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How I Solved My Health Issues on My Own — and How Levels Would Have Made the Experience So Much Easier

Written by Hao Li, Software Developer at Levels

Like many people who have dealt with weight issues and high blood pressure for most of their lives, I’ve had doctors suggest a lot of different solutions — none of which get to the root cause of the matter.

In 2016, when a doctor suggested blood pressure pills and I really didn’t like the effects they had on me, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I knew that excess weight can contribute to high blood pressure because it causes fat to build up around your organs. So I decided to tackle the root problem and try to do something about my weight.

Around the same time, the keto diet was trending, and the typical outcomes seemed to align with my goals. As I was learning about keto, I also became intrigued with how intermittent fasting might help me. Armed with just the internet and a few different apps to track things, I managed to research best practices and start implementing this new diet in my life. And it worked: The blood pressure issue was almost entirely gone even before it really showed in my weight, and within just a few months I had shed plenty of pounds, too. Plus, I felt great — my mental health and energy improved because of the lack of glucose spikes.

This experience convinced me that improving metabolic health should be something that’s available to everyone — but I didn’t really know what that meant in practice. While my DIY approach worked for me, it also wasn’t the easiest diet to manage on your own or teach others.

You can probably see where I’m going with this: Levels is the answer to bringing this type of metabolic health understanding and improvement to the masses. Ironically, I didn’t even discover Levels as a user — I learned about the company when I was looking for a new, remote-friendly job. But as soon as I was hired and started using the app and CGM in my own life, I wished I’d had it years earlier when starting my weight loss journey.

Doing keto got me into the best shape of my life, and I clearly didn’t need Levels to make it happen — but it sure would have made the whole experience easier and more tailored to my personal needs. Here are just a few of the ways.

More Immediate Feedback Helps Me Tailor My Approach to My Body

When trying this new diet without any technological support, I had to do a lot of guessing games. I made assumptions about what would work for me based on what worked for other people but had no real way to verify the impact those choices had on my health. Weight loss and blood pressure change were really the only data I could look at to see if this was working, but they were delayed indicators.

Having a CGM to watch my glucose changes in real-time changed that tremendously. Suddenly, instead of doing strict keto, I could experiment with different foods to understand what I truly needed to cut out, and what non-keto foods might actually work for me.

For instance, I had always been curious whether whole foods that aren’t technically keto would actually affect me poorly. I started testing out some root vegetables using my CGM and learned that sweet potatoes don’t really make me spike, so now I incorporate them occasionally. I also, surprisingly, learned that fried chicken doesn’t give me a spike. While I know it’s still not strictly healthy, it’s nice to know what option is best for my body when I want to eat something fun.

More than adding some new variety to my diet, having instant information gives me power. I can decide what to eat or not based on actual data instead of blind guesses. And, I can feel more motivated to avoid the things that aren’t good for me because I know it’s working. I’m still avoiding most starch and sugar, but Levels verifies that it’s helping me, which makes it easier to keep up than waiting for weeks or months to see weight or blood pressure changes.

Better Logging Management Makes It Easier to Understand Nuanced Connections

When I was managing my new diet on my own, I used four different apps to track everything: one to track my food, one to track my fasting, one to track my fitness, and then the notes app to keep logs on anything that didn’t fit into those three. Obviously, it was a lot to remember.

The switch to the Levels app improved that experience in so many ways. First of all, logging in the Levels app is just easier than in any of the other apps I used. It’s allowed me to keep track of meals and exercise in one place, and even syncs to my Apple watch to automate some of that logging experience. The Levels app also notifies you if it notices a blood sugar spike but you didn’t log anything, which has helped keep me more accountable for tracking everything going on in my day.

But it’s also helped me understand the nuanced connections between all the different elements of my health in a way I could have never figured out on my own. So much goes into how different foods affect your metabolic health at any given moment: your sleep, exercise, stress, the timing and composition of the meal, etc. One food eaten before sitting down at my desk for the day can have a very different effect than the same food eaten right before I take my dogs on a walk, something I never would have known before tying everything directly to my CGM data. The Levels app has really helped me start to see these connections — and we’re working on a lot more behind the scenes to help bring more personalized insights to users based on this data.

A Dedicated Learning Experience Gives Me Easy Access to Advice I Can Trust

Researching the ins and outs of a new diet on my own was challenging. I spent so much time combing through forums and research journals alike, watching lectures on YouTube and exploring podcasts, and generally looking for guidance about how to make the best lifestyle choices for my health. Not only did I have to find the information I needed, but I also had to decide what to trust among lots of online opinions and conflicting ideas.

When I joined Levels, I was immediately impressed by their dedication to including well-researched content as part of the experience. Not only does the blog seek out trustworthy experts and distill complicated research for me, but they dig up really fascinating insights that I wouldn’t have even known to look for myself. Having it when I started my health journey would have saved me so much time that I spent gathering all that information myself.

I’m not saying the Levels app is a perfect solution that would have solved all the challenges of adopting a new lifestyle and diet plan. For instance, I still have to use a separate app to track my fasting, and we could collect more nuanced food data to better understand the makeup of each individual meal. But that’s why I’m excited to be a developer at Levels — I get to help make improvements like that happen so more people can have the kind of transformational metabolic health journey like I did.

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