That tell you if you’re on track.
Or if you might want to adjust course.
They communicate about the status of something you care about.
Like your health.
- An outcome is a result.
- An indicator gives you information about where you are in relation to achieving that result.
Choosing Your Own Indicators
People tend to default to just one or two standard indicators. Like the number on a scale.
If weight loss is the goal, you could also use the Body Mass Index. Or the circumference of your body parts.
They are all indicators. But how useful are they?
They are all lagging indicators. They tell you what has happened after it happens.
Lagging indicators offer important information about results. But they lag.
If things aren’t going the way you want, you don’t find out until later.
They enable to you to ask ‘did it work?’ not ‘is it working?’
What you want is some leading indicators. Signals that will enable you to correct course before things go awry.
Leading indicators give you information about what you can expect to happen.
My Example: Stress & Weight
Perhaps for a lot of people.
Recently I wrote about my struggles with obesity in Personalize Your Diet for Weight Loss.
Though I’m now at a healthy weight, I have to remain vigilant to keep it that way.
The connection between stress and weight gain is a complex one for me, with several nasty vortexes.
Here’s the pattern:
- Stress exacerbates my long-term issues with adrenal fatigue.
- Stress and adrenal fatigue provoke my compulsive relationship to food, which upsets the eating habits I want to maintain.
- My compulsive interactions with food evoke feelings of low-self worth.
- Feeling unworthy and compulsive about food spikes my stress, which puts me back at #1.
- Stress is known to increase blood sugar and negatively impact gut microflora, both of which can lead to weight gain.
So rather than using the number on the scale as an indicator, I measure stress.
My Indicators of Well-Being
- The size of the callous on the pad of my left thumb;
- My energy in the late afternoon; &
- The time it takes me to fall asleep at night.
When I’m stressed, I habitually scrape my middle fingernail across the pad of my left thumb. I just do.
And when my adrenals are overtaxed, I get incredibly, soul-crushingly exhausted in the late afternoons.
Similarly, stress negatively impacts my ability to fall asleep at night.
But if I can keep my energy fairly steady throughout the day, fall asleep quickly at night, and keep my thumb smooth, I know my stress is under control.
Then it’s as simple as eating well and moving regularly to keep my weight in a healthy range.
And it’s much easier to keep food and exercise on track when my stress is lower. The vortex reverses and begins to work with me.
My indicators are designed for me.
For my goals, challenges and peculiar thumb-scraping habits.
I expect they’ll change over time.
But anyone can choose personalized indicators to use as an early warning & navigation system for sticking to a healing path.
How to Choose
As someone with several serious health conditions, Matthew is a complex case. When I asked him about his indicators of well-being, he immediately said “facial hair”.
And he’s right: his facial hair gets pretty unruly when he’s in rough shape.
But it’s not a reliable indicator.
Because he might feel crappy, but shave anyway. Or, even on a good day, decide to go for a backwoodsman look.
Though the orderliness in his facial hair is usually correlated with his well-being, it’s directly under his control.
After some thought, Matthew chose three:
- Overall sleep time; &
- Bowel movements.
When he has increased levels of inflammation in his body, he snores. After the first couple of months on the Autoimmune Protocol, he now snores only if he has a flare, or after an attempt to reintroduce a food that his system isn’t ready for. It’s a signal of systemic inflammation.
Similarly, when his health is compromised, he has a difficult time staying asleep.
And, like many people with autoimmune conditions, he is focusing on improving the health of his gut. And what easier way to track the machinations of the intestinal system than with Agalee Jacobs’ excellent ‘poop chart‘?
Measurement for Health
I’m into measurement.
Really, that’s all biohacking is.
Setting a health goal, making a plan to achieve it, measuring progress and adjusting course based on the information gathered.
The right indicators support a systematic approach to health. Your own personalized navigation system for the healing journey.