Day 64: When numbers mean more than your (expanding) gut

Day 64

  • Weight: 134.0 lbs.
  • Workout B: 20 minutes, 28 seconds; next: Workout A on Nov. 9
  • Total inches: 122.1
  • Protein: 125 g (1 g over target)
  • Calories: 2,104

We live in a world of predictive models.

Smart statisticians can program computers to guess your spending habits, your traffic-avoidance patterns and your browsing preferences. Numbers are at the heart of sabermetrics, the method of putting together winning baseball teams with the most effective players at the lowest cost.

(No, I haven’t read or seen “Moneyball” [aff. link], but it’s on my list.)

Using statistics to measure the value of each player flies in the face of “gut,” used by club owners and managers for decades. But it works, and every team uses it in some part of its decision making.

Numbers are at the heart over the recent kerfuffle about FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver’s high-profile blog tracking election forecasts for the presidential and other races. His track record has been solid in 2008 and 2010, but recently, pundits have questioned his model for the Obama-Romney outcome. We’ll know the answer in 4 days.

Most of Project Bulk is pure numbers. I use a slew of measurements, but I have a limited data set: 64 days and growing.

Sometimes, the numbers tell me I’m doing fine. Sometimes, my belly distracts me from the numbers. Sometimes, the numbers frustrate me.

In several cases, I have used charts and graphs to understand the patterns. This has helped me more than any other tool in this experiment.

(Surprisingly, the daily photos have not helped me much. Call it inhabitant bias: I see myself every day directly and in the mirror. While others can see the external changes, I am not as keen an observer, a type of blind spot.)

My guide, “The 4-Hour Body” [Amazon | iTunes aff. links], has helped with a few formulas, but a lot has been simple trial and error. For example, I started with no calorie measurement. I then measured starting Sept. 15, and soon after, set a daily goal of 2,500 calories minimum.

After more pounds of fat added in October than September, I decided to tweak the formula. My best guess is to try a 2,000-calorie minimum. I’ll need to see how this affects my weight through Nov. 15 and readjust if needed.

The challenge is not predicting the outcome. The challenge is building the predictive model so that I can understand if and when I’ll reach my goals: toned upper body, 13.6 percent to 16.3 percent body fat. (At my current weight, I would have to convert 14 pounds of fat to muscle.)

I enjoy the number crunching. Each day brings me new figures to create my ultimate figure.