Wednesday, December 19, 2012

You Get What You ...

A while back I wrote a blog post titled "You get what you measure" discussing the importance of metrics in the change process.  A couple of days ago I read a blog post at ZenHabits on the theme "You get what you do" discussing the actual change happens in the doing.  It hit me that these two concepts are intimately intertwined. How do you change without doing and how do you understand what to do without measuring.

These two came together recently for me in the area of weight loss. I have been on a steady uphill slope with my weight and became very dissatisfied with how I felt, how out of breath I became and of course not liking looking like a stuffed sausage.  I have heard the story: "I keep reading diet books but I am not losing weight". The punch line is that you cannot lose weight by trying to understand the process, but only by actual practice.

But what is practice?  It seems to me to be a loop of measure, do, measure, do...

Back to my weight.  Several months ago I saw a program by Dr Joel Furman about changing eating habits (life style change) to focus on consuming a diet high in micro nutrients (vitamins, phyto-chemicals, anti-oxidants, etc) but low in the macro nutrients (carbohydrates, fats, protein). One premise is that we over eat because the body craves micro nutrients but the western diet is high calorie but low in micro nutrients.  Thus we over eat and get obese.

So I increased my intake of micro nutrient rich food and watched my high calorie foods. Weight kept going up. So I began to understand that the phrase "watch what I eat" means exactly that; observe the food as it move from my plate to my mouth. It is not a measurement technique, but a placebo in place of actually doing anything to moderate my input.

So with the micro nutrients, my hunger was well contained and my body felt healthier, and I was actually doing something in the right direction, but I did not have any handle on calories. What I was missing was any real measuring.

A couple of months ago one of my best friends at work came in with a high tech pedometer and an app on his smart phone, raving about how measuring his steps and logging his food was helping him lose weight. The device and app came from a company called Fitbit. 

I looked into it.  The system was very easy to use and fairly automatic.  They had a tracker device that would measure steps, stairs, distance, calories burned and if worn on your wrist at night, how well you slept. It would automatically sync through a blue tooth connection to your online account.  They also had a wifi connected scale that measured weight and fat content; which also automatically synced with your account.  Just wear the tracker and step on the scale every day.  The only piece of the puzzle that was not automatic was logging food consumed. With the phone app, you always have a tool at easy hand to do that.

Automatic enough that I would stick with it, I bought the set.  I now have the measurement tools with historical graphs, etc. I need to understand what to do and the motivation to actually do it.

I started just before Thanksgiving and slowed down the gain that first week.  During the 3 weeks after that, I lost 10 pounds.  Seems like a lot but I am a big guy so this might be more like 5 or 6 pounds for someone else.  Most days I meet my goals in calorie intake, and my goal of 10,000 steps and 10 flights of stairs. I feel so much better. My physical fitness has noticeably improved.  Better yet this system feels like something I can maintain for a very long time, ideally a permanent lifestyle change. High in micro nutrients and low in calorie measure diet with goals/feedback in a walking program.

My take away from this experience is that to be effective in making a change in your life, business, anything at all; is to dynamically steer with a constant cycle of measure, adjust, do, measure, adjust, do...

PS, just got this out before the Mayan calendar expires.. ;-)