Health Experiment (Week 1 Wrap Up)

The purpose of this experiment is to find out what would happen to my body and mind over 30 days if I tracked my calorie intake and I replaced drinking with exercise and meditation. My hypothesis is that I will lose weight, become stronger, gain better focus, and have less anxiety.

Body

From the day I wrote the original post (6/21) I have lost 1.8 pounds and my body fat percentage has gone down 0.9%. The exercise I’ve so far is mostly yoga, walking, and some pushups using a 100 pushups program. I’m probably going to start running again though within the next day or two now that my knees are feeling better. Since your weight can change about 2 lb a day (I’m told), it’s a bit hard to put too much into those specific metrics after only one week, but I still think the results so far look pretty promising. Here they are on a line graph:

Week 1 weight Week 1 bf

The trend lines on weight and body fat are both pointing down (which is great). My weight kind of fluctuates up and down a bit each day, but like I said, I think that’s expected. The body fat % tracking actually seems to be going down a lot more consistently, which is the number I care more about, since if I’m replacing fat with muscle, that’s going to affect the amount of weight change I have.

Mind

I’d like to see my focus improve more (ADHD sucks), but my anxiety has definitely been improving in the two and a half weeks or so I’ve been practicing daily meditation. I feel as though between meditation and learning about Buddhism, I’ve begun to reflect the way I talk and act sometimes, and make some positive changes to help me become the person I want to be. I think we all get carried away and say things we don’t really mean sometimes, or exaggerate for comedic effect. I want to not do that anymore.

Health Experiment (Day 7)

It’s the end of the first week! I’ll be following this one up with a wrap up post for the past days.

Stats

Weight: 167 (+0.4 lb / +0.24%)
Body Fat %: 20.2% (-1.94%)

Active Calories: 753
Total Calories: 2661
Calories Consumed: 2112 (549 Deficit)

Exercise

Vinyasa Yoga

I am pretty certain that the Apple Watch is way underestimating how many calories I’m burning during yoga, but it’s the only tool I have, so here it is.

Active Calories: 289
Total Time: 1:12
Avg Heart Rate: 102

100 Pushups Program (Week 1, Day 3)

  • Count: 25 (5×5)

Mind

Meditation

  • 10m Headspace (Foundation 2, Day 7)

State of Mind

Felt a bit anxious and not as focused in the earlier part of the day, but did okay with both later on.

Health Experiment (Day 6)

A relaxed Sunday. Walked enough to make sure I hit my move goal, but nothing else special.

Stats

Weight: 166.6 (+0.8 lbs / +0.5%)
Body Fat %: 20.9% (-0.5%)

Active Calories: 619
Total Calories: 2452
Calories Consumed: 1502
Calorie Deficit: 950

Exercise

  • Walked to hit Apple Watch move goal (460)

Mind

  • Missed meditation. Nothing extraordinary to report.

Health Experiment (Days 4 & 5)

I managed to miss blogging over the weekend — so I thought I’d just combine Friday and Saturday days into one post. I went to yoga at my gym Friday, which was great. The new sort-of-related thing I did this weekend was that I managed to make it to the San Francisco Zen Center at 8:40am to attend their zazen meditation introduction and dharma talk. I’m going to try to start going regularly if I can will my body up early enough on Saturday.

Day 4 (6/24/16)

Stats

Weight: 165.3 (No Change)
Body Fat %: 20.7% (-0.96%)

Active Calories: 981
Total Calories: 2889
Calories Consumed: 1694
Calorie Deficit: 1195

Exercise

Vinyasa Yoga

Active Calories: 438
Total Time: 1:12
Avg Heart Rate: 104

Mind

Meditation

  • 10m Headspace (Foundation 2, Day 6)

Day 5 (6/25/16)

Stats

Weight: 165.8 (+0.24%)
Body Fat %: 20.7% (No Change)

Active Calories: 624
Total Calories: 2483
Calories Consumed: 1469
Calorie Deficit: 1014

Exercise

  • Walked to hit my calorie goal (460).

Mind

Meditation

  • Unguided walking meditation.

Health Experiment (Day 3)

No extra exercise yesterday. I still made sure I hit my move goal on my Apple Watch, but I’ve decided to not try running again for a few days because of the knee thing. When I do start again, I’m going to try just doing it on a treadmill at the gym so it’s a little lower impact.

I have managed to keep up with my standing desk all week. It’s actually not that hard. I suspect if I were heavier to start or weren’t using a mat it would be worse. I sit during lunch, meditation, and other times during the day when I’m not at my desk. Otherwise I’m standing all day.

No weight or meaningful body fat change. Since your body can fluctuate a couple of pounds day to day no matter what, I’m not actually too worried about if this number goes up or down slightly for at least the first week.

Stats

Weight: 165.3 (No Change)
Body Fat %: 20.9% (+0.5%)

Active Calories: 540
Total Calories: 2450
Calories Consumed: 1790
Calorie Deficit: 660

Exercise

Just walked enough to make sure I hit my activity goal (460) for the day.

Mind

Meditation

  • 10m Headspace (Foundation 2, Day 5)
  • Unguided Walking Meditation

State of Mind

Focus was a little better than the day before, but I can do better. Anxiety about the same (good).

Health Experiment (Day 2)

I almost didn’t go to yoga yesterday because I was afraid it would cause my knees to hurt more, but I did and it ended up not hurting them at all. I’ll probably replace running with a brisk walk or a bike ride for the next couple of days.

I started two new things yesterday. A guided walking meditation, and the beginning of a 100 pushup program. I might use the guide for walking one or two more times and then continue doing it unguided. The pushup program should have me doing 100 pushups in 5 sets of 20 in 10 weeks if I stick with it, but it started off at just 18, which wasn’t too hard.

Stats

Weight: 165.3 (-0.3 lb / -0.18%)
Body Fat %: 20.8% (-0.48%)

Active Calories: 1029
Total Calories: 2924
Calories Consumed: 1778 (1146 Deficit)

Exercise

Vinyasa Yoga

I only have the Apple Watch activity tracking to go off of here, and I don’t know how accurate it is for yoga.

Active Calories: 514
Total Time: 1:07
Avg Heart Rate: 115

100 Pushups Program (Week 1, Day 1)

Count: 18

Mind

Meditation

10m Headspace (Foundation 2, Day 4)
Headspace Guided Walking Meditation

State of Mind

Anxiety was good, but focus was less than I would have liked it to have been. I forgot to use my Comodoro timer, and I think that hurt me. I’ll have to make a point to use it consistently going forward.

Health Experiment (Day 1)

Yesterday was a good day other than that my knees were still hurting from last week at WWDC, which made running less fun than it could have been. I don’t want to hurt myself, so I’m going to try switching to biking until they feel better. I also made a point after work to get things I could make for lunch so I won’t have to eat downtown as much. That should save make hitting my calorie goals easier (plus save me money — you wouldn’t believe the cost of food in SF).

Stats

Weight: 165.6 (-1.9 lb / -1.13%)
Body Fat %: 20.9 (0.0%)

Active Calories: 621
Total Calories: 2485
Calories Consumed: 1470 (1015 Deficit)

Exercise

Outdoor Run

Active Calories: 210
Total Time: 30:49
Total Distance: 2.03 MI
Avg Heart Rate: 176

Mind

Meditation

10m Headspace (Foundation 2, Day 3)

State of Mind

Morning was okay for focus, but not great. After taking 10m out to meditate focus and productivity both improved and I felt less anxious. Going to try meditating first thing before I start work instead of waiting later in the day.

An Experiment to Get Healthy

Back when I was working from home in Portland my weight didn’t fluctuate that much. I ate reasonably healthy food, and I rode my bike and walked a ton. Without trying, I stayed around 145-150 lb for years (which was perfect for me). Working at an office and living in San Francisco the past couple of years, however, it’s become something I do need to start thinking about.

I’ve been using a FitBit Aria scale — which measures body fat percentage as well as weight — for about two years. According to FitBit, my weight was 147.1 lb (22.1 BMI) with 15% body fat in July 2014. As of last Sunday (June 19) it’s 168.9 lb (25.7 BMI) with 20.5% body fat.

Something has got to change. I haven’t felt this uncomfortable in my own skin since high school. I hate it.

The Causes

Okay, moving on. The biggest things I can see that would be affecting my weight are:

  1. I was taking Adderall for my ADD a lot more consistently before I moved. It suppresses appetite. I really hope the only way for me to maintain a healthy weight isn’t through drugs. I weighed less than I do now before I started taking it though, so it’s pretty hard to be sure how much this could have affected things.
  2. I was walking and riding my bike more before I moved. The data I have for this isn’t that good — all I have is step tracking to go on. Steps seem pretty consistent, but the further back the less data I have. I also have no way to know how much I was biking.
  3. I’m eating out a lot more for lunch, and the food in downtown San Francisco isn’t the healthiest.
  4. I’ve been drinking more than I was before. It’s like all people do here. Plus wine is really tasty.

My Plan

I would like to not have to rely on Adderall for focus and maintaining my weight if at all possible. With that in mind solution is to try this experiment over the next thirty days and report the results:

What would happen if I replaced drinking and sitting with exercise and meditation?

Specifically what steps am I going to take? A few.

  1. Using a standing desk. I don’t expect this to make the biggest difference by itself, but it seems like there’s pretty good evidence standing is better than sitting. Every little bit helps.
  2. Do yoga at least 2 days a week at the gym.
  3. Run at least 3 days a week. I’m using a Couch to 5k app on my phone so I don’t burn out or hurt myself.
  4. Track calories of everything I eat using MyFitnessPal.
  5. No Drinking. I’m not planning to quit drinking forever, but I think for the duration of this at least, I should just cut it out entirely.
  6. Perform daily meditation to help focus. I’m using Headspace because it’s a guided meditation program meant for beginners which ramps you up slowly.
  7. Use a Pomodoro timer app to help stay focused while working.
  8. Blog my results every day. What activity I did, my weight, body fat, how I did with calories, and my state of mind.

So, that’s my experiment. I’m looking forward to seeing how it will turn out.

Hello Sense, Allergies, and Better Sleep

As I’ve written about before, going to bed and waking up early has been an ongoing problem for me as long as I can remember. I’ve had more success fixing my sleep issues the past ten days than anything else I’ve ever tried in the past. A lot of that has been due to what I’ve learned using this little ball called Sense that tracks my sleep, monitors room conditions, and has a Sleep Cycle style smart alarm clock. After everything I’ve tried, this feels the most like I’m actually close to solving this problem for myself. It’s a crazy feeling after struggling with sleep my whole life.

Sense and pill

I’d used a FitBit Flex as a sleep tracker in the past, but it wasn’t super helpful. As long as I remembered to tap it when I went to bed it did a good job of tracking how long I slept and how much I moved, but that wasn’t enough. I could see I was taking a long time to fall asleep, sleeping too long, and moving a lot gave me zero hints why I could sleep for twelve hours and wake up tired.

The sleep tracking part of the Sense is similar to the FitBit, but has two things that make it better. First, I don’t have to remember to wear anything or tell it when I’m going to sleep (newer FitBit trackers are also automatic). The Sense has a tracker called the pill that attaches to your pillow and then you never have to think about again except to not accidentally wash it. Second, instead of just time and movement, Sense tracks the room conditions while I’m sleeping. I can use the report it gives me to maybe figure out what was going on during the night and why I’m I slept how I did. It also gives me a sleep score which — while I have no idea how it’s calculated — does usually seem to match up pretty well to how I feel the next day.

Sense sleep log

The report tells me: what time I went to bed, fell asleep, what phase of sleep it thinks I was in, when I was moved around, and if there were any noise disturbances during the night.

It also tracks conditions in my room 24 hours a day and tells me if anything is unideal for sleeping:

Sense room report

I started noticing that there were several “noise disturbances” every night, so that seemed like something to investigate. I downloaded an iOS app called Sleep Talk which records noises while you sleep. I then tried to match up the times the Sense said there was a noise disturbance to the recordings to see what was going on. It would be nice if the Sense did this itself, but the app worked well enough.

What did I hear? Snoring and labored breathing. I was “lucky” that I’d been suffering from especially bad sinus allergies and was even more congested than usual the day I got the Sense. Because of this I was able to see my sleep quality improve over the next few days as my congestion got better. I’ve never been able to breath well through my nose, and I’ve also always had trouble with sleep, but for some reason I’d never considered the two might be connected. I started reading online about breathing, and of course not breathing well affects your sleep. In fact, that’s probably why I could sleep twelve hours and still be tired — it took me that long to get enough quality sleep to be rested.

I decided to do an experiment. I knew that Zicam nasal spray would clear out my sinuses instantly, but that I could only use it for a few days in a row. I used it before going to bed one night to see what would happen. I also read that sleeping on your side is better for breathing and that a pillow between your legs helps you stay off your stomach, so I did that too. The next three days that I took the Zicam before bed I woke up by 8:30am after about eight hours of sleep feeling fine and rested. That’s remarkable for me. I honestly can not remember having a change like this before. My Sense sleep score also went up (from the 70s to the 80s).

Since I couldn’t take Zicam for more than a few days, I also began taking Claritin every morning (as well as D-6, B-12, and a daily multivitamin). The Claritin helps, but not as much as I’d like. After some research, I found out that Flonase is usually better for people with year round allergies, and so I’ve started taking that. It takes a few days to reach full effectiveness, but the initial results are promising.

I don’t want to speak too soon, but I think I may have figured this sleep thing out.

Creating StoryWorth for iOS 1.0

I’m really excited to announce that a new app I’ve been working on for several months has come out today. The app is called StoryWorth, and you can download it now. It’s a companion to the website of the company I work for. StoryWorth lets you collect and share (with recipients you choose) your family stories. To get started, you invite a storyteller (mom, dad, grandma, etc), and then we start sending them questions. They can answer through the app, email, or on the website with text, images, or audio. Once you’ve collected some stories, we can print them up in a nice book (you can pay to have audio transcribed) you can put on a shelf and keep forever, regardless of what happens to us. I should mention too that StoryWorth is a paid service. We’re not interested in showing you ads or selling your information.

Oh, also, we have an app now. It looks like this:

HomeStorytellerStory

Design

For the design, a big focus was accessibility. We have users as old as one hundred, so we could be pretty sure some of the people using the app would have limited mobility or vision. The default sizes for text in the app tends to be a little on the large size, but I also did my best to support Dynamic Type so that users who needed to could turn up the font size. I’m looking forward to taking the accessibility stuff even further in future versions.

Aesthetically, we wanted to go for sort of a book feel, while still looking cool and app-like. We did that mostly by focusing on typography and restricting the color palette so that the content and actions really stand out from each other. We use a sans-serif font (Lato) in our primary red color (except in navigation and toolbars) for actions, and a serif font (Merriweather) for most content and long form text entry. Overall I’m really happy with how the design of the app turned out.

When choosing what features the app would have, our goal for 1.0 was to get parity on the most important things (writing, reading) with the website. It’s not completely one for one yet, but it’s an awful lot of it. Having a solid basis of a native app is also going to let us do things that the website can’t do easily when it comes to things like recording audio, offline reading.

Technical

StoryWorth is the first app I’ve shipped that’s entirely written in Swift. In the beginning, learning Swift while writing the app probably slowed me down a little bit, but it didn’t take me very long to become productive. At this point I feel completely comfortable in Swift and think I made the right decision. Swift still has some rough edges, but there’s enough good there to make it an overall win. Mostly the problems I run into have to do with using it with the iOS frameworks, storyboards, and other things that came around before Swift existed.

Speaking of storyboards: I don’t know, man. I used them, and I guess they made things easier, but I also sort of want to tear them out half the time. I hate how they’re stringly typed, I hate prepareForSegue:, and I hate how using them pretty much precludes being able to use non-optional properties in my view controllers. On the upside, they’ve improved a bit over time. Storyboard references make it easier to break up a big monolithic storyboard into many smaller ones. Setting up child view controllers is really easy in a storyboard too. I only used a static table view in one place, and it ended up needing some cells to show or hide conditionally, so that wasn’t especially useful. As cool as that is, it turns out I never end up having more than one or two static table views in an app.

Going back to Dynamic Type, there’s a couple of things I did to implement that. The first was to create UILabel subclass which listens for content size category notifications and adjusts itself as needed. This worked pretty well for pretty much anywhere I had labels, but not for some other things. Dynamically sizing table view rows were also a godsend, since all I had to do was set up my constraints and the table view would do the right thing if the font of it’s contained labels got bigger. Overall, I found working with Dynamic Type sort of a pain when it comes to native views. I’d like to come up a better solution in the future that will make it easy for me to support it in the places I didn’t get to in 1.0.

I do use web views in a couple places in the app though, and it turns out supporting Dynamic Type in those is crazy easy. All you have to do is use one of the -apple-system styles for your CSS font property, set font-family and font-size (in em) to whatever you want. Make your controller listen for UIContentSizeCategoryDidChangeNotification, and whenever a notification comes in, reload the web view. Easy. There’s a good post about it on the official WebKit blog.

Grab Bag

  • UIStackView is rad.
  • Protocol extensions are neat and useful.
  • The new Swift selector syntax doesn’t like nil targeted actions.
  • Carthage breaks much less than CocoaPods for me.
  • I love universal assets.
  • I don’t know if I’m going to stick with Core Data.
  • Color spaces are confusing.
  • App review remains a magical experience.

Conclusion

I took a job at StoryWorth because I wanted to work with nice people on something that’s actually useful, whose business model I understood, and where I could have a big impact. It’s been a while now, and I really like it still. I’m excited to improve the app over the next several months. Please download the app and invite your family. There’s a free trial, and if you decide to subscribe it helps us a lot. Getting to know your family and having something to hold onto forever is something you’ll thank yourself for.