You don’t have anything. I was recently having a conversation about monitoring and managing ones diet for the management of wellness, performance and disease. It is a long held observation that an appropriate diet and physical activity level are essential for maintaining one’s health. This is true for Olympic athletes, children, middle aged men and senior citizens.
However that is much easier said than done. For the obsessive compulsive among us, this may be pretty easy. I recall an episode of CSI:, during which a model was weighing everything that went into her body and everything that came out. For those of us less obsessive compulsive, we are confronted with a spreadsheet of infinite possibilities.
I will start with activity level as that is the easiest for me to grasp. I have no problem recording how many miles I ran on a given day. It is a single number and a dedicated activity. Even without a GPS, one could record via time, number of steps, or any other metric that is consistent over time.
Diet is a challenge. I have recorded my caloric consumption in the past and have never been able to go more than a week. I have a food scale at home, tend to eat processed foods, and tend to eat the same foods over and over, but it is still a challenge. Using Fitday.com, I can determine how many carbohydrates, proteins and fats I am consuming. However, this is time consuming. It is also difficult to do when traveling or dining out frequently. I have never tried recording meal times and water consumption, but this would not make things any easier.
There are some other metrics that I have tried and fail to grasp. I have a blood pressure cuff, but rarely record my blood pressure. Usually, I do this when I am cleaning up and see it in a corner. I am not sure how I would manage recording 3-4 times/day. I could not imagine checking blood sugar regularly and administering insulin. I also have a pulse-oximeter at home to measure my resting heart rate. I manage to measure this 30% of mornings. I am pretty good about recording my daily weight and do this about 95% of mornings.
I have gotten much better about taking medication. There was a time when I would hardly ever remember to take my multi-vitamin. Now I take my vitamin, allergy medication and another medication daily and with very rare exception.
Putting it all together is the real art. I have tried graphs and spreadsheets. I try to record hours slept and even how I feel in terms of fatigue and stress. Changing my diet has been a repeated exercise in failure. I eat too many sweets and processed foods, too few proteins and whole grains and too few fruits and vegetables. Small efforts feel like gargantuan tasks. The last radical change I made to my diet was cutting out dairy as I suspected lactose intolerance. I am not sure about lactose intolerance, but the diet change stuck. If I were to become vegetarian, most of my diet would quickly disappear.
I also don’t believe doctors or dieticians or pharmacists are able to put the whole picture together. There is very little cross training. One has to accept that they are ultimately responsible for their health and make every effort to learn their own body. The enthusiasm required to do this precedes any rewards and for some it just may not be worth the trouble.