I may have mentioned this before, but I’ve been dieting in addition to my every-other-day run. My dieting plan is quite simple – I’m cutting back on total calories per day. I owe the basic concept to John Walker, author of the online book “The Hacker’s Diet”. Much more detail than I give below can be found in Mr. Walker’s book.

I’ve been playing with the allowance since early February and have settled on keeping it under 2000 calories per day. That (combined with the running) seems to result in about a 1.5 lb loss per week, a nice, steady, healthy weight loss.

The other part of my diet is that I weigh myself every single morning, as soon as I wake up (but after going to the bathroom). I do this in spite of the advice of almost every diet book out there. “If you weigh yourself daily you’ll just discourage yourself with all the daily fluctuations” seems to be the message.

However, I have a secret weapon that I use to obliterate any emotional reaction to the daily fluctuations. I have “rationality”. Scary, huh?

Instead of focusing on the daily number, I focus on a moving average of the daily numbers. Since my actual weight isn’t a constant from day to day even if I’m not dieting, and isn’t constant throughout the day depending on how much water and food I’ve recently eaten (or, ahem, gotten rid of) I have to extract the trend of the overall number, rather than the actual number itself.

By standardizing on a time of day, I control a lot of the other variables that influence weight – people are typically lightest (also tallest but that’s not important here) right out of bed, so it’s closer to the true weight of the stuff that doesn’t (normally) change. And if the number bounces up a bit one day, I can rely on the fact that as long as I cut calories consistently, my actual weight will go down over time.

The best part is (and the thought that triggered this post) that even when my weight bounces up, as it did this morning by a half-pound, if I compare the average of the past 7 days with the average of the immediately preceding past seven days, the average has gone down. That’s the beauty of a moving average. (If I was really technical I could write an exponentially-weighted moving average, but I’m not, and this is good enough for my purposes.) For instance, here are the averages for the past week:

  • 196.0
  • 196.4
  • 196.1
  • 195.9
  • 195.7
  • 195.3
  • 195.0

Even though there seemed to be a bounce up on that third day (from 196.0 to 196.4) the overall trend is downward, and in the course of seven days my average loss is 1.0 lb, lower than I’d hoped but still a loss. To give you and idea of the numbers, the high point in that week was 196.0, which appeared twice, once at the beginning and once in the middle, up from a low of 194.5, which would have been frustrating if I hadn’t been tracking the average. It would have seemingly wiped out any gain I’d made up to that point. By focusing on the trend, and not the daily input, however, I know that it’s working.