Transforming Fitness Goals: From Lag to Lead Metrics

Have you ever felt like no matter what you do, the scale just won’t budge? This might be because you're focusing on the wrong type of metric.

I've previously written about the differences between lead and lag metrics and why it's important to differentiate between them when setting goals. This morning, as I was getting home from a walk, I was reminded of this in the context of some changes I've been making in my life recently.

For those of you who don't know me in person, I'm not thin. I've always been on the heavier side, and my weight has only gotten worse since 2020. I used to stay around 250 lbs easily, but by 2021, I was 280, and by 2024, I was 300. I'm not a spring chicken, having turned 42 in August, and the weight is taking a toll on my body and health.

Previous weight loss attempts have worked in the short term but were ultimately not sustainable. I was unwilling to give up but needed to find a solution.

What does this have to do with lead and lag metrics? I realized that weight loss is a lag indicator. I don't have control over how quickly or how much weight I lose. Instead, I have more control over whether I go for walks during the day or when and what I eat. These are the lead metrics.

Recording my weight and other measurements is still useful as long as I remember that they are lag metrics. They can inform me if my lead metrics are actually leading me toward the final goals. So here are my current lead and lag metrics.

Lead Metrics

  • 40 minutes of exercise daily (walking)
  • 6000 steps daily
  • Only eat from 11 am to 7 pm

Lag Metrics

  • Weight
  • Body fat %
  • Sum of measurements (neck, chest, waist, etc.)

Now, I can track if I'm doing the right things every day, and once a week, I track my lag metrics to see if I'm headed in the right direction. For instance, over the last week, I only lost 0.1 lbs, but my measurement sum dropped a couple of inches, so I'm headed in the right direction.