My Fitness Pal (Issue 960)

In which we are reminded to identify and track performance on the activities that lead to our goals.

“I’m using a new app.” Our P.F. Changs server had just delivered our lunch menus. “It’s called MyFitnessPal,” my capacious companion continued. “I need to lose some weight and I track my food to be sure I stick within my limits.”

He passed his phone to me so I could see the app. That was on August 2, 2012, almost eight years ago this week. I downloaded the app that afternoon and I have used it every day for every meal since then. If I consumed food, I recorded it. A few days short of 3,000 days; I’d estimate close to 15,000 entries.

This unrelenting commitment to recording has led to friction – friends and family repeatedly reminding me that I don’t need to lose weight, that I could stand a few more pounds, and that I should just eat whatever and whenever I want.

Occasionally, someone will ask, “Why did you start using the app and why have you stuck with it?”

There are a number of reasons: To remind me to eat more greens or fruit, when needed; to ensure I’m ingesting enough iron, calcium, and protein; and to limit my trans-fat and cholesterol intake, to name a few, and I enjoy the discipline, the feedback, and the results. So far, my blood chemistry conveys consistent, positive outcomes from this vigilance and I’m eating whatever and whenever I want. I’m just careful about whatever and whenever I want.

“But couldn’t you get there without… you know… r e c o r d I n g everything?”

Ted Williams, the last Major League Baseball player to hit .400 for a season, was once asked why he was so careful about the pitches he took. The reporter wanted to know why such a talented hitter would not swing at pitches that were outside the zone that Williams favored. His reply: “If I did that, where would I stop?”

My lunch time inspiration, having achieved his weight loss goal, stopped using the app after a couple of years. “I can do it in my head now,” he said. “I don’t need to track it; I know roughly what I’m eating.” His weight has fluctuated up and down for the last eight years.

When we need to reach specific outcomes, it’s useful to set guidelines for the essential activities that lead to success, to record and assess our consistency on these so we reach and sustain our target performance, and to follow Ted Williams’ counsel not to chase distractions that fall outside the guidelines. If we did that, where would we stop?

Nick Miller trains bankers to sell to small businesses. He is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.

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