Being in pretty good shape, I figured food-tracking would be a wasted exercise, as I have little motivation for counting every calorie that passes my lips. I still found the process eye-opening. In one day, for example, I had two cartons of chocolate milk, a medium coffee with cream from Dunkin’ Donuts, an apple, a smoked-turkey sandwich, two servings of beef stew and a small piece of banana cake with peanut-butter icing for a total of 1,700 calories. Not bad for an active gal — until one considers my sodium intake for the day was a walloping 4,733 milligrams, more than double the daily recommended intake of sodium. I’ve always known I eat too much salt, but seeing the hard numbers inspired me to cut back on my addiction.
My efforts in tracking my sleep, while nifty, haven’t revealed too many surprises. If I have a restless night, I don’t need a bar chart to tell me. But that’s not the case with everyone. A few years ago, Dean developed a sleep problem, so he began tracking his nocturnal patterns with a wearable device. He discovered that he was waking up several times a night without realizing it and concluded that the noise from garbage trucks making early-morning runs in his commercial neighborhood was to blame.
So what did he do?
“I moved to a quieter neighborhood,” he says.
While my foray into self-tracking hasn’t yielded anything as revelatory as Dean’s sleep experiment, I have become more motivated to go on a long walk or hit the gym after work so I can meet my goal of 10,000 steps a day, a distance I’m unable to conquer through my daily routine. I also found that I wake less often on nights I don’t imbibe, and that if I don’t write for at least 30 minutes a day, I’m a cranky camper. Did I know this about myself before? Sure — but seeing my intuition validated by technology is pretty empowering.
I wonder what Socrates, who quipped, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” would think of all this navel-gazing. Would he choke on his words? Or strap on a FuelBand and go for a run?
KATHLEEN PARRISH is a freelance magazine writer and an instructor of journalism at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa. She has written about adult beauty pageants, silent retreats and opera star Andrea Bocelli for American Way. She is the co-author of the book My Life on the Run.