March 19, 2012

A large part of being healthy is being aware. Aware of how much you eat, what you eat, your activity level, your energy, your weight, your blood pressure, and lots more. It’s an awareness about how what you do affects how your body responds. People with health issues, I think, tend to be very aware of this kind of thing – from avoiding allergens to monitoring diabetes to preventing asthma attacks.

But mostly healthy people don’t pay that much attention because they don’t need to. This is why when you diet, everyone suggest you write down everything you eat. You suddenly become aware of all that unconscious snacking and you realize exactly how food = how many calories. But it doesn’t have to just be food. It can be applied to exercise, water intake, weight, and any number of lab results. Having this awareness – even when you’re healthy – can provide a good baseline of what all your numbers should be looking like.

This is one reason I’m a big advocate for getting a physical or checking in with a doctor annually. If you have health insurance, this is probably covered and you might as well get it done. Every time I donate blood they tell me my blood pressure and later online, I can check my cholesterol too.

Of course, those kinds of numbers aren’t going to change that often. And tracking anything is just a pain. Which is why there seems to be a sudden increase in technology to help track health. I use just two in my every day life.

WiiFit – I did actually play for a while. Then I couldn’t beat the scores in the balance games and it got boring. But I still use it every day to weigh myself and have it graph over time. I think this is the single most important part of WiiFit. The graph can easily show that you’re gaining weight over the holidays. Or that short stint when I was running – I actually did lose weight.

Fitbit – I’ve written about before. I really do love it. It easily quantifies my activity level and I can log in online to see pretty graphs. I can also track how well I sleep. Now they’ve introduced a new product, Aria – a scale that will also send information to the same page where my steps go. It’d be like a WiiFit but integrated with my Fitbit. It also measures body fat percentage.

There are a few other technologies like FitBit out there. Jawbone and NikePlus Fuelband both come to mind. But I haven’t tried either of them. Jawbone is Apple specific, so not for me. And the Fuelband seems awesome if it didn’t convert to some weird unit of measurement – NikeFuel.

I’m currently trying hard to keep track of how much water I drink every day. I have a tendency to get dehydrated and I’m very interested in whether drinking more water will make me feel better than normal.

This is my second post in my health series. It probably mostly stems from me being a data junkie and tracking health isn’t something most people are going to do. It always tends to have a “dieting” feel to me – even this post sounds that way when I  reread it. But it’s not so much counting calories and writing everything in a journal. It’s just about realizing that you didn’t get any vegetables today or you haven’t had any strenuous activity all week. And, at least for me, tracking pieces makes sure that I know what’s going on.


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