You can’t change what you can’t measure

By now literally billions of New Years resolutions will have gone the way of the dodo. Some lasted about as long as a bullfrog takes to catch a fly with his prehensile tongue, while others fizzled out after the first encounter with the elliptical at the gym, with a pathetic little whimper. And the ones that have lasted this far into mid-year are holding on by their fingernails.

Part of the problem is that the resolutions we make are about the destination and seldom about the journey, or even the hearth they started from. They are couched as some kind of ephemeral plan to “get fit” or “lose body fat”. Rarely do they have a “how much”, “in what time frame” and “how”, appended to them. The end point is all very well, but it is seldom achieved without a good roadmap, or a plan as to how to get there.

Health and fitness goals are pretty much the same. Success points to careful planning and consistent execution or you run the risk of wandering aimlessly in the vague direction of your goal, ultimately wasting a great deal of time and energy in the process. But the destination and plan are only two parts of the triadox; knowing where you are starting from is just as crucial for your success.

Most of us embark on lifestyle changes without knowing where we are starting. Take fat loss, for instance. It’s all well and good trying to drop body fat, but if you don’t know how much you have to begin with, how will you develop your plan? How do you know how much you need to lose? How can you estimate how long it will take, and worse, how will you know when you get there? You literally don’t know, what you don’t know.

We are encouraged to take supplemental vitamins and minerals, and we happily pop a couple of handfuls each day in order to address an imbalance. Without having your levels checked, how much do you know you’ll need? We arbitrarily make assumptions based on some vague notion that there are gaps in our nutritional profile, but how much? And for how long? Granted, it is safe to assume that most of the population, with its vampiric fear of sunlight, lack vitamin D3, and  overconsumption of pro-inflammatory processed vegetable oils severely disrupt the balance of our omega 3:6 fatty acid ratio, making us prone to all sorts of degenerative illnesses. Also, men are most likely low in the minerals magnesium and zinc anyway.

For example, while people rarely, if ever, overdose with supplementation to the point of death, there is significant evidence that excess minerals, particularly those involved in muscular processes, can disrupt the electrical circuitry just as much as too little. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of supplementation and I think a  functional medicine approach to nutrition is the way to go, I just think it’s best when we have as much information as possible before we start.

But how do we know how much of anything we need? It’s a conundrum really. The best way is to have your body fat measured or have your vitamin and mineral levels checked at regular intervals to see where to make adjustments. The benefits of regularly finding out what you don’t know are twofold: it keeps you on track and provides focused motivation to continue your quest, without guesswork. There’s nothing more motivating for fat loss than knowing that a weekly measurement is due that will expose the cream buns you ate during the week for what they really are! It will also tell you if your plan is actually working. Having the ability to make small accurate changes along the way will speed your results.

Movement is no different. When you embark on a new sport, join a class or even lift some weights, how do you know your body is capable of giving you what you need to achieve success? If your right hip lacks the ability to turn in, it’s going to inhibit how well you perform in just about any activity. Simply knowing which joints behave in the way they are supposed to allows you to not only get them fixed, but also lets you know where you might have problems further down the line.

It is always best to head into the future armed with as much information about the journey as possible; this includes the destination, the path and also the doorway from which you started.

Remember, you don’t know, what you don’t know, so find out what you don’t know, so you’ll know what you know: and there’s power in that knowledge to make authentic and lasting changes.