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

Week 89: Ramping Up The Mileage

March is here and that means that there are more opportunities to go outside to pursue my fitness goals. I am starting to ramp up my exercise after a little more after being a little lazy in the cold months. Don’t get me wrong, when I say I have been a “little lazy” that is still a pretty active lifestyle and not just couch time.

Marathon Prep

I am running in the OhioHealth Capital City Half Marathon on April 27. That is less than 60 days away and I have been working on ramping up my training.

Last week I did my longest ever contiguous run at 8 total miles and 7 of them running. This week I ramped up the mileage a bit more and did a Sunday long run of more at more than 9 miles with the majority of those being running miles.

I love long runs through downtown Columbus because I get to see great views of the city and explore along the way.

Over the coming weeks I need to continue ramping up the mileage until I hit a full 13.1 miles by early April. Right after that I will start to taper the distance and end with at least one rest week before the race.

I have completed one half marathon already but that doesn’t make me any less nervous preparing for my second one.

Arnold 2019

This week I went to the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus despite saying last year that I probably wouldn’t go back because of the size of the crowd. This festival salutes sports and fitness in all forms but is heavily geared towards weight lifting and similar pursuits. It is a very popular festival, almost too much so, and I felt like there were about a million people there at the same time as me.

While at the festival I walked the expo floor to check out equipment, methods and supplements that people were selling. I watched some competitions such as CrossFit Endeavor, Spartan Dash Obstacle Course, Ninja Warrior Course, power lifting and even pole fitness. Plus I had a chance to watch the end of one of the rounds of the women’s physique competition.

I attend this festival as inspiration and motivation to do better and to set bigger goals. But one other thing started becoming clear this year – I need to decide what kind of body I want. Some of the super weight-lifter guys are huge masses of humanity and I don’t want that. That said, I do want to have an impressive body that visibly reflects my hard work. Tone and a little bulk are great but massive bulk is not for me.

One thing attending the festival did do was to push me to get a pretty tough workout in the morning after the festival. I was waiting outside the gym when they opened and pushed myself pretty hard despite having a limited amount of time. Then I pushed myself even further with a coffee walk after I finished my breakfast meeting.

Bad Judge of My Own Progress

One last topic for this week is about judging our own progress. When I look in a mirror I don’t see a thin guy and I really still see that big guy who looked back at me for 40 years. The progress just happened so gradually that it wasn’t like I woke up one morning and was “thin,” it happened over a year. It takes a while for your brain to adjust to your new body. So I am a terrible judge of my own progress.

Every once in a while something happens that really shocks me. Over the past couple of weeks these shocks have come on the form of pictures. Several pictures of me have been posted by other people as we have been participating in our annual Pub Golf Tournament. Here is an example of a couple of those.

When I see these pictures I am absolutely shocked – and not just because of the funny faces! The guy in these pictures, particularly the one of the left, is not the guy I see when I look in the mirror. I don’t know how long it is going to take to get to the point where I know I am this guy but I am not there yet.

My Book

I almost forgot… I went public about my book this week.

In just a few weeks I will be releasing the book that tells my story and shares my approach. The book is called Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Under a Year. If you want to be the first to hear updates including when the book is released please join my email list.

Thanks for reading!

Last week’s stats (2/18-2/24):

Maintain avg. weight of 189-199 pounds: 199.8 lbs average
Run 10+ miles per week: 15 miles
Total walk/run miles: 41 miles
Weight training 2-3 times per week: 2 workouts
Yoga 1+ times per week: none
One race per month: no February race, March race planned
Continue to track & manage calories: 2,898 calories under budget

Week 88: A Little Spring in my Steps

We are approaching the end of February which means Spring is just around the corner. I am already starting to see signs of the changing seasons. A little bit warmer during the days and the sun is rising earlier and staying up later.

The emergence of Spring also means that I am able to take my exercise outside and see my performance get better.

A Long City Walk

With the slight emergence of Spring I can get back to some outside time. This outside time includes getting back to walking and running around my city and exploring along the way. On Friday afternoon, after work, I had the opportunity to go for a nearly 5 mile walk around downtown Columbus.

I started my workout journey with long walks and I still thoroughly enjoy going for walks and they are still a good source of calorie burn. During my Friday walk I not only burnt over 800 calories but I also had the opportunity to explore the city.

When I think back to a year ago I was just starting to realize how great of an opportunity it was to have a sabbatical between jobs. I was going for long walks and runs every day and was learning how cool our city is. Fast-forward just one year and I am still enjoying long walks and re-exploring the same spaces.

Half Marathon Training Run

After my long walk on Friday I went for a long 8-mile run on Saturday. I am working on getting ready for my next half marathon in just 60 days and have been a little lax on the training runs because of the weather. But Saturday morning was in the high 30s / low 40s and was perfect for a long, though slightly chilly, run.

I did a total of 8 miles though I originally got back home at the 7.9 mile mark and walked up and down the block for a tenth of a mile. The best part is that I ran for the vast majority of the 8 miles and my total average pace time was better than my first half marathon. So, if I can just add 5 more miles, I should be on pace to beat my last half marathon time.

Book Announcement Coming This Week

Finally this is a big week. This week I am going to annouce the title of my book and start sharing the cover. In addition, I am going to start hyping / advertising the upcoming book launch nearly every day until the book launches. I will start by offering initial sales through a soft launch just to my email list. So sign up at OperationMelt.com/mail (to be the first to know.

The Arnold!

Lastly this week is the Arnold Sports Expo in Columbus. I am super excited to go the my second ever Arnold and get some additional fitness inspiration and some free samples. Plus the people watching is amazing!

Thanks for reading!

Last week’s stats (2/11-2/16):

Maintain avg. weight of 189-199 pounds: 198.7 lbs average
Run 10+ miles per week: 7 miles
Total walk/run miles: 34.7 miles
Weight training 2-3 times per week: 2 workouts
Yoga 1+ times per week: none
One race per month: no February race scheduled
Continue to track & manage calories: 1,640 calories under budget

Week 87: A Health Rollercoaster

I had 2 lazy weeks followed by a week where I was back on track and this week was kind of in the middle. While I had a couple of solid workout days including a Sweaturday that burned over 1400 calories I had several days without exercise. The result was a week where I didn’t achieve all of my fitness goals.

While I hate failing short of my weekly fitness goals I set my goals high enough that I still land in a healthy place.

Rollercoaster Ride

I have motioned before that my smaller and more fit body is more sensitive to some things. The best example is sodium. When I consume too much sodium it causes my cells to retain water and my weight to go up.

This week was filled with higher sodium choices and a little more stress than normal. The result were big swings in my weight of up to 2-4 pounds up or down per day. Plus my resting heart rate was elevated a little at 61 beats per minute instead of my normal mid-50s. There were several mornings where my weight was temporarily over 200 pounds only to be in the mid 190s the next day. These experiences absolutely reinforce that I am at my minimum weight now.

In short this week was a health rollercoaster ride.

While I am very focused on and motivated by numbers I can’t let myself become overly focused on them. At this stage in my journey an excessive focus on the numbers could turn my daily mood and self-image to fluctuate as fast as my weight.

It took me a while to reach this stage in my journey but I am happy to say I am definitely more than the numbers.

Operation Melt Email List

This week I launched my Operation Melt email list. My goal is to use this list to deliver a weekly Operation Melt recap to people’s inboxes to make it easy to follow along. Plus I am going to use this list to make some big upcoming announcements. Join the list here: https://www.operationmelt.com/mail/

Thanks for reading!

Last week’s stats (2/4-2/10):

Maintain avg. weight of 189-199 pounds: 197.7 lbs average
Run 10+ miles per week: 8 miles
Total walk/run miles: 32.4 miles
Weight training 2-3 times per week: 2 workout
Yoga 1+ times per week: none
One race per month: no February race scheduled
Continue to track & manage calories: 1,887 calories under budget

Week 86: Back on Track

I mentioned last week (Week 85) and the week prior (Week 84) that the deep freeze in Columbus drove me to basically hibernate and to not be as active as I should be. I am happy to say, after 2 weeks of less than stellar performance, I started getting back on track this week.

Weather Makes a Difference

There were 2 mornings this week when I woke up at 5:15 and discovered that the temperature outside was nearly 50 degrees. This 50-degree weather follows a week where we had single-digit high temperatures in Columbus. As a result I continue to learn how much the weather makes a difference in a fitness lifestyle.

Instead of last week’s hibernation and hiding from the weather I actually was able to have early morning outdoor runs twice this week. One of the runs was in the rain but that didn’t bother me at all. I just put on a rain jacket and went out in the rain.

The result was 2 great runs on Wednesday and Thursday and an amazing view of the rain soaked and densely foggy Schiller Park – have I mentioned that I love fog? The decision to go out and run despite conditions not being perfect was even the inspiration for this weeks Reflections on Leadership article.

Foggy morning run at Schiller Park

Unfortunately this means that I ran on consecutive days which I try very hard not to do because my body needs time to recover. Remember the “aging athlete” comment (http://www.operationmelt.com/2018/09/23/week-66-i-dont-give-myself-enough-credit/) from my doctor? But it seemed to work out ok this week with pretty much zero pain.

Me killing it on my morning run!

Though I usually only report my metrics a week behind I am going to pause to brag about running 17 total miles this week. That is way more than my 10 miles per week goal!

Music Makes a Difference

During my Thursday morning run I rediscovered that music makes a big impact on my performance.

I was nearing the end of my run and was in the final leg of my run around the park. Just then shuffle found some of my favorite running songs. The music pushed me to run another full lap around the park which added about another three-quarters of a mile to my total run. I ended up running over a 5k and being a little late for work – totally worth it!

This was just one of several instances this week when music made a big impact on me and my mood, my performance, my focus or my emotions. I am an incredibly music driven and its impact on me amazes me every time!

Killing it in the Gym

Not only did I get back to running this week I also killed it in the gym on Saturday morning for almost 2 hours.

My #Sweaturday workout this week … torched about 1500 calories in 2 hours!

I did a short, light warm-up run on the treadmill. Then I spent 40 minutes doing a weight lifting circuit that started with some body weight exercises including push-ups on a Bosu ball, deadlifts, bench press, cable chest presses and more. Then, just when the average person would have said “I’m done,” I got back on the treadmill for a 5-mile run.

I ran for an hour and hit a distance of more than 5 miles. I had planned to stop at 45 minutes but then, yet again, a string of great music played on my running playlist and pushed me further.

Almost Here: Operation Melt the Book!

My book is essentially done!

I have a couple of more edits to fold in and then we will call the first edition ready to sell. It has been an exciting 2 weeks of finishing the cover design, finishing my acknowledgements, adding a final chapter about bringing the weight loss journey to a close. Plus ever edit results in a new export to ePub format and it is a real book! I have thoroughly enjoyed watching this book come to life and am excited to share it soon.

Here is something that a lot of authors would never do – I am going to give you a semi-real-time view into my plans and thoughts. I have spent some time working on my rollout plan and have the basics figured out. My plan is to publish the first edition within the next 4-6 weeks in eBook format only. I am planning to start selling through OperationMelt.com for a short period of time first and then to expand to iTunes and Amazon and maybe more. I am going to let the eBook sell for a while and learn from the reviews. Then, after 2-3 months of eBook sales, I am planning to release the second edition in both eBook and paperback.

Hopefully by this time next week I can announce a target release date and maybe even start taking pre-orders. But that may be a little ambitious because there are still some mechanical and other aspects that I need to try to figure out this week.

Thanks for reading!

Last week’s stats (1/28-2/3):

Maintain avg. weight of 189-199 pounds: 198.3 lbs average
Run 10+ miles per week: 4 miles
Total walk/run miles: 26.8 miles
Weight training 2-3 times per week: 1 workout
Yoga 1+ times per week: skipped due to weather
One race per month: January 5k complete on 1/1, no February race scheduled
Continue to track & manage calories: 3,121 calories under budget