Sunday check in…

Here’s where I check in on my fitness goals.  The idea is to post, weekly, my measurements.

Now first, let’s talk about basic principles of data tracking.  Lots and lots of people weigh themselves regularly, especially people who are trying to lose weight/increase their physical fitness.  Checking your body weight is fine.  It will tell you something.  And if you’ve got a lot of weight to shed you can go for months or even years seeing definite progress.  However, tracking your body weight not only isn’t the most useful piece of personal data you can track, it can also be a psychological detriment.

Let me explain – Say you don’t have a lot of weight to lose.  Say you’re just trying to shed 10 to 15 lbs (or less), or let’s say you’re happy with your body weight but you’re trying to fit into a favorite suit or dress for a special event, then body weight tracking will not only be mostly useless, it can also demotivate you.  This is especially true if you’re fitness goals include gaining strength.  Muscle weighs more than body fat, and we gain strength by working our muscles hard, which then results in great growth in the fibers of our muscle tissues.  So, it’s possible to get more fit, get stronger and gain weight pretty significantly.  Body weight can also fluctuate up and down as much as 2 or 3 lbs per day simply due to the amount of water you’re retaining.
So, what I admonish you to track, if you’re working on a fitness goal, are lots of metrics.  Body weight is just one.  But your overall goal ought to be to track your body composition, or, to put it another way, the ratio of lean body mass to body fat. In fact, you should be tracking all kinds of metrics, but I’ll cover the rest of the ones I track and recommend you track in another post.

On Sundays I track the following (with today’s numbers included):

Weight = 138
Waist Size = 31″
Hips = 32″
Chest = 37″
Body Fat = 16.6%
Body Composition = 22.9 lbs body fat / 115.09 lbs lean body mass

All of the above is “ok” but not really what I’m aiming for.  I hurt my back a couple of months ago and haven’t been able to do my usual workouts, so that’s contributed to the big backslide over the past couple of weeks, but what’s really hurt me is my discipline with regard to eating has pretty much fallen apart.  Now let me make this clear – I am not on a diet, nor will I ever be on a “diet.”  Diets fail 100% of the time.  Diet = deprivation, and deprivation eventually causes a reaction, usually in the form of binge eating.  So, it’s not that I’ve fallen off the wagon on my diet.  I have just been careless and eaten a fair amount of frankenfood and junk in the past couple of weeks.

See, exercise is really important for fitness and health, but in terms of how it impacts body composition it’s really not that big a deal – with one crucial caveat: If you eat garbage regularly (sodas, sugary cereals, fast food, bags of chips, cakes, candy, etc.) you will utterly screw up your body’s insulin response and head rapidly into a spiral of weight gain and long-term damage to your metabolism, and no amount of exercise you do will have ANY impact on your weight or fitness.  We need to exercise, particularly as we get older, to keep our nervous systems healthy.  The more you challenge your nervous system the healthier our brains get.

Here’s the formula: physical fitness is determined by a ratio of 20% exercise & physical activity + 80% what you eat and when you eat it.  So, I backslid because I stopped paying attention to that all-important 80% and wasn’t doing anything at all about the 20%.   And for those who are curious how I know I backslid – two weeks ago my overall weight was 134 lbs, with a body fat % 12.8.  That meant my body composition was 116.85 lbs lean body mass + 17.15 lbs body fat.  I didn’t just gain weight.  I lost almost 2 lbs of muscle and gained 5.75 lbs of body fat.  Not good.

Trouble is, my back is still injured, so I’m pretty limited in terms of what I can do to gain back that lost muscle mass.  I do have an appointment with a physical therapist on Tuesday, and my hope is that she will be able to clear me to do some exercise to help correct that.  To lose the body fat I need to get much, much better about what and when I’m eating.

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