Ep 9 Measure What Matters

Now it’s time for step 8 of my “Get Your Shit Together” system – and yes we skipped over step 7 for now.  We’re going to dive into how to measure what matters.  Go back to your worksheet from Episode 2 and look at these 3 areas:

  • Have you created long-term and short-term goals for your health?
  • Do you also have smaller milestones you can actually meet?
  • Are you being a scientist and not a judge?

My husband will confirm that I have the longest to-do list.  I always overestimate what I can get done in a day, but I always start with an intention.   When you set your goals, you are setting an intention.

Bodies don’t always react the way we want them to and there are some circumstances beyond our control, but it’s important to keep track of the actions that are within your control.  Set yourself up for easy wins.  You deserve the dopamine hit, even if it’s something that seems insignificant. 

You know you best.  If it’s more motivating to set a practically impossible goal, do it.  If you do better with tiny goals you can trip over, do that.  Just make sure they have a set timeline and check in with yourself at each milestone.  Reset, reassess, and move forward. 

This is not the time to drag yourself through the mud. Now is the time to employ the scientific method rather than judging yourself.  A reminder about the scientific method:

  1. What’s the question? What are you observing? 
  2. Do a little background research. What’s your hypothesis if you try something new?  Keep it clear and give it enough time to work.
  3. Test your hypothesis by doing an experiment. Test whether your prediction is accurate. Keep the changes tightly controlled so there are as few variables as possible.
  4. Analyze your data and draw a conclusion.  What seems to be working or not? Decide if you’ll continue on that path or if there’s something deeper to be done, like testing.

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Music credit: “New Way Forward” by Young Presidents

A Podcast Launch Bestie production

Welcome to Science and Shit, the podcast where I show you how a healthy gut leads to a happier life. I’m your host, Michelle Casey. I’m a functional health coach who specializes in all things digestion, from heartburn to IBS to auto immune inflammatory bowel disease. I’ve seen it all. I’ve spent the last eight years in private practice helping people with chronic illness, reverse their symptoms and live their best lives. In this podcast, you will get empowered about what you can do to impact your health naturally. I’ll help you sort through the information overwhelm to figure out what’s relevant to you. If you want a holistic scientific approach, you’ve come to the right place! 

All right, first things first, if we’re going to talk about holistic health, we need to first acknowledge that white supremacy and colonization has wiped out much indigenous wisdom all over the world. And has led to gross disparities in equity and health care access. The ʻāina (land) on which I live and work is located in the ahupuaʻa (subdivision) of Kaloko, in the moku (district) of Kona, on the mokopuni (island) of Hawai’i, in the paeʻāina (nation) of Hawai’i. I recognize that Her Majesty Queen Liliʻuokalani yielded the Hawaiian Kingdom and these territories under duress and protest to the United States to avoid the bloodshed of her people. I also want to acknowledge that the Hawai’i that we enjoy today was very much shaped in a holistic and sustainable way by many generations of indigenous Hawaiians, Polynesian people. For these people, and for this work, I express my deep reverence and gratitude. Mahalo nui loa. 

It’s important to recognize and acknowledge the history of the land that we live on. Even though you or I may not be directly responsible for the harms done to native peoples. All of us non natives who live in the United States directly benefit from this harm. If you want to learn more about the land you’re on, you can start by entering your ZIP code at the native land website at Native-land.ca. 

Now let’s jump into today’s episode. Let’s get this party started.

Hello, and welcome back. In this episode, we are going to be diving into how to Measure What Matters. This is of course, step number eight of my Get Your Shit Together system. And you may notice that we skipped over step seven, which is Tailor to Your Tendency. And that’s on purpose, because I’m going to dive way deep into the four tendencies in season two. So stay tuned, stay subscribed for that, make sure you don’t miss anything. But today, I wanted to dive into how we actually track progress in our relationship to our body and our health goals. And of course, this is part of the whole system. So if you haven’t listened to episode two yet, go ahead and jump back in there, download the handout and rate yourself in the following three areas.

Number one, have you created long term and short term goals for your health? Number two, do you then also have milestones, smaller milestones that you can actually meet and see yourself meeting? And then number three, are you being a scientist and not a judge? Okay, we’re gonna dive into all of that. 

So it has been said many times that people can grossly underestimate what they can accomplish in a year, and overestimate what they can accomplish in a week. If you ask my husband, he will confirm that I am the person with the longest to do list. I’m obsessed with checking things off my list. It makes me feel very happy and I’ll talk about that a little bit later. But I always overestimate what I can do in a day. However, when I’m thinking about long term goals I always start with an intention. So I do this with my own goals. I do this with my day, my daily to do list, I create an intention for every day. I do this with my one on one clients. I do this with The Good Poopers Club, everybody gets intentions, okay? Because intention drives our actions. If we don’t have an intention that we have specifically created, then we’re just kind of reacting. We just kind of let our lizard brain take over. We end up reacting to a bunch of things throughout the day. A really good example is just if you’re sitting down to work, if you work at a desk like I do, you may have emails or messages or phone calls coming in throughout the day. And you could easily just bounce around all day, reacting to what’s coming at you. But if you have an intention for the day, maybe you set aside a half an hour to return calls, or a half an hour to go through emails, or whatever you need to do. And then you don’t look at them the rest of the day, because you got your intention, you got your marching orders, you are creating something. And so when we think about goals and intended outcomes in general, that combination of intention and actions, taking the right actions. And we’ll talk about how you know what the right actions are because that’s a really important topic. That’s magic. That’s a magical combo, right there. 

You’ve probably heard of SMART goals before. I’m going to dive into that a little bit right now. And we’re going to talk about how to apply those principles to health related goals. So smart goals. SMART is an acronym, it stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant or Realistic, I’ve seen it both ways, and Time bound or Time based. A couple things actually about that, when we’re talking about making changes to our bodies, whether that is healing from a chronic illness, whether that is getting stronger in the gym, or whether that is training to run a race, or whether that is losing weight. Certain outcomes are not necessarily guaranteed. I’m gonna say especially for people assigned female at birth, especially for anyone over 40, bodies can respond very differently, especially when you’re dealing with autoimmune disease or other chronic illness. Or if you have a history of gaining and losing a bunch of weight a few times or disordered eating. Sometimes our bodies don’t respond the way that we would want them to. And this is part of my issue with the calorie model. You’re not a math problem. You’re a unique organism. So if you can’t control the outcome, what can you control? 

You can control your actions. And that’s one of the things that you can measure when we’re talking about measuring what matters. That’s one thing that you can measure in the short term. While you are moving towards that goal, you can measure and track the actions that you are taking, the things that you’re in control of. There’s a lot of studies that involve people keeping food journals and self reporting on what they eat. And most people under report is one of the things that they found and underestimate how much they’re eating, which, you know, whatever I think you should eat if you’re hungry. That’s a whole other podcast, probably a whole other podcast in general, I actually have many colleagues that have that podcast already, so I’m not going to do it. But we tend to not have a really clear picture of what we’re doing in reality until we start tracking it. 

So if you ever are working with a practitioner, and you don’t feel safe giving them all of the information, find somebody different to work with. That’s one of my claims to fame. I guess one of the things that clients always say about me is that they know I’m not going to judge them, they know I’m just going to help them get their shit together, literally, and get them all sorted out and that they can just be honest. They can actually fill out the food journal honestly, and tell me what they’re eating and that’s huge because how can I help you if you can’t tell me the truth right? It’s pretty much impossible. So I’m very much a slow and steady wins the race kind of a person. I I love a dramatic makeover kind of a moment but I also feel like for most people changing everything overnight isn’t sustainable. 

We’re going to talk a lot about sustainable habits in the next episode, so I won’t dive too far into that but actions that you can track and measure. Things like food journaling, things like tracking your workouts, and specifically making notes about what you did, how it felt, what kind of intensity you did, if you’re someone who lifts weights, what weight did you actually lift. Not just did I work out today or not. But actually having that data will help inform you and also help you understand if you’re overtraining or under training. Tracking things like bowel movements. Tracking your habits, like cooking, meal prep, taking supplements, drinking water, walking. And then, obviously, you can also track things that aren’t necessarily actions, but things that are specific health markers, especially if you’re dealing with chronic illness like antibodies for autoimmune, blood sugar levels, we talked about that in episode six when we talked about testing and assessing, your frequency might be different depending on the stage of your illness and your goals. 

Science and Shit with Michelle Casey is brought to you by The Good Poopers Club, if you want to find out how you can use a research backed gut healing diet to reverse your symptoms and reset your relationship with food, head on over to goodpoopersclub.com to get the scoop.

I always recommend that you give your symptoms a number rating. People forget how bad they felt before they start working with me. And then until I implemented this number rating system, it was like they just didn’t, they couldn’t remember, which is lovely. I mean, bless our little forgetful bodies that they do that for us. But it also is difficult to track your progress. If you can’t give it some kind of objective rating. So even though it’s your tracking, so it’s not totally objective. Giving your fatigue, your cramps, your indigestion, whatever those things are, giving those symptoms a number rating. So when we think about setting goals all of those things could be actions that you could take, depending on what your goal is. I always have people start with, it doesn’t really matter, you can start with the goal like your intended outcome. I want to lose 50 pounds. I want to deadlift twice my body weight. I want to reverse my type two diabetes. Whatever the thing is that you’re working on. I want to take one or two bowel movements a day instead of 15. A noble effort, a noble goal, been there. Start with whatever that outcome is and if you don’t really know what the intention is, what your intention is behind it, the intention is not the same as the intended outcome. The intended outcome is like a measurable result that you can, objectively anyone would agree that that’s happened. That you could look on the scale is different. The weight on the bar is different. The number of times you’re going to the bathroom is different. 

The intention behind that though, how do you want to feel? How would you feel if you didn’t have to feel super stressed every time someone invited you to go out to eat? Because you were very clear about where you could go when you could eat? How would you feel if you could just go for a three hour hike in the wilderness and you didn’t have to run to the bathroom or worry that you were gonna crap your pants? How would you feel if you lost that weight? What would be possible, not just physically but emotionally? So writing that all down and having that part be really clear and anchoring into that can be really helpful, especially when bodies are just doing what bodies do and not changing as fast as we would want them to. Okay. 

The next piece of that is then to take the goals and chunk them down into smaller milestones. So maybe you want to lose 50 pounds in a year. Okay, so by six months, maybe you want to lose 25 pounds, right? Bringing that down. Weight loss is just a pretty easy thing to talk about. But you know, maybe you just bring that down into smaller time frames, smaller goals, right calling those milestones. And you want to make sure that you can see your way clear to the milestones. So, actually, that is a good example. Because for weight loss, that would be your intended outcome. But I actually recommend that you want to track weight 100%, if that’s part of your goal, but you also want to track the actions that you imagine will help you lose weight. Your exercise, your nutrition are those things. What can you track? How many weeks? Are you doing meal prep on the weekends? How many times are you going out to eat? How many workouts did you do? Those are the actions that you have control over that you definitely want to be measuring. And we’ll get into exactly how to apply the scientific method to this in just a sec. But does that make sense that you may or may not lose the 25 pounds in six months, or 50 pounds in a year. But you can definitely start creating those habits of eating more vegetables, drinking more water, doing your workouts, whatever those things are, that are that you feel are missing, or that your coach is saying are missing.

And the thing about it, when you are measuring those things that you have control over, when the things that you’re tracking are, for lack of a better word, easy wins. It doesn’t take a ton of effort for me to show up at the gym when I have an appointment with my trainer. Does that make sense? Now if I had to go by myself, let me just tell you as much of a gym rat as I am, some days I would not go. But I know Steve is waiting for me, shout out to Steve, if you’re listening to this, I know Steve is waiting for me. I do not want to let the man down and I am going to be there. And that’s huge. And that’s half of the job of a personal trainer, at least it was when I was a trainer, is just to be that structure for accountability. It’s huge but every time I go to the gym, I get a huge dopamine hit. So that is like a reinforced reward that my brain is learning and it feels amazing. So giving yourself that opportunity to have a ‘easy win’, whatever that is. And sometimes that looks like, I know I need to eat, I don’t know, four servings of vegetables a day, you should probably eat more, but at least start there. Right? I know I need to eat at least four servings of vegetables a day. But right now I’m eating none. Maybe my easy win is I have one serving a day. Maybe I do that for two or three weeks until that’s really a habit and then we build on it. You can kind of see where I’m going with this. Start slow. Slow and steady wins the race. Easy wins, dopamine, huzzah. The more that you experience winning, the more you want to achieve. The more you want to continue, especially when you can see that those actions are moving you towards your goal. Sometimes you won’t be able to, bodies do what bodies do. But when you can see that those actions are moving you towards your goal, because you’re tracking it. That’s huge. That’s so motivating. 

Now, if you get all those milestones in place and you write it all down, and maybe your goal was to lose 100 pounds, but maybe a year isn’t realistic. Okay, maybe it’ll take two years instead of one. Unless you’re going to do some crazy crash diet, which I don’t recommend, but you want to do it in a sustainable way. Okay, great, so then you just adjust. You just adjust the milestones. Or maybe you can see your way clearly to your one year goal in six months. In The Good Poopers Club, for instance, I don’t promise that people will reach their ultimate health goal. It’s eight weeks, right? It’s an eight week program. But their deeper underlying intention, we anchor into that. First thing out the gate, our first session together. I call it your big why. It’s not going to be fulfilled in eight weeks. It may literally never be fulfilled. Because it’s close to like your soul’s mission on the planet. You want to be healthy so you can show up for your family. You want to be healthy so that you can fulfill your creative endeavors. You want to be healthy so that you can start this cool business and like, help a bunch of people do a bunch of cool shit. But you can get closer to it, you can create goals that are aligned with that intention and milestones. And you can come up with something that is measurable and attainable in those eight weeks.

Now, for some people, going back to kind of the year goal, having a goal that feels unattainable, can be more motivating. You know yourself and what motivates you. I just recommend you want the goal to feel like a good stretch, not like I pulled a muscle stretch. And for some people, and this may be something to explore if you have been a perfectionist and overachiever, high achieving ADHD, neuro divergent, whatever kind of person. And we’ve been in a pandemic, for at the time of this recording, like 18 months or something, you may want to just create goals that you can trip over. And then maybe you have like a secret stretch goal, that would feel awesome if you made it, but it’s kind of a wild card, that’s okay too. But maybe you just want to really create that every week, every month, you’re gonna have a win, because you know, you are dopamine deficient, and you need that reinforcement. Everyone is different, everyone is different, and how they need to do it. There’s no one right way. 

The next step is to actually check in and see how you’re doing at each of the milestones. So the milestones have to have dates. And those dates need to be in your calendar. If you’re in one of my programs that’s built in, we’re automatically going to do that. But if you’re DIYing it out there, you may want to get someone to be your accountability buddy to meet up with and make sure it’s in their calendar too, especially if you have a history of not showing up for yourself. I’m talking to you obligers out there. So having that moment in your calendar to check in, release any regrets, reset, reassess, and move forward is so important. 

Now, when we’re assessing our progress, it’s really easy to get down in the dumps if it’s not going the way that you envision, which is why choosing the right coach or accountability buddy is so important, because you may be feeling shame, you don’t want them to also then be shaming you. That’s not helpful. But if you can, I want you to zoom out and think like a scientist, this is not the time to be Judge Judy. You don’t want to be dragging yourself through the mud. You want to actually employ the scientific method. So let’s do a little high school bio flashback. The scientific method is a method that scientists use in all different fields, to ask questions, perform tests, and see how they’re doing. See if their hypothesis is accurate, if what they expected to have happen is happening. And then to make maybe some inquiries into why or why not. 

So first step is the question. You’re observing something you want to be able to answer how, what, when, who, which, why, where, how is this happening? Let’s talk about IBS, for instance so the observation would start with I notice I have diarrhea often. That seems not normal. Hmm, let me get curious about this. Let me ask some questions. I wonder what’s causing this. Maybe it’s my diet. Maybe it’s my diet, that’s an interesting hypothesis. Okay. 

So then step number two, we do a little background research. Now, if you’re working with me, I’m doing the research for you. No problem, done and done. But maybe you do some Googling, maybe you read some blogs, maybe you listen to some podcasts and you’re like, yep, you know what? I think it’s FODMAPs. I think I need a low FODMAP diet. I think I’m going to try that. So that’s your hypothesis, right? If I eat a low FODMAP diet then I will stop having so much diarrhea. Cool. Now, you want to have this be very clear for yourself, what you’re trying and why, and then give it enough time to work. This is one of the things that is so frustrating when people come to me or they comment on social media. And they’re like, Oh, I tried that. I tried an anti-inflammatory diet for my arthritis, it didn’t work.

Now, I’m not going to necessarily coach someone on social media, but I will tell you the questions that there are to ask in those moments. One, how long did you try it? Two, what do you think an anti-inflammatory diet is? Three, did the anti-inflammatory diet that you tried, did it have any evidence behind it for your type of arthritis? Like, where did you get this anti-inflammatory diet? And why did you think it would work for you? Four, how compliant were you with that protocol? And then five, maybe what were some other factors that could have contributed? Are you on medications? That makes it sometimes hard to tell if food is working, not that they’re not totally compatible, but sometimes we just have to know that some medications mask symptoms. So try the thing for long enough to give it a chance to work. So for most dietary protocols, that’s going to be at least 30 days, maybe 21. But if you’ve been sick for a long time, 30 days to maybe even six months. Now, if you’re not feeling better after 30 days it’s probably not. You probably need to tweak something, okay, you should call in an expert, phone a friend. You test your hypothesis by doing an experiment, basically. The experiment is to test whether your prediction is accurate. You have to make sure that you are kind of keeping the changes tightly controlled. So for instance, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend trying a new diet while you’re moving, while you’re taking care of an ailing family member. You want to, if you can, have one variable, which is the diet, right? 

Okay, and then step five here on the scientific method, analyze your data, draw a conclusion. So maybe you do the low FODMAPs diet for 60 days, and you’re feeling better and you check in and you’re like, wow, I really think that helped. I’m not having as much diarrhea. I feel like when I do eat some high FODMAPs foods, I can tell that I’m reacting to it. So okay, great, that’s a conclusion. That seems to be working. So then you get to decide if you’re going to continue on that path or if maybe there’s something deeper to be done. For instance, in the case of IBS, and if you respond well to low FODMAPs. You may have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. So you may want to go get a test for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, or SIBO. And possibly get some treatment for that, because that is not something that can be cured with diet. But that might be like a next step after trying the dietary intervention. Is this making sense? Can you imagine if you were just like, oh, man, I tried this, and it didn’t work. I mean, this is what people do with diets though. I hear this all the time. I tried this diet, and it worked for me. But then I don’t have any willpower. So I couldn’t stick with it. So I gained all the weight back or my inflammation came back or whatever the symptom was you were trying to diet away came back.

If we are maybe stepping out of that Judge Judy role and not shaming ourselves, would it maybe be fair to say that if the diet is not sustainable, it didn’t actually work? If you’re having to, and we’re going to talk all about willpower in the next episode, so get ready for that. But if you are having to willpower your way through the diet, and you’re suffering, and you find yourself binging, maybe that’s not you. Maybe that’s not your fault. Maybe it’s just a protocol that didn’t work for you. Maybe it works for other people. I don’t know. You’re unique. You’re a unique organism. 

Alright, so those are my tips for measuring what matters. Again, number one, create long term and short term goals for your health. You want easy wins. Get that dopamine. Number two, create milestones that you can actually meet. Number three, be a scientist, not a judge. 

I would love to hear what you got out of this episode. Hit me up on the socials. And that is all for now. Bye. 

Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Science and Shit with Michelle Casey. If you want to stay in touch head on over to michellecaseynutrition.com/podcast to get in on all goodness. I know you have a lot of things you could be doing with your time and I really appreciate you choosing to spend it with me. If this episode was valuable for you, please subscribe, follow, and share it with your friends and family and/or leave a review as an offering to the algorithm gods. Until next time, be excellent to each other!