While I’ve mostly been absent from writing to the blog, and my fitness routine has only been slightly less absent than that, I have been able to maintain one thing completely dialed in over all this time: fitness tracking (as usual). With all of that data together I decided to create my first annual review post. I’d say compared to the average American I had a very normal year. Unfortunately I don’t want to have the fitness level and longevity of the average American, so while I’m not going to say things were bad they weren’t where I want them to be either.
For 2017 I started keeping track of five daily goals for myself. The idea behind that being that it would keep me more accountable to hitting five structured goals. These goals align with the Blue Zones lifestyle components to some extent. The goals are:
- Goal 1: Dial in the diet to be ~80/20 rule plant based whole foods diet. Think “Eat-to-Live” mainstream diet method.
- Goal 2: Get 7-8 hours of sleep a night
- Goal 3: Physical activity levels such that either get 10K or more steps in a day or burn more than 2800 calories. This translates into either moving more or working out or both.
- Goal 4: Daily calisthenics or yoga in order to increase agility, muscle balance, and strength.
- Goal 5: Meditation or yoga in order to increase mental acuity and relaxation
I had some high points of actually tracking this but for the most part the year was another bust with respect to these goals, as you can see by the graph.
What we have is the grade for each of the categories for each of the 4-week periods that make up a whole year (a total of 13). After my personal come to Jesus moment in June I actually made good progress dialing things in for part of the 7th, all of the 8th, and part of the 9th phases. For the most part however things were a hot mess with respect to these goals. Yes, there were life events that drove a bunch of these things but a lot of that is just excuses. If I can find time to take in a few episodes of Veep I can find time to do 15 minutes of meditation, 5 minutes of calisthenics, and getting a little more activity in a day. I chose not to. I am pretty consistent with sleep, but in the particularly busy phases even that started slipping. If we look at it from the perspective of the daily grades in aggregate you see similar trends:
I obviously have some high points in February, June, July, and August, and some spots elsewhere, but for the most part this graph is looking not so hot. In terms of raw yearly average numbers my goal accountability grades are:
- Goal 1 (Diet): 2.94 (B-)
- Goal 2 (Sleep): 3.58 (B+)
- Goal 3 (Activity):2.81 (B-)
- Goal 4 (Training): 1.27 (D)
- Goal 5 (Meditation): 1.52 (D+)
Total GPA: 2.42 (C+)
Obviously the lack of training and meditating is dragging down the GPA and the sleep is pulling it up, but even in a best case scenario this is not the grade for having these goals dialed in. I never liked the idea of being a C student (and I wasn’t) and I certainly don’t like getting a C+ grade on my accountability for the year either.
Breaking down the diet more closely we can see what the trends over the year looked like which built up to that B- grade. As with everything else I definitely had some dialed in segments. I also had long stretches where my diet really went to pot, and that’s not counting vacations or holidays where I allow myself to have feast moments. These annual aggregate values throw all of that into a giant pile and average them. Even if I just had holidays and vacations pushing values around you’d see a “less than ideal” value but it would be closer to the ideal 80/20 whole foods plants based diet I was shooting for. In some ways then I guess it could look worse:
Lets delve into these numbers a bit. First the Good:
- I’m getting all of my macro/micro nutrients (except Potassium) in my diet. That includes Calcium, which is a value I’m concerned about regularly missing the mark on for certain phases. Even if I take supplements out (not shown graphically) I am still above 100% on everything except Potassium and Vitamin D.
- Cholesterol levels are just slightly above the RDA of 200 mg a day
- I’m just under the recommended RDA of fiber.
- Alcohol consumption is averaging about two drinks a day. Since I don’t confine my drinking just to the weekends and there are several holidays and vacations with far more than two drinks a day I was pleased to see where this level hit the recommended level of two drinks a day or less.
Now the bad:
- I am averaging about 2500 calories a day of eating but averaging less than 2400 calories a day of burn. It is therefore no wonder that my body composition got fatter and my weight went up this last year.
- The caffeine level is greater than 150 mg a day, which is the addiction threshold for caffeine. This includes a 1.5 month stretch of having no caffeine at all, so this is actually a bit higher for most of the year.
- The cholesterol level I’m targeting is not the RDA but half of that value, 100 mg. I’m therefore drastically missing the mark for my preferred healthy diet lifestyle. This includes a couple months of actually having my diet dialed in too so for most of the year it was actually much further north of the RDA than this leads on.
- The fiber levels being less than the RDA is completely off for my preferred healthy diet lifestyle. When I’m eating like that I’m easily getting on the order of twice that much fiber.
- The sodium levels are more than twice the RDA level. When I look at the composition it’s pretty crazy where most of it is coming from. The breakdown of the top contributors are: Chipotle Burrito Bowls (40%), Sushi (18%), Pretzels (13%), French Bread (11%), Pizza (8%), Protein Bars (5%), Coke Zero (5%). While some of these I should be cutting mostly out (Pizza, Pretzels, and Coke Zero), that’d cut it down by only 20% or so. I could probably look at cutting out the biggest contributor, Chipotle, but it is the most convenient lunch item that actually hits a nutritarian profile except for the obvious excess sodium.
- I’m only getting 80% of the level of Potassium that I should be getting.
- If we look at the nutrient balances none of them are in the green zones. The calcium/magnesium ratios are the closest we get.
- Not shown graphically, but over 20% of my diet is essentially junk food: pizza, bread, tortilla chips, alcoholic beverages, etc. Yes I’m supposed to be allowing 20% “non-nutritarian” diet foods, but that includes things like cheese, meats, etc. which means I’m probably eating twice as much out of healthy diet protocol as I should be.
With an obvious trend of missing my goal accountability numbers and being in a net-positive calorie balance it isn’t going to be a surprise that my body composition tended towards being higher in fat and in weight. Graphically this looks like the following (with net calories graphed along side):
If you look at it from just the first to last day we are looking at a 6.5 pound weight gain with about an increase in percent body fat by three percentage points. That means that I picked up about 9 pounds of fat and lost about 2.5 pounds of muscle over the year. However if you look at the trends throughout the year you can clearly see how the body composition changed during periods where the diet got dialed in. These are the negative net calorie periods, sometimes even just a few hundred calories a day net negative. This wasn’t just reducing calories but also having really dialed in the diet and exercise too. If not for those periods I could easily be north of 210 pounds instead of “just” 204 pounds. The good news about that is how radically things can change once I dial it in (which begs the question why am I not doing that?!?!).
These body fat and weight changes obviously also caused growth in all my other body measurements as well. It fluctuated throughout the year but I picked up a 1.5 inches on my chest measurement, half inch on my mid-section measurement, three quarters of an inch on my waist measurement, and 1.5 inches on my hip measurement. Again, none of this is surprising but it’s worth pointing out.
Looking Forward to 2018
So 2017 wasn’t the most dialed in year I’ve ever had. It was honestly quite average, again by American standards. Yet we see where that trend ends, right? “Just” picking up a few pounds a year moving forward will lead me to an equilibrium weight somewhere in the 220-230 pound range, and probably a good helping of hypertension, pre-diabetes, and coronary artery disease to go along with it. Those lead to other chronic conditions which lead to reduced longevity and exponentially growing health problems later in life. Just like this point last year I have all the instrumentation in place to measure these things. Just like last year I obviously don’t have a problem actually taking my measurements in these areas. Where I’m falling down is in the execution of using these metrics as a mechanism for keeping things dialed in.
I’ve wondered if doing daily blogging on health and fitness things will help or hurt my cause in this regard. It could help me with respect to having to do mea culpas if I don’t hit my goals each day or week. It could also help me with respect to keeping me in a fitness/longevity focused mindset. Unfortunately blogging is really just sitting in front of a computer and researching things on the internet. If there is anything I don’t need more of its an excuse for sitting in front of a computer even more. I obviously could dial in things for a couple of months, but I did allow life and the impulse to say “screw it” to stop me from hitting my goals each day.
Just like last year I’m not setting an resolutions in this regard. I want to keep the status quo with respect to my tracking but I want to up my ante with respect to holding myself accountable each day. I firmly believe that looking at things from a daily or weekly perspective is better than some giant year long goal concept. If I had cleaved to the year long view then when I stumbled in early January I would have had every rationalization why I should wait to try again in the next year rather than doing so immediately. So how am I going to get things more dialed in in 2018?
The big things that are driving my inability to do so are perceived lack of time and perceived lack of energy. Some of these were legitimate things for brief periods of time in my schedule, however that doesn’t explain 80% of the year being in a state of poor performance. My biggest drags on time and energy are working too much and wasting too much time on the internet. That’s the bottom line. Work I have some control over but not infinite control. There will be times when I need to kick it into high gear and just work until things get done. However I do have control, to some extent, of the frequencies of those events happening and I have to work to get that in check. By far the biggest waste of time and energy is the internet though. That’s what I really need to concentrate on cutting substantially out of my life. I could easily free up one to two hours a day, and a lot of emotional energy, by time boxing my social media and internet news habits. With that freed up time I should be able to easily make time for the rather small amount of time I need to hit my meditation, exercise, and food preparation time to hit my goals. That will also allow me to rely less on eating out which will also drive my diet goals as well. Then it is just a question of actually getting off my butt and doing it rather than allowing my brain to rationalize why I’m too tired (but not really) to do some calisthenics, or I’m too stressed so need to (but not really) eat some junk food.
Will 2018 look more like 2017 or more like 2012, the last year I had things really dialed in for the long haul? I have no idea. With these relatively small adjustments I believe I will be able to hit my goals a lot more solidly than I did in 2017. I believe by doing that my body composition and overall health will improve as well and it will show in my body measurements as well. I can’ t say what if any stumbling blocks will come up, whether self generated or not, but if my past performance is any indication at least I’ll have tons of data to document the process as it unfolds.