Mind over Math
Thursday, April 25, 2013
One of the things that I find motivating in my weight loss is to graph and chart everything. I have a super nerdy Excel spreadsheet that has all my weight and measurements tracked as well as a few other things like the types and duration of exercises I've done (on a calendar). I like to plan out my expectations for myself so I can see how reality matches up. I adjust my expectations when I need to, but for the most part I find the plan and the charting are one way I can bust some of my bad-habit excuses. I hate the thought of having no number to input for a day so I am more inclined to work out and weigh myself even if I don't feel like it. And, for the most part, my charts have shown me reasons to celebrate rather than reasons to be frustrated.
I have read sometimes that you should not weigh yourself too often. I can see why, for a few reasons. It seems easy to become obsessed with the number on the scale, and that number is not a good indicator of progress. It is also easy to lose sight of your progress when you are seeing extremely small changes day-to-day. I consider myself generally capable of rational and abstract thought, but one of my charts has shown that my perception of my weight loss and plateauing is not really accurate.
If I weigh myself every day (which I do), I see numbers like this over the span of a week (not my real weight): 191.8; 191.1; 191.6; 191.6; 191.4; 190.6; 191.2. I look at these numbers and I think to myself, "I have been hovering around 191 all week." Day to day, and even week to week, I don't feel like I'm making much progress when I look at those numbers on the scale in the morning. Now, I don't tend to get too discouraged as I don't put a lot of stock in the scale number and I don't expect pounds to fly off me at the speed of light, but I do still check in to make sure I'm making the right decisions in regards to my calories consumed/spent over a longer term.
The graph that surprised me, however, was the one that took my average weight each week and compared it to the average weight of the week before. I am almost always down 1.2 pounds. I found this surprising! I think taking a daily weight and using a weekly average is good for me as my weight on any given day fluctuates quite a bit. If I looked at, for example, my weight every Monday, my weight loss per week ranges between 0 and 3 pounds from week to week, which doesn't reflect the reality of my weight loss.
Is my idea that I am in control of this obsession also flawed? I hope not! I believe that as long as I am looking forward to plotting the numbers and finding patterns, rather than being anxious or disappointed, it is ok. I am keeping in line with my SparkPeople fitness plan (for the most part!) and am not obsessing about making the scale number go down. I'm just obsessing about new ways to think about and chart it! It's a nice side-benefit to the many other learning experiences I'm having about my body and my health.