Gratitude #64: Scientific Control

Tell me if this story’s familiar: You catch a fat glimpse of yourself in the mirror and decide this time you’re going to cut back down to your high school weight and keep it that way. “You’ll see!” you fire back at wary family members and the dog giving you side-eyes.

So you research for a day or two on the kinds of food, exercise, lifestyle and tools that internet experts say will get you there and then you proceed to try all of them at the same time. On Day 1 you eat 4 almonds, do cross-fit, ride your bike, track your calories and count your steps.

Fast forward 2 weeks and you’re feeling great and looking hot. But something’s gotta give, this new regime is brutal and unsustainable. So you decide to cut a few things and only do the stuff that works. But yeah, which ones work again?

You’ve fallen into the classic trap of failing to perform a controlled experiment. You tried too many things at once and now you don’t know which of the five new things are responsible for the sexy results. It’s ok, I do it all the time. Like today. I decided to try intermittent fasting as well as TABATA training 3 times a week as well as a long black coffee instead of soy flat white. So I’m fucked basically, unless the regime’s sustainable. And most of us are grossly unqualified to make that call for about 6 months, if at all.

The right way to do things is a scientific control, which in this case involves introducing a single variable like intermittent fasting while keeping everything else as close to normal as possible. It won’t be perfect when it comes to something as complicated and relatively unknown as the human body’s reaction to the outside world, but after a while you’ll see if things are on the up or not. If not, drop the fasting and bring in TABATA training while keeping everything else normal. If that works, then you’ve got your culprit.

I know it’s hard when you’re super-motivated but this here game’s a marathon, not a sprint.

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