“Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.” (Dr. H. James Harrington)
I read an interesting business article today that I think applies to weight loss success very nicely. It was called “You Can’t Improve What You Don’t Measure” by Todd Smith www.littlethingsmatter.c
and he wasn’t talking portion sizes (although they are important, too).
The basic premise of the article is that if you don’t measure, you can’t know if you’re making progress and, “what gets measured gets done”. The author cites something called “The Hawthorne Effect”, which recognizes that people tend to modify some aspect of their behavior in a positive way when they know that behavior is being observed. So in other words, what you pay attention to – or measure – changes in a positive way just because you’re taking notice of what you’re doing.
According to Smith, benefits of measuring performance include:
1. The ability to set goals and evaluate progress;
2. You always know where you stand;
3. You have the ability to identify aspects of your behavior or program that need modifications or refinement;
4. You can see the results of what you’re doing, as well as any changes you make along the way;
5. Troubleshooting problems can happen quicker and more accurately.
There are three components to being able to measure effectively:
1. You need a baseline or starting point, which is the point from which all progress is measured;
2. You need a goal (without a goal, how would you know where you’re headed or when you’ve arrived?);
3. You need to know how you’re going to measure progress.
To apply all this to getting healthy and losing weight, you need to identify your starting point (or baseline). This can be any number of things, like clothes sizes, bmi, or, most commonly, our starting/current weight, which you should document to help make your commitment more solid.
Next, you set your goals. That could be the size clothing you want to wear, a healthy bmi, a certain number goal weight, or any other measurable criteria (your goals should be realistic).
Now, the easy part. Think about what factors will contribute to your success. What can you do to bring yourself closer to your goals? Is it taking a walk after dinner every night? Is it eliminating that evening snack? Being diligent about tracking nutrition and exercise? The possibilities are almost endless and can be very individualized. You are designing your very own action plan here.
The hard part is implementing that action plan in a consistent way, over time, which is what comes next. Unfortunately, there's no way around. As Yoda said, "No! Try not! Do or do not, there is no try!" It's up to you.
Finally, you must MEASURE. But how do you measure progress? That’s pretty individualized. Most of us rely on the scale moving lower, but that can be pretty scary for a lot of people. Not to worry. There are other ways of measuring your success. Your clothing sizes may get smaller. Your bmi may be smaller. Your resting heart rate may be lower. Your cholesterol may improve. You may be walking further than before, at a faster rate. It all depends on what you looked at as your baseline, what your goal is, the actions you are taking to reach your goals, and what you choose to measure. You get to decide.
How frequently should you measure? That depends on what you decide to measure. If you’re looking for changes in body measurements or improvements with cholesterol, there won’t be much to measure if you check every day. For some people, measuring weekly works. For others, it might be more appropriate to measure every other week or even monthly.
Then, based on the results of your measurements, you decide if your program or action plan needs a little tweaking. You get to choose the appropriate changes and implement them. In turn, those changes should help you make even more progress.
The whole process of setting goals, measuring, and refining your program should give you a sense of control and maybe even motivate you to achieve even more success.
REMEMBER: What can be measured, can be improved.