I find it an ironic fact of the age we live in that as a society we know more about nutrition and diet than ever before, we have access to more devices to aid in exercise than ever before, we have gyms and fitness centers everywhere, our televisions, computers, and mobile devices are littered with ads for weight loss and muscle building, bodybuilding has gone from an obscure past time to a main stream activity, the pressure to have a six pack (men and women) is palpable, diet, nutrition and exercise are common topics at any gathering and yet we are as a nation – with the rest of the world close behind – fatter and more unfit than ever before!
Now there are any number of reasons that this is the case. For example, our food is over sugared and over fat and we are eating out more and more often where the food is prepared with taste in mind first and health second (and the QSRs and Restaurants of the world think we like fat, salt, and sugar). I get that. But why do so many people start diets and fitness regimens each day only to fail?
I think a big part of it is that though everyone starts out with some sort of goal in mind, not everyone properly tracks and monitors their progress towards that goal.
One of the first things we learn in business is that if you can’t measure it you can’t fix it. As a result everything is measured, counted, and tracked in the most successful businesses. From the amount of product moved each day to the satisfaction of the patrons. Not only is an overall goal set but a good business also identifies strategic benchmarks and tracks information every step of the way.
I’m afraid that what seems like common sense in business may be forgotten in the kitchen and in the gym. How many of us have said, “I’m going to lose 10 pounds this month” and then made some changes to low fat foods, increased vegetables and switched to leaner meats only to discover that you have gained weight at the end of the month? This is because though you thought you were tracking what you were eating you really weren’t. If you want to be the most successful you need to track every single thing you eat. Not only the food itself but the amount. Is this a pain in the you know what? You betcha! But I think it is the only way. Otherwise, you will slip into old habits without even thinking about it (the “one cookie won’t hurt” mentality). Try logging everything you eat for a week. I bet you’ll be surprised to find out a couple things:
1. How much you really eat.
2. That you’ll lose weight the first week you do this because you are now conscious of what you are eating.
Once you’ve mastered logging move on to measuring portions. There are apps out there to assist (I like MyFitnessPal) but you’ll find you are better off eating and preparing meals at home versus eating out.
The same goes with your exercises and even your body. Most of us probably use a scale and check our waist on occasion but do you also track other key measurements? For example bodybuilders will often measure their arms for bragging rights (anything over 16″ is usually considered big check out my earlier blog, When is an Arm Considered Big? if you are interested in factoids like that) but did you know that if you check your unflexed arm and compare it to your flexed measurements and track the difference you can get an idea if you are getting leaner (you can’t flex fat)? Do you check your hips along with your waist? Are you tracking your exercises? It’s not enough to say “I’m going to run 20 minutes today” you need to check your distance as well. If you’re running 20 minutes and find yourself not going as far each time you need to step it up a notch and make progress – otherwise you are literally running behind!
I’ve been tracking measurements and lifts since high school myself and have quite a log of progress to look back on when I find myself thinking that I haven’t made any progress over the years (see the featured image with this post). I find it helpful and motivating to realize that my forearms are now larger than my upper arms were in college and to see that I now, when I feel weaker overall inside, that I still lift more than twice what I did in high school. In many ways I find the old records more motivating than pictures or the mirror. I’ll be honest, I pretty much always see the same good looking guy in the mirror no matter how heavy, thin, bald, or old I am. I also realize that pictures can be deceiving depending on lighting and other factors (I always twist a little to make my waist seem smaller and shoulders broader for example). But the scales and tape measures don’t lie (unless you get the stretchy kind – don’t do that).
How about everyone else?