At the CrossFit gym I go to, we are in the middle of a 2-month total body transformation challenge.
The challenge is focused both on exercise and nutrition.
At the start of week 1, we did an initial weigh-in using the InBody Scan. The InBody Scan goes beyond a standard scale to assess body composition.
It gives a detailed breakdown that shows you how much of your body weight is water, lean muscle mass, and skeletal muscle mass. It also gives a breakdown by body part, showing the weights of each limb and torso.
For each week after week 1, we are required to submit a weekly weigh-in.
Last week, at the mid-way point, we did another InBody scan to assess progress.
Although we were not required to do an InBody scan for our weekly weigh-ins, I have been doing the full scan each week anyway.
As the adage goes, you can’t manage what you don’t measure.
And if you want to stay on track to achieving your desired results, measuring more frequently is better.
This seems to be a settled principle of productivity. Right?
Well, not so fast.
How Frequent Measuring Can Backfire
It turns out that measuring more frequently is not better, and can actually backfire.
Between Week 1 and Week 3, it appeared that I was moving in the right direction. But my week 4 weigh-in went the opposite way, almost back to my starting point. It appeared I had wiped out my muscle gains and fat loss.
I haven’t missed a day of exercise in almost 10 years, and I’ve stepped up my exercise. I’ve also been diligently tracking my nutrition intake and sticking to my calorie and macro nutrient goals.
On the surface, it might have appeared that my efforts aren’t working. It would be easy to believe this story. After all, the numbers seem to prove that I’m going in the “wrong” direction.
And numbers don’t lie, right?
The facts are there in black and white, on the printout from the InBody scan.
Except that the numbers aren’t the story.
The numbers are facts for a specific moment in time, based on the circumstances of the moment.
The InBody scan apparently has a 0.5 margin of error. It can vary widely depending on a person’s hydration levels.
In fact, the coaches at the gym had warned me against doing a weekly InBody scan. On a week-to-week basis, the numbers can tend to fluctuate widely.
When people attach too much meaning to the numbers, they are less likely to stick with their program when they see the numbers go in the “wrong” direction.
What Are You Tracking For?
Although I know that the weekly scan can be misleading, I decided to do a weekly scan anyway.
Results vs Information
My purpose in doing a weekly scan is not to measure “results” but to gather information and track patterns.
I know that weight and body composition can fluctuate depending on where I am in my menstrual cycle, and I want to see what the patterns are for my body.
Reminding myself of the reason why I’m tracking weekly helps me release any attachment to what the numbers might “mean.”
Instead of viewing the “results” as evidence of failure of my process, I can view them for what they are: pure information.
What to Track for Sustainable Progress
Over the past decade, I’ve cultivated and taught strategies to help clients sustain daily efforts towards wellness and work goals: daily exercise, meditation, blogging, creative practices.
Because of the work I’ve already done in this realm across various behavior changes, I know that a 2-month challenge is just a starting point.
The “results” numbers often take a long time to show up; they are a product of consistent effort invested over the long arc of time.
If you get too invested in the “results,” you’ll end up getting off-course or quitting before you’ve gotten traction.
To stay on track, it’s more important to measure effort and activities as opposed to the results.
Think: inputs over outputs.
In this case, it means logging my food intake daily and tracking my macros and workouts. It means showing up daily to do the little things that, over time, will compound to make the difference in achieving my goals.
The inputs are often more annoying to track. It’s tedious to measure and log my food intake every day.
That’s where the work is, and that — eventually — is what leads to the payoff in results.