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A weight loss graph showing a span of 600 days and a weight trend starting at 256 pounds, dropping to 193, then rising again to 207, with a trendline continuing upward

This is the picture of a typical diet--mine, in fact. It says, "She lost a lot of weight but not as much as she planned, and then started to regain it, and if she doesn't change something, she'll be right back where she started by early 2013."

What's gone wrong?

I don't think anything has gone wrong. The human body is not a machine, and what's more, it doesn't operate independently of the rest of humanity. I don't believe that losing 60 pounds last year was solely the result of some praiseworthy effort of mine. And I don't believe that my recent drift is the result of a personal failing, either.

Yes, I did wander away from my two simple controls*, and the graph shows the consequences. When I'm not tracking those two data points my broken metabolism supersedes my conscious wishes and I succumb to overeating.

But the point is, I'm not looking for a big psychological (moral, ethical) explanation for the lapse. Maybe I'm near the leading edge of a wave of cultural change--the reversal of the obesity epidemic--and the wave has some ebb and flow to it. Maybe a macrocosmic, natural pattern is unfolding and I'm just a little part of it. Maybe I contribute to, but am not solely in charge of, outcomes even within my own body.

In any case, reasserting my controls started feeling right again a couple of weeks ago. As a result, that upward trending red line has flattened out and shows signs of turning downward once more.

As much as I'd love to force this pattern into compliance with my plans, I see now that I have a very limited say in the matter. I'd be much better off spending my energy riding my bike.

*Logging my weight every morning and my calories every meal. These aren't the direct cause of weight loss, of course, or even of eating less. But they form a bridge of consciousness between urge and action, and that consciousness is extremely powerful.

Both controls have become exponentially easier with 21st-century technology. That's one of the collective forces at work.

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