Losing (and Winning) with Scrum – Epic Two – The Scope of the Problem – 351.4 lbs.

Welcome to Epic Two

Epic One has been completed and can be seen at the links below. The Epic’s target weight loss was 10 pounds, and the loss over three sprints was 10.6 pounds.

Determining the Scope of the Problem

I want to take a few minutes and talk about the scope of the problem. Specifically, determining the actual goal and the amount of work to be done; the size of the backlog for this project.

I’ve lost weight a many times using many different methods. I’ve tried Overeaters’ Anonymous and different medications. I’ve tried different diets, like Weight Watchers, Zone, South Beach, and Atkins. I’ve also tried an exercise-heavy approach. With each method I’ve lost weight and with each of them, at some point, I decided I was “there” and stopped. And the pounds came back on.


2006 – A few years before I started running

The last time I lost weight was from 2008 to 2011. I had no goal, I wanted to lose weight. I ate less and exercised more, like you do. After several months, I transitioned from walking to running because, well, it was faster. I’m a very game-oriented person, and I made a game of it; each week I wanted to go faster and farther.

My life as a distance runner

Eventually, my lack of a goal became a goal – to run marathons. Why? Because that’s what healthy (and crazy) people do. I started running a great deal. I got to the point that every couple of weeks I’d run around Titusville, Florida, a distance of about 13 miles (1/2 marathon) and ran a couple of half-marathon races. When I wasn’t running I was bicycling. I would play golf with my father every weekend, and I’d ride my bike to his house (25 miles away) to play.

I entered my first Marathon in 2010 in Melbourne, Florida and finished. My goal was satisfied, and the part of me that focused on losing weight was gone. The gamer in my took hold. I’d read books by people like 50/50 by Dean Karnazes, and I knew that if I could finish the Melbourne race, I could run the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. that took place in eight months. And hey, the Space Coast Marathon was a month and a half after that, and I ran that distance regularly now, and the next Melbourne one was three months later.


2010 – After the Marine Corps Marathon.

I think you can see where this is going. I finished the Marine Corps in a personal best time. I was tired, and ran the Space Coast Marathon without any training, a bit slower, and started getting blisters on my feet. I was in no way prepared for the Melbourne Beaches, but there was a newspaper article written about my running the marathon and my weight loss, and off I went. Note that the article says I weighed about 270. When I ran the Melbourne Beaches Marathon the first time, I was at my lowest, ~235. I’d already regained 35 pounds.

I was in trouble half-way through the race, with massive blisters forming on my feet, but I kept running, because it was a game, it was my goal, and I was on the record saying that I “don’t like to give up.” I walked the second half of the marathon in agony, but I finished. At a cost.

My feet were bloody, and I eventually lost a good deal of the calluses on my feet. It was months before I could start running and I’d lost interest. But I’d met my goals.

Why Does This Matter?

Glad you asked. I think (and I am NOT a doctor) that the reason that I did the yo-yo of losing and gaining weight was that the goal was only a NUMBER. When I was dieting, I wanted to get to weight X, I reached weight X and then, goal met, I happily went back to the way I was before.

Personally, I’ve come to realize that weight is a horrible goal, if it’s all I look at..

Weight is a trailing indicator of the state of a system; you make changes to the system (diet, exercise) and then wait for your weight to show you the effect. Disagree? Have you ever stuffed yourself on a holiday or cruise and then watched the scale a day or two later to see the effect? I have.

I think we often take weight as a direct representation of the status of our personal systems, but it’s not; it’s just an indicator. An important indicator, but still just an indicator.

One of our Agile Principles is to examine problems from a Systems Perspective. From a Systems Perspective, my problem is not that I weigh too much; that’s just an indicator. My problem isn’t that I get out of breath when I walk too fast; that too is an indicator.

From a Systems Perspective, my problem is that I don’t live a healthy lifestyle. My goal, therefore, should be to correct this.

THE GOAL (da-da-DAH!)

OK, I’ve identified “THE GOAL”; to live a healthy lifestyle. Now, as an Agilist, I need to ask… How am I going to test this; what is the definition of done? At this point and until I learn more, I’m going to limit it to four factors:

  • Goal- As a healthy person, I live a healthy lifestyle.
  • Requirements – definition of healthy to be determined, but possibly…
    • I will present a weight that is medically classed as normal or overweight (I am currently what is delightfully called “morbidly obese.”
    • I get at least 30 minutes of exercise three times per week.
    • I get at least 60 minutes of exercise one time per week (not counted with previous measure).
  • Definition of Done – This goal will be met when:
    • I meet the requirements of the goal,
    • I remain in compliance with the goal for three years.
    • If I deviate from the requirements of the goal, I return to meet the requirements within two weeks. (injury / holiday clause).

That last bit on the definition gives the goal heft; I just can’t get down to a weight and bail, I need to stay there for three years. That said, my weight is still a pivotal measure on hitting my goal.

“Overweight” is defined by the National Institutes of Health to be a BMI of 25 to 29.9. I’m currently at 49.2… Based on the NIH Table, that puts me under 215 pounds.

That puts me only 136.5 pounds away from my definition of done. Only (sigh).

I’m currently averaging 3.53 pounds per week (my Velocity). If I continue to lose at this rate, I’m 42 weeks away, and that’s IF I lose 3.53 per week. At this rate, my target date would be February 4th of next yearfor hitting the weight-based indicator of my definition of done. Projection

Decomposing the Vision, or “February 4th is a Long Way Away,” or “How Do You Eat an Elephant?”

There are a million things wrong with telling myself “February 4th is the date.” Anyone who’s lost weight knows about plateaus, periods where you don’t lose as the body adjusts. There could be some sort of family emergency that puts me off, and don’t forget holidays.

In Agile work, we tend to decompose large units of work into smaller units, and repeat this until the units of work are doable. We then perform these small units of work and, when done, we examine what was done and adjust our plans. It’s like the old joke: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” We take the large piece of work and turn them into bites.

136.5 pounds is an elephant. February 4th is an elephant. That all seems a bit unreal to me. I would certainly not bet money on it. 10 pounds, though… And so I’m breaking this huge target into small Epics of 10 pounds each. I can’t see myself losing 136.5 pounds, but I can see myself losing 10; I just did, and it was EASY!

How long will the 10 pounds take me to lose? I’ve got no idea. I do know that at the current rate of progress, burning (down) 3.53 pounds per week, I can project that I will be 10 more pounds down in three weeks. It might take me four weeks, or five. One measure that is unrelated to the goal is time, and I’m fine with that. It didn’t go on fast, and my goal isn’t complete when the weight is off (remember the 3 years of maintenance).

Finally, I work each Epic in a series of small iterations, or sprints. With small iterations, I have a chance to examine my work each week. I look at the progress of my weight, and then perform a “retrospective” where I ask myself what worked and what didn’t. The review and the results of the retrospective will be posted each week.

Look at the difference this has made in addressing my problem! Instead of taking on the colossal task of losing 136.5 pounds by February 4th, I have decomposed it to losing 10 pounds segments. Instead of dieting or working out for a month or two or four and  watching the scale and sweating out each pound, I have a set of stories for the week and I can adjust them as I need, based on how I feel or how I lose. It’s no longer an elephant; it’s a bunch of little bites. Easy Peasy!

A Recap of Epic One

After the first Epic, my weight loss is 10.6 pounds, or 3.53 pounds per week. This is a fast pace, and there have been no struggles so far. A burndown chart of the past three weeks and the next three weeks shows that I’m a currently on the line based on my first Epic’s velocity (duh).


And so Epic Two is set to begin. Off we go on the next sprints!

  • Date: 5/7/2017
  • Weight: 351.4 lbs. (-10.6 lbs. total)
  • Epic Definition of Done: 341.4 lbs.

User Stories: As someone trying to lose weight as part of a healthy lifestyle transformation

  1. I want to stop consuming calories at 8pm, because my body stores unspent calories overnight as fat.
  2. I want to burn an extra 1000 calories each day, as measured by the Watch’s “Move” measure, to ensure that I am getting exercise and maintaining a minimum level of activity.
  3. I want to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night, because when I don’t my body tries to substitute calories for rest.
  4. I want to stop drinking diet sodas, to avoid any side-effects of such, and to not try to fool my body that it’s getting extra calories.
  5. I do not drink alcohol,  because the calories add no nutritional value to my body.
  6. I will not have second helpings at meals, because this adds significant calories without exploring new tastes.

Sprint Results

Epic Two: In Progress

View Epic One

View Epic Three

View Epic Four

View Epic Five


Categories: Epic Two, Scrum for Weight Loss

5 replies


  1. Losing (and Winning) with Scrum – Epic Three – Dealing With Change – 340.8 lbs. – Agile Forth
  2. Sprint 7 Review – A Not-Good Week – Agile Forth
  3. Losing with Scrum – Epic Four – Coronary Bypass Edition – Agile Forth
  4. Losing with Scrum – Epic Five – Three Months Later – Agile Forth
  5. Losing (and Winning) with Scrum – Epic One, 362 Pounds – Agile Forth

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