About Fogdog's Weight Loss

Don't Focus on the Goal...

If you've followed this blog you know that I've struggled for many years with improving my health. I've finally reached a point where I've managed to maintain a small amount of success. Now it's time to take the next step, but I believe it requires a new way of thinking.

Instead of trying to get healthy, why not shift focus toward learning how to build healthy habits instead. Follow me as I try to teach myself how to Engineer healthy habits that will allow me to take my health to the next level. Let's see where this experiment goes!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Weight Loss Failure Analysis Using the “5-Why” Process

Things go wrong and failures happen.  This is part of life and will never change.  If you are embarking on a weight loss journey, you can expect to have failures all along the way.  In fact, I’m so sure this will happen that I’ve included “Expect to Fail” into my own weight loss plan.

I coach youth soccer in our community.  When we lose a game, I tell our kids that failure to meet our goals is an opportunity for improvement, but only if we learn from what went wrong.  At that point we have a discussion about what went wrong in the last game and then we focus our practice on improving those things that we identified.

Let me ask you a couple questions…Have you ever applied this philosophy in your weight loss?  How many times have you failed?  How many times have you learned from those failures?  This article is all about offering a simple tool that you can use to help identify the reasons behind a failure including a failure to lose weight.  The process is called the “5-Whys”

The 5 Why process is quite simple; you continue to ask yourself “Why?” over and over again until you get to the root of the problem.  It’s called the “5-Whys” because typically you can get to the root of most problems if you at least go through the process 5 times, but there is nothing magical about that number.  You simply keep asking why until you can’t ask it anymore.   
Now it might sound simple, but it can sometimes to be tough to do.  First of all, you sometime can have multiple answers or "roots" to a question.  When that happens you have to explore each root individually.  Also, it can sometimes be difficult to know when you really have reached the root cause simply because you can alway keep asking why.  Stop asking when the answer doesn't make sense or doesn't pertain to the problem you are trying to solve. 
The best way to illustrate this technique is with an example.  Fortunately for me, I fail quite a bit, so I figured I would use one of my recent failures as an example.  Below you find my 5-Why analysis, for my recent failure to lose any weight between my Day 20 and Day 30 Weigh-ins:

Failure To Be Analyzed - I didn’t lose any weight in the last 10 days

Why didn’t I lose any weight?

(Root 1) I went out to eat several times during the week and as a result went over my calorie limit significantly multiple times

          Why did I go out to eat?
          I went out to eat because I was stressed out from work

                     Why does stress trigger a need to go out to eat?

                     Because I don’t have a good/healthy way to deal with stress

                              Why don’t I have a good/healthy way to deal with stress?

                              Good Question (root cause #1)

(Root 2) I ended up cheating several times on the weekend including nachos and several desserts on Sunday

          Why did I cheat on the weekend?
          Because the SuperBowl was on

                    Why did the SuperBowl cause me to cheat?
                    Because the Superbowl is a special event

                              Why do I cheat on special events

                              It gives me a good excuse to cheat

                                        Why do I need an excuse?
                                        Good Question (root cause #2)                         

(Root 3) I didn’t exercise at all

          Why didn’t I exercise
          Because I had a busy, stressfull week

                    Why does a busy, stressfull week keep me from exercising?
                    Because I can’t fit it into my schedule

                              Why can’t I find time to fit exercise into my schedule?
                              Because it takes me an hour every day (in my mind)

                                       Why does it have to take an hour every day?
                                       It doesn’t (root Cause #3)

 Based on this simple analysis, I was able to come up with 3 main causes for my failure:

  1. I don’t have a good/healthy way to deal with stress, so when I’m stressed out I tend to use food to comfort me
  2. I have a tendency to use special events or changes in my normal routine as a reason to be unhealthy
  3. When it comes to exercise, I have an outdated view of what exercise looks like and that view is not conducive with my busy life
At this point, please note that doing the failure analysis helps you find the root cause(s) of you failure, but it doesn’t find the solutions.  I’m still trying to figure out a good/healthy way to deal with my stress.  However, sometimes just being aware of the causes can help you to be ready for them.  For instance, since I know that special events are a weakness for me, I might try to do something to prepare for the next one (one of my daughters has a birthday coming up).

I want to finish this post with just a few tips should you decide to try to do this type of analysis:

  1. Don’t get hung up on coming up with exactly 5 whys.  The purpose of the 5 is to try to get you to dig deeper into the “surface” reasons.  Dig as far as you can go, but don’t overdo it
  2. Don’t get stuck on the word “Why”.  Feel free to substitute “Who”, “What”, “Where”, and “When” into the questioning sentence
  3. If you have multiple answers to a question, pick one and take it all the way through to the root cause before going back to a different answer.  Also be ready, sometimes multiple roots will take you to the same root cause
  4. Focus on the process more than the final results.  The whole point of this process is to get you to really think through to possible causes of the failure.  I spent over an hour on the very simple analysis above and I had all sorts of other thoughts before I got to the roots above.
Have you ever performed an analysis like this before?  How about with weight loss?  Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.  Oh and by the way, if you have a solution for how I can deal with stress in a healthy way, I’d love to hear about it! Stay Strong!


  1. Great post, and love the analysis. I love seeing these sort of "tools" in action, but have to admit I detest using them myself. It's all about what works for whoever is doing it though. I may try and borrow it next time I have a bad week myself and give it a go.

    As to healthy stress relief, my way used to be Squash. It's a fantastic sport, quick, fast paced, aggressive, intense, but not hours and hours of effort like a long gym session or a game of football or something. 40 minutes of adrenaline.

    These days I honestly just use music for unwinding. It used to be alcohol and music, now it's just music. I know it's not something that will work for everyone though, I have incredibly broad musical tastes so can switch left right and centre to use what's needed at the time.

    For what it's worth, I'm with on the comfort eating though sometimes. Had a bad day Friday and a large chinese takeaway was involved, as soon as I finished eating it I thought "why did I just do that?" to myself.

  2. Excellent process! Any time we go inward, is a huge step in the right direction. :)

  3. Hmmm, I may try this next time I need a "reality check" with my weight loss. I too fail all the time, but I'm ok with that. I don't look at it as failing but as living. If I know I have a special event coming up then I just plan on letting go that meal & I'm ok with that, I don't count it as a failure. This is a lifestyle change & sometimes in my life that includes indulging a little, I just have to make sure that a little doesn't start to become all the time & then end up right back where I was! Great post!

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