Automators 41: Automated Health Tracking

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I really liked this episode. I have actually expanded the amount of data I’m collecting this year, kind of unintentionally, or semi-intentionally.

For various reasons I picked up a Beddit unit from the local Apple store, which has been really interesting. I’d considered other solutions like one of the smart rings with sleep tracking. I’m not wearing an Apple Watch in bed as that’s uncomfortable and annoying so it needed to be something requiring minimal effort that was essentially automated out of the box. The Beddit fits this requirement. It logs time in bed, time asleep, heart rate, and respiratory rate directly to HealthKit.

I also started logging my food intake with Lifesum. Adding some meals is awkward, but on the whole it’s helped me by mostly educating my choices. Ive definitely eaten a more balanced diet and avoided carb/sugar spikes in my day. Occasionally I’d spike my blood sugar in the middle of the day and then crash in the evening. That’s not happened since I started paying attention.

This lead to me using Waterminder and RECaf to track hydration and caffeine. Lifesum has hydration tracking but it’s basic and weirdly not synced with HealthKit.

I’m managing to keep up the habit so far through the satisfaction of having the enriched data. I have notifications disabled for all of these apps. I have one automation set up ion shortcuts to ensure the Beddit app is running before I go to bed, as it relies on the app being able to execute background activity.

A couple of years ago I was weight training consistently for a period of a little over 12 months. In the intervening years I moved house, got married, moved house again, and a bunch of other stuff. Just before the holidays last year I started working out frequently again. I’m on a 112 day move streak right now, which involved amending my move goal to accommodate all the stuff going on around Christmas, but my standard move goal is for 800kcal per day. I’m walking at lunchtimes and for a significant part of my commute, weight training three times a week and doing cardio stuff most other days. It’s a huge commitment, it takes up a lot of time I could spend doing something easy/lazy, and a lot of the inspiration and motivation comes from the Apple Watch, and all the data my Apple stuff enables me to collect, visualise, and apply to decision making.

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I’m writing about my health tracking

> more in this thread, but I’ve been a “quantified self” enthusiast before the term was invented and here are my favorite tracking devices and apps:

  • For meditation: Calm app — I like the voice and themes of Tara, the head of the meditation content much better than the guy at Headspace. They have also music and bedtime stories. The app integrates with Apple Health.

  • Fitbit Versa for activity tracking. I’ve been using Fitbit trackers since 2013 and they’re most accurate when it comes to calculating steps. Sadly they’re now part of the Google and that’s why I’m seriously considering leaving Fitbit when my Versa eventually dies.

  • Oura smart ring for sleep and recovery tracking. The (Finnish) team behind the app has done excellent job creating a truly smart ring that looks good and isn’t too big in my finger. One surprising use: I can tell when my period starts checking the temperature Oura gives (it drops the day before my menstruation).

  • EliteHRV app if you’re only interested in your Heart Rate Variability. You’ll need a heart rate monitor (strap) to use this - but you can use it to track your exercise as well.

  • YAZIO app for food tracking. I like it much more than MyFitnessPal which I used for years. I’m not sure if there’s a free option since I immediately got the paid subscription to support the app developers and to get all the features.

  • Withings WiFi scale. Precise and nice looking. Their Heath Mate app syncs with Apple Health.

  • Withings Blood Pressure monitor - if you need to monitor your blood pressure. I like it and it seems to be accurate. Links through the Health Mate app to Health app.

  • Clue is hands down the nicest and most accurate menstruation cycle tracker. You can even share your cycle with someone else, like a spouse who wants to know when you’re fertile or have PMS. :joy:

The above mentioned apps/products are what I currently use.

I have used and liked Endomondo for exercise tracking with the same Polar H7 - heart rate monitor I use to measure my HRV.

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I didn’t mention and @Kutrinet reminded me. We also have a Withings scale. We got it before they were bought by Nokia and subsequently un-Nokiad again. It’s pretty good overall, not super hot on the body fat % accuracy.

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None of the equipments that use impedance are ever accurate. Trust me, I’ve used several tools over the years, sometimes even simultaneously. :grinning: In best case scenario it gives you an idea what direction you’re headed to if you for instance build muscle while your weight doesn’t change.

This reminded me that I use app called Progress to track my body measurements (like how thick my waist is) about once a month.

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I was surprised to see Rose and David talk up MyFitnessPal and HealthKit - in my experience the app is extremely prone to double logging or failing to log food to the Health app. At the end of the day the numbers in Health and in MFP were often quite different. Am I alone in this?

The only app I’ve found to write to Health consistently is MyPlate.

The “three rounds of Breathe” thing got my attention, @RosemaryOrchard: I won’t hide the fact I use a few rounds of progressive muscle relaxation to help me get to sleep. Some of this involves slow breaths. I think the Breathe app before I take my watch off and do all this would help further.

(The irony is when I wake up in the middle of the night I lack the discipline to do the relaxation exercises to send me back to sleep. Probably most insomniacs have this problem.)

Fitbit Versa (and probably their other trackers too) has a guided breathing program, too, that is based on your hear rate (and perhaps heart rate variability?). Calm app has “Breathing exercise” option.

Just a reminder that popped up in my news feed today that if you’re tracking your water intake, you are probably damaging your health by trying to drink 8 glasses of water per day:

And if you are drinking a lot of water you also need to make sure you’re consuming enough salts to avoid Hyponatremia:

But please, don’t just follow the 8x8 water thing. It’s been well debunked at this point.

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I think this speaks to the inherent risk of focusing on tracking things, rather than how your body is feeling.

I drink water all day, I can tell when I’m thirsty. I don’t know if I drink 8x8 but it’s a few litres for sure (sidenote: I’m also on a diuretic medication so I drink more because of that anyway).

Tracking is only one part of this, sitting with yourself and understanding the different that ‘tracked data’ is actually having is more important IMO.

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It’s complex, there’s not really a formula that’ll describe what your fluid intake should be. Waterminder tries to account for your climate and activity level but it uses the 8x8 thing as a starting point, so it’ll quickly direct you to drink too much water if you’re active and/or live somewhere warm.

It’s safer to set yourself a much lower minimum intake, of a litre, maybe a litre and a half, than a goal intake. If you’re hitting the minimum, and paying attention to when you’re thirsty, then you’re probably doing great.

That’s my approach too. It’s been useful over the last few days as I’ve been sick and haven’t been drinking enough - but WaterMinder has helped me to be aware of this and hit my minimums.

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If you’re hitting the minimum, and paying attention to when you’re thirsty, then you’re probably doing great.

I’ve heard and read from several sources that being thirsty typically indicates a state of dehydration. So, it’s generally better to be proactive about staying hydrated and to get into the habit of drinking enough…but not too much water.

Here’s an article from the Mayo Clinic on the subject with some practical tips:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/want-to-stay-hydrated-drink-before-youre-thirsty/art-20390077

Waterminder is a great app to help develop this habit. It’s especially helpful when travelling…this is when I find I’m most likely to get dehydrated.

Read the article. This advice is bad. Thirst does not indicate dehydration.

Edit: so apparently we flag posts here now when we disagree with them or don’t like being corrected.

Thirst does not indicate a state of dehydration. This advice is dangerous, and can lead to real health problems, which can be life threatening.

Don’t blindly follow conventional wisdom. It’s often wrong.

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To set the record straight, the article from the Mayo Clinic that I quoted states:

"Thirst isn’t a helpful indicator of hydration. In fact, when you’re thirsty, you could already be dehydrated, having lost as much as 1 to 2 percent of your body’s water content.

The keyword is “could”. There could be other reasons that someone feels thirsty, including serious underlying health conditions. I agree that these other possibilities shouldn’t be ignored, especially if someone’s continuing to experience thirst even while getting adequate hydration.

I maintain that dehydration is still a possible underlying cause of thirst. This is consistent with the advice I’ve heard from a variety of trusted sources, including both eastern and western health practitioners. I’ve never been one to blindly follow conventional wisdom as I also find it can be misleading.

I flagged your post as I felt I was being publicly discredited by being told that the advice I shared was “bad”. I’m very selective when I share info on this and other forums. In the future, consider writing something like “I disagree with this information shared in this article” or “here’s another perspective on this subject” to support a constructive, positive exchange of information.

The point is that information is discredited. Lots of medical advice is based on outdated information. Western and Eastern medical practitioners is a worrisome statement, for me. All that matters is evidence and research. Lots of Western and Eastern “medicine” is a complete fabrication:

  • Chiropractic
  • Accupuncture
  • Homeopathy
  • Almost every traditional remedy
  • Reflexology

I could go on all day.

Hell even things like Clean Eating, the Paleo diet, and whatever they’re calling carbohydrate starvation induced ketosis today and other popular disorders are full of actually harmful advice with only the most tenuous (and often completely inaccurate) pseudoscientific backing.

I’ve had some very positive experiences with some of the modalities you reference.

I have a scientific background and also value evidence and research. I’ve also come to realize that some approaches to health and healing are very effective, even if the science that explains how they work doesn’t fully exist.

In any case, thanks for sharing your thoughts. And I propose that we wrap things up here as this is a forum about automation and not a medical/healing forum.