menstruation and weight fluctuations


#1

this is a question for all the people out there who get periods. I ‘gain’ between 3 to 5 pounds magically for two weeks at a time, every month. I freak out, Beeminder freaks out, nobody is happy!

setting my max weight fluctuation to 5lb makes the yellow brick road so wide as to be meaningless… but I feel like there’s no real way to continue accurately logging data or using BM without paying $$$ just for being a woman with a cycle.

how do you deal with this? I changed my goal this morning so the gradient was less steep, giving me a bit more leeway, but still…I’m on track to pay money by the end of today. And not very happy about it :frowning:


#2

What is it that you’re beeminding? If you’re logging your daily weight, the problem with that is that it’s not within your control. It’s generally a good idea to beemind things that are in your control, like how much you exercise or how many bites you take.


#3

The best solution might be to not Beemind weight, but to Beemind the behaviours that contribute to weight change (whatever those are for you). That way you’re not derailing for these kinds of swings, for plateaus, or for other things of the general type. This has the added benefit of forcing you to really think about what makes a real difference, about where you get the most reward for your effort, and then putting your effort there.

But I think that if just bearing in mind that there’s a weight goal causes someone to eat a little less, move a little more, and make other choices that contribute to the outcome without doing anything that’s more structured than they’d like, then that’s probably not a very satisfying answer.

One option might be to use the “take a break” feature, or to set a calendar alert to change your road rate a little over a week before the expected jump. (Honestly, though, that’s a lot of friction and I’m not really sure that’s a particularly good solution either.)

Another option is to see what the largest possible jump is in your weight because of these fluctuations, to set your road’s “absolute lane width” (or ask support to set it) to the largest ever of those jumps, and then to treat the middle of the road as your real bright line. Go above it, and you risk being thrown off the road by one of these fluctuations. But that might move the consequences too far away, which might just cause you to inch upwards until it’s too late anyway (cause "you can always get back on the right side in a day or two”).

But I think that the best thing might be to just put the focus on something more action-oriented than outcome-oriented.

(PS - I realize that if you look at my gallery, you’ll see that I currently have a $5 “difference” goal that is actually a weight loss outcome goal, but that’s cause I’ve been chatting with @dreev recently about his method, which I’ve maintained wouldn’t work well for me, but decided it was worth $5 to play around with it a bit before chatting about it some more.)


#4

Yeah, I know it might be considered cheating, but “log every day” doesn’t work for menstruation. I don’t log weight gain for the week before my period or during. I easily gain 5 pounds in that time, and it disappears just as quickly.


#5

(I don’t think “not logging data” would be considered cheating unless you made it part of the goal. Not logging data for a long time makes it harder to succeed–in general–but if it makes a goal better lead to success, do it!)


#6

I think this is misunderstanding the issue… the point of logging your weight every day is to get a feel for how your weight fluctuates due to various factors. Doing that works fine.

What doesn’t work is to try to control your weight within a very narrow range every day. Weight isn’t within your direct control. This isn’t a problem with Beeminder - it’s a biological fact.

You might as well say “I’m logging the temperature every day and I don’t ever want it to exceed 100 degrees, but logging every day doesn’t work when there’s a heat wave. I just don’t log every day when there’s a heat wave and the temperature goes back down after a few days.”

I think Beeminder needs a huge warning label: DO NOT BEEMIND YOUR WEIGHT OR ANYTHING ELSE NOT UNDER YOUR CONTROL.


#7

I think it depends on if intermittent fasting is an option. I don’t want to encourage anyone to do anything unhealthy (and there are some people, like diabetics I assume, for whom this would be out of the question) but it works beautifully for me to directly control my weight by just not eating until Beeminder tells me I can.

Easy for me to say since I don’t menstruate, I know. But as @chipmanaged mentioned, we’ve been debating whether this can work for someone whose weight is much more volatile, like due to extreme fluid retention once a month.

Here’s my conjecture. First, even when your body is retaining fluid and adding multiple pounds that don’t really count, it’s not pulling that moisture out of the air. Quite the opposite – you steadily, reliably lose weight throughout the day just by waiting and breathing. So forcing yourself to hew to the yellow brick road despite your body’s shenanigans just means some severe fasting and rapid weight loss to keep pace with the fluid retention. You always can hew to the road, it just may suck at times. And when your body is done shenaniganning you can count on dropping well below the road and enjoying the safety buffer. In theory you could hang on to that safety buffer so it doesn’t suck as much the next time. But in practice, we’re akratic, so of course you’ll binge until you’re skating the edge of the road again. And the whole cycle repeats.

Not ideal, to put it mildly, but the yellow brick road ends up followed and it’s a lot better than gradually gaining more and more weight forever, so, if that’s your BATNA… And of course none of this craziness precludes beeminding workouts, calories, eating less junk – all the things that can and should make this craziness unnecessary. But minding weight has the big advantage that it’s effortless to measure (pretty much literally effortless with a wifi scale) and is wholly resistant to self-deception. If you happen to be certain that there’s a weight range you don’t want to be outside of, you can and should beemind it (while also trying to make it moot by eating better and exercising).

Finally, the important part of my conjecture is that if you do skate the edge of your weight road and directly control your weight by fasting, you’ll never need to dehydrate yourself. Drink all the water you want and, despite your body’s stubborn retention of it, you can always make it onto the yellow brick road by the end of the day by restricting calories and sweating.


#8

This sounds a whole lot like anorexia to me… I’m kind of worried about this. I’d at least suggest consulting with some kind of medical provider or even eating disorder specialists to make sure that this isn’t going to cause problems.


#9

Yeah…with respect @dreev, every time you talk about Beeminding weight and all these shenanigans you do to stay on track it makes my skin crawl and I want to reply-all with disordered eating resources. Dieting is such a fraught topic and the truth is dieting of any kind increases your risk of developing an eating disorder and/or disordered eating behaviors.

I’d also add, on the topic of menstruation, that a lot of people who menstruate experience cramps, headaches, and other things that are alleviated with ibuprofen and other NSAIDS. NSAIDs (especially ibuprofen) are most responsibly taken on a full stomach with lots of water.

I agree that Beeminding other things that are more directly in your control are better options. I like Beeminding active days and exercise.

I think some other psychologically healthy things to Beemind for weight loss could be eating mindfully, checking in on hunger before eating (is this hunger? boredom? unpleasant emotions?), or drinking enough water.


#10

My intuition is that it’s entirely different. A hypocaloric eating disorder manifests as a kind of OCD where you obsessively undereat. (From what I understand; I have no experience with eating disorders, not counting the one also known as “being an American”.) I would expect Beeminder to be entirely superfluous for an anorexic. As for the risk of developing an eating disorder, it seems implausible to me personally but … just saw @southpaw’s response… yeah, time for me to shut up now since I don’t actually know anything about eating disorders!


#11

Not at all. There are some interesting articles about QS apps and anorexia, both helping and hurting.

Some actual research/abstracts:

Here’s some anorexics discussing tracking apps:


#12

This thread is a great example of Goodhart’s Law.

Here are some great examples. My favorite: In Hanoi, under French colonial rule, a program paying people a bounty for each rat tail handed in was intended to exterminate rats. Instead, it led to the farming of rats.

This is also related to the QS principle - only measure meaningful numbers. Your weight is not a meaningful number at all. For instance:

One of the best things you can do for your overall health and to lose fat is to build muscle through progressive resistance strength training. I think everyone who is dieting, counting calories, or watching their weight should throw all that crap out the window and start lifting barbells instead. But a gain of muscle may actually increase your weight (in a good way).

As others pointed out, weight fluctuations can be due to things like how much water is in your body, menstrual cycles, male hormonal cycles, seasonal metabolic patterns, how constipated you are, your circadian rhythm, and who knows what else. These fluctuations are basically meaningless so it makes no sense to track them.

And then, of course, there’s the weight you gain from eating a ton of junk food and storing it as fat, which is generally not a good thing for your health.

So weight gain can be good, neutral, or bad, depending on the situation.

When you measure the wrong thing, and try to optimize it, you end up doing bizarre things like trying to dehydrate yourself so your weight sticks to an arbitrary Yellow Brick Road, or a repeating cycle of binging and severe fasting, and there’s no way this actually gets you what you want. You’re tailoring your behavior to a meaningless number.


#13

Even if somehow (a) periodic short term starvation diets are a good way to control your weight and (b) somehow you are able to stay extra hydrated (important both that time of month and when losing weight) despite the fact that it makes your weight go up a lot on an hourly time frame and at the same time are most motivated to consume less food by avoiding the smaller amount that it makes your weight go up on an hourly time scale… Dealing with low energy and likely poor nutrition from fasting at the same as not feeling great to begin with and having special nutritional concerns doesn’t sound healthy. And don’t forget that you can’t slow down every month to deal with this like you can when you’re sick.

And (a) seems unlikely. The first Google answer result tells me that the average woman gains five pounds of water weight during her period. Losing more than one percent of body weight in a week is considered unhealthy. I doubt the average woman weighs 500 pounds. So losing five pounds to compensate for that water isn’t healthy. (Feel free to research more accurate numbers for this.)

(b) just seems a bit absurd.


#14

To answer the original question rather than just arguing with dreeves: I gave up on beeminding weight. This is just the most extreme example that weight fluctuations on the timescale of days - and beeminder really only works on a timescale of a small number of days, that’s the point - mostly not being connected to actual weight loss.

The best way I can think of to use a beeminder weight goal is to use it in conjunction with an equivalent (and healthy) calorie counting goal, and if you have more than five pounds buffer in your weight goal you get to turn off the calorie tracking goal and try to eat about the same but don’t have to count.


#15

FWIW, I have a “weight” beeminder goal, but the value is a flat number set to higher than I’m ever likely to reach (although I did have to bump it up even more when I was pregnant). That, combined with changing the Y value to be within my usual ranges, gives me the benefits of data tracking and seeing my trend, without having the threat of beeminder encouraging me to take actions I don’t think would be the best for my long-term health.

I usually stay out of weight loss discussions, as I don’t have a horse in this race – my actual weight goals involve weighing more, not less. It’s pretty obvious to me that setting a beeminder goal to weigh more would be pretty trivially gamed without actually improving the metrics I care about (strength and health), and I feel it should be equally clear that beeminding losing weight is also pretty likely to not actually improve the metrics you care about (appearance and health). I agree with @zedmango that an entirely reactive weight loss system of fasting seems tailored to end up with you retaining fat and losing muscle, which is most likely the opposite of what you want. Your scale number is pretty close to meaningless (see posts like https://www.delish.com/kitchen-tools/advice/a53899/these-pictures-prove-weight-is-just-a-number/), and optimizing for it is going to get you equally meaningless results.


#16

wow, thanks for all the passionate replies! I have created a para-goal for exercise and would like to create another one to eat out less (but am still unsure about subscribing). What I did for my last period was to set the goal to be much more forgiving temporarily… and email support to get a refund.

@dreev: disordered eating is complicated … glad to read your last sentence :slight_smile:


#17

Thanks for all this input, everyone! Let me continue my bold new policy of not talking about things I don’t understand. Instead I’ll just argue that Beeminder in general is remarkably robust to Goodhart’s Law. And for me personally, getting on my weight loss road by dehydrating myself is what I call a loophole you can drive an ice cream truck through. See the “Wouldn’t You Just…” section of our Dirty Plate Club post. I dispatch weight beemergencies by fasting in a way that, from my understanding of the nutrition science, such as it is, promotes long-term health. Like I still drink water while fasting. And also by doing pushups and running up and down stairs and stuff, for the short-term goal of sweating my way onto my road but which is also making sure I’m not losing muscle instead of fat, since obviously I don’t want to do that.


#18

I believe your system works for you, but there are some necessary conditions that not everyone has

  1. A daily schedule that allows fasting and exercise first thing in the morning (That’s the only way I can see the sweating part work without also dehydrating yourself - hydrate just enough to safely exercise, get it over with, and then be hydrated for most of the day)

  2. No water weight fluctuations greater than healthy weight loss rates (this one is really lacking in the example in this thread)

There are probably others. Your solution is an interesting story about making beeminder work for something when it seems like it wouldn’t, but I doubt it’s good advice for many people besides you.


#19

I’ve tried to avoid commenting in this thread, but I’m explicitly using Discourse to reply to bluetulip’s great response, so I hope it’s less gauche of me.

THIS, bluetulip.

My general heuristic is “Beeminder and a collection of tricks really, really works for me”, but weight is even moreso an individual thing. I really wish Beeminder worked as well for weight stuff for everyone as it does for me, but that does not appear to be the case.

Beeminder should be less stressful than not using Beeminder–that’s the whole point of it!

Additionally, folks, if Beeminder is causing you to be unsafe, talk to support, get off the goal, and figure out how you got in the pickle you got into.


#20

A specific example of Goodhart’s law for a weight loss goal would be inducing vomiting just before the deadline.