Monday, December 26, 2011

The Weight Solution- Data

With Xmas officially over, the next annual benchmark in New Year's, or Resolution Season. The most popular New Year's Resolution? Start reading Tri-Banter more often. Lose Weight. If you read my weight loss series, you'd know that there are way too many unknowns for the average person to accurately know anything about their weight. But, you are not the average person. You read Tri-Banter. And with that literacy habit, I will now tell you how to drop the fat. Please note, this will take longer than the average infomercial.

Show Me the Data
One of the ladies that I coach, or used to as she has developed some sort of injury (which was not my fault, I swear), had just successfully finished her season. She was ready to move on to something new. I sat down with her, as I do all of my athletes, and discussed her schedule including what went well and what didn't. Then we talked about her next season and what she wanted to accomplish. She simply said, "I want to lose weight."

"Are you sure you want me involved in this goal?" I asked. She said yes. She and I both know that I would get her to where she wanted to be. "You know that this means that you will weigh your self daily and report to me your numbers. I will want you to..." She stopped me. As I predicted, she was already uncomfortable giving me these numbers. Maybe it was a girl/ guy thing. But, the moment she refused to share with me her data was the moment I told her to pick a new goal.

As in any form of goal setting, data should drive you and help you make decisions. I, as a teacher, know this all too well. Who will I ever know if my students are progressing towards their goals if I never measure, record, and analyze anything? Data helps me make informed, intelligent decisions. The same goes for my athletes. When we set goals, we need to collect progress reports in the form of numbers. And, the data needs to be related to the goals. The cartoon shows what happens when you collect too much data. For example, when I coach the weight loss lady above in her last season, she had a distance goal of finishing a 13.1 mile race. When I wrote her workouts, they were flexible and distance based. She had to report back to me how far she actually ran, when she ran, and how it felt. Speed was not important.

Here's step one in your weight loss venture: You have to collect weight data. Use your bathroom scale. Yes, I understand that this is contradictory to a former post. Your bathroom scale is completely unreliable in telling you how much you weigh. But, it is not unreliable in helping you gauge weight loss when you use it correctly. Most people jump on the scale, look and the number, react to the number, and jump off. This is not a very good way to go about things. Where's the objectivity? (I'm not referring to your waist line.) 

We need to record at the same time on a daily basis and chart it. We also need to refrain from making hasty conclusions on the data. Suppose you went running one day and had a crappy run. In 1 hour you managed only 5 miles even though you felt like you were pushing hard. Your HR was in Z4 the whole time. Last week, you did that same run in under 50 minutes with your HR in Z3. Would you conclude that you have gotten slower because of that one crappy run? Doubtful. You just had a bad run, for whatever reason. Now, if you repeated this over the course of a month, 5 times a week. The conclusion that you were a 5 mph runner would be much more accurate. Same goes for your weight. Don't focus on one individual number. Don't compare yesterday to today. Focus on the trend over the course of a long period of time.

The best time to gather your data is first thing in the morning. Wake up. Pee. Get on the scale. If you were really serious, you'd get on the scale naked. Your clothing is not necessary in this venture and possibly counter productive. You must jump on the scale, look at the number, NOT react to the number, jump off, and write it down. I record mine in Excel, but I am thinking on moving my weight loss numbers over to Garmin. The website were I record my workout numbers also allows my to record my weight. Garmin has even gone so far as to develop a scale that will record your weight and send it to the website wirelessly, for those too lazy to click the buttons yourself (which may also be at the root of weight loss problems). 

Now, and this is the toughest part of all but vital enough to repeat: Once you have recorded it, completely forget about the number. It is not at all important. It is just a number and not your real weight anyway. You need much more data before you can do anything with it. Again, physically write down the number in a place that you remember and leave it there. Do this again and again for a minimum of 2 weeks. In reality, you should keep recording the data until you no longer wish to have a weight loss goal.

How's Your Slope?
Once you have at least 14 data points, make a graph. Garmin will do this for you. So will Excel if you ask it nicely. Here's my graph starting from the day after Thanksgiving Break. I was, most likely, at my fattest.

Please notice how the numbers go up and down. Also notice that there is some missing data. I was not a good student last week. It was a recovery week in my training which almost always means that eating habits are steady with extra sleep thrown in. Extra sleep means extra rushing in the morning and I did not record. Bad Banter.

If you look at the slope, the line is obviously lower on the right than on the left. This is what the math geeks refer to as a negative slope, which is exactly what the line should look like if you want to drop weight. I do not expect your line to look like this. I honestly don't care what your line looks like at this time. It's just data. And, I've already started implementing the next few stages of weight loss. The slope of the line is really the only thing that matters. We need to know if you are gaining weight (positive slope), losing weight (see above), or holding steady (flatline). My guess is that a majority of people are actually flatlining. Careful as flatlining might mean you are dead. If that is true, you can stop reading now. You'll likely be losing weight in the very near future.

You are not done. You need to continue doing this daily. There may become a time in the future, when you no longer have weight loss goals, when you can stop. Until then, you need to weigh and record. It seems like a lot of work because it is. If your are like me (and I think you are), you'll take short cuts. Most of the shortcuts involve eating less and making smarter food decisions/ substitutions. If you start losing weight over the long term, as identified in your charting, there's a good chance that your changes are positive. If you are maintaining or gaining weight, there's a good chance a more invasive approach is needed. I'll tell you more about that in the near future.

1 comment:

  1. read it and weep: