Weighty Issues

Curium | 09 Jan 2015 | News | Sustain Change

The number one New Year’s resolution every year is “get in shape.” It’s been mine too in the past but as one of the minority who actually stuck with a resolution, in subsequent years the goal has been to maintain it. They say that inside every fat person there is a thin person fighting to get out. Well I’m currently a relatively thin person, but inside me is a Super size, “Man Vs Food” loving, “The Biggest Loser” loser, constantly trying to lead me astray. I used get away with it by being young and active. Now I’m neither, I’ve start using tools from my day job. Here’s my thought process…

…I’m a process freak. I see everything as a process and when I see a process I want to map it. I quickly discover that at the lowest level, the human metabolism is like a typical business process. It’s horrendously complex, isn’t fully understood or documented and not everyone agrees with the bits that are! I keep going up a level until I find something more manageable to use as a starting point. I end up with:


The complex bodily processes remain opaque to me but I can’t change them anyway. My 9 month old son has also made any kind of “activity” impossible so I’m going to ignore that for now. I’ve got some inputs I can play with but if I first don’t come up with a strategy for the measuring my output, I won’t know whether my meddling has worked.

Absolute weight is the most obvious one but I need to be careful. If absolute weight loss is my only measure of success, I could dehydrate myself, lose muscle rather than fat, maybe chop off a limb and easily lose a few pounds. Would I count this as success? Would others? Thinking of “others” starts me thinking about who the customers of this process are. Myself? My wife? My doctor? My 5 Instagram followers? They all have requirements on what counts as success (Whether I actually care whether their requirements are met is another matter!). I pick a couple of measures that meet my own requirements, like weight. As well as a few to keep me under control, such as cholesterol and number of limbs.

Next I consider how often to measure these outputs. For weight, once a week is the commonly held belief. The theory being that you won’t be disheartened by the ups and downs of daily variation in weight. This doesn’t sound right to me. How disheartened am I going to be if the day I choose happens to be one of my peaks? I could actually be improving and not know it! A long enough time period will show this improvement but I might not make it that far without this knowledge. My processes changes daily so daily measurement helps me understand these “rollbacks” and only react when something truly isn’t working.

Now I’ve got my measure strategy down I can start to look at the inputs, confident of being able to see any impact changing them might have. There are hundreds of diets around, all trying to attack various parts of the “complex bodily processes” that we don’t understand. They all seem overkill at this stage so I look up best practice which is simple calorie intake monitoring. I decide to try this simple solution first and see if it has the desired effect on my outputs. I remember that weight isn’t my only output measure so make sure add some additional input measures in there such as protein and fat intake.

These additional constraints make me realise that while four Greggs steak bakes might come in under my calorie limit, it going to blow my other input measures. This leads me to review where I buy my food from, the supplier. If the supplier can’t provide what I need, I need to switch…

So what have I actually done?

  • I’ve started high level and mapped the process at a high level. Black boxing areas I currently don’t understand.
  • In around about way I’ve used the SIPOC model to make sure I’ve considered my Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs and Customers.
  • Matched my outputs to customer requirements.
  • Setup a measurement plan for these outputs before changing anything.
  • Measured at an appropriate rate to capture the variation.
  • Reviewed my inputs and measured them.
  • Started simple with any changes to inputs.
  • Changed my suppliers if they can’t meet my expectations.

This approach has worked for me so far and due to my measurement plan, I know when it doesn’t! Another win for business analysis tools.

Now what can I suck the fun out of next?

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