My INTJ Weight Loss Heritage
Tuesday May 21, 2019
So, as a follow-up to yesterday’s weight loss post, I thought I’d share a bit about what I’ve learned from my INTJ father’s weight loss journey and how that affected my own journey and outcomes.
By the way, as a promised update, I’m’ down a pound today to 206, so five pounds lost overall. My next goal post is at 203, and I’m setting a conservative final goal of 195, with a stretch goal of 189 pounds.
Anyway, back to my dad and my INTJ weight loss heritage…
First, I want to start by saying that my dad didn’t know he was an INTJ, or what that was, and I began my own studies in personality psychology long after he passed away. It’s too bad. For all the great things that my dad was—wise, knowledgeable, expert in many areas, at times funny and spontaneous—knowing more about his psychology would have undoubtedly been a big deal to him.
But one nice thing about this situation is that it gives me additional perspective on strengths and blind spots of the INTJ, as isolated from the additional personal meta-reflection. And that perspective, while unfortunate in some ways, in other ways helps me better understand some of the people who contact me, or who may even read this blog.
A Potential Trap: How We See Ourselves, versus Our Objectively-measured Level
My dad was really, really concerned about, and interested in, weight loss. BUT, he saw himself as someone who “got” weight loss and knew how to do it. I think this highlights an important INTJ blind spot and “fake strength” area: I can’t be caught dead not knowing how something works.
In discussing weight loss with other people, my dad would say, “look, I’m not a doctor, I’m a dentist. But I went through two years of medical school with the doctors, so I know a lot about the human body and how it works.” He was reaching, and maybe over-reaching, for this “reasons I know what I’m talking about” social proof. A lot of INTJs do this. Heck, I’ve done it myself, though ever since I’ve learned about it, I try to keep it out of my advice-giving practice. If someone doesn’t want to take my advice, well—at least I’m learning this stuff by myself, for myself. That’s helpful and it makes me feel great.
But my dad—he was pretty uncomfortable about not being seen as a wise consultant. Especially in these areas of deep personal interest, like weight loss. And you could kind of sense, along with this advice and consulting, a parallel thread: He was also frustrated about his lack of progress.
A lot of his advice was effectively self-removed and maybe some would say hypocritical in this way; his health and weight loss progress was not always really clear by looking at him. His weight would visibly fluctuate with his stress levels and his personal feeling of happiness with his life. My dad would speak out of deep sympathy for obese people. And, while still overweight, he would talk about what it was like “back when” he was obese. He also loved to reflect on the “rock-hard calves” he had when he was a teenager, riding his bike up the steep hills of Bremerton, Washington. Wow!
In a sense, these discussions would come around to a sad sort of “I could have made state” feel, as seen in one of my favorite scenes in Napoleon Dynamite:
The feel to these discussions with dad was, I think I’m saying, a bit unrealistic. If you really analyzed his progress, he just wasn’t where he wanted to be, even though he projected a lot of knowledge.
For me, that’s become a lesson: Be humble, get experience, know yourself, and realize you might catch yourself speaking out of your depth. So, close that subject-object gap as soon as you can, if it’s important to you.
Unfortunate Closed-mindedness and Perception-Attentions
There was also a lot of “diet critic” in my dad. He read hundreds of diet books. His favorite principles, after all that reading, were:
- Eat healthy food like whole grains and vegetables
- Get adequate rest.
- Don’t worry about calories. Don’t count them, just eat healthy and exercise.
This was, essentially, his health and diet system. For that reason, I thought it would be helpful to break it down here and analyze the components and how they played out for him.
Healthy Food: Dad’s Principle 1 and Some Analysis
My dad did eat a lot of healthy food. But in retrospect it’s easy to see that he ate way, way too much food overall. One of his favorite sandwiches was two thick pieces of mom’s whole-wheat bread, a tomato slice, onions, refried beans, and catalina salad dressing.
Yikes. Personally I don’t think that would do much for me in terms of my current tastes. It was kind of sloppy in that extraverted-sensing way. And he ate those all the time; I need more variety than that. Still, these sandwiches were closing in on 400 or 500 calories with a nice balance of nutritional factors. Good protein. And even the carbs—not too bad!
But: They could not compete with his stress eating. I’d catch him standing around the kitchen, just thinking, and picking at various foods. Nuts, grains, whatever they were they were adding around 500 to 800 calories in one go. How can one’s metabolism compete with that kind of activity?
Looking back at this is why it is more important to me to keep a journal and write out my thoughts than it is to eat healthy food. Stress eating comes from stress. Stressors must be attacked or they can grow quickly. To attack a stressor, you can’t just keep it buried. You have to get it out—write about it, talk about it. Then revisit it until it’s not a stressor anymore.
Exercise: Dad’s Principle 2 and Some Analysis
Dad’s exercise methods were OK in the sense that, great—he did get some exercise. But in reflecting on his methods and how stale they became, I realized that my own methods were not open-minded enough.
I’m not a fitness expert, but I have learned that if I want to build muscle, I need to develop and refine a muscle-building system. Dad did not do that. He didn’t know what system he was using. At his more advanced points, he might do a thousand push-ups one day, maybe 600 on another…but in the scheme of things it was sort of random except for intensity.
Speaking of which, I also think he was way too intense which is something I see in many INTJs. He was much more likely to ride his bike too far and too fast than he was to go on a walk which would be simpler and yet still burn a lot of calories.
It’s very, very hard to convince an INTJ to be less intense about something, if you’ve ever tried that. So I don’t usually. But I do encourage more gentle forms of exercise, and more reflection on why things need to be so intense, on top of that intense exercise system, whatever the system is.
My learning point here is: I need a fitness system with some structure. And maybe a system for introducing variety. I’m not just going to do the standard stuff. In years previous I’ve tried out new systems, such as recommended routines I found via Reddit. Some are really helpful, some are non-starters, but I’ve never stayed with one for longer than a year, because I just need variety after a while.
I’ve also had a lot of great experiences with walking and light hiking. It’s been super good for me and has helped me lose over 100 pounds. I can introduce as much variety as I want, and that makes it a very useful exercise system of its own.
Rest: Dad’s Principle 3 and Some Analysis
This was essentially lip service for my dad. He did take naps, but overall he was a workaholic and never stopped until he died an early death, a week after his retirement party.
It’s sobering to think about this. I was headed this same direction in my early career and the results are frightening to think about. Anxiety, depression, just awful. I remember hearing my dad just sobbing—very, very occasionally, but sobbing in his bedroom, while telling my mom how much he felt like he was a failure.
My dad didn’t measure his rest and didn’t seem to seek ways to improve it, except in those intensity spurts I mentioned. His idea of rest was to take a spontaneous weekend vacation to the coast.
Sadly, it’s easy to see how he could have made his weekday work much more restful, had he just been aware to look for such opportunities and build a system of rest. That’s been one of my learning points from my own coach over time as well: INTJs need to learn how to set boundaries, and one purpose of those boundaries is to protect one’s own energy levels.
Regarding sleep, I have been measuring it and my average is up by more than an hour and a half a night. The results have been really great for me—less anxiety, a clearer mind, and effectively zero incidents of exhaustion/depression.
Don’t worry about calories: Dad’s Principle 4 and Some Analysis
So my dad loved to talk about how calorie-counters would always fail. Their weight would always go back up. They’d be stuck in these demotivating loops.
Even in the presence of the clear fact that my dad himself was overweight and not exactly looking the way he wanted, this viewpoint of his frightened me, and I, myself, became an anti-calorie-counter. And on top of that, because I was trying to grow muscle as a high school and then college student, I started what was effectively a “dirty bulk” without even knowing what that was. So I unwittingly set myself up on the very same weight-gain ladder that many adults climb until they are very, very overweight.
I credit scooby1961 with helping me change my mind on calories, as I started paying attention to his workout videos. Scooby is a great example of what I see as a highly objective-perceptive personality. That offers a great learning model to potentially closed-minded people like me.
After watching lots and lots of Scooby’s videos, I believe he is an Ne-dominant ENFP. He’s incredibly open (Ne) to new ideas and changes in opinion, and he always runs the numbers (Te). He’s not afraid of taking measurements and evaluating things from that standpoint. (He also talks a lot about Stephen Covey’s values-directed living viewpoint, and is very well planted in Fi)
As I made my first forays into calorie-counting, I found it pretty fiddly. But I researched my problems and was told that this wouldn’t last—soon it would become intuitive. Which was music to my intuitive ears!
Now that calorie counting is a no-brainer, it’s like I’m living in a different weight loss world. I’m less fearful about my weight and more conscious of what I’m eating and why. I find it’s also easier to forgive myself when I gain weight, and that helps me move on and lose it when I need to—even if that looks to others like I’m on some sort of lose-gain cycle. Personally, my results are just way, way better than they were before I counted calories.
My overall learning point here, though, is to hold my models lightly. My dad held too firmly to the calorie-counting-won’t-work model. And I believe that worked against him. Sure, it might not have worked well for him at first, as I found, but as a sharpened tool it’s pretty darn good.
I hope this has helped some of you, and maybe you’ve even found some identification with principles or experiences described here.
I’m very happy with my diet progress since last week and am looking forward to more of this little journey.