Push too hard and you will find yourself at the other end of the exertion spectrum – not pushing at all or giving up completely.
This is the latest of my wisdom gleaned while running. The competitive side of me is showing its colors lately, as I get closer to an upcoming local 5K run. I find myself looking for the edges of my ability, and it has quickly become clear that pushing like a maniac just to see a number on my watch has its sensibility limits if I want to actually FINISH the 5K.
If I force an overly fast pace, I find that I need to slow down significantly to recover, and the average speed is not as fast as when I keep a more moderate – but not entirely tortoise-like! – pace more consistently. The trick is knowing where that balance is.
What I know for sure is that if a high intensity effort is too high, there is a tendency to even that out by compensating with an equally low level of effort. In the extreme, this can mean quitting altogether. Call it the Law of Human Tendencies. The less the difference between the extremes, the more sustainable the behavior, be it running or eating.
This holds true for almost everyone trying to lose weight. Try too hard – eat too little, get too little pleasure – and there is usually an equal and opposite binge on what is missed.
Homeostasis is a term used to describe the tendency of human bodies to return to a balanced state. There are so many regulatory functions of the body with complex balancing acts in constant motion. Hunger and brain chemistry are no exceptions. We have some wiggle room for trying to change our balancing point, but pushing too hard is not the answer. Know yourself and use a little finesse.
Like my running, I believe the key to weight loss lies in putting in effort to a point. For all of us, there is a point at which the effort is excessive and we get the uncomfortable feeling that the wheels are about to come off the bus – not a good feeling!
I am getting a little better at recognizing the point when I feel panicky about regaining my breathing rhythm while running. Now I need to practice listening to the signals and steadying the pace. The trickier point is knowing when to ease up before my knee starts talking to me. Again, this has to do with over-pushing.
Changing eating habits is at least as tricky. Your body is giving you clues. Are you listening?