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What Is Measured Is Managed

December 12, 2019

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The Short Story

To get somewhere, you need to know where you are, where you want to be, and your direction. This is why what is measured is managed!
 
Measuring weight and a couple of circumferences, reliably and consistently, gives a good understanding of body composition, adding a couple of other metrics, and the picture gets even more transparent.
The simple fact of measuring brings an awareness that helps with weight and body composition management.

The Long Story

“Measure seven times cut once”
―Russian proverb
I’ve been tracking and recording my heart rate every three seconds of every day since early 2015. I’ve been measuring and graphing every night of sleep with detailed breakdowns into light, deep and REM sleep since 2014. In the late nineties, I started measuring and recording my weight, body fat percentages, and body circumferences. I haven’t stopped yet.
 
I might go well above and beyond when it comes to collecting my physiological data, but you don’t need to be as meticulous as me to reap most the benefits.
Keep reading to find out why the simple act of measuring your weight and body fat helps you keep everything in check. I’ll also give you ridiculously easy ways to do it in less than 10 minutes a month reliably.

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Weight

“I’m 190 pounds of rock hard muscle, underneath 40 pounds of sturdy protective fat.”
―John Swartzwelder

Phil Libin, the founder of Evernote, documented his weight loss in an excel spreadsheet. He wanted to lose 15 kilograms in about one year. The excel spreadsheet had his current weight, around 110 kilograms, and his goal weight, approximately 95 kilograms one year later. He plotted a line between his current position and his goal. That line informed him of the steady yet slow pace at which he would need to lose weight. All he then did was to weigh himself every day and make sure he stayed on the line until he reached his goal, which he eventually did.

Phil might have been the one guy who most effectively illustrated the term coined by Peter Drucker in his book The Practice of Management, i.e., “What gets measured, gets managed.” Phil’s mastery of effective laziness might look ridiculously trivial. I think there’s more to it, though. By weighing himself every day, he made himself aware of his weight, and at a minimum, he also had weight management in the back of his mind. He knew he would get on the scale the very next day, and therefore this simple behavioral adjustment might have been the difference between reaching for that third doughnut or stopping after the second. I’ve been tracking weight since the late nineties. You can quickly learn from my mistakes: the only times I went off-track, were the times I did not weigh myself regularly.

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Arguably, digital scales are not as precise as their analog counterparts. The deviation is, however, quite small if you weigh yourself in the same environment, i.e., the same temperature, the same humidity, etc. with the same scale every day. I don’t think we’re interested in knowing our exact weight with utmost precision, much more in understanding the variations. For this purpose, digital scales are convenient and precise enough. Even more comfortable, when they record and render the data automatically as the Fitbit Aria does. There are many other smart scales. I mostly use the Fitbit one because I also use it for other things that we’ll discuss later. If you’re interested in only measuring weight, any scale will do. Analog trumps digital when it comes to precision. Digital trumps analog when it comes to comfort.

To produce reliable results, upon waking, I drink 1.5 liters of icy water. The water is always at the same temperature. It’s part of my morning routine following the principles I found while researching for ways to master thermodynamics, more on that in Marco’s Ice Mastery (upcoming). I don’t drink or eat anything else. After urinating, typically less than 30 minutes afterward, I weight myself. This is quite a simple way I’ve found to return smooth results. By drinking water and waiting for urination before weighing myself, I ensure my hydration levels are somewhat constant. I’m using the natural mechanisms the body has to regulate excess hydration. Thus, enabling me to negate weight variation due to cellular wetness levels. Keeping water temperature constant and low is also trivial. Most fridges have thermometers nowadays; otherwise, a fridge thermometer is quite inexpensive. Leaving the prescribed quantity of water in the refrigerator overnight will return constant temperatures in the morning.

On a concluding thought: maximum theoretical precision is useless. I’m going for practical ways to produce the effect I’m after. Adherence to a halfway adequate method is infinitely better than giving up the best theoretical approach after x amount of weeks, in my view. The above is a mere five seconds a day way to get reliable enough results to track variation. You would also get quite reliable data by weighing yourself every three to four days. There’s no need for daily data.

Remember: what is measured is managed!

 

Circumferences

“Middle age is when your broad mind and narrow waist begin to change places.”
―E. Joseph Cossman

Weight is good to know, but it’s not enough. At the time of writing, I’m about 103 kilograms. That doesn’t tell us much. My waist could be 125 cm or 85 cm in circumference. When we add a couple of circumferences here and there to the weight data, we start to get a better picture. Am I shaped like some kind of uber fat pear, or am I mildly fit? The simple weight information doesn’t inform about the ratio of fat-free mass to body fat mass, colloquially referred to as body composition. If we add body circumferences data to our weight data, then we’re starting to get a picture of what’s happening.

No part of your body gets fatter or leaner quicker than your midsection. At a minimum, measuring your waist and hips will give enough actionable information, especially in the body fat department. For measuring, I always use a Myotape that probably cost me about $10 at the time. It’s a self-measuring tape. It makes it quite convenient to measure yourself on your own. If you live with a roommate, it’s always weird to ask them to do it. With the Myotape, you can avoid awkward eye contact. It’s the best and most inexpensive way I’ve found to measure every single body part alone. Even if you live with your wife, she’s eventually going to get fed up of doing it someday.

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I measure everything, weekly, when I’m paying attention or if I’m doing something that will cause changes, or monthly when I’m a bit more laid back. I mean everything, from neck to calves, i.e., neck, shoulders, chest, arms, forearms, waist, hips, thighs, and calves. It’s good stuff to know, especially if you like bespoke suits and other fineries. It makes the whole ordering process much more comfortable. You don’t need to be as meticulous as I sometimes am. As stated above, the waist and hips are a good proxy for body fat levels. Tracking the sum of those two in centimeters, for example, 90 cm waist and 110 cm hips giving 200 total centimeters, results in enough information to take action.

Simply put, if you’re an adult and the total of your hips and waist circumference increases fast, I’d bet my last bacon slice you’re getting fatter. If the total decreases, you’re likely to be getting leaner. Sometimes things are straightforward.

If you’re looking for the simplest way to know what’s happening with your overall body fitness, read no further. This is not novel; I won’t be offended. If you’re happy with approximating your body fat levels with this method, scroll down to the food, sleep, and heart rate sections.

Weighing yourself frequently and measuring your total centimeters, i.e., waist plus hips, are all you need to do that. It takes two minutes a week, literally, and you’ll get actionable information.

If you want to go the extra mile and get extra information for little additional effort, when you measure your waist and hips, you could also add shoulders, arms, and thighs. Those five circumferences together will inform you a great deal of what’s happening to your overall fitness. Just resist the urge of measuring your arms flexed, if you’re a man. We needn’t expand on how to measure body parts accurately. There are enough tutorials on the internet at this point. Pick one method and stick to it for comparable data over time.

To get back to the title of this post, the simple fact of tracking weight and body sizes will get most people fitter by bringing awareness to their fitness levels. All of a sudden, you’ll find yourself tacking the stairs and substituting French fries for rice or quinoa. Some day you might even catch yourself looking at broccoli or spinach. Weirder things have happened.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: what is measured is managed!

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Body Fat

“Everybody is fat. You’re either really fat, kind of fat, or trying not to be fat.”
Tom Papa

You also don’t need to put yourself on a colossal scale immersed in a swimming pool or get into a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scan (DEXA). I did it for the novelty aspect and also to get data on bone density. It’s useful information. For pure body fat tracking, it’s expensive and brings little added value.

Let’s manage expectations first. There are accurate ways to measure body fat, and there are less reliable ways. There are easily repeatable ways, and there are very inconvenient ways. The most precise way to measure body fat is also the most inconvenient and uncomfortable way. The only way to reduce imprecision to a below one percent level is by dissecting a corpse, separating fat tissue from other tissues, and weighing the fat.Let’s refrain from that one. The first step, while doing anything for me, always consists of not dying. I’ve been quite successful at that one so far—save a few trips to the ER while experimenting with highly experimental compounds, and I intend to keep it that way. The two methods I mentioned above, i.e., underwater weighing and DEXA scans, are also reasonably accurate. However, the error margin is still higher than one percent. They’re also quite inconvenient and expensive.

For our purposes, we needn’t care too much about the precision of the reading. What is much more important is the constant readings. After all, it’s useless to know if you’re at 12 or 15 percent body fat. That doesn’t matter at all unless you want to join a bunch of 16 years old kids in trolling internet forums. What you want is to be able to track changes over time accurately, i.e., consistency and repeatably of the readings are of importance. For this purpose, two methods are the natural best of two worlds. One is incredibly convenient at the cost of a little imprecision. The other makes up what it lacks in comfort by being more precise. Both methods are inexpensive and take less than ten minutes a month. The first method is called electrical bio-impedance — the second consists of skin folds measurements.

Let’s start with the convenient one: bio-impedance, i.e., low voltage electricity running through your body from point A to point B. The velocity at which the electricity travels through your body is measured, and the body fat percentage is thusly inferred. It’s painless and safe. Critics of the bio-impedance methods often mention its high inaccuracy. Bio-impedance readings can vary significantly due to factors such as hydration levels, body temperature, exercise, etc. Using the same scale, at the same room temperature, upon waking, at similar hydration levels – I hope you remember the cold water prescription from above, and without performing any exercise before readings, produced entirely usable results. I use the Fitbit Aria for convenience. It takes me less than five seconds, and the device uploads the data seamlessly to my Fitbit account, where I get weekly charts. I do it at the same time as I weigh myself in the morning. I can’t emphasize enough how important the cold water step is. Forgetting about the cold water produces results all over the place. It’s also essential to keep the water at the same cold temperature over time. Most fridges have a thermometer nowadays. Getting constant water temperature is as easy as having a refrigerator with continuous low temperatures and leaving the water overnight there. Over time, the results I get with this method are on par with my skin folds measurements. Although the values I measure are different, e.g., the scale reads 18 percent body fat while the skin folds measurement implies 15 percent. However, the direction and magnitude of changes are quite similar, e.g., the scale shows 0.9 percent body fat increase while the skin folds suggest 0.7 percent. As long as the numbers are directionally correct, I’m happy enough.

The second more precise method consists of measuring the thickness of skin folds at carefully chosen locations depending on your built-in particular set of genitalia. Measuring skin folds is even cheaper than a digital scale. All you need is a nifty little measuring device called a body fat caliper.

To measure body fat, I’m using the Jackson/Pollock 3-Site Method, which consists of measuring the thickness of skin folds on the chest, abdomen, and thigh for men and triceps, thigh, and suprailiac for women. I mostly measure fat monthly or weekly. Most times, there isn’t too much change, so monthly is fine. If I’m doing something which is expected to produce changes, then I’ll accordingly track more often.

At this point, it might be worth mentioning that the two fellows above developed more methods ranging from 3-point measurements to 7-point measurements. I only use the 3-point method because it’s the only one I can do without having to ask someone. Adding measurement sites for men always involves the triceps skin fold, which I can’t measure by myself. Somehow, I’m not flexible enough anymore to pinch the skin on the back of my left triceps with my right hand and measure the thickness of the skin fold with my now immobilized left hand. I’m quite sure the more measuring sites, the more precise the readings. However, if I have to choose between a bit more convenience and a tad more precision, I choose comfort in every instance. Adherence to a suboptimal protocol is much better than abandoning the perfect one. For women, unfortunately, all methods involve the triceps site, which makes taking measurements alone impossible. As a side note, I don’t know it for a fact; I just know that those two guys developing the methods didn’t put too many brain cycles toward finding ways for their female student subjects to measure themselves without them.

Let’s get back to measuring stuff. Scooby put everyone else to shame back in 2011 when he uploaded this video on how to measure skin folds. In five minutes, he tells you all there is to it. He makes it simple, precise, and concise. Also, if you want to know more about the topic, visit his workshop. There’s no point for me in trying to reinvent the wheel on body fat measurements.

If it were me, I would suggest women stick to some bio-impedance method and men to choose either the 3-site method or also to go for the bio-impedance. The convenience of those methods more than makes up for their imprecision. I cannot tell you how many conversations I had with people, mostly men, discussing how perfect the DEXA or MRI scans are for measuring body fat. Then, I asked them how often they do it. Most times, it turns out they did it once, or sometimes they even never did it. They just like to talk about how much more precise those methods are, which is true. They are quite accurate. But let’s just ignore sterile debates for pragmatism’s sake. Besides, you don’t have to choose. Nobody is preventing you from using the cheap and convenient methods most of the time and yet still get yourself in a fancy DEXA scan now and again. I would argue, though, that the $100 price tag per journey in that cold canal of body composition enlightenment will make you reconsider things after a while. But I also don’t know how thick your wallet is or how intense your thirst for body fat wisdom is. That being said, using the other data from the DEXA scan might interest you. For instance, bone density is compared against your age group enabling you to prevent complications down the line eventually. Further, the DEXA scan also gives you information about muscle imbalances. For me, it put numbers on something I knew since my sparring accident back in 2005: my left quadriceps was significantly weaker than the right on, resulting in a tendency to lean forward to activate the left hamstring when doing unilateral exercises. I’ll tell you more about how I solved it at a later point.

As a reference, here are the Jackson/Pollock equations as published in the British Journal of Nutrition and in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise [1, 2]. Men: BD = 1.10938 – 0.0008267(Y) + 0.0000016(Y^2) – 0.0002574(Age) whereby Y = sum of chest, abdominal and thigh skin folds in mm whereby BD = Body Density Women: BD = 1.0994291 – 0.0009929(Z) + 0.0000023(Z^2) – 0.0001392(Age) whereby Z = sum of triceps, thigh and suprailiac skin folds in mm whereby BD = Body Density Once body density is determined, body fat can be calculated with the Siri Equation from the eponym author back in the fifties: Body Fat (%) = (4.95/DB − 4.50) × 100 whereby BD = Body Density

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Let’s make things simple. You don’t have to worry about the equations. I’ve added them for convenience purposes into this neat little spreadsheet tracker for those who decide to go with the skin folds method. I googled a few trackers, and I’ve seen folks selling apps for anywhere from $4.99 to $20. Here, you have it for free: it took me little time to remove my data from the custom version I use and upload a clean set of sheets. All you have to do is choose your gender, enter your age, weight, and skin fold measurements. The spreadsheet then returns your body fat percentage, lean body mass, and graphs both over time. It goes without saying that once you have your weight, assume 100 kilograms, and your body fat percentage, say 20 percent, then your lean body mass is 80 kilograms. Lean body mass is just weight minus body fat mass.

Before we move on, whatever you choose, never compare the readings from one method to the readings from another method. If the skin folds method implies 15 percent and the bio-impedance implies 18 percent, in truth, both numbers are likely wrong. As I’ve mentioned above, for practical purposes, changes over time are more critical than the standalone number. Being directionally right is more important than being precise.

Also, as a closing thought on the methods above, I just wrote 3’000 words on how to measure weight, circumferences, and body fat percentages, and yet I’m going almost to shatter it all in one sentence. If the mirror says you’re fat, you’re fat. There’s no way around it, over it, or under it. Mirror beats body fat percentage. Body fat percentage beats weight. The only thing making measuring body fat useful is that your brain deceives you when you look at yourself—you kind of know when you’re fat and you sort of know when you’re not. Measuring body fat percentages just helps quantify when there are small changes; you would not pick by looking at yourself.

For tracking changes or progress, it would stand to reason that pictures – think à la before and after way – would also do the trick. Just make sure to use constant quality, lighting, etc. Also, using an honest pose – think of the exact opposite of whatever Instagram freelance models do or as I call them the great unemployed – would probably be recommendable, i.e., facing the mirror, standing upright. I don’t want to spend too much time describing how to takes progression pictures. I’m not a big fan of those. It’s a legitimate method, though. However, I think it allows for too much emotionality or at least subjectivity around it. I’d stick with the numbers and adapt accordingly. Also, having progression pictures on my phone kind of weirds me out, but it might be just me. As a side note within a side note, I’ve read the story of a guy who lost a considerable amount of weight by tapping his before picture to his fridge. Unfortunately, I can’t find the article anymore—I should have clipped it into my Evernote. It’s probably a decently effective approach to things. It seems a bit negative, however. If it were me, I wouldn’t want to be continuously confronted with that amount of negative thoughts. But also, I was never in a position where I needed to lose 50 kilograms to stay alive. Desperate times call for desperate pictures, I reckon.

At the risk of repeating myself: what is measured is managed!

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Food

“If you’re tired of starting over, stop giving up.”
―Shia Labeouf

Tracking food intake takes a bit of time at first. It certainly was close to a nightmare back in the nineties. We had to manually input foods, quantities, and macros into Microsoft Excel 95 like some kind of information age peasants. Nowadays, things can be made very convenient thanks to websites like Cronometer.

In a study published in the Journal of Diabetes Research, researchers could demonstrate the effect of dietary tracking on weight loss for a number of diabetic and non-diabetic patients. The group that tracked their food intake lost a significant amount of weight throughout the study [3]. I would argue it’s not that much of a scientific breakthrough, but what do I know. Not mindlessly pushing outrageous amounts of food down your throat, while having some accountability, appears to make you thinner. I’m just giving them mild amounts of dissent, though. It’s definitely useful to have the beneficial effect of food tracking on weight loss formalized.

I’m not an advocate of tracking such a poor metric as total calories. I don’t think one calorie equals one calorie. I think blood sugar fluctuation is a much higher and more precise predictor of fat gain or loss. However, I use Cronometer for other reasons. Counting calories is just the byproduct. Cronometer gives me a breakdown per nutrient per mineral, vitamin, etc.

My mother was diagnosed with osteoporosis in 2015. Her always highly up-to-dateFrench-speaking only physician prescribed a bunch of pills and a meticulous diet rich in dairy. My mother is lactose intolerant, mind you. Also, bear in mind, he didn’t even mention vitamin D supplementation. Yet, at that time, the scientific community had already reached long-lasting consensus on the benefits of high vitamin D supplementation on the rate of calcium fixation on bones, see the body of work of Dr. Ronda Patrick, among others. Besides being annoyed by scientists who don’t read published research in English, I was also shocked that my mother was manually tracking calcium intake with a food encyclopedia and Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. Cronometer made it possible to monitor vitamin D and calcium intake for her in a couple of minutes a day, instead of the previous 30 to 45 minutes it took her.

The charts on the site are quite helpful in identifying potential suboptimal nutrients intake. It’s also a massive plus for me that Cronometer connects and uploads data to my Fitbit account – the one account to rule them all, which autonomously prepares and sends weekly reports. It makes things quite comfortable to have all the information in one report. If you think tracking every single bite you take for the rest of your life is over the top, it probably is. I don’t count the food tracking in the 10 minutes a month I mentioned above for one simple reason: you don’t need to do it. It’s optional. I do it mostly because I eat the same meals over and over again. There’s minimal variation. Call it the luxury of no choice. I also noticed that most people vastly overestimate the diversity of their foods. If you want to convince yourself of that one, just take a notebook – or use Cronometer they have free accounts – and write down everything you eat or drink for one full week. I bet my last bacon-wrapped chipolata that you’ll be much surprised. It’s also quite expected. We all are creatures of habit.

Even if you don’t want to track everything you eat forever and ever and ever, which I perfectly understand. There are ways to still use sites likes Cronometer to your advantage, i.e., you could have test weeks. You could track what you eat for a representative week or even better two weeks, and look at the insights. I must say I’m still shocked at the amounts of sodium I eat. At some point, my very resilient heart is just going to revolt, say fuck it, and commit seppuku, which is going to be quite annoying.

Our motto throughout this post is “what is measured is managed”, in case you forgot. And food is probably where you’ll get the most benefits from applying a bit of measuring.

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Sleep

“Some people talk in their sleep. Lecturers talk while other people sleep.”
―Albert Camus

I can’t tell you how many sleep trackers I’ve tried. So much trial and error resulted in settling for the Fitbit Charge 2 Charge 2. It’s a bit unfortunate; this is starting to sound like some advertisement for Fitbit, but in reality, I’m not even a big fan. Some features on the smartphone app annoy the living hell out of me, but I also don’t know anyone who does it better than them; the stuff they make is just so convenient. It does all I need it to do at minor time or financial cost. That’s not always true of all that Fitbit produces. For instance, I bought a Fitbit Charge 3 Charge 3 and a Fitbit Charge 4 Charge 4. I thought it would be all the previous version was and more. But no, they both had one fatal flaw. They would light up every time I moved my wrist in a checking-time-on-my-wristwatch motion. They would do that all the time. At night, they would just light up and burn my sleepy eyeballs. The most unacceptable part of it all is that it is impossible to deactivate that feature on the more recent models. So, I just dialed back to the Fitbit Charge 2. It doesn’t make noise. I don’t feel it. I don’t notice it. That’s all I need. I’m also delighted that it can’t receive useless emails at 02:00 on it.

They say the three pillars of good health are nutrition, exercise, and sleep. Many go even further with four pillars, by adding mindfulness to the bunch. But let’s not complicate unnecessarily for now. I would argue that everyone understands at least the fundamental aspects of nutrition and exercise. Allow me to paraphrase those in a few words: don’t overeat trash and move now and again. Yet, there’s a fundamental part of the wellbeing triangle – wellbeing square – that everybody seems to disregard; you guessed it: the sleep part. I would argue that if wellbeing seems suboptimal, the quickest way to fix it would be to improve sleep. Since so many people ignore it, it stands to reason most would experience the highest returns in wellbeing increase per unit of effort invested here.

I’m not going to be extra preachy and tell you that you should sleep more. You probably know that already and besides I don’t know your life. I’m going the other route, though, instead of increasing quantity of sleep, lest just improve the quality of it, for whatever timeframe we have. You might remember that joke Schwarzenegger made when a student asked him how he could only sleep six hours a day and still seem to function at maximum intensity. The student in question was implying he needed much more than six hours to feel alright. Schwarzenegger just told him he should sleep faster. At the time and in the context, it seemed like a ridiculous yet hilarious answer. However, it turns out you can indeed sleep more quickly.

I’m going in-depth on the sleep topic and how to get the maximum quality of sleep in a set time frame in my Marco’s Sleep Mastery post (upcoming).

First things first, though: to perfect something, you must first know where you stand. That’s where the sleep tracking comes into play. The current state of the art science tells us that there are three stages of sleep, i.e., light sleep, deep sleep, andREM. REM stands for rapid eye movement. Purists would disagree and argue that there are, in fact, four or five stages of sleep, which is technically correct, but also virtually useless for our purposes. Let the theorists pursuing academic purity lose sleep over it. One sleep cycle – going through all stages and starting anew – takes anywhere from 80 to 120 minutes.

That’s where the Fitbit tracker comes into play. It’s an extremely convenient way to track sleep duration and stages. It breaks down sleep into phases and benchmarks your current stats against your best stats, your personal sleep quality record, so to say. When I first started tracking sleep, it showed that my REM percentage, relative to other stages, was quite slim, which matched how I was feeling so tired all the time. I managed to correct this and to bring my percentage of REM sleep to off-the-charts values with the simple tweaks I lay down in Marco’sSleep Mastery (upcoming).

I tried a couple of other trackers too. For instance, it is argued standalone trackers, which you place under your mattress, are more precise. I see three critical caveats:you need to sleep alone; you need to only sleep in your bed; you need never to sleep anywhere else. Any single one of those was already reason enough for me to not consider this method.

Then we could talk about the Apple Watch since you’re probably reading this from some kind of handheld Apple product – 68 percent of the traffic on this website is from an iOS device at this point. It would stand to reason having a bunch of Apple products would combine nicely. But then, how many screens do I need between my face and the world? Do I need to receive some useless email onmy Apple Watch, which I’ll read then again on my iPhone and then back on my Macbook? A holy trinity of irrelevant emails, if you will. My Fitbit might have a screen, but it only speaks when spoken to—no notifications ever.

All in all, if I were into recommending stuff, I’d recommend a Fitbit device, even if they lack precision sometimes compared to other devices. The simple fact that you only need one device and account, a jack-of-all-trades if you will, to track weight, body fat, heart rate, sleep, etc. more than makes up for a marginal lack of precision in my view.

Sleep is one of the areas where one would benefit the most from the “what is measured is managed” philosophy.

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Heart Rate

“The heart has its reason for which reason knows nothing.”
Blaise Pascal

This one is another byproduct of sorts of sleep monitoring. Since I monitor sleep with a Fitbit tracker, which comes with a continuous wrist-based heart rate monitor, I also get the constant – every three seconds – heart rate readings. The Fitbit device is not as precise as my Polar M430 that comes with heart rate sensors you place on your chest during exercise. Arguably, measuring heart rate with the sensor, so to speak, is as precise as it gets in a non-medical setting. It’s very impractical to have constant readings in your day to day life with this solution since you’d look like you just escaped from some weird lab experiment. I’ve compared the readings from my Polar watch to my Fitbit tracker. At lower heart rates, the Fitbit does exceptionally well. There’s no noticeable difference. As heart rates increase, the Fitbit tends to lag a bit. At higher heart rates, close to 200 beats per minute (bpm), the Polar still does well, while my Fitbit shows a little 180 bpm. My take on it is that the Fitbit has somewhat of a time lag, and since I can’t maintain a 200 bpm for long enough, it eventually never gets that high. I see it as a minor tradeoff. I’m losing a bit of precision for constant data at no effort. Besides, nobody is preventing me from using the more precise Polar watch if I want to do some vigorous high-intensity interval-training, which I rarely do, but it’s definitely an option.

What I think is more interesting than the accurate information the Polar watch gives about calories burned and maximum heart rate is the constant information the Fitbit delivers. It also can quite accurately pinpoint my resting heart rate (RHR). Harvard Medical School just recently revisited the importance of the RHR and showed it’s one of the easiest and most effective ways to gauge your current and future health status, which makes perfect sense to me. The lower your RHR, the better. You can’t have a Zen grandmaster of a heart if you’re not in pristine health condition.

Interestingly enough, still, according to the latter, it would be advisable to check your RHR several times per week. I don’t know what kind of life you’re living. But for me, there’s no way to do that the old traditional way, i.e., with a stopwatch, paper, and a pen. So, Fitbit it is for me.

Finishing Thoughts

“We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.”
— Jim Rohn

To get somewhere, you must first understand where you are, where you want to go, and how to get there. It is for this reason that what is measured is managed!

When you measure weight and a number of circumferences accurately and consistently, you can obtain a reasonable idea of body composition. When you add a couple of other measures, the picture becomes even clearer. This costs very little time. 

Doing this constantly brings a constant awareness that will make it easier for you to mange your weight.

That’s all for now. We quite nicely covered how to track all this physiological data in world-record-breaking times. Bear in mind of all it, save the food diary, will take roughly 10 minutes a month, since it’s all automated nowadays. Remember, what is measured is managed.
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Literature

  1. Jackson, A. S., & Pollock, M. L. (1978). Generalized equations for predicting body density of men. British journal of nutrition, 40(3), 497-504.

  2. Jackson, A. S., Pollock, M. L., & Ward, A. N. N. (1980). Generalized equations forpredicting body density of women. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 12(3), 175-181.

  3. Ingels, J. S., Misra, R., Stewart, J., Lucke-Wold, B., & Shawley-Brzoska, S. (2017).The effect of adherence to dietary tracking on weight loss: using HLM to model weight loss over time. Journal of Diabetes Research, 2017.

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