Weigh Everyday

In 2007 I started weighing myself every day and writing it down. In the process, I lost 40 pounds, started biking everywhere, learned how to cook, and most of all: I learned how to change myself. In 2011 I gave a talk at the Seattle Quantified Self that summarized my experiences up to that point.

The Personal Health Narrative image referenced in the talk can be found here.

The talk was also featured on QuantifiedSelf.com. As of this writing, the talk has been viewed about 3,000 times.

Here is a piece I wrote about the process

January 2011

I'm skinny. It's all because of an experiment. I weighed myself everyday.

In 2007 I weighed nearly thirty pounds more than I do at the moment. Because I'm tall, that was was still in the 'normal range' of BMI but it was not 'normal' for me: I didn't feel light and fit anymore.

I decided to step on the scale every day like I was stepping onto a yoga mat. I wanted to get in touch with my body, and the ideas from the hacker's diet resonated with me - just track and watch for a while, and things will change. It sounded like my class readings from Drucker. I was midway through my electrical engineering degree.

Every day I woke up and stepped on the scale naked, right after I peed. It was just a $20 digital scale with half pound precision, but it was accurate enough. Then I wrote it down in a buff moleskine notebook that sat on my dresser, bookmarked with the pencil. It was the 6x8' kind, and I took notes next to the date and weight: "8 mile bike ride" "yoga" "3 drinks" "climbing gym" "yoga" "gave blood" "ate badly" "climbing gym"

I liked coming to the notes to give myself credit. A little +1 when I relived my good deeds a second time made me bike and climb more. I recorded bad things I'd done as well (it was college) so I could see their results. Sadly, the decrease in weight the morning after I stayed out all night at the honky-tonks was just due to dehydration, not dancing.

So almost every day, for about two years, I recorded my weight in a notebook and every few weeks or so I entered them into a spreadsheet and plotted the ten day running average.

I made a graph in excel. (This was before Google Docs Spreadsheets.)

The point is, the individual daily numbers are meaningless. Just data. The experiment is about presence and acceptance, approaching things with curiosity. How does my body work. If I do this, what happens in the next three days? If I eat like this, what happens? If I get stressed out, eat a lot of salt, drink a liter of water in the evening, have my period, exercise more than normal: what happens then?

I found a lot of comfort in the way that dark running average line sat on top of all that scattered data and smoothed things out. It seemed more trustworthy. It told me where I was really heading. The day to day ups and downs by a few pounds were no longer a cause for anguish, or celebration. Just curiosity.

You can see the first Thanksgiving around Day 100. I learned from that, and Christmas was hardly a bump. You can see where I disappeared into the woods for a month with Adam (that gap between days 200 and 300) and came out healthier than ever.

When I started in January 2007 I was busy having my mind blown by Unhappy Meals and then Fast Food Nation, and Much Depends on Dinner. I moved to Germany by myself for four months, and there in the land of currywurst I decided to become vegetarian as a three month experiment. I loved how that felt so much I never went back.

I kept a sourdough starter and fermented pickles and worked at a CSA farm. I reverently took pilgrimages to all the best restaurants, coffee shops and bars in Nashville. I learned to cook and eat. Real food. Once I tasted it I couldn't go back. That's what I've been experimenting with now. Depth. Lately I've been finding it on the yoga mat and waking early, and conversations with friends in coffeeshops.

The graph stops two years ago, when I took off camping for four months. The end of the story is what you'd expect from a graph with such a good r squared value: I continued on a similar slope for another few months and then settled in a little below my target of 150. I feel really happy in my body.

Note, July 2013: Since writing this essay, I've continued to track my weight. I gave an updated talk about moving averages and trying to stay the same. I currently weigh between 138 and 142.