Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Paralysis by Analysis

At my workplace, they're having a weight loss contest. Whoever loses the most weight in a set period of time wins a prize.  The idea is that people will be motivated to join and will pursue a healthier lifestyle as a result.

Figuring I'll be losing weight anyway, I joined up.  Today I weighed in for the final time.  I told the person weighing me that I did not want to know what the scale said. I explained why.

When I first started my journey 18 months ago, I knew from experience not to get addicted to the high that the scale provides when you're first losing weight.  You start to have so much success so quickly, you think that's always going to be there.

So I knew that how much I lost or how quickly I lost it wasn't really important.  But, I wanted to be able to chart my progress reasonably.

So I weighed once a month.

I know what you're thinking: "Once a month?  Are you insane?"  Hear me out.

There are simply too many variances in body weight to weigh every day.  Or every week.  I actually have settled on once every 2 weeks, but I think once a month is perfect when you're just starting.  Here's why: when the weight loss starts to slow down, or isn't as much as it was last time, you will get disappointed, be discouraged and give up.  Not gaining any weight from one time to the next is a roaring success, but you will convince yourself that it is failure.  And that is a tragedy.

And so here is what I found myself doing the other times I would lose weight: when it wasn't as much as I thought it should be, I would begin to analyze.  And over-analyze.  And analyze again.  I would literally analyze why I didn't lose a half a pound in 3 days to the point that I worked myself up in such a depression I got discouraged. So I was explaining this to my trainer in the gym today and he had a great line that is the title of the blog post: "paralysis by analysis."

What a perfect description of what happens.  I would analyze the scale and worship that number to the point that I would be paralyzed into inaction.

So if you're considering a lifestyle change, use the scale carefully. My advice: weigh once when you get started, then once a month at first.  As you begin to fine-tune your workouts and your nutritional requirements, maybe every 2 weeks, but no more than that. Weigh on your own terms, with your own scale, always at the same time of the day, in the same place, under the same circumstances.

The scale can be a tool that leads you to great success and it can also be a weapon that sends you down the slippery slope to failure.

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