Inertia, bicycles, and weight loss

Okay, so over the last few days (here and here), I’ve started to try and clarify and explain what I’ve been doing that has so far been working well for me.

As I mentioned, my premise from the start was to stop overeating–and presumably then lose weight–by choosing health. But getting started was seemingly an insurmountable problem. I felt as if my mantra was “just one more day,” which went on for a period of about four months after I’d gone back to therapy.

I cannot recall exactly what it was that got me started, but I know I did start the first full weekend in February. What struck me later (maybe a week or two or three) was just how much easier it was once I had gotten going than it was getting started.

It was this experience that got me thinking about inertia, bicycles, and weight loss. For those of you non-geeks, the law of inertia comes to us from Isaac Newton, and it’s summarized basically as:

An object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion.

Now, think about riding a bike (or driving a stick-shift car). The hardest part is to get moving. Courtesy of inertia, it’s easier to keep going than it is to go from stop to start.

So how is that relevant? Well, for me at least, that “just one more day” is inertia at work. And the answer is also found in the law, which goes on to state that bodies stay at rest or in motion until acted upon by an outside force. This is a natural complement to yesterday’s post; the corollary to “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” is that you have to do something. You have to apply the force to get moving from a stop.

So yes, the law of inertia suggests that if you’re dealing with weight loss/overeating inertia, you have to do more work to get started. But for me, the important point is that once you get going, it is easier.

Now, I hadn’t really thought about all of this when I got started in February. But it wound up helping me a great deal in late May, when I fell “off the wagon” in a big way. I had done incredibly well up to early May (I think I’d lost 40lbs by then) when my spring conference was scheduled. But after a week away (and the partying I allowed myself), I came back to several weeks of “just one more day.”

And yep, I struggled to get back on track. But honestly, I found that keeping inertia in mind really helped me. I had lost the external motivation (the conference had passed), yet this time I was aware that if I could just get going, I’d be back to that place where I wouldn’t have to put in as much work to keep going. Same thing for my August vacation.

Alas, I don’t think that understanding inertia is a way to plan free falls back into unhealthy behaviors (they don’t call it the slippery slope for nothing). But I think it might be helpful for someone who hasn’t gotten started to know that it won’t always be as hard. Especially if you make feeling good the priority. More about that soon.

Worth a visit