Blog: Healthy Eating = Healthy Living - Lose weight the right wa...
by OntheBorder

3. Charting your progress

Using feedback to get to were you are to were you want to go.

Date:   4/8/2009 3:42:15 PM   ( 10 y ) ... viewed 1299 times

Life's delays are not life's denials.

When driving in your car you take some twists and turns in yuor route from point A to point B. Especially when your on a major highway or a major road in your hometown that doesnt seem to go in a straight line. Or you can use a story of an airplane they never fly in a straight perfect line to get from one city to another.Even with the most sophisticated guidance systems, a certain amount of drift will always occur due to the effects of the wind.

How to use performance feedback to lose body fat

I tell you this story because it's the perfect analogy for fat loss. The process of losing body fat is a lot like the takeoff and flight of an airplane. Some people take a long time to "get off the ground."

There is no such thing as failure - only feedback; only results.If you measure your body fat and there's no change (or it increases), you haven't failed - you've simply produced a result. As long as you're taking action, whatever result you produce is "performance feedback...” It may not be the result you wanted, but it's still valuable feedback. You've learned something: You've learned one way that doesn't work.

If you want to produce a different result, you simply need to try a different approach. One definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing while expecting a different result. Thomas Edison tried thousands of experiments to find a filament that would burn in the electric light bulb. When asked what it felt like to fail so many times, Edison said he didn't fail:

"If I find 10,000 ways something won't work, I haven't failed I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward Just because something doesn't do what you planned it to do doesn't mean it's useless. "

You're always going to get some kind of results. It's how you interpret your results that will determine whether you'll reach your final destination or not. Like the pilot, or Thomas Edison, you need to gather feedback and change your course the instant you notice you're not heading in the right direction (while learning in the process).

At the most basic level, the changes you'll make to your program consist of eating less or exercising more. However, from what you've learned about the body's defenses against starvation, you know that eating less only works to a point. That's why increasing the volume of your activity is almost always the best option when you're not getting the fat loss you want.

Even increasing activity only works to a point, because over-training and adaptation can set in, so you need other options - and the more options you have, the better. You'll learn about all these options later. All things being equal, the person with the most options is the one most likely to succeed.

The fat loss success system that never fails. Here are the seven steps:

1) Know your outcome. Decide exactly where you want to go
2) Establish your starting point
3) Formulate a plan of action
4) Act on your plan consistently
5) Develop the "sensory acuity" to know if what you are doing is working or not. If it's working. Keep doing it (no matter what anyone else tells you!)
6) If it's not working, try something else.
7) be flexible in your approach and be persistent

"Mistakes are natural. Mistakes are how we learn. When we stop making mistakes, we stop learning and growing. But repeating the same mistake over and over is not continuous learning - it's not paying attention. "

Now ask yourself - and be honest - have you quit prematurely? How long have you been working at losing body fat? How persistent have you been? How many different training and nutrition strategies have you tried?

If your initial plan doesn't give you the results you want, the number of exercise and nutritional strategies you can experiment with is virtually unlimited. Don't be too dogmatic or rigid in your approach. Be flexible. It's necessary to have an action plan, but don't get married to your plan. The more options you have at your disposal, the greater your chances will be for success. Leave yourself room to improvise.

BEWARE of guru's who say: It's my way or the highway!!!!

10 ways to measure your progress

1. Body fat percentage
2. Skinfold thickness
3. Total body weight
4. Lean body mass (LBM)
5. Fat weight
6. How you look in the mirror
7. Photographs
8. Measurements
9. Clothing sizes
10. Other people's opinion

Adjust your approach according to your weekly results

Very rarely will you ever move in a constant and linear path in the direction of your goals. Usually you will "zig-zag" your way to success. If you work hard enough, you will see progress every week, but your rate of progress will often vary. One week you may lose .05% body fat, the next you may lose .06% and the next only .04%. If you have a bad week, you might not make any progress.

Don't let this zig-zag pattern of fat loss discourage you. Never panic over a one-week fluctuation. The trend over time is much more revealing. Your progress chart is a lot like the stock market. The market fluctuates up and down in the short term, but in the long run, the trend is always upwards. If you are persistent, if you stay focused on the fundamentals and if you continue to make daily investments in your body, your progress chart will always trend in the direction you want.

Just as you need faith in long-term investments in the market, you must have faith in long-term investments in your body, without getting too emotional about your present results. If you look only at one small segment on your body composition progress chart, you're liable to give up or make poor and hasty decisions. Keep your eye on the big picture, keep watching the trends and always keep working daily on the fundamentals.

Why some people get off to a slow start

Most people see results immediately just by cleaning up their diets and starting a consistent exercise program. Others have a more difficult time getting up to "takeoff speed." Like the airplane that uses nearly half its fuel just to get off the ground, overcoming inertia and gaining momentum are not easy.

Part of this is psychological, part is physiological. Psychologically, if you're off to a slow start, you just haven't given yourself enough time to develop habits. Habits are necessary to get you into "auto pilot mode," therefore, you could be unconsciously making poor food choices or missing workouts by sheer force of old negative habit patterns. Reviewing chapter one and following the instructions to a "T" will help you overcome the old conditioning. Keep at it!

Physiologically, you may be suffering from a slow metabolism, especially if you've gone on and off crash diets for years or you haven't developed any muscle through weight training. A slow metabolism can speed up, but it takes time. If your metabolic rate has slowed down as a result of past habits, be patient; it will gradually increase in time by following the nutrition and training guidelines in this manual.

Also keep in mind that fit people burn body fat more easily than unfit (and fat) people. The higher you’re starting level of cardio respiratory fitness (as measured in oxygen consumption, also known as VO2 max), the more fat you'll burn at rest (and during exercise). Also, the leaner you are to begin with, the more calories you'll burn at rest and during exercise. If you're out of shape and carrying a lot of body fat, it's going to take time to develop momentum.

These facts of physiology can be discouraging because it's kind of like the rich getting richer and the poor staying poor. As with building wealth, you must make consistent, gradual investments in your body. Eventually, as your lean body mass increase from weight training, your metabolic rate will increase and multiply its efficiency like compounding interest in your bank account. Be patient; you're about as likely to get "ripped" overnight as you are to become a millionaire overnight. Never give up if you get off to a slow start!

The first thing you must do if you hit a plateau

You should see some kind of positive result every single week. If you're getting no results after seven days, look back over the past week and ask yourself - honestly; "Am I consistently doing what I know I should be doing - every day - or have I been cheating or "slacking off?" Have I put in a 100% effort or could I have given it more?" Have I been consistent in my eating and training habits every single day? Have I been eating perfectly one day, then eating junk the next?

Fat loss is the result of consistently applying nutrition and exercise fundamentals every single day. If you realize you didn't give it your all, don't beat yourself up, simply re-focus and recommit for the next week. Re-reading and re-writing your goals will help. Plan your training and nutrition strategy for the next seven days in advance; schedule the workouts right in your daily planner with the rest of your appointments. Then go back to work with renewed vigor, motivation and enthusiasm.

If you faithfully followed your program 100% (except for planned, allowed cheats days), and you still got no results, that's your signal to make adjustments to break your plateau.

How to break a fat loss plateau

The first step in breaking plateaus is to stay positive and focused on your goal. Focus on where you want to go, not on where you are. A slow week is not a setback, it is feedback. If you have a week with no results, be like Thomas Edison and say, "This is great! I've learned another way that doesn't work." When you look in the mirror and see no change, and you still keep the faith, knowing that in time you WILL get there if you stay the course, that's the difference between those who ultimately succeed and those who fail. The losers - the unsuccessful ones - they throw their arms up in the air in frustration after a few weeks with slow results and they QUIT, all the while grumbling about how they tried "everything" and it didn't work.

Usually when you hit a plateau, it means you need to work harder: You need to crank up the intensity and frequency of your training. You also need to "tighten up" your diet. People often underestimate the amount of effort it requires to develop a lean body. They've been so brainwashed by the media and advertisements for weight loss scams that their perception of the amount of work required is flawed. It takes hard work to get lean and if the degree of effort you're putting in isn't working, then quietly (without complaining) accept the fact that you have to work harder.

For example, if you're doing 20 minutes of cardio per session, you can increase the duration to 30 minutes. If you're doing 30 minutes, you can increase it to 40 minutes. If your heart rate is 130 you can push it up to 140. If you're eating only 3 meals per day, you can increase metabolism by bumping it up to 5 or 6 smaller ones. If you're cheating 2 or 3 times a week you can drop back to only one cheat meal a week. Basically, reaching peak condition means that you train harder and diet stricter!
Knowing when to push harder and when to rest and recover

Naturally, doing more and doing it harder is not always the best strategy. Sometimes when you're "stuck in the mud," pushing on the gas even more just digs you into a deeper rut. If you've been on an extremely intense training schedule for a prolonged period of time, your plateau could be due to over-training syndrome.

If you suspect over-training to be the cause of your plateau, then the best thing to do is take a rest. Taking three to seven days off from high intensity training might be exactly what you need. If you're severely over-trained, you may also need to cut back on your volume and slowly work your way back up after your brief layoff. Don't worry about losing ground - even if you do, the rest is like taking one step back to get ready for two steps forward. Once your system has recovered and replenished itself, you'll easily be able to thrust beyond your old plateau to a new peak.

Adaptation syndrome is a frequent cause of fat loss plateaus. Adaptation occurs because your body can easily adjust to a training or nutritional program that has been repeated for a long time. At this point, continuing with the same stimulus will no longer will cause an improvement. The only way to bypass the adaptation syndrome is to change your workouts frequently.

The body will adapt to ANY weight training or cardio program very quickly. To avoid adaptation syndrome, you should change one or more variables in your training program every four to twelve weeks. The more advanced you become, the more quickly your body will adapt and the more often you should change.. Your cardio program should be changed any time you've hit a plateau in fat loss. Almost any change will work: The training variations are literally endless. With weight training you can use new exercises, different set/rep schemes, changes in tempo, shorter rest intervals, changes in grip or stance width, etc. In your cardio workouts, you can change the type of exercise you use, the intensity, the duration, the frequency, steady state vs. interval, or the time of day.

Here's another common cause of fat loss plateaus: Your-calories are too low and your body has gone into starvation mode. Once you go into starvation mode, no amount of increased training will help. The only way to get out of starvation mode is to eat more. If you know your caloric intake has been very low for a long time and you suspect the starvation response is the culprit, the best thing you can do is raise your calories. Keep your food quality "clean" (don't eat a lot of junk), just eat more of the same good foods. Depending on the degree to which you have slowed your metabolism, you might need a brief one to three day raise in calories before dropping back down (zig-zag method), or you might need to raise your calories for longer period.

One proven way to give a sluggish metabolism a jolt is by using the "Zigzag" or "High - Low" method of dieting: that is, eat one to three days of higher calories and higher carbs followed by one to three days of lower calories and lower carbs. On the low calorie/low carb days, you lose body fat rapidly, but before your body can adapt, you raise the calories back up, which increases your metabolic rate and keeps you out of starvation mode.

The training and nutrition variables you can change.

The most important thing to remember if you have a week with no progress is that continuing to do the same thing for another week is probably not going to work! If what you're doing is not working, do something else!

The changes can be in nutrition or training or both. The more options you learn and keep at your disposal, the better your chances of success. The only way to learn your options is to diligently study all the nutrition and training information.

Here's your checklist of the training and nutrition variables you can adjust each week depending on your weekly results.

1) Eat less
2) Manipulate macronutrient composition of diet
Here's your checklist of the training and nutrition variables you can adjust each week depending on your weekly results.
3) Improve food choices.
4) Manipulate meal timing and frequency
5) Increase duration of aerobic exercise
6) Increase frequency of aerobic exercise
7) Increase intensity of aerobic exercise
8) Change type of aerobic exercise
9) Incorporate high intensity interval training into your aerobic program.
10) Double cardio.

How to use a weekly progress chart

I can email anyone who wants one of these charts to keep track of their progress or simply create your own chart using a spreadsheet such as Microsoft Excel.

Your progress chart has columns for the date, body fat percentage, total weight, lean body mass, fat weight, and the weekly change in each. If you're using skin folds as your testing method, you can also include columns to keep track of your skin fold measurements (in millimeters). That will give you information on where you store most of your fat and where you are losing the most and least amount of fat. Seeing the previous skin folds also helps the tester improve the accuracy of each test. Which skin fold sites you use depends on which body fat formula is used. The most common sites are bicep, tricep, iliac, upper back (sub scapular), thigh, abdominal (usually just three or four of these). If you're using an Accu -measure caliper, then you only have to record one skin fold on your chart - the iliac crest (hip bone)

When you begin your program, weigh yourself and have your body fat measured. Then fill in the first row on your chart including the date, your starting bodyweight, body fat percentage, and lean mass.

How to weigh yourself the right way

Your body weight alone can be misleading. Used in conjunction with skin fold testing to measure pounds of fat and pounds of muscle, it provides you with crucial information.

To get the most consistent weigh-in, always weigh yourself under the same conditions. Call this your "official weekly weigh-in day." Use the same scale on the same day at the same time of day wearing the same amount of clothes. If you weigh yourself with shoes, then weigh yourself with shoes on every time. If you weigh yourself naked, weigh yourself naked every time. Remember, your LBM and fat weight amounts will only be correct if your weigh-in is correct.

Weighing yourself every day is unnecessary. First of all, you won't see significant changes in body fat on a day-to-day basis. Second, your body weight can fluctuate greatly on a day-to-day basis due to your water balance and this can be discouraging. Daily fluctuations can range anywhere ITom two to five pounds or more just based on water weight. You will see a statistically significant difference every seven days, so weighing yourself once a week is ideal.

How to calculate muscle loss or gain

By keeping track of changes in your weight, body fat, and lean mass over time, you can determine if you've lost, maintained, or gained muscle. This information will reveal whether your exercise and diet program is working or if you've hit a plateau and need to make changes.

To determine changes in body composition over time, you simply subtract your previous weight, body fat, and lean mass from your current weight, body fat, and lean mass. You record this information on your progress chart and then decide what changes, if any, need to be made to your program.


Week one:
Weight: 194 lbs
Body fat: 21.1%
Fat weight: 40.9 lbs.
Lean mass: 153.11bs.

Week two:
Weight: 192 lbs.
Body fat: 20.5%
Fat weight: 39.31bs.
Lean mass: 152.7 lbs.

Change in weight: - 2 lbs.
Change in body fat: - .6%
Change in fat weight: - 1.6 lbs.
Change in lean mass: - .4 lbs.

What a decrease in Lean Body Mass tells you

As you fill out the rows in your progress chart each week, keep an eye on your lean body mass (LBM), especially the trend over time.

Don't panic if you see an initial drop in LBM. Nearly everyone on a calorie and/or carbohydrate restricted nutrition program will see substantial water weight losses, especially in the beginning. Because water weight losses are reflected in LBM (muscle is mostly water), this will show up in your LBM number. You cannot measure water weight, muscle weight and fat weight separately with a standard body composition test (skin fold, etc). When your first start your program, chalk up this initial LBM drop to water weight and don't be overly concerned.

Water balance can affect your weight in the opposite direction too. Your muscles are like sponges for carbohydrates and water. If you eat more carbohydrates one day than usual, and also increase your fluid and or sodium intake, it's not uncommon to see an increase in bodyweight of three to five pounds - especially if you're on low carbs. Are those three to five pounds overnight solid muscle? Of course not. But if your official weekly weigh-in falls on that day and your body composition is the same or lower, you will show a several pound muscle gain. This simply reflects glycogen and water in the muscles.

This is why you must be consistent with your weigh-ins and why you shouldn't panic if you see a small drop in LBM. If your LBM continues to drop week after week in any significant amount, then there may be cause for concern. A continual downward trend over time in your LBM number clearly shows that you're losing muscle tissue. Continuing with this pattern will cause your metabolism to slow down and this will eventually decrease your rate of fat loss.

Analyzing the data and adjusting your approach

For most people, results come steadily at first, but then become increasingly difficult and sporadic as you advance. The closer you get to your ultimate genetic potential for physical development, the slower your progress will become and the more your body will resist changing. Many people make steady progress for weeks or months at a time, then suddenly hit a plateau for no apparent reason.

If you're "stuck", this is simply the body's natural adaptive mechanism signaling that it has adapted to the stresses you've been imposing on it. You now have an entire arsenal of techniques you can use to blast through to the next level.

There are numerous outcomes that can be produced from your training and nutrition program. Your weight may rise or fall, your body fat may rise or fall and your lean mass may rise or fall. The beauty of a progress chart is that the instant you're stuck it shows you in graphic form the data you need to decide what change to make. By watching for changes in body fat, weight, and lean mass, you'll know exactly what to do each week. Your chart is a great motivational tool, because nobody likes to see a "blemish" on their weekly "report Card.” Your progress chart also keeps you accountable to yourself. If you share your chart with someone else, whether that's a coach, trainer, friend or family member, then you have double the accountability and that will help you stick with your program better.

Based on each week's results, adjust your cardio, weight training and/or nutrition if necessary. Each time you make a change, watch very carefully for what happens the following week. This will heighten your level of sensory acuity. If you develop a keen eye for changes in your body based on nutritional and training changes, you'll eventually become a master - you'll understand exactly how your body responds and you'll know exactly what to do, every time.

Interpreting your progress chart

The following section lists every possible outcome you may encounter and the actions you should take when each occurs.

Lean mass stays the same and body fat decreases

Fantastic! Your diet and exercise program is working as planned and you're on your way to reaching your goal. Don't change anything. Keep up the good work!

Lean mass remains same and body fat remains same

Nothing is happening either way; you're at a standstill and you need to make some adjustments to get yourself moving again. First, increase your cardiovascular activity level. You can increase the number of days per week as well as how long you are exercising at each session. If you don't lose body fat within the next week, then you can reduce your caloric intake systematically by 100-200 calories at a time, provided you do not drop below your maximum allowable calorie deficit. Keep your nutrient ratios the same unless you've been stuck for more than two weeks. If you've been stuck more than two weeks, you might want to experiment with a moderate or low carbohydrate diet and or zig-zag carbohydrate cycling (see chapter 12 for details).

Lean mass stays the same and body fat increases

You're in a calorie surplus. You're eating more calories than you're burning and storing it as fat. First increase the frequency and duration of cardiovascular exercise. Then recheck your body fat in one week. If it hasn't decreased, reduce your caloric intake by 100-200 calories at a time, provided you do not drop below your maximum allowable calorie deficit. Keep your nutrient ratios the same.

Lean mass decreases and body fat decreases

You are losing body fat which is good, but you've also lost some lean mass, which is not good. A small loss in lean mass (a few tenths of a pound) is nothing to worry about. If this is the first time you've lost LBM, don't panic because some of the LBM is water weight. Ifthis is a recurring pattern and you've been losing LBM every week for more than two weeks straight, you're losing muscle tissue. You need to eat more, at least temporarily. Increase your caloric intake by 100-200 calories to stimulate your metabolism, while continuing with your current exercise program. Keep your nutrient ratios the same.

Lean mass decreases and body fat stays the same or increases

When you lose LBM and your body fat does not decrease at all, this usually means your metabolism has slowed down and you are burning up muscle for energy; you are not in fat burning mode. This often occurs when you skip meals. Losing lean mass means that you need to eat more to stimulate your metabolism. Don't be afraid to eat, and keep up your meal frequency to five or six times per day. Remember that it's better to bum the fat off rather than starve it off. Keep your calories as high as possible while using exercise to bum off the fat. Severely restricting your calories below the recommended levels will always result in a loss of muscle mass. Increase your caloric intake by 100-200 calories and maintain or slightly increase the amount of cardiovascular exercise you are doing. Make sure you're consistent with your weight training as well.

Lean mass increases and body fat decreases

This is very unlikely to happen, except for genetically gifted individuals (the pure mesomorph) and sometimes for ectomorphs who have highly efficient metabolisms. If it does happen, terrific! You are leaner and more muscular! Don't change anything. Keep up the good work, you're on your way to reaching your goal.

Lean mass increases and body fat stays the same

Good job, you've gained muscle without gaining fat! This is the ideal outcome for a muscle-gaining program. If you also want to reduce your body fat percentage, you'll need a greater calorie deficit, which you can accomplish by increasing your cardio while remaining at your current caloric intake.

Lean mass increases and body fat increases

You gained muscle, which is good, but you also gained fat, which is not good. You are in a substantial calorie surplus. Some bodybuilders do this habitually in their off season - it's called "bulking up," If you want to stay lean and avoid the "bulked up" look, you need to increase the amount of cardiovascular exercise you are doing. You should also make sure you're being strict enough on your diet. Keep your diet "clean" and free of high fat or high sugar junk foods. Recheck your body fat in one week. If you still continue to gain fat, then you need to decrease your caloric intake.

Let your results dictate your approach.

Most important of all, once you discover an approach that works for you, DON'T FIX IT IF IT'S NOT BROKEN!

Anyone wanting more of an in-depth explanation please let me know. I will be more than happy to further explain anything unclear.

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