You might think that this is weird or strange but I have a fascination with self experimentation…
Take for example, the popular biohacker and inventor of Bulletproof Coffee, Dave Asprey. He found a way to produce a coffee that improved his cognition, lowered his weight and enhance his overall health.
Or another popular self experimenter, Tim Ferris, who not only discovered ways to design a 4 hour work week lifestyle, but he also explored and self tested hacks to upgrade his body composition, health and performance which is documented in his New York Times bestselling book the 4 Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat Loss, Incredible Sex and Becoming Superhuman.
If I really had to break down what self experimentation is, it is this…
Developing self knowledge through self tracking.
I have been doing self experiments for as long as I remember and I’m pretty sure you have too.
Remember the time you checked how many steps you walked that day using a pedometer?
What about the calorie count you did when you were watching your diet?
How about the time you recorded in your workout journal how much weight you pushed and compared the weight, sets and reps to when you first started that program?
Yes, those are self experiments and there can be varying degrees to how lax or comprehensive the variables and evaluation parameters are collected.
I would say that I can get on the obsessive side of the scale but I am not ashamed to admit it.
I do it for one very important reason: I’m dedicated to improving my life in all areas of wellness.
I’m not obsessed or paranoid.
I just constantly and consistently look for ways to better my life in areas where I feel I need improvement and the best way for me to do that is to learn from others, take their success strategies and try it out in my own life.
After a trial period, I determine if the strategy can work for my lifestyle. If it does, I keep going. If there are some challenges, I tweak it. And then if it doesn’t work in my favour at all, I move on.
Makes sense, yes?
5 Other Reasons Self Experiments Matter
I have a lot of knowledge in fitness and health. I gather tonnes and tonnes of books, research, articles and anecdotal information on various topics in my field. You can ask me what I THINK you should do with your eating schedule, exercise program, daily routines and lifestyle but without YOU implementing any new step into your life … my knowledge, experience and recommendations will not get you anywhere.
This is why I completely support the use of self experimentation.
Here are other reasons why self experiments matter:
1. Self experiments acknowledge the power of personal experience.
How many times have you taken account of the recommendations family and friends make when they participated in new change with positive results? This is the power of personal experience and when you apply a more systematic approach with self experimentation, you not only discover what works best for you, you move your world by sharing your challenges alongside best practices with others.
2. Self experiments cure procrastination.
When you decide on making a change and then design ways to test how that change will impact your life, you are taking action now. You eliminate that analysis paralysis that is easy to fall prey to when you get overloaded with information and conflicting stories. When you self experiment, you cure your need to “wait and see” and practice improving on your ability to implement now.
3. Self experiments encourage small habit changes.
Trying to create drastic change in too many areas of our lives overnight is unsustainable. It may work in the short run but it will sabotage our future selves. When we can narrow down specific daily habits and change one thing at a time, we increase the likelihood of knowing what can be altered or eliminated down the road.
4. Self experiments create self care.
When you fall into mindless eating, going through the motions of working out without paying attention, leave work drained, beat and moody, you have become reactive to life circumstances. Self experiments create self care by opening the door to proactive living. Being present to how you react to new changes in life create opportunities for you to be your own best friend and apply self care.
5. Self experiments increase self confidence.
We are bombarded in the media of what is the “perfect body”, the “ideal shape”, the true “path to success”. Everybody and every body started somewhere. Self experiments allow us to be an expert scientist in one important area of research: ourselves. As we learn more about what works and what does not work, we open up a whole new world of possibilities to explore.
The Experimental Lifestyle
I go into greater detail in this article on how to design your own self experiments but to recap here, you must first identify what you are going to test.
With any one of my coaching clients, I encourage a strategic approach to any change in lifestyle. Especially when I hear statements like:
- “I’m not losing weight fast enough, I’m going to try this ______________ (insert proposed fat burning supplement name here). What do you think?”
- “I still don’t like my body in this dress. I’m going to do cardio everyday.”
- “What is up with my cellulite? Why won’t they go away? I heard that this new drink recipe can help get rid of it faster than any body wrap. I’ve ordered a box to try it out myself.”
I get excited when I hear comments like these because it is a perfect opportunity to encourage the use of self experimentation.
Identify a question, do some research, make a prediction and then start your experiment.
However, just like any fitness/nutrition plan, there are certain parameters to be aware of and in place before starting.
Start with a baseline. You have to have a starting point. Take before pictures, body composition stats, and measurements. Identify at what point during your experiment will you check in with these variables. Daily? Weekly? Monthly? Be specific.
Keep the variables you will be testing simple. Testing too many variables can lead to overwhelm. If you are going to do cardio everyday with the goal of looking better in your dress, don’t start adding an extra body pump class session and drastic calorie restrictions to the mix.
You have to be honest with yourself when collecting data. You are testing a hypothesis that you have. You might believe that doing cardio on a daily basis is going to change your body shape and composition, but you have to actively determine if this is true… or false. Don’t be biased. Data is information. Keep a record even if it falsifies your beliefs. Be totally open to being wrong.
Let me know what you plan on experimenting on with yourself. It is amazing and inspirational to me when I hear other self experimenters share their knowledge and experience.
To get started, ask yourself this: What ONE change in your life would make the largest impact on your health and fitness?
In an upcoming post, I’ll talk about how we can get started on making small steps towards that ONE change.