10 Tenets of Effective Weight Loss – #1 – Keep a record

Nearly everyone wants to “lose weight” at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, it’s probably the most common New Year’s Resolution by a long shot, because it seems to be an unreachable ideal for so many. Weight loss is pretty simple, really: calories in vs. calories out. So, why is it not that simple in real life? We’re human. We have created all kinds of fluff in our lives that keeps us from doing the things that our body needs, fluff being things like work, meetings, organizations, hobbies, etc. We are animals (a sophisticated animal, mind you), and animals by their very nature are active, needing to seek out their own food and travel by means of their own bodies (not vehicles). Animals do not produce Kristy Kreme doughnuts, watch TV, or drink beer.

I’d like to outline some lessons I’ve learned regarding effective weight loss. They are my “tenets of effective weight loss” – a series of suggestions to guide your fitness plan, no matter what your goal. Let’s start:

1) Keep a record

As you start to make progress with weight loss, muscle gain, etc., you will no longer have your old self to compare to. It may get frustrating if you cannot detect some meaningful improvements in your body after all that hard work. The last thing you want is to get discouraged from continuing on your fitness plan, so make sure you have some way[s] to document progress. An Excel spreadsheet would be the ideal way to document these data over time, also providing the capability of displaying the data in graph form.

The simplest and most common measurement is weight. Invest in a user-friendly, accurate scale that will allow you to log your weight. Of course it gets more complicated: you may want to be able to measure down to the nearest 1/4 pound vs. accepting only whole numbers. There’s digital vs. analog scales, stand-up scales with rulers for measuring height built into them, scales with body fat calculators, etc. Don’t get hung up on any of these – just figure out what works best for you and be willing to adapt over time to meet your needs.

You may want to do specific body measurements, such as waist size or measuring biceps, thighs, chest, hips, etc. Get a cloth ruler and measure away.

You may want to calculate body fat percentage, with a caliper system. They are fairly accurate and affordable. I have a Slim Guide skin calipers that works well that I bought for $19.95. There are, of course, fancier methods for calculating body fat, but those require special equipment and facilities. Body fat reduction should be the ultimate goal for most people – it’s not just about weight loss, because you may be replacing fat with muscle and that won’t be reflected in your scale measurements.

Photographs are a very useful method for tracking progress. Sure, there are a million health-related reasons why we want to be fit, but we’re also fairly vane creatures who want to look good to others. By all means, do not get hung up on body image in a pathologic sense – despite what the media tells us, not everyone can or should look like celebrities/supermodels. Pictures taken at regular intervals can be a huge motivator, especially when the measurements may not be changing like you expect.

There will also be the real-life measurements, how well your clothes fit or what other people notice. These measures are perhaps the most rewarding when you are struggling to make a change. Keep a journal of these, as well.

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