Friday, May 14, 2010

Sam's guide to weight loss: Part 2, The Tipi

Feeling rested? I hope so. If not, it's ok, because that brings us to another tenant of my philosophy:

"Accept that you won't always stick to the plan. You are not perfect, and it's unfair to expect it of yourself. Don't use individual failures as an excuse to give up, use them as an excuse to work harder."

Success is not a steady upward slope. It's a jagged, volatile line where, over the course of time, the gains are greater than the losses. If you don't understand that, your mental and spiritual environment isn't right for accomplishing anything.

That lesson is particularly important today, since this one has a lot to do with noticing your failures!

Keeping with the fire metaphor, this post is about building the "tipi," the structure that keeps the fire together. For weight loss, your tipi is built from awareness.

Awareness is an important principle in many philosophies, so you see it everywhere. The Zen story of the Tiger and the Strawberry, the old Irish tale of "the music of what happens," even the incredible reasonings of Sherlock Holmes, they all preach the power of awareness.

But awareness is a tricky thing to get a handle on. While humans are quite good, sometimes too good, at finding associations between things, it's difficult "see" those associations over long periods of time.

My sleep advice is a perfect example:

If you don't get enough sleep, you don't feel like working out and you're more likely to eat poorly, right? It makes perfect sense. But because those things are separated by an extra domino (your mood) you probably never caught the connection.

And if that little bit of causality was so difficult to "see," it's going to be even harder to lose weight if you can't observe the nebulous interactions of your lifestyle and your body. The best mental environment for losing weight is one where you can observe those interactions easily.

"If you want to lose weight, increase your awareness: track your weight along with the things that influence it."

This concept is an essential part, probably the most important part, of this series. It requires very little, but has a profound effect. It's quite likely that you'll lose weight just by doing this weeks assignment. Awareness is simply that powerful.

Here are your tasks:

-Weigh yourself exactly once a day, every day, and log the result.
1.Do not obsess over this number. You are not being scored on anything, so there's no reason to "cheat" the scale (Example: Drinking less water during the day will make the number come out lower, but it's bad for you and doesn't actually help anything.)
2.Aim for consistency, so the weight you record will be meaningful. Weigh in wearing the same clothes, at the same time of day. The best time (for reasons I'll get into later) is first thing in the morning, before you eat, drink, or shower.
3.The measurement doesn't even have to be "accurate" in an absolute sense. Even if the scale is off by 2 pounds, it will still register the change in your weight correctly, and the change is what we're really interested in.
4.Do not avoid your scale! If you ate too much yesterday, it's going to be reflected when you weigh in. Accept it. Don't avoid the scale for a day so you won't have to see the high number. If you do that, you're losing the awareness that we're after. Seeing your habits reflected is the whole point.
5.Remember always that the goal is awareness of how your weight is changing, not getting a "prize" of a lower number or a "punishment" of a higher one. You are weighing in to help yourself "see" what's going on.

-Log everything you eat, along with the (at least approximate) calories.
1. We'll get further into diet next time, but for now just do this much. It's not as time consuming as you'd think either. Here's the method that worked well for me: Get some index cards and pick one up on your way out the door each morning. Write down every item that you eat in a day, along with the calories, if you know them. If you don't know the calories, look them up later and add them in. Write the date on your card and file it away somewhere. (You could also put your scale results on these cards.)
2.You don't have to aim for a particular number of calories (yet). I just want you to become aware of what you're eating, and be able to see it over a period of time.
3.Don't worry about any other factors besides calories (fat, carbs, etc). I'll talk about that later too.

Why are these habits so important, even more important than sticking to a diet or exercise routine? How is it that people lose weight from doing this, even without ascribing to a particular diet? Simple.

-It's easier to resist another helping of dinner if your weight was a little high this morning.
-You're less likely to get dessert if there's a card in your pocket reminding you that you had a donut after lunch.
-There's no better encouragement for getting a little exercise in than thinking "I've eaten pretty good today, if I take a walk tonight it might bring tomorrow's weigh-in down a bit. That'd be nice."

So next week, I want to see 7 index cards or journal entries from you*, and don't slack off on your sleep.

*Figure of speech, do not actually send me these.


Matt R said...

and I already put the stamp on the envelope!

Ken said...

This was insightful and informative, but it was all predicated on an underlying assumption that it is important to lose weight. I'd be interested to see an entry that delves into that basic and initial assumption.

(Which is not to say that I believe that assumption is wrong, merely that it is worth exploration.)

Sam Cook said...

It is, but I'm not sure I'm the right person to write it. I'll probably include something at the end of the series about my own story, but I definitely got to a place (5'10", 230lb) where, for health reasons, I had to start losing weight or it was only going to get worse.

I'll think about it though, it might be worth looking into medical statistics on different levels of weight.