Posted on January 7, 2009 at 3:41pm EST. More.

You can’t control your weight if you aren’t aware of it

I’m about to do that annoying thing bloggers do where they write a response to something on their own blog rather than in the forum of the original comment.

I’m also going to use curse words.

Somebody using the pseudonym Overweight on the Joel on Software message board started a thread about his New Year’s resolution to lose some weight and wondered if they could apply Evidence Based Scheduling, a project management method, to the problem. The very first response, in its entirety, was:

This may sound harsh, but…

all the software in the world won’t help unless you do the two simple things: eat less, exercise more.

Once you find you can do that consistently under your own power for a couple of weeks, you can look for software support. But honestly, losing weight is just that easy.

farmboy Monday, January 05, 2009

farmboy, fuck you.

The attitude behind this “helpful” advice is the sort of thing that causes so many overweight people to feel guilty and miserable most of the time. farmboy, you literally say that losing weight is easy while simultaneously accusing Overweight of avoiding the (easy?) work by trying to solve it with software.

Guess what? Most people who are concerned about their weight are (1) not morons and (2) very much aware of the benefits of eating less and exercising more. They are overweight because they have trouble doing those things, and while lots of people will smugly tell them that’s all they need to do, there are fewer people offering useful advice on how to do them.

Let me make an analogy. Let’s say somebody posted a thread about being in debt, asking for recommendations of finance software. What would you say to a person who responded:

all the software in the world won’t help unless you do the two simple things: spend less, save more.

Once you find you can do that consistently under your own power for a couple of weeks, you can look for software support. But honestly, getting out of debt is just that easy.

That’s fucking crazy! Everybody will tell you the first thing you do when trying to get your finances under control is to get out a sheet of paper, track your income and expenses, and make a budget. It’s simply assumed that you need to be watching the numbers before you can control them. Maybe people would think of weight management the same way if your ass mailed you a monthly statement just like your bank did.

Some people don’t use any software and rarely overdraft their checking account because they have a pretty good sense of how much money is in there. That’s just how they are wired. Good for them. Some people do not have that sense, so we tell them to use Quicken, or Mint, or iBank, or MoneyWell, or a sheet of paper, to give them that sense.

It’s the same way with weight. Some people don’t think about their weight and unconsciously adjust their eating habits accordingly. Some people, like myself, don’t have that sense: our appetite is totally unconnected from the rest of our bodies. I feel a need to eat even when I know I shouldn’t. Your smug lecture about how easy it is to lose weight doesn’t really help at those times.

So I use a weight tracker. I step on the scale every morning and record it. The software does a little bit of math so I can understand the numbers better. It is a prosthetic, giving me a sense of my weight that other people have naturally.

Nobody is saying that tracking alone will cause you to lose weight (or save money), but oh my goodness it makes such a huge difference that you probably will. Simply having that awareness, possibly for the first time in your life, will influence all of the tiny decisions about food that you make throughout the day, and it actually will have a small effect.

And when you start going to the gym on a regular basis, and nobody has commented that you look any different, and your pants basically fit the same, and mostly you’re just more sore than you used to be, oh my goodness it is so awesome to see the trend line on the chart is pointing downward. And maybe you’ll keep at it for a week or two more.

So, if you’re overweight and want a resolution for 2009, here’s what I recommend: start tracking your weight. Don’t worry about how you’re going to lose it yet, just start tracking it. Ideally, step on a scale every day and enter the number into some software like FatWatch. Once you have a sense of your weight, you’ll have the power to get it under control.