Week 90: Data Driven vs. Data Obsessed

This week’s blog post is focused on one thing: data. This is a week when I discovered my data driven mind might be almost data obsessed. I know this is more text heavy than normal but it was a big ah ha for me.

18 Months of Weight Loss

My weight loss journey lasted a total of 18 months.

I kicked off in June with a goal of losing 100 pounds by the following June. I reached the 100-pound mark by mid-March (hint: big anniversary coming this week) and I kept going. By the 1-year mark I had lost about 120 pounds (20% more than my goal) and I kept going. At the end of that calendar year I had the realization that I had pretty much lost all of the weight that I was going to lose and I brought my weight loss to a close after losing about 132 total pounds.

My fitness journey continued but the weight loss phase was done.

Data is my Friend

My weight loss journey was a phenomenal success. My achievements were greater than I had ever expected or thought possible. As I have said over and over again I owe this success to two things: data and project management.

In my upcoming book, Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Under a Year, I explain how I started my plan based on one of my favorite quotes.

“If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.”

Lord Kelvin

My entire plan was based around my ability to measure my progress towards my goal. I setup a framework using project management and tracked it every day. The data kept me going because that is how I am wired. I am data driven and motivated by results.

Data Became Who I Was

For 18 months I stepped on the scale every morning and saw weight loss almost every day.I had become accustomed to seeing results daily and the results were easy to understand: weight went down means good day, weight went up means bad day.

On top of the data telling me how I was doing it told others too. Through my blog and social media I shared my updates, my milestones, my progress and publicly celebrated success. So much so that somebody once told me that weight loss had become my brand. It was who I was becoming – the formerly obese guy who sees his weight decrease daily.

Data Goes the Wrong Way

At the end of the year I switched to maintenance mode. My goal was to maintain a weight in the range of 189 pounds to 199 pounds. But in my head I expected to get down to 189 pounds which is where my BMI becomes “normal” instead of “overweight.” I hadn’t reached that point yet but fully expected to do so.

Just under 3 months into the new year I have a data problem: I have gained weight.

My weight has pretty much stabilized in the 198-199 range which is at the top of my target maintenance goal. But this is higher than I thought I would be, it is higher than my low weight and I never reached the “normal” weight range.

After 18 months of seeing my weight fall I have now seen my weight increase.

Data Failed Me or I Failed It

Here I am seeing my weight go up and I am feeling like a failure. But that isn’t the whole story.

If I was paying proper attention to more than the weight I would have looked at this differently.

  • I had reached a very low body fat percentage.
  • My strength was increasing significantly.
  • My muscle tone and definition has increased.

All of these factors add up to tell me that my weight is increasing the right way: muscle. My muscle mass continues to increase as my training yields more success. This muscle mass has weight and it means I am a little heavier.

Data Obsessed

Here I am getting frustrated by something that I should have celebrated as a victory. I have built a strong, athletic body and can do things I couldn’t do just a few short months ago. But I am feeling disappointed because my weight increased.

My wife summed up the situation perfectly in something she said this week: “you are obsessed with the data!”

She is right! I have turned a tool into the thing I focus on. I have let myself be defined, in my own brain, by a single measurement of success or failure. I let the quality of my day and my mood be defined by what the scale said.

I became a little too obsessed with the data and not with all of the data, just a single measurement.

So What?

Data is good!

Data is a beneficial and critical tool to achieving any goal. I will never discount the importance of data. I really believe Lord Kelvin: If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.

How you look at data can be bad!

I built a phenomenally successful weight loss journey without cutting a single thing out of my life and I did it through balance. Everything in moderation. Everything that I liked fit into my plan as long as I balanced it and looked holistically at what I was consuming and burning.

Data is the same way. You can’t just look at one number associated with your goal and let it define you. This applies to any goal:

  • Weight
  • Salary
  • Title/level
  • Revenue
  • Net worth
  • Follower/friends
  • Likes/retweets

You have to look holistically at the full situation and the balance of various data points to get a true assessment of your progress.

If the numbers don’t tell the story I want one day, I just have to forgive myself and move on. Bad days happen. This journey is not a sprint it is a marathon and a life-long commitment. I can’t let a single bad number kill my momentum… particularly when it isn’t a bad number at all and is something to celebrate not mourn!

Thanks for reading!

Last week’s stats (2/25-3/3):

Maintain avg. weight of 189-199 pounds: 199 lbs average
Run 10+ miles per week: 12.9 miles
Total walk/run miles: 37 miles
Weight training 2-3 times per week: 2 workouts
One race per month: no February race, next race 3/17
Continue to track & manage calories: 2,425 calories under budget