Thursday, July 11, 2013

Tracking Progress...You Got an App for That?

Can technology give us too much of a good thing? When it comes to apps for fitness and nutrition, I think we can become obsessive about all of the data, and lose sight of some of the more important things, especially our quality of life. 

A few years ago, I was tracking my eating with the Lose It! app, and my walking/hiking with Runkeeper. My experience may not reflect that of others, but I think it's worth mentioning. I really believe sometimes we let technology control us, instead of controlling the technology to suit us. 

July 2013

For the last year, I have played around with the Lose It! app on my smartphone. With it, I can record all of my eating and my exercise, and yes, my weight.  I tend to obsess when I'm in LOSING mode, and this feeds my obsession. There is a calming effect for me that comes from keeping track of everything. It lets me feel as if I'm in control of something, when perhaps everything else in my life seems to be spiraling out of control. It is pretty effective, and just like almost any diet plan out there, it works when I do.  ;-) The caloric expenditure is determined by my weight and duration of exercise. The geek in me wanted something MORE. Enter: the Runkeeper app.

My favorite things about Runkeeper are that it records my routes, the elevation climbed, minutes per mile, and the option of hearing the "trainer's" voice tell me how fast I have walked/hiked the previous five minutes of the workout. The voice lets me celebrate little victories, or pushes me to work a little harder. It even sends friendly reminders to work out if I haven't done so for a day or two, "You thought today would be a good day to work out." The Lose It app helps me track my food intake, and the Runkeeper app allows me to stay motivated with my workouts.

Lately, I haven't used either one. I found that I was losing sight of the BIG PICTURE by getting bogged down in the details. The proverbial problem of not being able to see the forest for the trees was becoming an issue for me. 

Rather than living my life, enjoying my eating, and immersing myself in this beautiful world during my walks, I was focusing on the numbers:  the calories, the minutes, the miles, the pounds. I am practically glued to my phone anyway with Facebook and Pinterest. Adding my eating and workout apps to my social networking and hobbies was consuming me, electronically speaking.

I realized that when I was walking my little Boston Terrier, I would fret if his pit stops were taking too long. "Hurry UP, Marley!" I would hiss. I was trying to shave my time down to a fifteen minute mile, and we didn't have time for him to water every single piece of foliage in the canyon.

When I was with a walking partner, if I realized I wasn't going to make my goal of hiking less than a 20 minute mile, I would start walking faster and then double-back to where they were, and then take off down the road again, to make up for "lost time." 

When I realized I was allowing my apps to control me, and that I was actually not as much in control as I liked to believe, I decided to give them a rest. Who wants to hike with some psycho more concerned about an electronic monitor than the people and pets who are out for some fun and yes, a little exercise, in the fresh air?

Currently, I am taking a Zen approach to my life. Mindfulness will be a lifelong goal for me, I believe. I am trying to pay attention to how I'm feeling and weighing my options before eating. I'm reading labels more these days, and trying to stay away from heavily processed foods. There is so much produce available this time of year, and I'm trying to take advantage of the fresh fruits and veggies. More salads, more fruit, more juice.  Less Fritos, less ice cream, less soda.

Today, I don't feel frantic about my weight and the numbers that have defined me all of my life.  Do you want to know how comfortable I am about where I've been and where I am? I am going to post my weight and size right here for all to see. "It is what it is." The numbers don't change who I am.  I am slowly coming to terms with that.

Here are the numbers, if you're into that sort of thing, and heaven knows, I have been most of my life. I WAS 224 pounds and a size 18 back in 2000.  By 2003, I was down to 147 and a size 4. People were asking if I were okay. They seemed to question my health when I got down to that size. My face was slightly gaunt and my hip bones were noticeably there.  Have no fear; my body wouldn't allow me to stay there longer than a week, and I slowly regained about 15 healthy pounds and held my own in size 6 -8 clothes for several years. After getting remarried, my weight careened to a scary 195. I lived in fear of living in that cumbersome body with the aches and pains again.  

It took some time, but this summer, I'm down to 171, and a size 8. Can you believe I told you that?  Yeah, I can own it and admit it. When those size 8s start feeling good, I will be thrilled. I'm still working on my muffin top and some excess baggage, physically and emotionally. It's going to take some more walking and hiking, and some better food choices for that to happen. By paying attention to what my body NEEDS, and taking care of myself, emotionally and physically, I know I will be able to get to a healthy place.  Mindfulness is the goal for me to embrace.

My writing is going to be my "app of choice" for now. I need to be in touch with my feelings and my thoughts. I refuse to obsess about crunching the numbers for now. Life is always in a state of flux, and for now, I'm going to go with the flow.  

If this approach sounds all New Age-y, maybe it is.  I need to take care of me, and I am realizing I am so much more than a number on the scale or a size on the tag of a pair of jeans. I am the sum of my experiences, wrapped in the love and support of friends and family who seem to love me in spite of my perceived imperfections. I will be forever grateful to have people in my life who see past the exterior of my skin, and value the soul who resides within this shell. Love and acceptance of self is something that has to come from within me; there's just simply not an app for that. And I'm okay with that.

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