Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Measure It

“Love, it’s a motherfucker, huh?” – Old School

TinyAppetite is determined to lose body fat by exercising an hour a day and barely eating. She does not have any tool to measure her gains, and instead relies on her appearance. That was my method early this year when I was embarrassed by my figure. TinyAppetite’s view of herself is also likely distorted.

Children work towards measurable goals: they are graded on schoolwork, try out for tiered teams (varsity and JV), and socialize in groups judged by popularity. How did adults become goalless, content just getting through the workday or workweek, and unwilling to measure changes in strength, fat or life?

TinyAppetite should not, however, become like me…

2012 goal: gain muscle
Once I maxed out my gym’s leg extension machine, I switched to the squat. That was one of four exercises I focused on exclusively, tracking every repetition. I used to describe my job function as “making spreadsheets,” but maybe that should describe my life function.
tracking quadriceps extension weight-training results on Excel
Leg extension exercise, measured in repetitions

2012 goal: maintain minimal body fat
By one perspective I did and will always reach this goal. But I don’t accept average; I shoot for the 98th percentile and unfortunately this goal clashes with the previous one (you have to eat to gain muscle). The system I devised failed me and after seven months off-diet I had jumped from 6% to 10% body fat. Considering I nearly purchased a $500 ultrasound device to measure my body fat, of course I make this into a spreadsheet.
tracking body fat percentage on Microsoft Excel chart
Body fat percentage, measured in millimeters pinched using body fat calipers

2012 goal: date Olivia Wilde or someone similar
Like I say for my stories, they can’t all be winners. But my seeming failure to reach this goal taught me about fluidity. I may not be dating my Olivia Wilde, but life is about making connections. No matter the trends we can see from spreadsheets that track health metrics, human feelings don’t abide by predictable functions. Emotions rise and fall like waves, and the two currents must be within a range of one another to create an avalanche.

I made a lasting connection unless I “turn into a total psychopath,” as she stated. If finding my Olivia Wilde is a fluid process, then so is attaining a goal. Sometimes moving forward requires taking a step back; getting up requires falling down. Maybe it takes patience—after all, I’ve noticed that things tend to work out in life let’s say 80% of the time.

Other things must be fluid, too. My on-diet and off-diet have converged. Why should I only allow myself to eat a cracker during a Cheat Lunch? In 2013 crackers are acceptable anytime (before 6:00 p.m. and in moderation as long as each is fewer than 20 calories).

Money is not fixed, reliant solely on salary—there are always ways to increase the difference between inflow and expenses. Mistakes and harsh words can be undone. Failure in one undertaking can be overshadowed by success in another. Severing a connection with one person can lead to a blossoming link with another.

Here’s to a fluid 2013…so long as I stay within 80% of 8.5% body fat!