“I’ve been putting in the effort not to be absorbed by things that don’t improve my daily happiness.”
Kate’s attitude may not make any sense to the self-absorbed who genuinely believe in “self-knowledge through numbers”, as the folks in the Quantified Self movement do.
But after spending two years tracking every single daily calorie and another year weighing herself every day, the author of This Is Not A Diet, It’s my Life wrote in her blog post called Life After Numbers:
“It’s no secret I have changed my mind about some things. I have moved away from numbers and data and onto a more holistic, experience-based approach.
“My goal has, in essence, always been the same: to be happy and healthy. When I started out, I was:
- physically out of shape
- having trouble breathing after walking up stairs or any distance
- eating a lot of processed, fast, and restaurant foods
- drinking way too much alcohol
- smoking cigarettes
“In the beginning, my goal was to lose weight. My goal was to lose weight until I lost all the weight I wanted to lose. I lost 100 pounds. And then I lost another 20 pounds because I could.“
But ironically, it was a sudden fall last Labour Day weekend and its resulting concussion that she now describes as setting off “a cascade of inter-related changes.”
First, she suddenly realized how much mental energy she had been expending on her daily weight and trying to keep it within a very tight range. It also became clear to her that she could not do that in the state she was in after hitting her head. And not doing that made her rethink those daily efforts entirely. Here’s what she decided:
“I don’t want to live my life based on external data points, whether they be calories, pounds, inches, percentages or any other method of tracking and calculating.
“I want to live life by the way I feel and thoroughly experience every experience, without checking to see how many calories my activity burned or thinking about how my meal would affect the number on the scale.
She slowed down on the daily weighing, until finally she stopped entirely last October. At the time she stopped, she weighed 15 pounds more than her lowest weight. But she observed:
“I am okay with that. I have my chest and hips back! I missed them.
“I don’t eat the way I do or exercise to keep my weight at a certain number. I do those things because they are part of my life. I like to do them. They benefit me. They keep me healthy and physically fit.
“Whether I weigh more or less, this will not change. If anything, now that I’ve finally decided to just DO this and trust myself, I’ve become so much more in tune with how I feel about certain foods or exercises and I’ve found a renewed love of the healthful activities. I have given up the stranglehold on my weight.
“I have eyes and pants though, and I know what’s happening with my body. “
One reason she used to weigh herself so much was to “keep myself on track.” But she no longer needs to do that, she wrote, and says she probably hadn’t for quite some time.
Her weight, she adds, is just not all that interesting, nor is her size.
“Everything I have to say is more interesting than whether I got bigger or smaller. So I’m keeping it to myself.
“Sharing my weight or size serves no purpose for me anymore. I don’t need to be congratulated or consoled about my weight anymore. I’m good.”
“I care deeply about trying to create a world that is less treacherous for women (and men) and our body image. I cannot do that and simultaneously get excited when my jeans are loose, or angry when they’re tight.”
But won’t the end of extreme self-tracking mean gaining all that weight back? She says she gets tired of hearing this from others: that if you aren’t obsessively focused on your weight, the only other option must be cheesy nachos, pizza, cake, chips and television. But she knew that the binge-and-diet cycle she’d been on for the past 15 years was never going to be maintainable, adding:
“Don’t worry – I’m not headed to the drive-thru!”
Cold-turkey quitting of her daily self-tracking was not without hiccups. Every once in awhile, she writes, she’d fire up the old MyFitnessPal app and start thinking about counting calories again – but it just didn’t happen. She explains:
“I realized something when I got that concussion. Being comfortable with my eating and exercise habits as they are now, listening to what my body needs, focusing on the medical issues I have – these things are more important to me than what I weigh.”
- Can self-tracking drive you crazy?
- When the elephant in the room has no smartphone
- Digital temptations: “Quantifying, tracking or gamifying everything”
- When does mindfulness become mind-numbing?
- Does knowing change behaving?
- The Quantified Self meets The Urban Datasexual