Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Good and Bad of Daily Weigh-Ins

I've been keeping track of my weight and my caloric intake/deficit for about 13 months now. Here are some of my observations:

(1) When I go a while without weighing myself or tracking my caloric intake/deficit (i.e. dieting), I invariably go up in weight. What I've learned from this is that I cannot use my biological indicators as a guide of when/what to eat. I must consciously limit myself and document those limitations.

(2) Weighing myself daily is a great way to provide accountability but it can be frustrating because eating a heavy meal one night can result in a three pound "gain" the next morning. Water weight and the weight of food in the digestive tract are significant (easily a 5-pound swing). So although it's important to weigh myself every day for the purpose of holding myself accountable and establishing long term trends, I also need to be willing to not stress out over or overcompensate for normal fluctuations. For example, I can certainly see myself avoiding anything to drink (including water) in the evening because of my morning weigh-in. Such fanatacism is obviously counter-productive to the goal of establishing long term patterns of health.

(3) Unless I burn 1200+ calories in a day, my hunger level increases to match my activity level. So, in short, it's not enough to simply exercise three times a week to stay thin. I must exercise and track food intake. That really sucks, frankly.

(4) When I'm off the wagon (i.e. not tracking my calories), I find myself almost intentionally eating crappy foods: fluff carbs, candy, chocolate, chips, ice cream, peanuts, crackers. It's almost like I've got the proverbial angel-on-one-shoulder-devil-on-the-other going on. I think this is largely a never-ending psychology versus physiology battle--perhaps a rebellion against discipline--in much the same way as the stereotypical recovering alcoholic doesn't just have one glass of alcohol over dinner when he falls off the wagon: he instead drinks an entire bottle of Jack Daniels and drives drunk. This is perhaps the most interesting (and frustrating) observation I've made about myself. It's a sort of love-hate relationship with being fit.

(5) I believe I have a high level of what I'll call "conscious discipline" but a very low level of "subconscious discipline." What this means is that if exercising is my current hobby, I'm extremely dedicated and passionate about it--arguably to a fault. But when another interest takes its place, I have no discipline at all. It's an all-or-nothing, one-track-mind mentality.

(6) Maybe it's just sour grapes on my part, but it seems that evolution has left us (me?) painfully unequipped to deal with an abundance of food. Obviously, the presence of essentially unlimited carbohydrates is not something with which our species (or any other species, really) is accustomed. If you think about it, if early humans had something like a 6-month famine, the individuals with the highest proclivity toward eating more calories than their bodies burned during times of abundance would be the ones most likely to survive. I'm thinking of buying a few T-Shirts for my Mormon friends that say "I'm wearing my 72 Hour Kit under this shirt."


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