How to lose weight? In the last blog we discussed this very question and why most of your weight loss efforts go for naught. In it we discovered that the key to losing weight is putting your efforts behind the proper paradigm. For decades we have been following the wrong paradigm by counting calories and pounding away on a treadmill or bicycle. While this may help you lose weight temporarily, you typically end up right back where you were in short order because it's not sustainable. In this blog we will look at tools that can help you learn how to lose weight and give you the feedback you need to make continued progress toward your ideal physique.
One of the things that is invaluable in determining how to lose weight is feedback, or data. Most people already use some form of data when they try to lose weight because they step on the scale to find out their weight on a regular basis. The problem is, this doesn't teach you anything. You are more or less performing an experiment on your self and while you are trying to learn how to lose weight, all you look at is some number the scale gives us. Most people don't cross-reference this data with anything else, all good experiments need 2 types of data. It's a good idea to have something else to compare your weight loss or gain to. In the research field, your weight and/or the weight you lose or gain is referred to as a dependent variable.
If you were running a study on the effects of standing on bone density, bone density is your dependent variable. The problem is, just measuring a dependent variable isn't very useful, we want to know the dependent variable, but we also want to know what caused the dependent variable to change. This is referred to as the independent variable. In our bone density study, the independent variable would be the number of hours you spent standing. In an experiment, you would normally set up 2 or more groups that stood for different lengths during the day. When you compare the bone densities (the dependent variable) of each, you would notice an interaction where the dependent variable changes based on the independent variable (Time standing). This would give you information on what you should do to improve your bone density. While some of you may care about your bone density, you should, most of you are here to lose weight. Let's take a look at the independent variables in your journey to lose weight.
If you were designing an experiment, the independent variables on your journey to learn how to lose weight are merely the lifestyle factors you manipulate to attempt to lose weight. For most people this is going to the gym or running or bicycling over long distances. The problem is, in the grand scheme of things, these things are actually very tiny components of how your body loses weight. In most people, they actually slow weight loss because they are done incorrectly and lead to an internal environment that prevents weight loss rather than one that promotes it because they ignore what is going on in the body altogether. When looking to lose weight, there are numerous independent variables to control. Of primary importance are diet, sleep, stress, sedentary time, and physical activity. These can all be measured with the Fitbit activity tracker, the topic of this blog.
Physical activity is a very powerful piece of data because it is one that is easy to measure. When I work with clients, I have them use a Fitbit activity tracker for 3 days to get a general idea of where their physical activity is. The Fitbit is a great piece of technology because unlike other pedometers, it gives you more than just total steps per day and allows you to measure most, if not all of your independent variables. You can extract quite a bit of information out of the Fitbit data. Having worked with many clients who want to know how to lose weight, I have assessed quite a bit of this data. In addition to the activity and step data, you can also enter independent variables in to your Fitbit Dashboard that the Fitbit doesn't measure such as what you eat, your blood glucose reading, your resting heart rate, and subjective feelings you record in the journal section. You can also enter your weight so you can see how your dependent variable is affected by your independent variables. I have clients enter as much data as they can during their initial 3 day evaluation and when I look over the data I can tell precisely what they are doing wrong. The best part is, I never have to meet this person, they could be in Timbuktu and as long as they have internet access and a Fitbit I can look over their data and Skype them or send them a report. I can give them an answer to the question, "How do I lose weight?" because I can see everything they are doing that either slows weight loss down or stops it all together. From an epigenetics perspective, I can see what they are doing that sends the wrong signals to their cells, not allowing them to lose weight. Maybe they are spending too much time sitting down, maybe their poor sleep habits are throwing off their blood glucose numbers which prevents fat from being burned, or maybe they are overeating carbohydrates for their particular lifestyle. Wearing it over long periods of time can also help identify food sensitivities the person may have. If you are having trouble trying to figure out how to lose weight, the Fitbit is a really useful tool to help you.
In the next blog, we will look at specific independent variables/lifestyle factors and how they impact your ability to lose weight. These are principles everyone should understand and if you are currently using a fitness professional or wellness coach and they're not driving this home you may want to look elsewhere.