Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The First Step with Your New Year's Goals: Seek Feedback

If you've followed for a while, you know that I have struggled with weight management in the past and currently weigh about 25 lbs. less than I did several years ago. With the new year, many of us reflect on our current standing and how that differs from our ideal selves. This often leads to a literal look in the mirror and personal commentary on what we see.

If that commentary features to a desire for weight loss, then I have a recommended starting point: seek feedback.

Morning Visits with the Scale

While I gained the weight that led to my rock-bottom physique at 201 lbs. (which, ironically, was the opposite of rock-hard), I had no accountability to myself or others. I was completely ignorant of what was going on. There were no ramifications for the poor dietary choices I made on a daily basis.

A small but critical change for me was stepping on the scale every morning. The scale provided me with three things I needed:

  1. Accountability for my recent decisions.
  2. Feedback on where I am.
  3. Feedback on what I'm doing to lose weight (and positive reinforcement to keep going with my approach when the numbers were decreasing).

Journals Talk Back

During my weight loss, I had intermittent spurts of online food journaling, typically spanning 1-2 weeks at a time. I still journal for a week every few months. This is a practice that most of my clients use when starting their fat loss journeys as well. The beautiful thing is, you often don't need me or someone else to look at it to determine some points of repair. You'll likely find enough points of discontent in it to trigger your own dietary changes.

There are several food journal apps for iPhones and droids. My favorite online food journal is However, you don't need to know your calorie, carbohydrate, fat, and protein totals to recognize flaws. Several of the people I work with write their food logs in paperback journals. 

Should you decide to go this route, I recommend journaling for at least three days.

Glucometers for Feedback

As discussed a few months ago, diets focused on restriction -- such as low carb and low fat diets -- have poor adherence rates. Studies show people start falling off the dietary targets or drop out completely within six months. However, a low carb diet in one study produced noteworthy glycemic and weight improvements for type 2 diabetics within six months and those changes were largely sustained through the last measurement, which was 16 months later [1]. At 22 months, the participants still maintained 75 and 79% of their peak weight loss and hemoglobin A1c (a three-month measure of blood glucose) improvements. Seven out of 16 people on the low carb diet maintained or lost more weight between months six and 22.

What does this have to do with feedback? The researchers credited self-monitoring of blood glucose as the reason for the improvment:

Regular self measurement of blood glucose has probably made it possible for these patients to succeed. Self determination of blood glucose provides a feed-back mechanism and may be another reason that 44 % of the patients succeeded in maintaining their weight.

(The bolded emphasis was added by me).

Even if you're not diabetic, the reaction of your blood glucose to your meals will still provide a basic idea of healthful versus non-healthful foods. For those who are interested, a variety of glucometer kits can be found on

Getting Started

To this day, I still step on the scale every morning to help with weight maintenance. For those of you who are looking to make physique changes, knowing where you are is a great first step. The feedback mechanisms advocated above are certainly not a comprehensive list. Regardless of whether it is one of the above suggestions or another method, I highly recommend developing a feedback system to get your new year's goals and "new you" started.

Happy New Year.

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