We just got back from visiting my parents in Maine. My mom never throws anything away. Evidence: Space Tilt. It’s a little game of skill where you use a couple knobs to guide a ball bearing through a maze. Sure it’s not so weird that she kept the game. It still works. There are little grandkids around.
What’s odd is she kept a little scrap of paper that I used to track how many times I completed the maze. If you look close at my hand scribbled notes, you see that I completed the maze over 1500 times way back in the 4th grade. That’s odd enough. But to dutifully tick off each completion? Ridiculous.
I’ve kept detailed records of every single workout I’ve done for 35 years. This is also ridiculous. Space Tilt was just the first symptom. I track the date, type of sport, whether it was training/intervals/race, distance, time, route, sit-ups, resting heart rate in the morning, weight, hours of sleep, pushups, and the category/level of the workout (1,2,3, etc.). So, I’m arguably creepier than my hoarder Mom. (Love you, Mom!)
The trick, as someone who’s borderline OCD, is to use your compulsions for good and not evil. I’ve talked before about how I’ve tried to weaponize my OCD. Well, in order to meet my weight loss goals, I’m going to leverage my compelling need to write things down. My fastest Birkies were when I was doing everything right AND weighed the least. As I discussed last time, the weight loss thing is my biggest hang-up right now.
I’m using three main tools to get smaller. The first is an app called MyFitnessPal. The second is a BC-549 IRONMAN® Body Composition Monitor. Also known as a “scale.” Last, is the Athlete’s Diary software where I log everything.
The MyFitnessPal thing is what works for me lately. I’ve been using it on and off for a year. That’s the problem. When I use it, I lose weight. When I don’t, I don’t. It’s right on my phone. When I’m on the road with the airlines, the fact is, I have a lot of down time (riding in vans, sitting in hotels, etc.) and I get bored. This app is great because when I’ve got a few free minutes, I can log what I eat.
You program how much weight you want to lose and at what rate. I asked it to help me drop one pound a week, which is sane. I put in 174 pounds because that is where I want to end up to be BMI “Normal” for my height of 5’10” or so. It also asks how active I am to come up with a basal metabolic rate. I put in sedentary, because, at work (and at home, frankly) I sit on my ass a lot.
Now I’ve counted calories before and it was a pain in the ass. I don’t have that excuse anymore. The great thing about this app is that it uses Google search-like capability for food and calorie amounts. Type in Quaker Oatmeal Squares, and a dozen types of entries will show up. It’s crowd sourced, so you have to be careful to pick what’s accurate. Once you pick a food, the next time you search for a food, it offers the choices you’ve made before. It even offers things that have been paired with that food before. (cereal/milk/banana). That feature makes logging stuff super easy. We’re creatures of habit and routine, whether we want to admit it or not. It even has the capability of scanning a UPC code from the food label. Based on the inputs I made, and the list of foods I put in, it tells me whether I’m on track to lose a pound a week. It even syncs up to my iPhone step counter and my Garmin GPS/heart rate monitor to give me credit for the calories I burn when I exercise. Weight loss is essentially calories in vs. calories out after all.
There are three reasons why I think this app is successful for me, so far. First, it counts on my OCD to input things. Secondly, I can eat “normally” as long as I stay within the calorie count. For example, if I want a beer, I can have it. I just have to log the calories. So, no quinoa, hand-agitated kale, sea foam shakes for me. It’s just not practical when I’m on the road to have a narrow range of food choices. Omnivore diet for me, thanks. The last, and really the most important part of this app, as long as I’m religious about using it, is that it forces me to think about each thing that I eat. It’s almost like the act of thinking about the food, just the act of paying attention, helps me lose weight. I mean if I’m not paying attention and have a second bagel with cream cheese, I basically just had a fourth meal. Which would take another hour of running to get rid of. We’re incredibly efficient at using (and storing) calories and the app helps me stay vigilant.
The second major tool I use is that fancy scale. I step on it pretty much every day. I power it on and it gives me a simple weight. Constantly seeing my downward progress is motivational. Also, once a week, I soothe my OCD by using the full capability of the scale. It shoots electricity from one foot, through my body, and out the other foot. Allegedly it tells me how much of me is muscle, bone, and fat. Even how much of me is water. (I’m glad it doesn’t show how much water is between my ears.) I usually do the bigger data collection on Monday mornings first thing, before coffee or anything else. I write it down on a sheet that came with the scale. Again, tracking makes me happy and I can see progress that way.
Lastly, my magnum opus: my Athlete’s Diary software. Some other time, I’ll give an example of how a day in the life of someone with OCD goes. But regardless of all the different electronic ways my running, skiing, hiking, cycling etc. get recorded, I ultimately put it down in my Athlete’s Diary. I had paper logs, but I put them all into this software in 1998. The greatest thing about this software is that it’s completely malleable. At best, most software only tracks swim/bike/run for triathletes. This one I can tailor myself. I can create sports. I don’t know many software programs that allow you to track Rollerski(Classic) vs. Rollerski(Skate). I can also create my own keywords, like weight, which is important for this discussion.
The other great thing is that it easily displays in graphs or text whatever you want to examine. It’s a truly fun little program. It’s fun to be able to scroll up and look at my mile time in high school. It functions as a diary. A database. In this case, as motivation for weight loss. This current weight loss effort just gets logged into the masterwork as part of the great common thread that exercise has been through out my life. It’s important to me to be active. The diary of my exercise is the manifestation of that.
Am I a “good” athlete? No. But there are worse hobbies.
And every pound that disappears puts me that much closer to Wave One. I need to drop from about 4’ per kilometer down to about 3:30/K to pull this off. I have to find 30” per K. I have to get 12.5% faster. Every little bit counts.
When I got home from Maine, I weighed 197. I’m down to 191. This works. I just need to keep it up. Now leave me alone. I need to log this coffee and 2 tablespoons of Half and Half.