Imagine a car rolling down the highway at a constant speed. Now imagine a refueling truck keeping pace with that car and adding a constant trickle of gas to the car’s tank, so that the level in the tank neither falls nor rises.

Now imagine that the driver of the car presses harder on the accelerator, and the car speeds up. The refueling truck speeds up too to stay with the car, but the trickle of gas stays the same — it doesn’t increase to compensate for the faster-running engine.

According to common sense — and the laws of thermodynamics — the level of fuel in the tank must now begin to drop. Right? Right?

Well, I’m now in week four of vigorous exercise almost every damn day, and the pounds are not coming off. I weigh exactly as much as I did when I started. My eating habits are the same as before, and my level of physical activity is notably higher. If I could build a car that worked like me, the world’s fossil fuel woes would be over.

In the past I’ve announced my weight-loss efforts on this blog as way to compel myself to stick with them (reasoning that I wouldn’t be able to let my millions of loyal readers down, natch). This time I kept it quiet, hoping for more success than in other recent attempts, so as to have a little momentum going when I broke the news here. Happily, sticking with my new fitness regime no longer seems to be the main challenge. Unhappily, the effect of all that exercise seems to be nothing other than an increase in the efficiency with which I metabolize my food intake. I have no choice but to change my eating habits. Let’s see if that does anything, or if I continue to defy the laws of nature.

Phase one: eliminating sweets for two weeks. This better work.

3 thoughts on “Thermody-nom-ics”

  1. I had the same experience for 2-3 months before Christmas, although instead of trying to lose a specific amount of weight, I was just trying to reduce the size of my gut some noticeable amount. The general benchmark has always been for someone to ask, “Say, have you lost some weight?” So I went to the gym 3-4 times a week in the mornings before work. It was pretty painful, I’m not much of a morning person, and on most days Catherine got to stay in bed while I got up at 6.

    Unfortunately it had little effect ๐Ÿ™ And to add insult to injury, when we went to Australia at Christmas, Catherine’s mother and brother both independently exclaimed, “Hey, have you lost weight??” To HER! I was indignant. After the wedding (T-minus 19 days…) I’m going to get back on the wagon and keep at it. Don’t give up!

    My one other suggestion is to vary your workouts if you aren’t already. I need to do this more myself, but as I understand it, if you just do the same type of exercise for a long time, your body gets used to it and you get less of a benefit from it. If you can mix it up (row one day, bike another day, lift weights a different day, or even just try different versions of the same exercise) you’ll burn more calories. So I’m told.

    You can also take a look at the replies I got to this Ask Metafilter question from some time ago:

  2. i know every fat person in the world says this, but it really is a gland problem. partly, anyway. and we’ve got the fat genes.

    i spent the entire month of january being the picture of perfect health and fitness (in preparation for my punta cana trip). it took me 30 days of serious hardcore work to take off 18 pounds and just 7 days on vacation to put back 5.

    sorry, brother, but i fear you have old age and our mom to thank for the increasing difficulty with weight loss.

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