How do I compare relative weight loss?
April 21, 2004 10:03 PM   Subscribe

After I received the 'time to lose weight or else' talk from my Doctor, a co-worker suggested a healthy weight loss/lower our blood pressure competition. How best to compare the relative weight losses of a guy who only needs to drop 40 pounds (my co-worker, of course) and the guy who needs to drop the equivalent of a Backstreet Boy? (More inside, like the inside of a delicious Snickers Bar... mmm, Snickers....)

I'm wondering if anyone has any experience in weighting (oh, so funny) a competition like this. Since he needs to lose 40 and I need to lose 120, would a three to one reference be a good point, or should I be thinking overall percentages?
posted by TomSophieIvy to Health & Fitness (15 answers total)
Sounds like you've got a great co-worker. Having someone to keep you honest and going will help immeasurably.

Having done this with a friend, our solution was the percentage method. It seems to be the most equitable.

Good luck.
posted by karmaville at 10:17 PM on April 21, 2004

Man, that's hard.

It's a tortoise and hare thing. By the time YOU have 40 lbs to lose, he might only have 5 to go.

Also, most people think that 1-2lbs per week is the biggest sustainable loss. Therefore, your coworker is almost certain to beat you in terms of time. You ought to take about a year.

Maybe what you need to do is set a goal in terms of commitment made, eg number of miles run, training sessions completed?

Alternative: percentage body fat?
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:02 PM on April 21, 2004

I suspect it was you that Doctor said this to? If you have to drop weight, well, a competition may seem like fun, but you need to do it anyway. I started Atkins on New Year's. I've lost 35 pounds so far.

I don't get hungry, I am eating more vegetables than I used to, my bowels are normal, and my chiropractor tells me that my new back aches are my muscles adapting to carrying less of me around. The Ortho Jewish singer in my band tried Atkins while we were on tour last month - he had to avoid bread during Passover and figured to see what the Atkins brouhaha was about. Lost 20 pounds in the first month. The bigger you are to start with, the more water weight you lose at the beginning of Atkins.
posted by zaelic at 12:53 AM on April 22, 2004

I'd avoid Atkins, if I were you. Everyone that I know has put the weight they lost back on ... just like with making money, there isn't any truly fast way to do it honestly and keep it.

The best way is to just find something active you enjoy doing, and stick to it. Personally, I rock climb -- but I'm already a skinny fsck. I do get chubby if I don't climb for a month, though, and my belt's starting to feel a little tight...


If you find you enjoy running, do that. I guarantee that running two or more miles a day will take the weight off amazingly quickly. If you find you enjoy something else, do it. Just make sure there's a lot of cardio movement involved, and do it along *with* that coworker of yours so that you both keep each other honest and boost the other's flagging enthusiasm when necessary.
posted by SpecialK at 1:08 AM on April 22, 2004

(And p.s. -- you want to AVOID losing 'water weight' ... your body's meant to be well-hydrated. You want to STAY hydrated ... and lose body fat.)
posted by SpecialK at 1:11 AM on April 22, 2004

In other words (and I've nothing but derision for fad dieting) body composition (while well-hydrated) may well be your best measure.

Lots of mixed endurance and resistance training, avoiding prepackaged food, eating in moderation of fresh foods (veggies, meats, fruits, high fibre carbs like partly-unmilled rice), and bob's your proverbial uncle.

I added the first (90 minutes, thrice a week) to the second two three months ago, and have swapped many kilograms of body fat for muscle mass, while also losing 10kg total weight (about 20 pounds for you Americans). And I was only mildly pudgy from a sedentary lifestyle when I started. At 38, I look and feel better than I have since I was 18, and I haven't cut out beer or nothin'.

Your mileage might vary, of course.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:18 AM on April 22, 2004

Consider investing a few dollars in a skin fold calipers for measuring body fat, and going down to the local tat studio with your co-worker to get a couple sites marked w/ an X.
The skin fold calipers are more reliable than the electrical impedance body fat scales, although they tend to measure relative progress rather than absolute percentage body fat. You'll need to learn how to do the skin-fold tests (easy) and the conversions (easy too), but this way you won't end up getting cheated by your level of hydration or what not.
The Tats are, of course, to remind you and your pal that this is a long term effort, not a competition that ends after 3 months (or even 36) cause Mr. K above is right, something like 90% of folks who loose it put it back on in the long run.
The always excellent Frontline did a show on diets recently. The 90% figure is from an interview with James Hill who, of course, has a program for actually keeping the weight off. Looks quite sensible to me, actually. The whole site's worth a read, thought about making it a FPP actually...

Oh, and I agree with the WonderChicken re: method of weightloss. As I put in every post on Askme, you might consider the HackersDiet as well. Really, it's good.
posted by daver at 5:45 AM on April 22, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for the , er, feedback. My concerns are mainly statistical - how best to make our losses statistically comparable.
As a side note, calling this a lifestyle change would have been more accurate than merely calling it a diet. My goal is to hit 40 (in 2+ years) in a healthier state than when I stumbled into 30 (six pack in one hand, box of eclairs in the other). The Atkins didn't work for me but I applaud all those with the gumption to follow through with it. I'm basically a sloth with two extra toes, so introducing some of that there anaerobic activity is essential for my success. (Is there anyone else out there who had their love of camping and exercise purged after a stint in the Military?) Thanks again for all the great answers and links!
posted by TomSophieIvy at 6:20 AM on April 22, 2004

The HackersDiet looks interesting. I just downloaded the PDF. Thanks for the link.
posted by papercake at 7:14 AM on April 22, 2004

The Hacker's Diet has been helpful for me too. I haven't been following it rigorously, but I took two things away from it: 1) the use of an exponentially weighted moving average to track my weight, and 2) the message, "If you're going to lose weight, you will be hungry some of the time. No way around that, so learn to accept it."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:28 AM on April 22, 2004

I would shy away from competition altogether, TSI. I think the biggest barrier to changing ones life style is poor self esteem, and doubt. It's great to have someone to share the task with, but watching someone meet a goal faster than you is disappointing. I am sure that you realize that the slower you go, the more likely you are to stay fit.

Framing your goals in a humorous way is great. Why not put a picture of a backstreet boy on your fridge and snip away at him until he is gone?

When I quit smoking, I went to a hypnotist who helped me re-frame the task into something positive I was doing for myself, rather than a test of will power or determination. Hypnotism is not scientific, it is not a guarantee, but does help some people adjust to life changes. Give it a try. It costs about $50-$100.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:16 AM on April 22, 2004

Remember that you have to eat ENOUGH to lose weight too. Keep that metabolism humming.

I would recommend using body fat as a marker. I have only lost about 8 pounds according to the scale but my body composition has totally changed since I started exercising back last September. Losing fat and inches like crazy. (I started out size 18 and wore a size 14 skirt to church last week. It fit just right.)

In my case I'm not even dieting.
posted by konolia at 9:08 AM on April 22, 2004

I think the competition is great way to keep yourself honest and accountable. Kind of like self-inflicted peer pressure. I've done something similar by posting a daily updating chart to by blog (self link obviously). Lots of friends and relatives check it out so its one more thing that helps me stay focused.
posted by mmascolino at 9:11 AM on April 22, 2004

As far as statistical comparisons go, there really isn't a great way to compare your weight-loss to that of your co-worker (vastly different amounts of weight, different metabolism issues, etc.) But you can at least take into account the fact that it is easier to lose a few pounds when you're far above your ideal weight than it is to lose the last few pounds to get to your ideal weight.

So I'd say do something like divide the amount of weight you lost in a week by the number of pounds you still need to lose. So if after 2 weeks you and your co-worker both lost 5 lbs, you would get a "score" of 5/115=.04 and your co-worker would get 5/35=.14. Not perfect, but better than a straight comparison of number of pounds lost. If you wanted to get fancy you could do something with logarithms or square-roots, but I think that would be overkill and would still be imperfect.

But as others have said, you really don't want to shed the pounds as quickly as possible (which the above scoring method would encourage you to do if you want to 'beat' your co-worker). It is going to take a long time to lose that weight, but if you do it right you should be able to keep it off. Good luck to you, and don't get discouraged by your (relatively) skinny co-worker's progress!
posted by nixxon at 10:28 AM on April 22, 2004

Response by poster: Once again I'd like to thank the members of the MeFi Academy for their answers. Great ideas aplenty here - my previous experience with diets has shown me that more incremental results sustain me more than the quick 30 pounds I lost with Atkins.
We're going to base our bet on weekly percentages of weight lost - statistically, this should work to my advantage in the long run. (My co-worker is a good fellow - we've spent many an hour debating the existence of Shakespeare, seeing The Passion, Bootsy Collins and his place in the Universe of Funk, and Lance's chances of another Tour victory.) I'll post an update in the Autumn - thanks again for all the kind words and support!
posted by TomSophieIvy at 9:36 PM on April 22, 2004

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