At the start of 2017, I weighed just under 90 kilos. And I was not in any way toned.
As a 6ft Tall Man (183cm), that put me well into the Overweight category with a BMI of around 27.
This was not what I had in mind when I envisioned turning 30 and was the direct result of 3 consistently bad life choices:
Drinking Alcohol (bingeing)
Eating an unhealthy diet (sweets and meats)
Not exercising enough (or at all, apart from walking, which I enjoyed)
At that time, I had also decided to start tracking my life statistically, and weight seemed like an obvious place to start.
The great news is that thanks to some simple lifestyle interventions (not dieting), which I will discuss fully in other posts, I have managed to lose 10 kilos in just over a year.
And since I have been, literally, charting my progress that whole time, I have also learned what progress really looks like, and realised I have been unconsciously lied to for a long time.
To begin with here is my average weight in kg per quarter since Jan 2017:
So far so simple. Do the right things, see the benefits over time.
On some level, this view is useful. Unlike all of the facebook posts that depress you on (I suspect) a daily basis, wherein someone boasts about how they dropped x pounds/kilos, and make it look as though it were something that simply happened overnight, this is what weight loss actually looks like.
It takes time and you need to accept that fact for genuine weight loss/muscle gain of any kind.
Your body is organic, and just like a plant, it won’t grow overnight, no matter how well you care for it on any given day. Consistency is key.
But, in saying that, this graph is still a lie. Because this graph makes it look like progress was steady, and tapered off nicely.
It will probably demotivate you to some degree, just like the insta-dream-body facebook posts, because it doesn’t feel like it matches your experience, and therefore you might think that there is something special about why I achieved this, but you can’t .
But if we zoom in a little, and look at the same data, averaged by month this time, this is what we see instead:
Now the story is different. More believable, less simplistic.
There is a distinct lack of any progress initially, as my early interventions had minimal effect, followed by a precipitous drop, tapering off, and then some backwards motion in December (too many mince pies), followed by getting back on track to my initial target weight (78 kg).
This is much more realistic. This should motivate you. This shows you the following:
You will try things, they will fail, then something will work, progress will be rapid, but then taper off as your body reaches a new equilibrium, and, you WILL likely backslide at some point, but that’s okay, because as long as the trend looks like graph 1, you can accept the reality of graph 2, and know that you can get back on track
This graph is also a lie. And if you expect anything in life; skill gain, weight loss etc. to go relatively smoothly, like this, then you are lying to yourself and bound to be demotivated by the truth.
That’s because this is what progress really looks like:
This is a true story of progress.
It is messy. It is unpredictable. It is the complexity of real life charted on a simple graph.
As you can see, on any given day my weight could be a kilo or more in either direction. And at one point I got down to 78.3 kg only for my weight to climb again in December. Which I was not totally unprepared for, given the time of year.
Biology is complicated, you step on the scale the day after a lot of salty food and you’ve retained water, BAM, you are a kilo and a half heavier. Three days later, fully back to your normal (healthy) eating pattern, you are two kg down again and feeling smug.
This is what I now know, from personal experience and data. I’ve internalised knowledge that I had seen written a thousand times, but never integrated into my attitude to life:
Progress is messy and the noise of its messiness is IRRELEVANT to your progress.
All that matters is the overall trend.
But, the noise is also REALITY, and you, therefore, need to accept that no matter what you do, no matter how hard you work, or strive, or push on any given day, that when you zoom in close (as when you step on the scale), progress looks stochastic, and can feel demotivating.
It doesn’t come all at once, like people on social media accidentally portray, it comes in fits and starts. It seems and feels random. It is never, ever going to be a straight line.
So you can track yourself, but you must analyse the averages, believe in the purpose of the bigger picture, and ignore stories of overnight success. The truth is that they have zoomed out so far that they are only showing you 2 useless data points, Then and Now.
Then and Now may indicate the trend, but it doesn’t reveal the truth about progress.