May 24, 2010
I’ve begun to see getting in shape and losing weight in terms of a number of different metrics. How much I weigh is an important one (though not necessarily the most important), but also how much weight I can do in exercises, how far can I run and how often do I run. Besides those relatively objective metrics, I’m also aware, painfully at times, of more subjective measures like body image, self-confidence, appetite and energy level. I plan to write more about how different metrics motivate me, and especially the different geeky and obsessive ways I keep track of some of them, but this post is about the one everyone seems to focus on most: weight.
I weigh myself every day. I do it every morning, and in the exact same way — I wake up, strip down to my boxers, use the restroom, and hop on the scale. It’s probably not the best scale, and I’ll occasionally get slightly different results depending on how I stand, so I make it a point to get on and off three times. If two of the results match (which they usually do), I record that number; if not, I take an average.
Now, people say you’re not supposed to weigh yourself every day, as if there’s an obvious right or wrong way to do it. I’m assuming that’s because our weights tend to fluctuate from day-to-day depending on a number of things, and it’s the overall trend we’re supposed to be interested in, rather than any one day’s result. That makes sense, I get it, but frankly I’m intelligent enough not to get too bent out of shape because I weighed 189 lbs. on Sunday and 194.5 lbs. on Monday (yeah, I pigged out for the LOST finale… sue me!). I’ll admit there have been some days — sometimes a string of days — where my weight seems to climb or stay high and it’s a bit demoralizing, but it’s not enough to outweigh (no pun intended) my primary reason for daily trips to the bathroom scale. Consistency and quantity of data. By weighing myself every single day, it quickly has become a part of my morning routine rather than something I have to remind myself to do. It also provides me 7x more information on my weight than someone who weighs in just once a week, so if I miss a day it’s less of a big deal. Finally, morning weigh-ins aren’t the only thing about me that are routine. I usually go out to dinner on Saturday nights, probably eating more than on an average weekday evening. If I weighed myself once a week every Sunday, logically I would routinely record a higher weight than I do the rest of the week. I could change it up and weigh myself only on Mondays or Tuesdays, but at some point part of me would begin to subconsciously game my own system and actually eat less the day or night before. That’s all well and good, but my weight at any given time is just an indicator, a metric, and doing something one day a week just to try to rig the result doesn’t benefit me in the long term.
The most important part of tracking your weight, in my opinion, isn’t how often you do it (though I think I’ve made a compelling enough case for doing it daily). It’s that you do it consistently, like you would a scientific experiment. Control for as many variables as possible — time of day, clothing, choice of scale. Don’t pee out every drop of urine you can on one day, then hold it in on another, then hop in the shower and scrub your skin raw on another. Weight is an important metric, but unlike your bench press or weekly running average, it’s only an indicator of other things like body fat and muscle mass. So, track it consistently, but don’t let it ruin your day. It’s just a stupid number.
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