What Gets Measured, Gets Improved

For more than a year I have been keeping data for the sake of my fitness journey. Using the Lifesum app on my phone, I have been recording everything I eat, all of my exercises and steps, and in so doing, charting progress in many ways. But one of the things about it that bugged me, being a guy who likes things to be precise, was that I have been using estimates for many food items. But you just said you like to be precise; what’s up? I know. I didn’t have a kitchen scale until now.

This has been a nagging problem, but it is solved now. The issue has been that many of the food items I would put into the food diary on Lifesum were based on what was already in the library. Let’s say I wanted to enter some of the rotisserie chicken I had just been cooking. I was essentially estimating the amount of chicken that was going into the dish I was preparing. I was relying on what others had measured. This is not a major problem, if you have practice estimating food portions. As it happens, I do.

Sometime close to sixteen years ago, my first born, just before turning three, became diagnosed with Type-1 Diabetes. T1d, as I will call it hereafter, slowly turned the family into expert label readers as well as food counters and portion makers. At first we were not very good at this, and, really, who can blame anyone for not knowing. The society at large gives us all wonderfully exaggerated serving sizes at every turn. So learning how to measure food became suddenly quite important. The most critical component of the counting life became the carbohydrates. Why?

The insulin a t1d person has to administer is really a direct counterpoint to the amount of carbs one takes in, at least as it applies to eating. Exercise and a number of other factors, naturally, plays into the rubbish equation of t1d maintenance. But carbs are really important. When your pancreas doesn’t work well enough to produce insulin, you have to add it externally and directly into the bloodstream yourself in a constant effort to maintain a healthy blood glucose level. I’ll mention here that the volume of misinformation about diabetes or both types, and the ensuing confusion around them, staggers the reasonable mind. Carbs are the main source of energy for us carbon-based lifeforms. So, having no carbs wouldn’t be much of a solution for t1d. That means lots of awareness and lots of counting.

My daughter with t1d is in college now, age 19, and is quite healthy and aware. She manages her t1d as well as anyone, I would imagine, although I would never stop working for and hoping for a cure. Management is fine, but not needing to manage it would be marvelous.

So measuring out foods is something I can do possibly better than the average dad. Even though it isn’t me with t1d, I have learned those counting lessons pretty well. Still, as it applies to me, I want to know with more precision what’s been happening on this journey, and also what will continue to happen. The food scale will help me. I also had to buy a new bathroom scale, since the old one was becoming a problem. Lack of precision….

The bathroom scale was not giving me accurate measurements recently. I changed out the battery, and did the troubleshooting I can do. In the end, I got a new scale. Now, faced with a “sudden” weight readjustment of about seven pounds, I figured, why not measure better all throughout this equation? Indeed.

The food items I enter into the diary now I can measure in grams, not just serving sizes, or even estimated portion sizes. The label-writing people are a nefarious bunch. Always use caution when reading their works. On a can of fish, for example, I had to take several steps before I knew what to record. The serving size on this tin of mackerel fillets is listed as 1/5 of the container, so five servings in the can. Perfect! Happily I pry open the can to be greeted by what- three fillets. … At this point I should like to apologize to Mr. Mack, one of my former math teachers, and awesome teacher of algebra, for ever uttering any nonsense about not using algebra in real life. I have been corrected hundreds of times over by life. It is useful. Without the food scale I figured the equation out. WITH the scale, I can just measure and eat. Lovely.

It really gets to be important, this business of being precise, when you become concerned, as I am, with calories as part of an overall fitness plan. That whole tin of fish, if I had just thought, well, that doesn’t look like all that much, and had I ate the whole thing, would have been 500 calories compared with the 100 per serving. Fair enough, but if I had recorded only one or two servings, then I would be operating on bad data. I could be thinking I was in a calorie deficit, primed for weight loss, but in reality not in a deficit at all. Worse yet, if I went back to a more who-cares approach to eating, I might easily return to my critically unhealthy former self, squeezing the air out of my lungs to tie my shoes.

With the help of the kitchen scale I will hopefully reacquaint myself with portion sizes, especially with protein portions. I don’t really want to think that I can’t eat without the scale at the ready. But when I am cooking, as I really enjoy doing, I want to know what I am actually putting into the big equation. I am enjoying it all, and doing it with love and presence of mind. I also happen to be tracking data, so that is useful as well.

Measuring things is a tricky business. I am doing a lot more of it now. I am measuring food, measuring different aspects of exercise, and also measuring my own satisfaction. I know some very important things can’t be measured. I can report, happily, that the intangibles have improved right along with the measurable factors. Here’s to the journey! Keep on improving, friends.

Published by blytheobservations

I’m an educator for many years in the great Midwest. I try to focus on being a decent human. My three kids are hopefully learning good things from me. Perfectly boiling an egg has been added to the resume. We take pleasure in small victories. I’m probably driving around right now looking for firewood.

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