Sunday, December 8, 2013

Better Living Through Charts and Graphs

Back in March 2013, I decided I'd lose some unwanted 10 pounds I had gained and go back to what I considered my ideal weight and waist size so that I can fit into my favorite pants and shirts I simply refused to give away or replace. I managed to reach my goals in 6 months, with the help of a couple of smartphone apps that allowed me to monitor my caloric intake and expenditure through diet and exercise, respectively. But just as important, if not more, was simply measuring on an almost daily basis my weight and waist size. It gave me a solid and immediate readout to how well I was eating and working out. Ultimately, it was trying on those clothes and not feeling them too tight to button that showed it had all worked.

But suddenly, things started fitting tight again. What happened?

I looked back at the chart of the numbers I had been tracking all these months and saw that I had suddenly gained both weight and inches. But why then all of a sudden? The graph of my data gave me some clues.

As I've indicated by the two icons, my sudden gain in pounds and inches coincided with two things: the autumnal equinox (September 23), after which the days get progressively shorter, and Halloween (October 31), around which candies become excessively and too easily available.

Click on graph for larger view.

Every year, around this time of year, my body and my spirits slow down. I start to eat more and move less. I feel less motivated to do anything and I sleep more. So this, coupled with very easy access to large amounts of sugary candy, probably combine to explain my sudden gains.

Knowing this now motivates me to crank up my exercise routine, something I should have done earlier in the fall in anticipation for my annual slow down. And also keeps me from munching on the leftover Halloween candy in my office.

Many people track fitness and other progress by taking pictures, which is great. But there's nothing like a graph, a picture of the actual numbers that measure what matters, to tell you what's going on, and how you're progressing, as well as offer you a handle on unexpected changes in course.

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