We’ve talked about two types of measurements so far: mood/health and performance. Tied to that but something that is far more visible to everyone are measurements of body composition. It’s one thing to track something as subjective as how I feel each day of the experiment and trend that. It’s another thing to track overall performance over the experiment at regular intervals to see how my body is operating. However it is our body’s physical characteristics that are both the most visible and at the same time one of the important things that I want to track and trend over the experiment.
Along with trending of how good I’m feeling and other more subjective measurements, I think it will also be important to track and trend something more directly tangible: physical fitness levels. The military and government use standardized fitness testing as a means of measuring health. It’s actually a really convenient and not difficult to measure metric that is useful in measuring overall health. Adapting this to my own experiment will be useful in determining if a diet I am eating is hurting or helping my health.
As someone that has in one way or another been exposed to eating disorders and body dysmorphia for much of his life, I’ve always been acutely sensitive to the topic in general. If you combine that with inheriting some of my mom’s hypochondria (albeit in what I consider to be a mild way) I’ve always been concerned about making sure I didn’t accidentally end up on the same road as so many others. Yes, in the popular culture eating disorders are generally considered to be a female only disease. However that is all changing, and the concept of body dysmorphic disorder strikes both sexes. Almost everyone has some level of body image false perception about what they look like compared to others. It goes back to the typical behavior of being harder on yourself than others. While that’s true I think I go beyond what most people do in that regard, but still well short of an eating disorder or full blown dysmorphia. However the road to that is gradual and self reinforcing negative mindsets can quickly spiral into a full blown problem.
While ever vigilant about avoiding those pitfalls, I didn’t realize there was a whole new classification of eating disorder called orthorexia nervosa. Now this isn’t some DSM categorized eating disorder, it’s a newly proposed one going back a few years. The main features of this is an extreme or excessive preoccupation with avoiding foods that are unhealthy. It’s a bit different than other eating disorders which concentrate on quantity of calories ingested or processed. In that way I think it is also different in that body image itself isn’t one of the drivers of the diet. In extreme forms it can actually lead to malnutrition, starvation and long term ill health effects just like other eating disorders.
I first heard of Matt Frazier “The No Meat Athlete” on the Rich Roll Podcast last week. The guy is basically an average Joe that decided he wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Along the way he became vegan and blogged the entire process. He has a new book out as well, but the recipes I posted last week (humus and the granola bars) were the things that caught my eye the most. I decided to try out a good homemade health bar recipe and I think these are it for me!
Journaling is one of the best way for you to determine what is actually going on in your life and to have a definitive record of progress or degeneration. That is true for everything from emotions, to food to body measurements. Especially when one is not on some radical transformation plan, we often don’t appreciate the smaller changes which are going on in our lives. Besides that we often don’t take the time to listen to our body and how we are feeling. Measuring these qualitative things are very important if you want to determine changes in how you are feeling over time.
We all get sick sometimes, and we know instantly that something is wrong. However what about a gradual change in our mood or how we feel? Our brains are good at normalizing behaviors. That leads us to treat certain chronic conditions, or feeling a certain way over a long period of time, as “just the way it is.” Many times it is not a matter of it just being status quo for our bodies but instead symptoms of problems which we are dealing with due to diet or lifestyle. By tracking and trending these things you can begin to see patterns emerge and start trying to address them proactively.
I believe I’ve written before about how I want to phase my various diets over the life of this experiment. I know I’ve written about it in my personal notes, but believe I have only covered it as part of another article. Regardless, I’ve recently been giving some considerations to the original plan and have modified it to be a bit better at capturing what I’m trying to do.