NOTE: see 17 June 2016 followup.
Year 2015 was not too kind to me physically; starting in August I felt a fatigue for ~2 months that took a while to clear, and sleep quality (mild sleep apnea) is an increasing concern. And then in the fall the usual weight gain was faster and more than it has been in some years. Frustrating.
Here in 2016, I’m still challenged by the sleep thing, but I’m working hard to bring my body fat (aka “weight”) down. Here is how I do it:
- Every morning, weigh-in after awakening before any food or drink; plot the weight trend as the trend is all that matters. [Weighing in once or twice a week can be very discouraging, don’t do that, use the trend!].
- Track calories accurately vs caloric expenditure. For cyclists, a power meter helps tremendously with its highly accurate kilojoules measurement. As with weight, plot the trend (average) caloric deficit each day.
All of this involves some error and some unaccounted-for metabolic needs, particularly calorie consumption/burn, and that is the point: by using trends, all of the “noise” disappears—any consistent and/or random errors drop out of the overall gain/loss trend.
The only things that matters in this process is consistency: the body weight trend (up or down) will emerge in as little as 1-2 weeks when weight and calories are tracked consistently each day.
At times the body will gain muscle even as it loses fat; this can flatline the apparent weight loss for a time, so keep at it. The loss of muscle is a real risk (see DEXA), which is why exercise is critical: dieting alone is a self-defeating process when/if the calorie deficit is significant.
- Shown below, the green line is the body weight trend, with its scatter plot of daily weights; observe how daily weight moves around, but the downward trend is indisputable. This is why weighing-in once or twice a week can be so discouraging: what if it’s an up-blip? Weigh in every day and plot the trend!
- Shown below, the red line is the caloric deficit trend. All that matters is that this trendline stays below the zero mark by at least 100 calories, preferably 200 calories; assuming calories are reasonably estimated (eating and expenditure), body weight (fat) is all but guaranteed to drop steadily. A very positive reinforcement is keeping that line from starting to trend up.