Saturday, April 9, 2016

Taking Care of Myself

Recently, the right circumstances have arisen where I have started making an effort towards getting serious about my health.  It's been about two weeks-- I didn't want to talk about it when I started because I was worried that I wouldn't keep up with it.  I've realized that in the past, I have talked about these plans that I have and unless they are well-supported by outside help, they didn't really lift off the ground.  This time, I'm doing something right.  So I want to talk about what I'm doing and what tools I'm using to sort of reflect on this experience so far.

My Exercise and Incentive Chart

My first goal was to walk more.  I find walking enjoyable and it's a flexible enough exercise where I can do it throughout the day, or I can decide that I need a break from whatever I'm doing and go walk somewhere for an hour.  It doesn't have to happen in a gym setting unless I want it to.  I got my fiance to participate in this practice with me.  We both got new pedometers and have made it a practice to wear it every day and compare at night just before we go to sleep.  What I needed and wanted was a record to show how far I've gone and a way to keep me motivated to continue keeping track.  My charts look like this:

The top chart is the chart my fiance and I use to track how far we've gone as individuals.  This is just my half because I don't know if this is something Jack would be willing to share with the world.  But I don't mind.  Every day for the past two weeks, I have been careful to take down my miles, even if I reached far below the recommended 10,000 steps a day.  As you can see, I started slow in the beginning and I continue to have dips in numbers of steps, but I've walked and made some kind of progress every day.  The red boxes on the far left indicate number of weeks that have gone by while the green on the far right indicates when I have reached or surpassed a milestone in our incentive chart.  I think this alone has kept me motivated to continue to keep track of my activity.  It's gratifying when every two or three days, I'm reaching a milestone and I know exactly how far I have to go to reach that next goal.

My incentive chart is below.  I created a chart with incentives for 10-500 miles.  The incentives range from going to see a movie at one of the smaller, local movie theaters to going to the zoo or seeing another part of the Twin Cities to taking the MegaBus to Chicago.  We haven't cashed in on our incentives yet, mostly because we're nearing the end of the semester and there's so little extra time, but it still feels good to be earning these activities so that we can do them at a later time.  If you've had trouble keeping motivated to exercise, I recommend this strategy.  I need a carrot in front of my nose to get me to go and stick with something.  That's just a thing I know about myself, so instead of changing that part about me, I roll with it.

Lose It! App

I discovered this App through a person I follow on Instagram.  I'm still very new to the App, but wow, this has been a real game-changer for me.  One of my biggest struggles in the past has been that I don't keep track of my food.  Or even if I think about what I'm eating, it's a very misguided record.  This way, I choose from a list or enter in the food that I'm eating and this App keeps track of the calories that I bring in.  It's kind of like Weight Watchers, as I understand it, where you choose a goal weight and then you can eat anything you want, but you do have a certain number of calories you can have in order to stay on track.  So I entered a goal weight and a date that I wanted to reach that goal and the App said (not really said), "Alright, if you want to stay on track, you need this many calories in a day."  I was impressed because I tried to make a more extreme goal (same goal weight, but at a soon date, around my wedding day) and an advisory popped up saying that my goal was not a safe one and that I needed to adjust it.  I'm so impressed by this.  It's not enabling people looking for a quick fix, but making you think about what is reasonable for your body.

It also takes into account the exercise that you do.  So every day, I've eaten more than my allotted 1,400 calories, but I've had enough exercise to make this okay.  This App also has some nutrition information so that I can see, in basic terms, what I'm eating.  I have yet to make meaning out of this part of the App, but like I said, I'm just starting out with this.

Last night, I overate at dinner and this app took into account my other meals and snacks and the exercise that I had done already and told me that I was x number of calories over what I needed to stay on track.  So I knew that I needed to go on a walk.  I didn't have to do homework right at that moment, so I went on a walk.  It was really nice because I was compensating for my big meal and I was able to go out and explore parts of my neighborhood that I haven't been to before.  It was wonderful.

So that's where I am right now.  I'm enjoying this experience of keeping my health in mind wherever I go.  These tools have motivated me to get up and do something when I might not have been motivated otherwise.  I walk to and from school whenever I can, I walk to my jobs when the weather isn't awful, I'm in the habit of going to the gym on Mondays because it's always exciting when I get over 10,000 steps.  This is a great point in my life.  I wish that I had done this sooner.