DIYDS Fundamental #2: Measure Your Progress
Welcome to DIYDS Fundamental #2: Measure Your Progress.
So you’ve figured out where you are. Nice.
And you’ve decided exactly where you’d like to go. Strong work!
Now here’s the next step. As you begin along your path and as you continue your journey, you will require frequent and accurate feedback about how you’re doing. Without these “road signs” along the way, you will have no way of knowing if you’re still on the right track.
The purpose of this feedback is to alert you when you’ve deviated from your chosen path. Once you’ve received the feedback, you can correct your course and continue on your way. This is how any guided system works.
Forward Progress–>Deviation–>Correction–>Forward Progress–>Deviation–>Correction and so on and so on until –> Arrival. Easy enough, right?
You go, you mess up, you get back on track and go until you mess up again, then get back on track. Repeat as necessary until you reach your destination. Note here that the deviations are expected and unavoidable, not demoralizing and defeating.
SPOILER ALERT: You’re going to mess up along your way. Badly. You’re supposed to. The proper response to any deviation is to get back on track. Then you’re back. That’s it. No drama, no worrying, and no self-doubt allowed. A deviation is followed by a correction and that’s the end of it. Your eventual arrival is never, ever in doubt.
Now imagine your journey without this valuable feedback. You could deviate off course (and you will, remember?) and not know it. Then when you eventually became aware of how far you’d strayed—far past the point at which the course correction could have been quick and minor—you would become thoroughly disheartened at the effort that would then be required just to get back to where you were before!
How to Measure Physical Progress
First I’ll tell you how I do it, and then I’ll share some other ways that can also work.
The initial priority is that your chosen measurement of progress be reflected in a number. Not a feeling, not an image, but a number. I was this many, and now I’m this many.
My preference is using a tape measure to measure the circumference at your navel, waist, and hips.
This is where people accumulate the majority of their fat. Until you become lean, these numbers are very meaningful. That is, when they begin to drop, you can be pretty damn sure that your body is losing fat.
These measurements must be taken under the same conditions each time, otherwise there is no basis for comparison. For example, if you take a measurement first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, you can only compare that measurement to other measurements that were taken first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. That way, everything is the same except how fat you are, so a change in measurement means a change in fat. Eliminate as many variables as possible.
The second best way to measure your progress—if you’re averse to tape measures for some reason—is the size of your clothes. Ladies: if you go from a size 16 to a size 10, you know you’ve become smaller and have lost fat. Guys: if you go from a size 38 waist to a size 32, you know you’ve become smaller and have lost fat. Keep in mind that you often can’t compare across brands; Levi’s 38 jeans are a different waist size than Calvin Klein 38 jeans, for instance.
In practice, here’s how you do it. Go out and purchase a pair of pants that are one size too small for you. Attempt to put them on, and write down on a piece of paper how it went. “Couldn’t even get them up” could be one description, or “Got them up but couldn’t button them.” Whatever happens, write it down and mark the date.
Then, one week later, try them on again. Write down what happens. Think of this like a diary.
You’ll eventually reach the day when you can fit into the “small” pants: SUCCESS! Congratulations. Are you the size you’d like to be? If not, go out and buy some pants that are one size too small and repeat the process. Over time, you will become smaller and smaller.
The third best way to measure progress is to count belt holes. As you gain new holes on your belt, and are required to pull it tighter and tighter to fit you, you can be sure that you’re getting smaller. It’s not as good as pants, but it gets the job done, and it’s better than the fourth option…
…which is weighing yourself. Your weight is obviously also a number, but unfortunately it doesn’t carry nearly as much, um, weight as the numbers we’ve already mentioned.
That is, the fact that your weight is going down or up does not mean that you are losing or gaining fat. It could mean that, but it could also mean about ten other things. Maybe it’s muscle gain/loss, hydration changes, monthly cycles, and on and on and on.
Comparing your weight now to your weight from before can only be meaningful over a long enough time span. The minimum time span for weight to be meaningful seems to be somewhere around one month. If you’re a different weight than you were two or three weeks ago, that doesn’t really mean anything. But if you weigh ten pounds less than you did last month or longer ago, that pretty well means that you lost some fat. Again, maybe you lost three pounds of fat and seven pounds of valuable muscle, but probably not, unless you’re really dieting wrong.
And There You Have It
So that’s the second thing to remember in order to Do It Your Damn Self.
First, figure out a Location and a Destination. Find out where you are and where you’re going.
Second, begin measuring your progress, or, “Establishing your new location at regular intervals along the journey.”
That’s all for now; stay tuned for Do It Your Damn Self Fundamental #3!