Want to change? Measuring is the first step

by Madeleine Kolb

3241994697_a6a0460fffI love measuring things, such as how much I walked and how long it took and how much weight I lost or gained. Yesterday, for example, I walked for one hour and 15 minutes. This morning I found that I’d lost 0.2 pounds which is not bad, since I’m just trying to lose a few pounds. 

Measurement is feedback

I’m not obsessive; I just love feedback! Without feedback, I literally don’t know what I’m doing. And if I don’t know what I’m doing now, how will I know when I change what I’m doing?  If I want to change, how will I know when what I’m doing is working? 

Without feedback, you’re just guessing

A recent Real Age article cited a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture which found that “more than 80% of women underestimated their daily food intake by a whooping 700 calories.” This tendency was given as one reason people don’t lose weight.  They can’t change what they’re eating because they don’t really know what they’re eating.

Another (and possibly related) reason was eating without thinking, such as eating when you’re watching TV. If someone asked you, you’d say “I’m watching TV”—even if a more accurate answer would be “I’m watching TV and eating Doritos straight out of the bag.” 

Feedback is the key to change

These responses don’t indicate personal weakness. I think they just indicate how our minds work. Organizations which help people change  understand this very well. That’s why programs like Weight Watchers are successful; they ask new members to write down every single thing they eat every day for several weeks.  Financial counselors take a similar approach, asking clients to write down every single penny they spend every day for weeks or months. 

Invariably, the results are a complete revelation. People are astonished that they eat so much or spend so much. They had no idea!  But now that they do know and they have help, they can begin to change. They can begin to stop doing some of the things that they didn’t even know they were doing.

Photo by bionicteaching

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Karlil August 24, 2009 at 12:13 pm

This is absolutely 100% true. Without feedback, there won’t be motivation to continue. Without feedback, you won’t even know if you are doing it right.

Every time i try something new, the first thing i would want to look for is the results. With the result, i can gouge the effective level of the techniques. I can then compare to see if it is worth my time. Surely it should always be a realistic one.

I do this often when i learned something new in my workout routine from the net. Always measure up and be aware of what you do. Nicely said Madeleine

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2 Madeleine Kolb August 25, 2009 at 7:46 pm

Karlil,
Thank you for your comment. The whole topic of how to change behavior is fascinating. I think that measuring things that can be measured is a vital first step. When people self-report rather than measuring food intake, they generally under-estimate. But when they self-report their physical activity, they tend to over-estimate.

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