Or ‘how to Kaizen-the-shit-out-of excessive weight.’
Here is a simple concept, everyone should adopt when they are trying to lose weight.
How did Toyota over-take GM as the largest car manufacturer in the World?
Kaizen more literally means ‘Continuous Improvement,‘ than ‘change-good.’
Me Tarzan, me help you lose weight…
Nah, the simple objective behind the philosophy is to always look for ways to improve, working on the details and hopefully constantly showing signs of improvement no matter how small those improvements may be.
Small improvements snowball.
Feeling frustrated with the amount of progress you’ve made?
Look for small things you can do immediately that will take you even the tiniest step closer to your objectives.
Stuck thinking you haven’t yet made any progress?
You’ve probably made progress, you’re just looking in the wrong places for your improvement — for example, constantly watching the scale instead of focusing on body fat (I like pictures better!) instead of more applicable metrics like body weight in combination with girth, or body fat %.
Want to get really good at studying for exams?
Study what you don’t know; take a practice test; mark your practice test; learn what you don’t know.
With the feedback from yesterday’s test, study what you didn’t know; take a practice test; mark your practice test; learn what you didn’t know still.
That’s Kaizen in action.
Weight loss is no different; track something meaningful.
And I don’t mean track your body weight, that kind of goes without saying, but please for your own sake, take girth measurements too — better yet, get your body composition taken if you can.
I mean something you can measure daily, weight fluctuates way too much on a daily basis to make for a decent daily marker of progress and is better measured on a weekly basis or at longer intervals.
Essentially you want to develop a constant feedback system, learn what skills, habits, or behaviors you’re lacking, then work on developing, acting or implementing what you don’t know how to execute.
Many people wait until a quarterly review, or even worse, a yearly review!
Not me, not in my sessions, I am constantly monitoring and testing things out in-session.
I wanted to really amplify what I said above; that although losing weight is the objective it should not be the daily measurement used to gather data and consequent feedback.
It fluctuates too much on a daily basis to be useful in daily feedback (though it works for weekly feedback), and because it is static in nature, you can’t actionably change it.
Meaning…you can’t consciously change your weight, it is the outcome of other decisions you have direct conscious control over, like what you eat and how you exercise.
In the example above, the measure is performance on practice tests, then acquiring knowledge you don’t possess, based on that feedback.
The objective is passing the exam, not monitoring your performance on practice exams; I wanted to make sure the distinction was clear.
Since writing an exam is merely showcasing knowledge of and not necessarily knowledge how (knowledge how, would be knowing how to implement the studying strategy I revealed above), it may not completely apply to nutrition or exercise in exactly the same way but was merely an easier way to explain Kaizen.
You’ll find two more-fitness-related examples below.
Losing weight is showcasing knowledge how, which is much more difficult to showcase, because you have to do something else entirely in order to yield your desired outcome.
Use a measure that gives you immediate feedback you can actually change (performance at the gym, nutritional intake, etc…); I would place my focus on skills, habits and behaviors you currently have, or want to adopt/master in future, because these things are actionable today.
If you have your own example, please skip mine and leave me a comment about it; I’d love to hear about more real-world examples, these are based off my own experiences but nothing strikes home quite like a personal story of success.
A Nutrition Example
After collecting data and feedback from my coach, it has become apparent to me that I consume too many liquid calories throughout the day.
I love cola though.
After a careful discussion with my coach, we came to the conclusion that the easiest thing for me to do right now is merely switch my three-a-day cola habit to a calorie free version.
Now I’m not fond of the idea, but I think it’s worth a shot and it will reduce my daily energy intake instantly by about 10-15%, so I figure it’s worth a try.
Day 1 – Try one diet cola, hate it, have a second regular cola, and a third.
Day 2 – Try a different diet cola, still not fond of it, have a second regular cola, and a third.
*Take-home Kaizen lesson: at least I tried another diet cola and cut my energy intake by about 5-7.5% today and yesterday, even if I didn’t like the diet version.
Day 3 – Try another new diet cola, this one’s not so bad, but I still have a second regular cola, and a third.
*Take-home: I found one I think I could drink more often if I gave it more of a chance.
Day 4 – Try same cola as yesterday, it’s growing on me, I consume it for my second regular cola, but my third is at home where I have a stock-pile still.
*Take-home: I was able to drink two diet colas today, maybe if I got rid of the temptation of my stock-pile at home I could fully convert.
Day 5 – Drink diet cola for first two colas of the day, buy a pack at the grocery store, drop the old cola off at a shelter instead.
*Take-home: I was able to drink all diet, and manipulate my environment so I’m not even tempted to drink regular cola at home anymore.
Alright, admittedly I sped that process up a little more than it might actually take you, it might actually be more like weeks than days (even if only initially).
However, the process will still roughly look something like that, but with your own individual flare to the situation.
There are also dozens of different solutions to the problem.
What’s important though is finding the small improvements you can make along the way.
A Movement Example
I suck at the squat (not really… :p), which is a real pity, because it’s one of the most metabolically demanding exercise I can do to help myself lose weight.
No matter how hard I try I don’t seem to be able to get the movement down, it hurts my knees, my thighs are sore for days, and I hate it!
My coach has helped me isolate that my glutes are relatively weak compared to my thighs, so my thighs do all the work, making them sore as hell and possibly hurting my knees.
Day 1: Try a glute bridge out, not really feeling anything in my glutes (mostly my thighs) but the coach says this will help my squat. Squat still sucked actually, knees still hurt too.
*Take-home – Coach probably picked the wrong glute exercise for you for right now, or they should have reduced the load on your squat, or some other solution that eluded them initially. At least I’m working towards finding a solution and not a band-aid.
Day 2: Try a glute bridge with foam roller behind my knees, suddenly I can feel my glutes, cool. Didn’t seem to transfer to my squat though, knees still hurt.
*Take-home – found an exercise where I could feel my glutes!
Day 3: Do a glute bridge with a foam roller behind my knees, and this time finish with more sets/practice at the end of the workout. Knees still hurt but I felt like I got a little bit deeper into my squat.
*Take-home – do more glute work, which should help me in future and I did get a little deeper, which my coach tells me is a good thing.
Day 4: With more glute bridging, it’s way easier to feel my glutes now. My knees didn’t hurt until my last set today.
*Take-home – more glute work might be helping, knees only started aching after two good sets.
Day 5: Progressed back to a regular glute bridge, wow, I can feel them in this position now! Knees didn’t hurt at all today, with a slightly light load.
*Take-home – I’m squatting pain-free and the exercise I couldn’t do on day 1 properly, I can do now.
Again, I accelerated the process (most likely that situation will take weeks to correct, or even months) again, just to show you Kaizen in action.
The process does look like that, although there are a bunch of ways to skin this cat.
The important thing still, is that you identified the small improvements you made along the way.
These small continuous improvements can do wonders for motivation, often leading to larger, more significant changes.
Here are three daily Kaizen questions for you:
- Did I do just a little bit better today than yesterday? (every evening before bed)
- What can I do just a little bit better today? (every morning before you start your day)
- What can I do tomorrow that will take today’s accomplishment a little bit further? (every evening after you ask #1)
Have your own example of Kaizen, helping you drop some weight? Please share in the comments below!