Annual Review 2018: Not Good But Not So Bad Either

While I’ve been writing a ton recently about my software development progress it was the topic of quantified self, longevity, and personal fitness experimentation that started this whole blog. As this year rounds out I once again looked at the state of my fitness over that time. Just as with last year while I have only been at most intermittently focused on what I would call a healthful lifestyle I have continued to be meticulous with measuring my daily food intake, how well I adhered to my five goals, and ancillary observations from there. Let’s see how 2018 was in an absolute and a relative to 2017 view.

I’ll start off by saying that just like in 2017 I was beating myself up for not making more progress against my objectives. At the same time when I zoom out and look at the big picture I actually did make progress compared to 2017 and I reverse some trends that I wasn’t happy with in that year. For a look at my 2017 Annual Review click here. I ended that post by saying:

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.

It turns out that 2018 was more like somewher between 2012 and 2017 but much closer to 2017. However this was precient because the small tweaks did lead to some pretty large positive improvements.

Goal Accountability

For 2018 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. These are the exact same five goals that I started tracking in 2017. This year therefore I can compare the previous year’s progress to this year’s. 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.

Per Phase Goal Grades
Figure 1: Accountability Grades Per 4-week Phase


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).  Unlike in 2017 where I had a “come to Jesus” moment and was able to be good for a good eight week stretch I never quite got there. I had a nearly-A average in Phase #8 in 2017. I never got anywhere near there. However The lows were almost never quite as low either.

Daily Grades
Figure 2: Daily Goal Aggregated Grades


Again I never had near-4.0 levels like I did for the summer of 2017 but my troughs weren’t as low either. I obviously could have done much better but I didn’t do that that bad. I probably am your pretty average American on these things but as I wrote last year I want to excel beyond that. When you look at my aggregated grades for the entire year per category you get the following:

2018 2017
Goal 1 (Diet) 3.05 (B) 2.94 (B-)
Goal 2 (Sleep) 3.60 (B+) 3.58 (B+)
Goal 3 (Activity) 2.98 (B-) 2.81 (B-)
Goal 4 (Training) 1.63 (D+) 1.27 (D)
Goal 5 (Meditation) 1.79 (C-) 1.52 (D+)
Total GPA 2.61 (C+) 2.42 (C+)

Just like last year the real drags are coming from training and meditation deficiencies with the activity level being a distant third on that. As the year unfolded I was disappointed in my inability to get my stuff dialed in but in the end it turns out I actually improved each of my grades, in some cases sufficiently to bump up a fractional letter grade even. I’d like to cheer more on that but I know that just like last year it was strictly a matter of choosing not do the right thing even though it may have a grand total of 20 minutes of impact on any given day. It’s not that obvservation has no changes on behavior but it obviously doesn’t move the needle as much in my case when it’s persistent tracking for essentially ever. Let’s see if 2019 can get a bit more dialed in!

Nutrition

Looking at the nutrition data again what at first I thought was going to be a catastrophy again turned out to be a lot better than in 2017 even if I missed the mark. My grade did bump up a bit because I was able to adhere to it a bit better but we are still only talking about a 0.1 point bump up. I guess that a lone is a good consistency indicator. If my grades were wildly different but the actual nutritional data wasn’t, or worse different in the wrong direction, then I’d obviously have something off in my tracking. It turns out everything is aligning correctly!

Nutrition
Figure 2: Daily Goal Aggregated Grades


Lets delve into these numbers a bit. First the Good:

  • I’m getting all of my macro/micro nutrients (except Calcium and Potassium) in my diet.  Last year I actually did a bit better since I was just over the line on Calcium. However over all even without supplements my micro nutrients are pretty dialed in.
  • Cholesterol levels are just slightly under the RDA of 200 mg a day. That’s better than 2017 where it was just slightly over.
  • I’m right at the RDA for fiber. Last year I was just under.
  • Alcohol consumption is averaging about two drinks a day.  However it was a little higher than last year.
  • I averade about 2400 calories consumed and burned about 2555 calories each day. Not only is that a net negative and therefore weight loss (which I did have) but I ate less and burned more calories than last year. That’s excellent news

Now the bad:

  • While the absolute calories number isn’t bad, I should be getting more exercise and thus burning more calories. While the overall level of calories consumed isn’t horrible a more cleaned up diet would be ideal.
  • The caffeine level is greater than 150 mg a day, and 30 grams more per day in 2018 over 2017. I know why. At the same time I drastically cut back on diet soda (good) I picked up a daily coffee habit (probably bad). Either way having my caffein levels boosted doesn’t make me happy.
  • 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, even if it was slightly better than 2017.
  • Sodium levels went from high (254% RDA) to off the charts (379% RDA). I know I’ve thrown out eating low sodium at home. Combined with eating out a lot these levels are really too high.
  • I’m only getting 75% of the level of Potassium that I should be getting, down from 80% in 2017. Calcium levels went down to 95% from 110% too. I have to do better about dialing that in.
  • If we look at the nutrient balances none of them are in the green zones.  They are mostly better from last year but they still have a ways to go.
  • This last point is verbatim from last year: “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.”

Body Composition

Here is where things turn a bit brighter. The net of 2017, and especially the second half, saw a net positive calorie balance which had me not able to get into the weight range I wanted to get to and worse by the end of the year being at my highest levels that I’ve ever reached. In 2018 the trend was actually the opposite. The overall trend is towards weight and fat loss, although there have been some ups and downs. Overall though it’s been a year of getting my body composition back in the zone I want it to be in. Below figures show my body weight, percent body fat, and the net calories over the course of the year.

Weight Graph
Figure 3: 2018 Weight History


Body Fat Graph
Figure 4: 2018 Body Fat History


Net Calories Graph
Figure 5: 2018 Net Calories History


What we are seeing here is a pretty good amonut of weight loss. Unlike 2017 where I gained 6.5 pounds and 3 points of body fat percentage this year I lost 14 pounds and and lost 2+ points of body fat too. If I hadn’t rebounded at the end those numbers would have looked even better! While I had a slightl leveling out in a couple of places a good intense session in July and early August got me back on track. Unfortunately the last quarter of the year was a train wreck. I can overcome that now that the holidays are over though. If you look at the net-calories graph most of the year is negative and even in these positive sections they aren’t as bad as they were in 2017. Going back to the diet and exercise being slightly more dialed in than in 2017, it shows a lot more in the calorie balance and weight changes than in the nutritional analysis. It also shows that small changes can net out big results over the long haul.

Looking Forward to 2019

Once again my year wasn’t as dialed in as I wanted it to be. Once again it’s pretty average by American standards but that excuse doesn’t cut it for me. It was still an ever so slightly more dialed in year than 2017 was though. No, I didn’t get back into my “Rambo” fitness mode and get back to my 2012/2013 peak fitness mode again. However look at what positive things even small modifications can make. What would happen if I tweak it even a little bit more than I did in 2018 throughout 2019? Just tweaking isn’t my goal but if that was the worst case outcome I’ll still be more ahead then than I am now.

This time last year I was lamenting how my body composition had cratered again, or hit the ceiling measurements wise depending on how you look at it. I should celebrate having overcoem that and having it more dialed in with progress in that regards. I’m not going to set up a resolution per se. I’ve written before how I don’t buy into the “New Years Resolutions” thing. Just start wherever you are. But I’m writing this summary at the one year boundary so as the books for one year close maybe a fresh set of books for the new year could be a little more impetus to dial things in. What should that look like, from a fitness perspective in 2019?

First, I want to try to hit my goals with more regularity. I’d like to get up to a B’s or higher across the board in my goals and to improve all of my nutritional metrics as well. The net effect of that should be better body composition, better cardiovascular and muscular fitness, and better flexibility. I do need to do better to hit my longevity goals but I’m pleased to see that despite my belly aching I actually have improved albeit slightly from 2017.



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