in this all alone!
thanks again!
  30300650
October 8, 2012 4:54 PM
Thanks for the reminders and encouragement. For some of us the doldrums aren't from any of the things you list. Rather it is our own behavior that must be acknowledged, if not blamed. Using the food log honestly reveals this as well as the exercise log. We must still be patient with ourselves even when we acknowledge that our behavior contributed to the "doldrums." blushing
October 8, 2012 5:25 PM
QUOTE:

For some of us the doldrums aren't from any of the things you list. Rather it is our own behavior that must be acknowledged, if not blamed. Using the food log honestly reveals this as well as the exercise log.


I agree with you wholeheartedly. That's why one of the assumptions in my post (at the start of the fourth or so paragraph) is:

"And then, for 'no reason,' it happens. Days, weeks and even months pass when the scale barely budges a smidgy. This happens even though we know that we are eating within our calories and exercising faithfully."
  14070015
October 9, 2012 2:08 PM
You rock...as usual. Great post.
  25449356
October 12, 2012 9:21 AM
Finally home to read this - You are an articulate, insightful human being and I am, as ever, chuffed to bits to call you my friend and companion in this long but exciting adventure we are on.
  23430562

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