By Linda Mauel
Do you love food? New York has some of the best in the world. I’m a foodie! I admit it! I love the look, taste, smell and textures of it all. And we are entering the time of year that this foodie both loves and hates, looks forward to and dreads – all at the same time. You see, I am, to put it kindly, overweight. So, instead of waiting until the new year and my New Year’s resolution, which has been long ago titled “here we go again,”, I decided to get ahead of it all this year. I joined a weight reduction program the beginning of November. (Yes, I had to get Halloween out of the way first.)
So, I am sitting at the hair dresser’s after joining the program and am trying to figure out how to make it work this time. Don’t get me wrong, I have been very successful many other times…until I wasn’t. Looking in the mirror, I decided that I am just too old to stay on this roller coaster and it is time to, borrowing a popular phrase, just do it. Having time on my hands while in the chair, I decided it was high time to figure out what contributed to my past successes and then what changed, resulting in long term failure.
Let’s see. Each time I began by setting some goals (lose weight, get fit, learn to like the new life style), objectives (follow the program, lose X pounds, do Y minutes of activity) and criteria (measure change in pounds per week, change in inches per month, changes in bloodwork per six months), then I learned how to proceed (attend meetings, read material, plan meals and set activities), how and what to measure (what I ate, how it counted towards my daily allotment, minutes activity conducted) and how to keep track of it all (record what I measured).
With all my years in Quality Assurance, I should have known. I had prepared and followed a Quality Assurance Project Plan (aka a QAPP)! And I was doing really good! Then I became cocky and slowly stopped planning, measuring, learning, and tracking. I “remembered” or guesstimated, decided I did not need to go to the meetings or follow the criteria I originally set. Or in other words, I stopped following the QAPP! That’s when it fell apart!
Quality Assurance (QA) and its tools, such as the QAPP, is to many people what this time of year is for this foodie – it is loved and hated, looked forward to and dreaded. Preparing and using a QAPP takes a little extra time but, as shown above, sticking with it will help you to succeed by encouraging you to do what you say you’ll do. And as discussed above, if it moves (like me) – train it, if it doesn’t move (like my food scale) – calibrate it, and no matter what (like my food and activity choices) – document it. And I can vouch firsthand that if you (and I) stick with the QAPP, your next project, like my weight loss adventure, will be a success!
Have a successful World Quality Month, Happy Holiday Season, and Healthy New Year!
About the Author: Linda Mauel serves as the region’s Science Integrity & Quality Assurance Manager. She works in the Division of Environmental Science and Assessment out of EPA’s Edison Environmental Center. Linda holds a BS in Chemical Engineering and a BA in Chemistry from Rutgers University. She worked in the private sector for 11 years then began her 25+ year career with EPA, 23+ in the quality assurance program.