Self-reflection can be difficult. It’s sometimes hard to pull yourself out of your normal way of thinking and explore questions that might fly in the face of what you know in your mind to be true. This morning I’ve been sitting at my desk at work reflecting on my life and my situations. As I was doing this I came across a thought that related to weight loss…
“I’m wasting more time and energy trying to automate my life than I’m spending actually living it!”
What does that mean?
I’m an engineer through and through. I love data and systems and tools that are designed to help you get the most efficiency out of anything you are doing. I spend my days trying to automate just about everything.
At work I’ve setup my job so that I can automatically collect the data I need to make decisions. I’ve spent hours and hours setting up spreadsheets so that 3 pieces of information can be entered each month and instantly create 15 different metrics that can be used the track the state of my department.
At home I’ve automated my system for selecting stocks to invest in. I spent MONTHS building a spreadsheet that allows me to enter a stock symbol, click a button, and then it automatically collects 20 years of data, sorts through it, and gives me a score AND a buy and sell price.
What does that have to do with losing weight?
Everything I do is with automation and efficiency in mind… that includes weight loss! If I had a way to track every calorie that went into my mouth while simultaneously tracking every calorie that I expended throughout the day, I would be in heaven. In my mind, if I know exactly what I need to eat, when I need to eat it, and how much I need to move around in order to have my metabolism fire at its most efficient rate, then I have created the most efficient weight loss program possible.
Here’s the problem… I’m trying to build an automatic weight loss system, one that I don’t have to think about what I need to do each day because it’s already been calculated out for me. Does anyone think that really exists? I’m spending so much time focusing on how to make things most efficient (how to lose the most weight with the least amount of effort). Doesn’t that defeat the purpose? Why am I trying to be so efficient about my weight loss? Does it matter if I only lose 2 pounds when I could have lost 3? Does it matter if I choose to work out at a time that not optimal for burning calories? Do I really need to know that I should be eating 2200 calories per day instead of 2300? What is any of the data I’m collecting tell me that I don’t already know?
When it comes down to it, the only equation I need to worry about is this:
Eat Less + Move More = Lose Weight
At the end of the day I should be asking myself 2 questions:
- Did I take steps today to try to eat a healthy, reasonable amount of food?
- Did I take steps today to try to get more physical activity?
All the energy I spend with spreadsheets and scouring the Internet for that next little piece of information that might make my diet more efficient could be instead be spent running around outside with my kids or teaching myself to prepare a great meal that’s both satisfying to my appetite and tastes great.
Sometimes I get so hung up on the metrics I’m tracking that I forget what it actually is I’m trying to do. I want to be healthy, that’s the ultimate goal. It doesn’t matter what my weight or measurements are, how many calories I’m eating, or how many minutes I spent with my heart rate at a certain level. Yes, those numbers are a good way to measure progress, but they are outputs and shouldn’t drive behavior. Maybe if I stop focusing on the wrong things, the right thing will actually happen!