Posted by: cmittermeier | March 14, 2013

How to Measure Progress

Ready, Set, Go … and they’re off to a great start, oh, no – the leader is falling back and the pack is taking over.  Sports commentators focus often only on a few specific elements to measure how things are going.  On the journey towards weight loss, we have a lot more options.  If you use the analogy of reaching the top of a mountain, we see that we could measure by how much height we achieve each day, but if it is a steep section where the road must wind slower a days journey could be thousands of steps yet only a hundred feet up the slope.  Not to mention that as one climbs, the effort required because of low oxygen levels becomes greater.  A single step near the top is worth several at the base.  In the weight loss journey, we have lots of measures and I would like to share some of mine.

Not all measures are good for the same things.  I’m trying to reach a specific lifestyle: my eating should be a certain way and every day should include physical activity, though not to a high intensity every day.  Because my goal include these subjective goals I have a lot more things to view progress through.  For example, spending time to research and find vegan recipes counts towards my lifestyle goal, as did trying two of those first recipes.  Setting up two days a week where I ate vegan was another goal.  Getting moving everyday is easy to measure, and it can include values like duration and intensity.  This allows me to graph my progress and see trends or trouble spots.

But what about weight loss in general, what ways can we measure ourselves?  Each measurement will come with its own pros and cons, so lets review a few.

THE SCALE – ba ba ba ba ba! insert scary music here… Few of us like looking at the numbers of scales.  They move so slowly, and if your a woman, can fluctuate without good reason.  Added too much salt one day and poof! Up it goes by a few extra pounds of water weight.  Ditto for that time of the month.  There are some real pros to the scale, and I don’t just mean it gives you a great story about how much weight you lost in total (though that is a perk).  I have used a scale to experiment with my body.  I know if I choose to eat salty food that for four days my weight will be artificially increased because I mapped it with a scale!  I also know that going into treat mode for three days is enough to undo any amount lost in four hard days.  It is basically my break even point and that is good to know.  I also know that it is great to measure long term trends.

MY CLOTHES – and this is a tricky one!  Few of us have clothes that don’t have some amount of give to them.  For a long time manufactures of even jeans have included just a smidge of spandex to help them sell better.  The problem with this is that because it stretches, we can’t really use it as a measure of our losses.  Long term it has some benefit because we move out of one size into the next one down, but just having super baggy pants isn’t always an indicator you’re ready for the next one down… it could just mean that you stretched it too far.  I have a leather belt and it is my litmus test.  It doesn’t stretch so if I’m in the next hole I know.  It is only so helpful though because, one, the holes are spaced pretty far apart and two, as I loose a little bit of weight I get saggy and squishy… synching the belt a notch closer with a muffin top isn’t a real measure!

THE TAPE – but you need a buddy.  Measuring tapes are great!  Problem is you often need a second set of hands to get good measurements.  I find that as I’m adding exercise it is a great motivator, but it too has its limits.  Especially when one is the saggy baggy elephant.  Just how do you properly measure when things overhang a tad?  Are we supposed to lift those droppy stomachs off the hip area, or include it in the hip measurement?  Yes folks, saggy skin is  real pain when it comes to the measuring tape.

HOW I BREATH – this is an important one.  As I moved more, I noticed a direct correlation with how much better I was breathing.  My breaths got deeper, fuller.  It is a huge measure of physical improvement for me.

HOWS THE PATTERN TO MY EATING?  Periodically I log my food intake.  I plug it all in and at the end of a few days review the calories, the various grams of protein, fat and carbohydrate.  It allows me to see where I need to focus next.  I also pay attention to the times that I am eating and my total water intake.  All of these things are very important because eye-balling only works once you have calibrated your eye-ball.  I am not the type to log every day, but I wish I was.  My hope is that one day I will get there.  My periodic logs help me re-set my measured meals and snacks so the sizes don’t slowly increase.  It also lets me see how my daily food habits have been changing.

There are lots of ways to measure if I’m progressing, let me know about yours!

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