"What gets measured, gets done." But for measurement to matter, we must measure the right thing in the right way. Otherwise you get Iraqi civilian body counts, No Child Left Behind, U.S. News & World Report's college rankings, the Guinness Book of World Records, and other towering monuments to the folly of mismeasurement.
In a weight-loss diet the obvious way to measure progress is to step on the scale. The problem, as every dieter knows, is that one failing report card from the bathroom scale can be so discouraging that the whole diet is abandoned.
My friend Laurence avoids the scale. Instead he tracks his progress with a trusty old leather belt. (Disclaimer: The photo above does not depict his belt, or his waist.)
We own no less than three scales.
One, a doctor's scale with sliding weights, is in the attic back in Vermont. Another, a digital bathroom scale, works very well, but will not register anything over 308 lb., and I have zoomed into that dreaded territory several times this year. Finally, after much searching, an analog scale was found that goes up to 330.
The digital scale has some extra features, some quite unnecessary. It purports to gauge percentage of body fat by measuring the electrical resistance between your feet. I forgive it for this lofty pretension.
What I like best is how I can turn it on by poking a button with my big toe, and the cheery, non-judgmental beep it emits as it displays my weight. Except when it displays OL. I don't know what that means. Over Load? Or maybe it's short for LOL.
So much for scales. I wanted a measuring tape, one of my own, not one borrowed from Ann's ancestral sewing box. I went into the fabric store in Watsonville.
When men walk into fabric stores, fabric store ladies see us coming, nervously striding into unfamiliar territory. They know we are good for a laugh. (Usually, one fabric store lady confided in me, all men want is Velcro for something in the shop.)
I got a nice little yellow retractable tailor's tape for under $2. The lady asked me if the color was okay. She had the same thing in purple and red. I said it wasn't going to be a fashion accessory.
The first thing I measured, and the only measurement I am going to tell you now, was my neck: 19 inches. That's awful. A 19-inch neck all by itself is highly diagnostic for sleep apnea. Everybody worries about their waistlines; nobody should ever be fat enough to worry about their neck circumference.
Ok. There's a benchmark. I'll keep you posted.