Data Driven Self Care

Here we are approaching the end of 2018! It’s been quite the year for the Hansen household with the addition of our new kiddo, having two boys under the age of 3 has kept us vey busy.

In addition to the family changes we’ve had, I’ve personally been focusing on health and wellbeing. As I approach my mid-thirties (yikes!), I felt it was time for me to pause and reassess my lifestyle habits and choices. I’ve lost nearly 30 pounds to bring my BMI back to a normal-range and I find myself having much more energy throughout the day.

I wanted to share a number of changes I’ve made that have personally helped me, in hopes that others could find value in this too. And in particular, I wanted to call out various apps and technologies that have helped make my self care transition much easier.

Diet

As I’ve aged, I completely underestimated just how much a healthy diet can impact your weight, body shape and mood. In years past I have cut out various foods based on how my body reacted to them (pork, beef, beans, etc. were removed from my diet). Taking it a step further this year I also cut out most breads, all deep fried food, alcohol and many processed foods (deli meats, cheeses, etc). I’ve found that I eat smaller portions now and still feel full and energized.

I also spent time with a naturopath who was able to recommend a number of supplements that I could be adding to my diet to help get the necessary nutrients I needed given my diet change. It still feels a little strange being one of those people who takes 6 different pills in the morning, but hey, if it’s helping my wellbeing then all the better!

I’ve also started using a food journal to track my diet and when I have symptoms based on the food I eat. I’ve used Cara, but there are many others out there that may fit your needs. Being able to have all data related to your diet, symptoms and mood made it easy to make changes to better my health.

Fitness

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For a number of years I’ve been a proponent of fitness as part of a healthy lifestyle. While I don’t consider myself an athlete, I do try to get roughly 30-60 minutes of exercise each day. Having a small home gym really helps here, as well, enlisting a personal trainer to help you meet your fitness goals is good advice.

Traditionally my exercise routine would be relatively varied for each session without really planning or tracking. Instead, I started building regular exercise routines using the Strong fitness app. This allows me to focus on different parts of the body each day (legs/back one day, upper body another, core, etc). One of the biggest benefits I’ve found here is that I can usually have consecutive days of workouts without feeling overtired. Of course, it’s good to put in rest days as well. I normally pick a day on a weekend to take a break from the gym and focus on other ways to meet my activity goals (getting the boys outside helps!).

Sleep

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As you could imagine, introducing another child into the world automatically comes with a disruption to your sleep. I am one of those people who does not function well without a good nights sleep! Paired with my Apple Watch, I’ve used AutoSleep to track how much sleep I’m getting (and the quality I’m getting).

AutoSleep is great app - not only for the fact that it’s feature-rich, but also due to the fact that it automatically detects your sleep and awake time (hence the name!).

The only change I had to make here was wearing my Apple Watch to sleep each night. Traditionally I’ve used overnight as a time to charge my watch. With sleeping with it on, I now charge it when I’m getting ready to head to work.

Keep your watch on Theatre Mode when you’re sleeping to avoid it lighting up when you move!

Mindfulness

Lastly - I’ve been using the Headspace app to introduce about 10 minutes of mindfulness and meditation into most of my days. This has been the largest challenge for me, as traditionally I haven’t been someone who has gravitated towards these types of activities.

I’ve found that taking time out of each day to pause has been super helpful in relieving stress and giving me perspective on an otherwise busy life. I’ve also found that pausing from Facebook and Instagram has been great too!

Bringing It Together

With all of these separate apps helping me on my self care journey, it could be easy to have a fragmented view of my progress. Thankfully each of them integrates with Apple Health, which means I have one view into the data on my health.

The graph below shows my weight over the past year (been a big drop!). Other interesting data points that I track are:

  • Body Mass Index (BMI) & Body Fat % using a Withings Scale.

  • Waist size

  • Mindfulness minutes

  • Workout data

  • Sleep data

  • Heart Rate

Hopefully the tips above will be helpful for anyone who’s looking to take care of themselves and use data to help your self care journey. Follow me on Twitter if you want to connect!