The N = 1 Project

Delving deep into self-care by definition is a uniquely personal thing.  What works for one person may or may not work for you.  Statistics are based on populations, not individuals.  Research is often funded by companies that have a vested interested in what they are going to recommend – their product.  Research is often conducted on white mice or middle aged white male volunteers.  So if you happen to be a woman with African American and Irish grandparents, do those research results really pertain to you?   Maybe. Maybe not.  Your friend – same age, similar heritage, similar friends, similar lifestyles – may have lost 30 pounds following a high fat low carb diet regime, but you frustratingly gained weight.  It does not mean something is wrong with you.  It just proves people are all different and respond differently. 

We all know someone who is thin as a rail and eats whatever they want whenever they want, others who just look at food and gain weight (life can be so unfair at times!), and others who have boundless energy on 4 – 5 hours sleep for weeks on end. 

We are all different – and that is a good thing!  How boring life would be if we were all the same.

Enter the N=1 Project.  In research terms, N is the number of subjects in an experiment.  Statistically speaking N is calculated to be a high enough number such that 95 out of 100 times the result would be the same.  This is a 95% confidence interval.  The researchers are confident that they will get the same result 95% of the time.  Of course, the converse is also true, meaning they won’t 5% of the time.  But if N=1, then you are the only subject.  The result either happens (100%) or it doesn’t (0%).  And truly, this is all that matters when it comes to your health and wellness goals. 

If your friend loses weight on a 2000kcal diet and you don’t, well, you don’t and it is disappointing.  This is where the almighty question comes in.  HOW IS THIS WORKING FOR ME?  In coach speak it’s called outcome based decision making.  You try X, collect observations (the data), check results.  Hmmm…. Nothing changed.  Hmmm….. tweak X, collect observations…. Check results…. Oh lost 3 pounds, bravo….

Tweak, observe, check result. Tweak, observe, check result.  Tweak, observe, check result. Tweak, observe, check result.  I used to call this ‘tinkering’ when I was trying to find an appropriate dose of medication for kids with ADHD.  Though frustrating at times, it is the fastest way to the best results. 

The challenge is, most of us do not know what or how to tweak.  Or we tweak too many things at one time so we do not know what actually made the difference one way or another. 

Start your own N=1 project.  Start someplace, but start.  Don’t wait for Monday, or your birthday, or the 1st of the month.  Pay attention to what you are eating and why you are eating it.  Sadly, we rarely eat because we are truly hungry.  We are emotional eaters yet unaware we are emotional eaters.  Believe it or not, it is a fact that if you are not hungry, eating is not the solution.  (Who knew?)

Creating lots of little N=1 experiments is a great way to increase self-awareness and a great way to be continuously learning about ourselves.  N=1 experiments let help us monitor what is working (or not), and keep us moving closer to our goals. 

Tweak and tinker all the way to your goal!

Buff it up, my friends
Dr. Karen

Are you ready to Buff Up Your Brain? Ready to, lose weight and the brain fog?  Ready to polish up your thoughts? Let’s chat.
Email: DrKaren@karenbackwaymd.com

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