“Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.”― W. Edwards Deming
Personally I have always been data-driven.
I like to have a record of all kinds of things— from my exercise logs to my nutrition, to whenever I’m pursuing some kind of project; I like to have that data in hand to look back upon and see where I made mistakes; to learn from things that I could have done better.
So that going forward, I can follow a more optimal path to reach my goals.
Without data in hand, you don’t have a guiding North star that shows you the direction you should be moving in. Whenever you’re trying to improve on certain aspects if you can’t measure the key metrics, you cannot optimise them.
What gets measured gets managed.
When it comes to measuring your weight loss progress, for most people, the data point of focus is their scale weight or body weight.
The problem arises when people get obsessed with or emotionally invested in their weighing scale number. Your scale weight is just a data point. It helps you determine whether you’re moving in the right direction; if there needs to be any change in your approach.
By itself it doesn’t really mean anything.
Many people also collect this measurement of their body weight sporadically. Some would randomly step on a weighing scale, see the number, either feel happy or feel devastated.
This is pointless.
If you’re going to track your body weight, you have to ensure that most variables around that measurement are kept same.
You cannot be tracking your body weight one day in the morning. The next day in the evening. Some days after going to the washroom, some days after drinking a tall glass of water— you cannot do that.
Here is the right way to take your body weight reading.
Weigh yourself first thing in the morning, right after using the washroom. And do this wearing minimal clothing.
Use the same body weight scale every single time, because different scales can have slightly varying measurement errors. But if you use the same scale every time, there won’t be any relative errors in measurements.
Don’t eat or drink anything before weighing yourself.
Don’t weigh yourself multiple times during the day. Later in the day your body weight would have increased because you’ll have more food and water in your system.
This does not give you a clear idea of reality.
The reason for taking body weight readings is not to give yourself some sort of psychological satisfaction.
It is to help you determine if you’re making progress and to help you correct course if necessary
Once you have collected the data point, that task is done. Now all you can do is spot the trends over a long period of time. A single data point when it comes to your body weight means nothing.
Your body weight can change on a day-to-day basis depending on if you had more food the previous night, if you had a heavy meal, if you ate more salty foods, if you’re in a certain phase of your menstrual cycle. There are too many variables at play.
What matters is the general trend in your body weight over weeks and months.
Once you measure your body weight, note it down in a notepad or in a spreadsheet.
After you have recorded your weight for the next 7 days, calculate the weekly average. Do this every week for the duration of your entire program and spot the change in weekly average body weight.
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Depending on where you are in terms of your body fat levels, the optimal rate of weight loss from week to week would vary.
If you’re someone who has a lot of body weight to lose, you would aim to lose around 1.2-1.5% of your current body weight every week.
Calculate the difference between weeks two and one, and see if you’re losing at this rate.
But for most people you’d aim to lose around 1% of your current body weight. If you’re currently 70 kgs, and have around 10 kgs to lose. You’ll aim to drop on average 0.7 kgs every week.
So track the change in weekly averages. Is it close to your target rate of loss?
If it is, then you are making good progress. If it is much higher than that, then you need to increase your food intake so you lose at a more reasonable pace.
Remember losing weight is a marathon. It’s not a race.
If you speed up the process, it will not be sustainable long-term.
If it is too slow, then you probably need to increase your activity levels. You may also need to decrease your food intake a bit. Both of these will bring you up to that optimal rate of weight loss.
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You also need to track your body measurements.
Measurements have to be taken weekly, not daily. Because body measurements don’t tend to fluctuate that much.
The more a variable tends to fluctuate, the better it is to have multiple data points so you can average out the values. That is the case for your body weight.
But for body measurements, weekly readings are perfect. Many times you may not see a change in scale weight, but you will see a change in your body measurements.
That is still very good progress.
Take body measurements in centimetres, not inches. Centimetres let you record even minor decreases/increases in measurements. This will keep you motivated. Whereas changes in inches can take 2-3 weeks to show up sometimes.
Here are the body parts you need to measure:
- Chest: Relaxed. Across the bust line if you’re a woman. Or across the nipples if you’re a man.
- Upper arm: Flexed. At widest point.
- Waist: Neutral (don’t suck in your tummy or expand it). At narrowest point right above belly button.
- Hips: Circumference at widest point of glutes.
- Thighs: At widest point of thigh right under glutes.
Some people like to measure both sides for the limbs and then take the average. I think that’s too much effort.
If you always measure on the same side, you’ll be able to keep track of progress just as well.
All of this may seem like a lot of work.
However if you’re trying to bring about a tangible change to how your body looks and feels. You need to have this data in place.
Especially if your goals are aesthetic, this data is even more crucial. Without a fair idea of where you need to add more muscle in your body, you’d be training blind.
Here’s an article you’ll find insightful if you’re a man trying to build an aesthetically appealing physique: The Perfect Male Body: Ultimate Guide to Aesthetics
Think of it this way. If during science class you went to the chemistry lab to perform experiments, you would not rely on just guesswork to know if you’re performing them correctly. You would not be solely reliant on your memory to keep track of the readings.
You’d be noting everything down. You’d use precise instruments to keep track of the data so you can be sure of what you’re doing.
You won’t just randomly mix chemicals and hope that something good happens.
Things like sending a spaceship to the moon, sending a spaceship to Mars, making a vaccine to fight a disease— all these wonderful accomplishments that we have achieved as a human race have been possible because of data.
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Your body is a biological machine which works under similar scientific principles.
In order to bring about any kind of tangible change, you have to follow a scientific method.
That means tracking data and altering the right variables to achieve the outcomes you desire.
You can send a rocket to the moon through trial and error as well, but it would probably take you billions of years to get there. Similarly, you can get to your weight loss goals randomly through guesswork.
But if you have the data, it’s going to speed up the process. Because you would know exactly what you need to do to achieve your goals.
Whenever you’re tracking data, it should be with purpose.
It should not just be for the sake of psychological satisfaction.
Say, after you have fasted the entire previous day, you dehydrated yourself by not drinking water. And then when step on the weighing scale next morning, seeing a smaller body weight number makes you happy.
This exercise serves no purpose.
If you spent an hour in the sauna, were sweating the entire time; that will dehydrate you and cause a loss of water weight. If you weigh yourself after that, it would seem like you lost body weight.
But that isn’t the kind of weight loss you are looking to achieve. You want to lose fat. And that cannot happen overnight.
So don’t use these tools for psychological relief. Use these as part of the overall weight loss process in a systematic manner.
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When I first start working with clients, many of them have no idea what they’re doing wrong.
But once they have enough data in hand— they have been tracking their measurements, body weight, food intake, daily activity levels.
They are able to pinpoint their own shortcomings by themselves. Once data is in hand, only then can you plan a strategy to reach your goals.
Otherwise you’d be reliant on short-term tactics like crash diets, diet plans, diet charts— which will get you quick results, but you would not know why you got those results.
And once the program is over, you’ll go back to your old ways and regain the lost weight back. Avoid this.
Data makes you self-aware of your actions and awareness is the first step to bring about change.
So track the data; don’t avoid it. And don’t get emotionally invested in it.
Use it as a tool and you will lose the weight you’ve been looking to. And achieve all your body composition related goals.
If you have been trying to reach your weight loss goals for a while now, but are struggling a bit in the process.
It’s probably because of a lack of consistency, a lack of guidance or a lack of support.
If you’d like a 24×7 support system to hold your hand and guide you through the process till you get to your goals, you should consider 1-on-1 coaching with Workday Physique.