How a $9.50 apparatus busted a 30-year old myth

...or "The Power of Measuring"

Last year I was not sleeping well and my general disposition was poor. I underwent several tests and later found that I was working under a lot of stress. The stress part I handled, and my doctor changed my medication and added another one. Sigh... But he also gave me an executive order. He said, “As your doctor, I am giving you only one order, lose weight.” My weight had ballooned to over 90kg since I went back to corporate life, and he said that the weight is causing undue stress on my heart. I had to lose weight and come down to 78kg, the ideal weight for my height. I told him, “Yes, I know. Now that I left my job, I will start exercising more.” To which his reply was, “Exercise will not help you. It’s your diet.” Yeah, right! Really? I had been in the Commandos and I know that the rigorous exercise I did then caused me to lose tremendous amounts of weight – and eating so much more than normal. So this is something that I know for a fact – exercise, more precisely running, will help me lose weight. Of course I will control what I eat, but I will use exercise to bring my weight down, excuse me!

That was in January. By April, my weight had not budged. Sure it came down a bit, coming off little around the tummy, but it was still in the region of 89 to 90kg. Then I did something last fortnight that I should have done a long time ago - I bought a digital weighing scale. And suddenly I got obsessed with my weight. I was standing on the scale more than 10 times a day, seeing how it fluctuated. This was when I found out that:

(1) your body weight varies almost 2kg either side on a given day,

(2) water is very heavy!

(3) running does not reduce your weight one bit – yesterday I ran 4km and my weight remained constant before and after the run!

(4) excrement, or more affectionately called shit, weighs more than 1kg, and

(5) alcohol keeps your weight way up!!!

This last one is a real humdinger, right? It’s a liquid diet, after all! And how did I find all these things out?

Constantly measuring and creating hypotheses.

Throughout the first week on the scale, my weight remained at the 88-89kg level despite eating almost no rice – I haven’t been eating much rice for more than 2 years now – and eating more vegetables, and drinking lots of water and coffee (black with no sugar, so it has no fat!). The only indulgence I gave myself was my wine – not much, just about 3 bottles a week, give or take. Then just last weekend, I had a nice party for one – it was F1 weekend, after all – and went through 1.5 bottles over Saturday and Sunday. My weight on Sunday night was 89.9kg. Ouch!

So I decided to go on the wagon for the next few days (today is Thursday). I still had some wine left over from Sunday, about 2 glasses worth, so I drank that up on Monday evening. By Monday evening, my weight was hovering between 88 to 89.7 kg. On Tuesday – no alcohol – it started to come down – between 87.4 to 88.6kg. Yesterday – again no alcohol – between 86.4 to 87.6kg. Today, it has read between 85.4 to 86.6kg!

In a span of a little more than 3 days, my average weight fell about 3kg! All with the absence of alcohol! I am continuing this experiment to see what happens to me by tomorrow, which would be the weekend, and I will reward myself with beer/wine, just to see the effect it has on my weight, and then try out this same experiment again next week. Stay tuned for the results!

To achieve something, you got to measure it

No this is not a weight-loss article, and there is a point to be made with this. If you want to achieve something, you will need to measure it. If you want to lose weight, you must be able to measure your weight and track it. If you want to earn more money, you will need to track it. If you want to curb your expenses, you will need to track it. If you want to keep your wife, you will need to track...oops!...just kidding. (I threw it in there to see if you are still awake!) The point I am making is, if you are not measuring the outcomes of your actions, how do you know what is working and what is not? After all, I had strongly believed that running will help me lose weight, but now I have the evidence to show that it does not! That's a 30-year-old myth busted then and there! Of course running keeps me fitter, it strengthens my immune system, it keeps my heart stronger, but it does not help me lose weight. (PS: It does not mean that I can stop exercising. It has myriad advantages especially against dementia, stress, and all kinds of maladies. So, I’ll still do my exercises, thank you very much!)

You got to have a goal

Another thing you need is a goal that you are measuring towards. My goal is to hit 78kg, and for the longest time, I had never been 78kg. In fact, the last time I was 78kg was after my Ranger course in 1990! So there! So for the longest time I was unconvinced that I can make 78kg. But today, I have come to realise that it is possible, seeing how my average weight has dropped over the past 3+ days. So the goal that you are heading towards must be one that you think is possible. A stretch, maybe; but possible. If in your mind you think that you will never be able to get there, then chances are, you won’t. The goal is so important to keep you trying your best to get there. Of course, it must be a goal that is worth striving for. For me, going back to 78kg will help me turn back the clock, and perhaps look 35 once again – matching my wife! Now isn’t that something to work towards?!

You need to be hypothesis-driven

Can you see how many myths I had debunked through this experiment? I learnt that exercise does not help you lose weight, an alcohol liquid diet is as bad as a full-on rice diet, and your shit is really heavy (maybe that's why Marty McFly kept on using the word "heavy" in Back to the Future)! All these came about through measuring and tweaking the process. If something was not working, change that. If you have an idea of what might work, try that. And all the while measuring the outcome. If you can do this continuously, you will find yourself achieving your goal, and becoming the success that you are. I am on the way, and I hope you can say the same for yourself. Oh, one more thing - many people might like to know how I chanced upon the thought that alcohol could be the culprit. Well, that is another story in and of itself and I shall tell that next week. So stay tuned...

So measure everything you want to achieve, and do it often; tweaking the process along the way.

And did I mention that the scale cost me only $9.50 on Qoo10?

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