Wednesday, Revisiting Oscillating Oscar

This post was originally published in February 2010. It will be the subject of my thoughts throughout the day:

Just 4 Today, I’m NOT going to eat between meals and I’m NOT going to take seconds. And I’ll walk at least 3 miles, take my fiber supplement and drink 2 liters of water.

For some reason I feel more like something the cat dragged in than anything else.  So I went back to my archives for inspiration (what else are they for?) and found this written in July 2006 – Weight Control: A Fierce Struggle:

I can see why this obesity thing is so hard to cure control. It seems like most days I struggle to stay on track — and my goal isn’t even that difficult. I’m just trying to cut back a few hundred calories a day. The problem is that a few hundred calories a day are so powerful. Eat a few hundred less and we can lose a pound a day. But absentmindedly eat a few hundred calories more and suddenly we’re gaining a pound a week.

I’m not there, but it’s a fierce struggle.

John Walker explains just why this commitment is such a fierce challenge for some of us (from a June 2006 post – Overweight Oscillating Oscar:

The post goes into more detail (and The Hacker’s Diet itself goes into a LOT more detail) but, the basic story is that Oscar’s weight wouldn’t fluctuate if his average calorie intake was at that center mark.

IF his average was there then after a day or so of over eating he could (easily) cut back a couple of hundred calories and – without ever actually gaining weight – get his average back in line (see Skinny Stable Sam).

But, (like me, I guess) Oscar regularly eats at the far right of the ideal range — the average is still OK ….. but:

Oscar has the very same feedback curve as Sam, but his is shifted a little to the right, toward eating too much. One day Sam eats slightly more than he needs, and the next day slightly less. But since feedback keeps him within the range his metabolism can adjust to, Sam’s weight stays the same. When Oscar eats slightly too much, though, he’s pushed immediately into the region where he packs on weight. The next day, like Sam, he may eat less but, since that’s within the flat part where metabolism compensates, he keeps all the weight he packs on whenever he eats a little too much


Reducing is miserable for Oscar. In order to lose weight, he must reduce what goes in far enough to get into the “Lose weight” area of the curve. But that means the ball on the feedback chart has to climb well into the “I’m hungry!” region and stay there for an extended time. (snip) What Oscar doesn’t realise is that his problem is simply poor feedback from the calories he needs to his appetite. If he got accurate feedback, as Sam does, he’d never eat too much, feel hungry, or be forced to endure hunger to take off extra weight. Oscar’s built-in eat watch is simply set 5 minutes too fast. Oscar needs to wear an accurate eat watch to put an end to his oscillations.

Since starting Eat4Today I’ve dramatically reduced my own oscillations.  The weight I lost in that early fight is still mostly off – I’ve gained some back (even a lot) but, it’s been four years since I started this blog and I’ve kept most of that weight off.

On this march toward better health, I’ve got – we all have – a range of goals.  It’s not all about our weight.  But, the weight thing is a big issue (for me at least) and I’d like to think that sometime in the future I could go a year (or more) without gaining weight AND without having to think too much about it.

It’s just a thought. What do you think?

This entry was posted in Eat 4 Today - The Commitment, Setting Goals, The Hacker's Diet and tagged , , .

One Comment

  1. Alex February 17, 2010 at 11:31 am #

    What you’ve posted makes so much sense,KB, and I see it in action with myself.

    “But that means the ball on the feedback chart has to climb well into the “I’m hungry!” region and stay there for an extended time. (snip)”

    That’s why I think of hunger as a positive signpost, and one I have to deal with every day.  Don’t want to say “hunger is my friend,” as that sounds a little neurotic, but it really is a good indicator.  It’s an unmistakable signal, for me, at least, that I’ve not overeaten and I’m losing weight.  And there’s no danger I’ll let myself starve!

    I’m kind of – very – freaked out today (which is Wednesday, but I was yesterday, too) because I’m sick for the first time in years.  I believe it’s directly related to food.

    Ever since I started the calorie diet, I’ve been eating more junk.  I figure if I still have calories left, I can fit in a half a cup of vanilla ice cream and 3/4 of a cup of orange juice, or a bit of a Magic Bar, right?  Wrong.  All this junky stuff has contributed to my being quite, quite miserable.

    I knew the quality of what I was eating was getting out of hand, but I wouldn’t have stopped it without the suffering.  As I wrote the other day, I have to be down on the floor, pounding the boards and crying “Uncle!” usually, before I’ll make a drastic change.  Well, now it’s back to a very healthy diet – yay!!  And still 1200 calories a day :-).