Tracking for Personal Wellness
While I have always been active and generally healthy, I can honestly say that as a guy in my mid-30s my health was never a top priority. Over the years I have run half marathons, competed in triathlons, completed obstacle course races, and even taken part in some adult football, softball leagues, tennis, skiing, and more. At times my weight has been lower, but this was often in spite of my overall choices which includes baked goods, a job that has me in front of a screen all day, post workout beers and burgers and everything else that gets justified as an active person.
During 2020 I decided to start taking things seriously, knowing that my weight and overall health needed to become a priority. This site covers insights form all the tools, apps, and gadgets tried along the way. I know the things that I should be doing, and decided to start as people suggested by logging all my food.
Without knowing where to start I downloaded a few different apps. The first was Noom, which I used for a bit, but within a few days switched to MyFitnessPal. Scanning barcodes after each meal to mark things down was helpful. MyFitnessPal for weight loss is a great option, but it also works just to get more insight into a diet and creating good habits. There are some issues with MyFitnessPal calorie accuracy, but overall it is a solid source. More impactful was the feeling of guilt that came with late night logging a couple beers, leftover banana bread, or snacks.
Once tracking I knew I needed a MyfitnessPal scale. Being a bit of a tech nerd the Withings Body+ scale that also tracked BMI and calculated body fat percentage, was the top choice. Because there is more than just a scale, I also picked up a blood pressure cuff as well. The connected nature of it meant again that any time I would take a reading it would be logged to my phone and I would have a central dashboard. This all helped
Tools Other Than Scales – Are Noom, Whoop, Go Forward, and Others Covered in an FSA?
Though these things set me back a few dollars I had a fully loaded Flexible Savings Account (FSA) and a bunch of these items are covered. I also discovered that some of the more popular genetic tests, as well as food sensitivity tests were covered in an FSA.
Doctor visits was the other piece to pay attention to. In the past I had a primary care physician that I saw for annual checkups. I could still see all my old vitals from various visits, including my weight and blood pressure readings, as well as various standard blood work. I was able to find a new service that offers a subscription service to medical care. Go Forward, or just Forward, happened to be available in my area.
Knowing the monthly fee was part of my still available FSA, I went ahead and signed up. The first virtual visit was the longest individual interaction I have ever had with a doctor! A tech was sent to my house a few days prior, and during the visit we spent almost two hours going over every measurements from the blood work, discussing the details of my medical history, my diet, my goals, sleep patterns, and even my general mental state (especially poignant given the stressors of the still occurring pandemic).
A few weeks went by and the first 10 pounds fell off easily. My new doctor even reached out via the app, having seen my logged weights since everything was linked, with encouragement and a reminder to be aware of an overly aggressive weight loss schedule. The logging cut out the late night snacks and also encouraged me to get to bed earlier. The lack of late night heavy snacking had the added benefit of making me feel lighter and more rested. This led to asking, “How can I track my sleep?” and using the Amazon Halo and Apple Watch for sleep tracking.
Beyond sleep and weight, I picked up a Lumen device, which is designed to help understand your metabolism, but I also went deeper and found a wellness center that had BMR (basal metabolic rate) tests available. This is important as a BMR is crucial, along with energy burned, to understand how many calories you should be eating to stay at the same weight. Having all this information was a great start that really got me to track things about my health that went well beyond the simple number on a scale, or annual physical told me.
All of these devices provided some additional insight or answered a key question about overall wellness. Things like “How do I know if I am getting good sleep?” and “What types of energy is my body burning in the morning” can lead to habit changes that improve all day feelings. Knowing what my body composition is and answering things like “How much muscle is normal for a person my size” provided more objective targets than just generally making slightly better decisions.
While there are downsides to tracking more than just weight, there are a lot of benefits. This site aims to make it easier to stay active, find tips about activities and places to be active, and share details on the tools and apps that can be used along the way.