“What gets measured gets done, what gets measured and fed back gets done well, what gets rewarded gets repeated”
— John E. Jones
The bathroom scales used to intimidate me. Harbingers of ill-will that always had a sorry tale to tell. I managed to avoid them for most of my life. Except in those moments of morbid fascination when I wanted to know how far my weight had ballooned this time.
It was a love-hate relationship of the first magnitude.
But a funny thing happened one day.
The scales became my best friend.
You see, I learned a very important lesson from some extremely intelligent people. Measurement is an important part of a feedback loop you need to start to propel any successful body change regime. We think of diet. We think of exercise. What we don’t think of is how to use measurable results to sustain the process. I don’t know about you, but in my old life I rewarded myself with things that tended to be self-destructive.
YAY! I lost two pounds last month! Here’s a bowl of ice cream!
Humans need motivation and measurable results can provide them. The left side of our brain is encouraged by numerical progression. It’s a solid, concrete thing that gives us that little shot of dopamine when it goes up or down depending on the measurement. Deciding to measure is one thing. The next is deciding what to measure.
Let me say that I also learned from some extremely intelligent people that weight is probably the worst thing you could measure. But it’s something. That’s the key here. You need to grasp something that is going to show you results. The problem with weight is that while it can show general trends up or down over time, it can be so shockingly variable on a daily basis as to provide both encouragement and discouragement. A better way is to keep a log of body measurements. Body composition measurements like bicep, waist, thigh measurements tend to be less variable over time and less prone to the daily ups and downs associated with raw body weight. If weight is the only thing you’re comfortable measuring that’s fine. Just remember that it’s a variable that can fluctuate wildly day to day based on how much water you drink, what you eat, what kind of physical activity you’ve participated in (inflammation), and what biological processes are currently happening in your body.
So at this point you’ve decided to measure something and decided what that thing should be. What’s next? Set up a measurement regime. Commit to a regular time and schedule when you do your measurement. The regularity is important for getting accurate results. Weighing yourself in the morning when you wake up one day and then before you go to bed the next day is not going to yield accurate results. Commit to a regular schedule when there is no excuse to not do it (May be after you get everyone launched to work and school in the morning?) and the time to actual do it if you’re committed to doing some more complex measurements.
Now, after you’ve done all these things, write down your results. This gives you a log of results you can look back on. It will provide both encouragement and a place where you can see anomalies. Anomalies in data help scientists root out problems with their theories. Anomalies in your data allow you to root out problems with the life changes you are going through.
Measurement is another tool to provide yourself encouragement and biofeedback on how your life changes are going. When you’re in those days where you feel like nothing is changing, you can look back at the data and realize it is. If it isn’t, it can be the impetus to change the things in your life you haven’t tackled yet. As the quote says, what gets measured gets done. I would encourage you to work a measurement recording regime into your life as well.