Broken feedback loops
(Versión en español: pinchar aquí)
My body weight for the last three days has been 71.6, 71.6 and 71.4Kg. Three days above the self-imposed 71Kg red-line.
- I am gaining muscle. May be.
- I am eating unhealthy foods. I am not.
- I am under too much stress. May be.
- I am eating too much carbs. I don’t think so
- I am not active enough. I don’t think so.
- I should try intermitent fasting. May be.
- I am eating too much. I don’t think so.
- I am eating too little. I don’t think so.
- I am not getting enough sleep. May be.
- I must be patient; weight will go down. May be.
- I am eating too much dairy. I am not.
- I am eating too many nuts. I dont’ think so.
- I am eating too many sweeteners. I am not.
- I have a medical condition. May be.
Too much uncertainty.
When I see my weight getting too high, I suspect that, instinctively, I reduce my food intake, by bringing down the amounts or by skipping meals. Today, e.g., I didn’t have a breakfast. On LCHF it is easy to reduce your intake because you are seldom hungry. Maybe it’s a mistake. May be I don’t even have a problem and I am just gaining muscle, or the weight would go down in a few days. May be I am taking wrong actions trying to fix an imaginary problem.
I read elsewhere that «direct, frequent, and actionable feedback is the key to behavioral change«. And that idea points out the main problems when trying to lose weight: we don’t know what is happening and even if we knew we usually don’t know how to act on it.
- What is happening? Body weight, body fat (measured with a caliper or through electrical impedance), waist circumference, etc. are measures not suitable for a reliable frequent feedback. May be you need a week between two measures to conclude something, and that is not frequent enough.
- What to do? Popular actions like eating less, exercising more, eating less fat, sleeping more, drinking more water, eating more whole-grains, etc. are probably useless if not counterproductive.
We act on bad information with the wrong actions. No wonder it is so difficult to lose weight.
If you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail
Groundless mental models are behind all the wrong advice we receive. For example, people that believe in the Calories In Calories Out (CICO) fallacy gives us the advice to exercise more, to eat less, to avoid fat because of its energy density, to drink skimmed milk, etc. When your only tool is the CICO hammer, all you see are excessive Calories. If their mental model says saturated fat clogs your arteries, they can only tell you to limit your animal fat intake.
Health authorities all over the world have shown us that they can’t change their mental models, no matter the data, no matter the experience, no matter the scientific literature that says they are deadly wrong. Fifty years repeating the same baseless messages leave no room for doubts: their inertia is infinite. Obesity is caused by their mental paralysis, not by our gluttony nor sloth.
Some people say you shouldn’t self-weigh daily because it is unreliable and you can end up disappointed, or freaking out or making the wrong decisions. They think unexpected results may become kind of a torture. But I don’t agree with that idea: when you self-weigh every day, you know all your meals count and you have better adhesion to the diet. Studies show that daily weighing is associated with weight losses, and less frequent weighing is associated with weight gain (see):
«More frequent self-monitoring was consistently and significantly associated with weight loss compared to less frequent self-monitoring»
It seems to me that daily self-weighing helps you stick to your diet and, therefore, lose weight.