During the month of January, my goal was to establish one fitness habit: tracking my calorie consumption. At the same time, however, I did something I always do. Any time I focus on fitness, I also track my weight.
We have a bathroom scale that measures weight in half pound increments. It also does a body-fat approximation using bioelectrical impedance. It’s second nature for me to jot down my stats every morning, and then to transfer them to a spreadsheet.
I love creating spreadsheets of fitness stats. I have twelve years of spotty data on my weigh loss (and gains). (The data is spotty because it only exists for those periods during which I was recording it.) I often maintain spreadsheets of my exercise, as well. My number-one all-time favorite spreadsheet records my cycling activity during the summer of 1998:
The data I collected regarding my January weight loss was less obsessive. I simply tracked weight and body fat percentage:
As you can see, I started January 1st at 200 pounds. I ended the month at 192 pounds. But I didn’t really lose eight pounds in January. That 200 reading on New Year’s Day was an anomaly. For the three days before, I weighed in at 197.
Whenever I accumulate weight-loss data in a spreadsheet, I’m more concerned about the trendline than I am about the day-to-day results. I’ve done this long enough now that I know there will be bizarre datapoints from time-to-time. Did I really lose five pounds between January 8th and January 9th? Of course not. The daily readings are affected by a variety of things, including:
- When I last ate the night before.
- What I last ate the night before.
- How much water I’ve been drinking.
- Whether I get on the scale at 7am — or 11am.
Instead of decreases day after day, I’m more interested in watching my weekly average creep ever lower.
Again, from experience I know that the most I can expect to lose in a month — with regular exercise and smart eating — is about seven pounds. When I lost 40 pounds in 1997, nearly every month I shed the same amount: 6.3 pounds. I can’t find my 1997 spreadsheet, but I did find this awesome piece of work, which collects weight-loss and exercise data for several years, summarizing monthly results. (It’s shocking how many individual pieces of data are behind this simple table. I am a geek!)
(Look at the weight column! It’s like a story unto itself. Do you know why I’m gained so much weight in 2001? It’s because I wasn’t exercising anymore — Kris and I were spending all of our spare time with Mac and Pam, playing bridge and eating Good & Plenty.)
Spreadsheets aren’t for everyone. Not all of us are motivated by numbers. And, of course, the numbers aren’t the actual goal. The goal is health. But for me (and geeks like me), the numbers can be an excellent motivator. They’re a concrete indication of how well I’m doing!
It’s spreadsheet day for me today! I also wrote about my love of financial spreadsheets at Get Rich Slowly.