I’ve lost 10 pounds, and I’m planning to lose 15 more. Not that you should care. But how I’m doing it might interest you. At my annual physical this year, the nurse who recorded my height, weight, and other vitals handed me a sheet of paper as he was leaving the exam room. He said it was a body mass index (BMI) and that I could ask the doctor about it if I was curious.

Across the top of the page was a scale of weight in pounds; down the left side, height in inches. A matrix of data filled the rest of the page, divided into five sections: Underweight, Normal, Overweight, Obese, and Morbidly Obese. In the Overweight section, the nurse had circled the number 29, the point at which my height and weight intersected. What caught my attention, though, was this: Had my BMI been 30 instead of 29, I would have been classified as “obese.”

I’ve known for a while that I could afford to lose a few pounds. But obese? Me?

An App for That

It bugged me for the rest of the day, and when I got home I talked with my wife about maybe going on a diet. She knew I’d never done that before and suggested that I start off by simply keeping a journal of what and how much I ate. I agreed to try it, but I doubted that just keeping track would have any effect.

But that night I discovered an app called My Fitness Pal that changed my mind. I input height and weight, and a target weight of 185 pounds. To help me get there, my new “pal” granted me a daily ration of exactly 1,740 calories.

Since then I’ve been keeping track of what and how much I eat and drink, and how much exercise I get and for how long. Each day, the app reconciles calories consumed with calories burned and announces how much I would weigh in five weeks if every day were like today.

Metrics Matter

A management guru — was it Peter Drucker? — once said that what gets measured gets managed. Most remodelers don’t measure much of anything. They think about business the way I used to think about diet: overeating bad, exercise good. But good business management, like good calorie management, means understanding how inputs and outputs are related. It means measuring both behavior and its effects. Before I started using this app, a second glass of wine with dinner was as simple as pouring one. These days, I plan for that second glass by finding a way to burn an extra 100 calories.

We’ve all come through a pretty lean time, but I think the economy has turned a corner. More work will mean “bulking up” again. There’s good and bad in that, and the best protection against repeating the mistakes of the past is keeping track. 

—Sal Alfano, editorial director, REMODELING. salfano@hanleywood.com

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