5 Confessions of a Trackaholic
On Sunday, February 22, at precisely 16:44, my Fitbit Flex stopped syncing with my iPhone. I just finished 20 minutes on my elliptical trainer and I was feverishly waiting for my workout to appear…I realized I was shackled and gripped by the fear of losing my metrics. These stats made me healthy and happy so I didn’t want to let go…but should I?
I was a pack-a-day smoker until one Wednesday, after recovering from yet another flu, I decided to quit. I wanted to see how long I could go without smoking a cigarette. Since my brain was a bit preoccupied suppressing nicotine urges I decided to ‘outsourced’ keeping track of time to a robot.
Smoke Free keeps track of several metrics, but the most important one for me was: Time. I started with seconds, then minutes which turned into hours, days and weeks. With each new record, my fear grew that these stats would return to zero. That fear kept me going.
Most champions agree: retaining a crown is very different than winning it the first time.
What I learned: my most powerful motivator was not the excitement of achieving a new record but rather the fear of losing my stats.
Meanwhile, another war was raging in my body: Fat. I ballooned to a panda-like 84 kilos. According to every app I used to calculate this I was obese. Then I met this wonderful person who told me a little secret: You can eat whatever you desired and still lose weight…Wow! It’s incredible! I was super excited I found salvation and consciously downplayed what came after…by counting Calories.
I set out to find the perfect robot to help with this minor calorie caveat. Myfitnesspal was the best because it did 3 things right:
- Have a rich database including some obscure Suriname dishes
- Was supported by a wide of range apps and services i.e. Argus, Runtastic’s Six Pack and Push Ups;
- Most importantly: they did not hold my data hostage by playing nice with others.
Now everyone warned me it was a bad idea to quit smoking and diet at the same time but in hindsight, it was brilliant. I was literally consumed by thoughts of food for months while battling a nicotine addiction. Under duress, my brain couldn't multi-thread and was forced to pick a craving. Each time it picked food over cigarettes.
What I learned: Hunger trumps nicotine hands down.
I hit my goal of 75 kilo in 6 months -losing over 7 kilos in the process by trying to stick to 1470 calories-a-day.
While April- June were pretty tough, I caught a wave in July and headed for a race to the bottom.
Here’s when Fitbit entered my live and gave me a much-needed boost.
I couldn’t stay under 1470 unless I burned more calories. However, I couldn’t precisely track how much I burned with just my iPhone motion tracking. I simply didn't have it on me all the time.
With Fitbit Flex, I was able to literally track myself 24–7. Without a heart rate monitor, it's not as accurate but at least it gave me some guidance on burn rate.
Ultimately, it wasn't the fact that I kept count which helped me achieve these changes but the fact that I had to transform my life to do it. Not only with my nutritional choices, but my approach to life changed. I learned to get comfortable with continuous disruptions of my routines.
What I learned: Hacking Habits should be your habit as well. Dare to try something different every now and then.
After conquering my demons (or perhaps silencing them), I turned my focus on perhaps the darkest frontier in tracking: Sleep.
Raising babies reminded me how vital a good night's sleep is. Better yet, sleep deprivation is equal to waterboarding in terms of effective torture techniques.
I set out to find a method to properly measure my body’s battery levels. I found Sleepdebt to be a simple and straightforward way to accomplish this.
Sleepdebt uses the Fitbit API to pull in your numbers and calculate your charge in terms of time.
However, adding this minor metric to my arsenal of stats finally made me come undone. It meant wearing my Fitbit Flex to bed…shackled in my sleep.
I never wore a watch. My dear old Dad, God rest his soul, always insisted I wear one but I may never yield. Yet I wore this wristband while asleep so I would not be a grumpy jerk while awake. After 131 days of sleeping with Flex, on February 22, I was finally set free.
What I learned: I’m much happier being Untethered
In writing this article, I made some discoveries:
- Counting calories actually taught me about nutrition i.e. what to eat and how much;
- My data is dispersed and siloed across the web, but that’s a different agony;
- Freedom encourages -not inhibits- my discipline.
In my pursuit of self-improvement, I discovered what metrics really matter to me and how I can measure it.
Build, Measure, Learn is not only the cornerstone of any lean startup but eventually for any lean life. We are Born and then we’ll Measure and Learn to stay Lean.