Any good experiment done well controls as many variables as possible to create a vacuum of sorts to identify what causes something to change. In order to find “that something,” all other variables need to be controlled as much as possible. Let’s use plant growth and how water impacts it’s growth as an example. The temperature, humidity, sunlight exposure, soil, etc….all need to be controlled, while the amount of water is manipulated to see how it affects the growth of the plant. You can probably begin to see where I’m going with this as it pertains to you and your health and fitness outcomes you’re pursuing. Fortunately, and unfortunately, we don’t live in vacuums; however, that doesn’t mean we can’t aim to control as many variable as we can. That means we can aim to control the amount of sleep we get, the amount of water we get, the amount of sunlight we get, the amount of steps we get, and even the amount of positive input we get. This is a post for another day, but give me a person with all else equal, who reads good books and one who doesn’t, and I’ll bet on the person reading good books to get better results than the other 100% of the time. Once we control as many as we can, we manipulate.
Let’s face it, nutrition and fitness are the two variables that you most likely need to manipulate. Do you need to manipulate them both at the same time? No, you don’t. Can you if you want? Surely you can! But even these variables, make sure to be specific about how you’re going to control their manipulation. Let’s take an overfat person for example. Yes, I said overfat and not overweight, because there’s a lot of people that aren’t “overweight” per se, but they are most definitely “overfat.” So if you’re going to aim to get your nutrition on track, you can start by manipulating something with your nutrition. Perhaps you want to count your calories? Then in that case start by estimating a calorie goal that would put you in a sustainable caloric deficit (500 calories) for a couple weeks and then be consistent. Perhaps you also want to begin strength training, which is ideal by the way, and you start with two total body days per week. Great! Account for both of those things and stick to it! Whether you do one variable or two, just make sure to account for it.
Make sure you have a frame of reference from which to measure results. For example, hop on an Inbody scale before you begin your self-experiment, and then hop back on one at least every 2 weeks to measure what’s happening in your body. This not incredibly important so you can measure if you’re changing, but it will also give you direction towards what isn’t changing and what else you may want to change. Don’t make measuring such an emotional and traumatic experience. You must fail in order to succeed, so wipe that tear away, and use the measurements as opportunities to learn. Some other options to measure results would be pictures, clothes, and of course you could use a scale, but for those who are already near a healthy weight range for their height, a scale isn’t a great way to measure progress, hence the recommendation of the Inbody assessment.
So you’ve measured and you want to accelerate or continue your progress? Well, if what you were doing was working, you could just keep doing the same thing and re-measure again in 2 weeks to see if that’s still enough of a change stimulus to keep the needle moving. Otherwise, you continue to manipulate one or two of the variables to get you closer to the desired outcome. You could decrease your calories by 250, or you could simply do a better job at monitoring your previous number and find that what you thought was 2,000 calories was actually 2500 calories because we all tend to underestimate our intake. You could increase your frequency from 2 days per week of strength training to 3 days per week. Then, you measure again after a couple of weeks and see where the chips fall. Change, learn, rinse, and repeat.
Your health and fitness is a continual experiment that you shouldn’t ever quit. Unless you’re into the whole sitting on the couch with a case of dew and a bag of Doritos lifestyle, which if you are, that too is an experiment, and America has done a fine job at showing what that looks like, so perhaps it’s time that America quits that experiment at least. But as for you, keep pushing the limits on what is possible for you. Little by little, keep getting better, because that’s what life is all about, and it’s hard to get better and better at other aspects of life, if you fail the health and fitness experiment. So don’t quit! Even if you suck at it right now, remember that you also likely sucked at walking at one point in your life, but somehow you eventually figured that out by failing forward.