You’ve probably heard about the “Quantified Self” concept. In a nutshell you track everything that’s measurable about you and you try to use it to your advantage.
I’ve started quantifying myself like this a couple of years ago… Here’s a quick recap of what I’ve tried so far and quick thoughts and what I deem useful or not in hindsight.
1. Weight : I started with a Withings scale which automatically records my weight and body fat/lean mass every day. Just looking at the graph gives me awareness of my slacking or of my progress towards my goals and actually makes it easier to stick to my self imposed nutrition plan.
2. Sleep : The second area I tackled was sleep tracking with a device called Zeo which straps onto your forehead and records your brainwaves during the night. The company went bankrupt and the device is actually bothersome to strap on every night. But during the time I used it it gave me some great insights on my sleep patterns and definitely convinced me I should stick to my 9 hours of sleep per night and not try to shave off a cycle in a hopeless chase for more productive time :p
I also tried some other devices like the Lark and Fitbit one which attach to your wrist and record your movements. Those are less sensitive than the Zeo and cannot detect REM sleep. They are a good enough approximation though in the long run, if you just want to track how long you sleep. Some fo these devices will also try to wake you at an optimal time depending on your sleep cycles, but I’ve never been convinced of that.
Recently I tried the Withings Aura which is supposed to be as smart as a Zeo (detecting REM sleep) just by listening to your heart and breathing from under your mattress. Cool idea. Terrible implementation. The software was buggy as hell and the actual sensor was creating a hard spot through my mattress (Yes I am sensitive like that!) especially as it’s too small to create a symmetrical feeling through your mattress.
3. Activity : I started tracking my steps and flights of stairs climbed with a fit it one that I kept in my pocket. Simple and easy. However the thing was so small I eventually lost it. I also ran it twice through the washing machine and it actually survived! (just needed to recharge)
Today’s iPhones can track steps and stairs just as well but I don’t keep my phone on me all the time, especially all the time I go up and down the stairs in my own house (office upstairs, kitchen downstairs… you know the drill ;)
A smart watch might be an ideal solution here but I was waiting to see an actual Apple Watch before deciding (I might actually like the Withings Activité better).
**4. Nutrition / Calories ** : I believe calories counting is pure BS. However tracking what kinds of foods makes sense to detect what makes you feel snoozy or energized, what you digest well and what you don’t, etc. If caffeine affects your sleep or not… The fitbit app offered some tracking so I tried it but it was so cumbersome and time consuming I finally gave up on it. You also need your phone with you at the dining table to log what you eat while you eat it… didn’t work out.
Again, a well designed smart watch app might allow painless logging of some foods… maybe even just a few key things like: gluten or caffeine consumption. That might change things…
5. What I’d love to track : Blood Glucose levels! Without a doubt! The problem is that tracking blood glucose is still pretty invasive. You need to draw a drop of blood. However there is a lot of research on that topic for alternative ways to measure blood glucose because it’s such a widespread need for all diabetics in the world. A non invasive way of tracking blood sugar levels would definitely be a breakthrough in making us aware of how well or how poorly we eat, almost in real time.
6: Workout: TRX : A TRX is basically just a set of straps you use to exercise using your own body weight as resistance. How convenient it would be to have a little device as part if the strap to measure how often in a day you actually hang on it! (which would effectively count your number of reps without requiring you to think about it).