Is daily weight under your direct control?

This just came up in a conversation with Braden Shepherdson (@shepheb) and before that in a discussion with @dkapadia and @nepomuk and @chelsea at the last Beeminder meetup.

I’ve been nervous to say this too publicly but now that I’ve articulated it, and with enough caveats, it seems reasonable enough. I’ll lay it out and you all can tell me the ways I’m being stupid.

Here I go. If you’re ok with Intermittent Fasting and if you can trust yourself to stick to common sense heuristics like “drink when thirsty” then I feel that you can make weight be under your direct control even at a day timescale. If so it’s a great metric to beemind, assuming you definitely want your weight to be different than it is (an assumption you should certainly question, thinking about the disparate densities of muscle and fat, etc).

For me it seems a protocol of “IF eep day THEN weigh in before every potential meal and only eat it if back on the road” reliably gets me out of the red by midnight. I can generally speed that up to less than hour by exercising. Which of course is mostly losing weight in the short term by sweating but is also a good action to incentivize for long-term health. Either way, I find it’s under my full control. I think there may be many health or menstruation-related reasons that it wouldn’t work that way for others though.

What do you think? Would this work for you or would you rather beemind more direct actions like what or how much you eat or steps or workouts and let weight mostly take care of itself?


I like the notion, and have successfully applied the protocol to get myself back on the road, but only when the stars aligned.

Back when I had a day job, the protocol would be tricky to implement. There’s a shortage of weighing devices in my life, not even considering calibration and clothing.

There’s also the 1kg+ swings in my weight that occasionally occur; non-trivial to sweat that out at short notice. And the friction (or benefit) of the potential social conversations.

One of the difficulties with aggressively beeminding weight is that you don’t know whether it’s an eep day until you step on the scale. By then you’d better have planned a day that doesn’t start for another hour, so that you can go for a run and scramble back on.

Having said that, it seems no bad thing to always get up a bit earlier and let the scale somewhat arbitrarily determine whether it’s a go-for-a-run morning or a work-on-that-dream morning. More fitness and more progress sounds win-win.

1 Like

It strikes me as a gameable metric: rather than go for a run to sweat out the weight, go for a sauna. That’s how jockeys apparently get down their weight just before a race.

1 Like

It is already stipulated that doing something obviously gamey like going to a sauna is cheating. That said I find it very likely that any eep day maneuvers would involve some sort of mild dehydration. Also note that if you do strength training and get sore muscles they will retain fluids, so exercising on an eep day could go both ways.

I have a weight loss goal with a mild slope that I think is very valuable even though I do not believe daily weight is directly manageable. If I ever get in danger or actually derail I will hopefully just start Beeminding something else to get back on track. I guess I could put that in the fine print, but then it would be a weird goal that gets tracked but can’t derail by definition.

The reason I think a weight loss goal is so useful with all this said is that a) I find it very motivating, and b) it’s easy to be healthy in some ways, then start doing it half-heartedly and cheat in other ways and wind up not making much progress.

1 Like

Or just go to work but don’t eat anything till you get home to your scale again!

Totally. But this is a loophole I’m not (too) tempted to exploit. It’s an advantage of setting up mechanisms with your own future self that you won’t necessarily exploit every possible way to game the mechanism. It depends where the akrasia lies. Like maybe you use an IFTTT recipe to beemind how often you come within some radius of your gym. It’s a loophole, as I’ve said, big enough to drive an ice cream truck through but if your akrasia is in getting your butt to the gym in the first place then maybe there’s no danger of you showing up, tagging the gym’s door, and walking back to your car.

Anyway, it’s a great point though. If you find yourself taking corrective action on emergency weight days that’s not at all helping the underlying goal, then you probably want to drop the whole beeminding weight thing. Stick to our advice elsewhere about beeminding the more direct actions. (Well, beemind weight too, just conservatively and with a low pledge cap.)

I see many issues with the OP

I have come not to trust my body’s signals on thirst and hunger. Water is a great resource for the body and mind, and drinking only when you think you feel thirsty means you’re not hydrating enough.

This will not always work when you have stuff to get done. While i have been practitioning IF and have increased my endurance in how long i can wait before eating, after a certain point in time , i need to eat something in order to continue being productive. Of course you are probably describing something different here, a process of eating as little as possible during the day.

[quote=“dreev, post:1, topic:1056”]I can generally speed that up to less than hour by exercising.
[/quote] That would count as false data in my line of thinking, since i define weight as taking a measurement at the same time every day and preferably after bowel movement and also after a minimum amount (5 hours) of sleep. Anything else I’ve noticed will give me a high variance of data that do not really matter. If I wake up on a bad day I will simply not record any number for the day (i also keep a separate record that doesn’t go to beeminder - of course this is only for 1-2 days, beyond that it means i have really gone off the road).

As has been argued many times (here as well), weight can not managed fully and should be beeminded with enough “working space”. That said, i see personal improvement (and thus beeminding) as a mental process, so any workflow that keeps you on the road without affecting other goals too much, is acceptable. However, if you need to be on extremely limited food and water consumption for more than a couple of days to stay on the road, it probably means the road is wrong :slight_smile:


The latest research I’m (tangentially) aware of seemed to suggest that thirst was a fine modulator of hydration. But even if you’re right it’s just a heuristic for making sure you’re not dangerously dehydrating yourself on eep days. When you’re on the road go ahead and drink more than you’re thirsty for. And even if every single day is an eep day, which I don’t think would be common, it should only be half the day that you’re minimally hydrating to abate thirst. As soon as you weigh in on the road, drink lots. You’ll pee it out by tomorrow’s weigh-in and it might displace some food binging.

Bizarrely I feel like I can fast for 24 hours or longer and my concentration only increases. Maybe originally the causality ran the other way – when I’m ultra-focused I can’t be bothered to eat – and I ended up associating gnawing hunger with extreme productivity. (:

All the more reason that most people should ignore my whole premise here, about aggressively beeminding weight. Let me clarify that even, or especially, in my (arguably) crazy version I don’t think it’s a good idea to have a steep slope. I highly recommend extremely gradual weight loss. The most important thing is preventing yourself from gradually gaining weight while not paying attention. With a flat or nearly flat road you can hopefully mostly not have to think about it.

All that said, let me clarify my ridiculous weight beeminding protocol:
Weigh in first thing, then NPO [1] till on the road, except just enough water to counter thirst.

[1] “Nothing Per Oral” as medical people say (or apparently “nil per os” in Latin which means the same thing).

1 Like

Nick Winter (@nick) pointed out another dangerous loophole highlighting the silly myopia of this approach, which I’ll describe like this:

Water is heavy but potato chips hardly weigh anything.

Again, if you find yourself abusing such loopholes, switch your focus to beeminding more direct actions.

I think this is a good idea to the extent that it ends up incentivizing the right behavior: eating less and exercising more.

1 Like

I’ve actually removed my beeminder weight goals. I like them for a target, but right now, I’m just trying to get a bit lower. The way I’ve managed it is to just weigh myself every day regardless of anything. My guilt knowing that I’m going to be fatter tomorrow if I eat a huge dinner is enough to hold me back. I also put in little things like “try not to eat anything past 6pm.” Oh, and I’ll also skip dinner if I have a monster lunch. Very similar to your IF ideas. Basically, enjoy your craziness but reign it back in before tomorrow!

I’m on the fence about beeminding my weightg again because my wife is going to pop in ~3 weeks. I don’t want to have that hanging over my head when I’m dealing with a screaming baby all the time!


And what about if you’re beeminding both weight and body fat like me? :smiley:

1 Like

First get back on the weight road, then drink a pint of water and weigh-in again, which should drop your measured % body fat. Oh, the games we play.

This is why I want an ‘uncle!’ button, so that I can hard-commit to a derailment on days when I know I’m unlikely to scramble back on the road in an orthodox manner. Short-circuits the potential games and can be executed in a single moment of lucidity.


Well, I might as well put a fake number or no number at all (if i’m not in an emergency day) then :slight_smile:


Agreed! Playing [the wrong kind of] games to get back on the road is a slippery slope.

The best kind of games make you more productive, which impacts the numbers, rather than affecting the numbers in isolation of the productivity.
s/productive/progresses the goal-of-interest/;

Not weight related, but Pomodoro Poker is such a game. Danny’s game of go-for-a-run-if-I’m-over-a-threshold is beneficial even if it doesn’t get him back on the road today.

Update: In the past I’ve used the moving average line as the threshold for weight-influencing games. If today’s value is above the moving average, eat better and exercise more, strictly, today.


Since you mentioned this, I’ve considered entering into beeminder not the measured weight, but the Hacker’s Diet-based trend which another app gives me (FatWatch on iOS). It would make for less variation (and much harder to game).

1 Like

There’s a Beeminder blog post about this very subject:


That’s an understandable temptation, and one that I have shared on occasion. But don’t do it.

The trend line is important, which I think is at the root of the temptation. But what’s important about it is it’s position in relation to today’s weigh-in.

Unfortunately, that requires manual monitoring, and is hard to see unless you zoom in the graph. It’d be nice to have an IFTTT trigger that fires if my weigh-in is above the trend, so as to add a –1 to some other goal and force an exercise day.

Aside: Earlier this year, I conducted an experiment in which I frequently adjusted the centerline of my weight road to be on the moving average. It was a disaster! I’m up several kilos…


I think that is the wrong question, but my answer would be “no, not in a meaningful way.” What you eat and how much you exercise is subject to your daily control. And so your weight is under your control in that way. I’ve used Loseit, BEEMINDER and the online weight tracking software for The Hacker’s Diet. The rolling average function in THD is really useful at tamping down “noise” in daily weight measurement. Many people would probably gain psychological/motivational benefits from this technique. It removes the triumph and defeat from daily loss/gain measurements. I highly recommend reading the section in THD on a typical human system’s daily weight fluctuations. Folks, it’s mainly water day-to-day . . . But over longer periods its generally diet and exercise.


Check out THD here:

Plus, the site has a cool 1980’s-1990’s thing going on.


THD is a great resource to start reading about weight loss, most recommended.

1 Like

I beemind my weight, but staying at a low pledge level. I figured out the best way for me to get back on the road is usually to eat a very light but filling breakfast with a glass of water, and then do a workout, drinking just what’s needed. Sometimes that does it, but if not, I’ll wait to eat or drink until it does. Occasionally, I’m too hungry for that so I’ll eat a light lunch and then see if through the afternoon, my weight comes down. If not, I sometimes skip dinner or sometimes just decide it’s a derailment day and at least all my efforts will help me the following day. So I mostly feel like I can control it enough to be worth beeminding it.