My grandfather Charles was a hero to me. While my Grandpa has long since passed on, he taught me the importance of data collection, and the “how” of collecting it. The man was not without his faults, as he was human, but he was a hero to me.
You see, back in the days of my youth, Grandpa and Grandma would come out to our house for dinner. I don’t recall much about the times around the dinner table, but I do remember this one thing. And, I remember it well. Grandpa took FOREVER to eat his food. I’m not just talking about a little longer than most people; I’m talking about FOREVER. As a young, naive child, it drove me nuts. We’d all sit down for a meal, and we’d be done in no time, and Grandpa would still be eating. We had this rule in the house, that none of us could leave the table, until the last person was done eating, so as you can see, this drove us nuts.
Being the brave and naive lad that I was, I worked up the nerve one day, and asked Grandpa why it took him so long eat. Grandpa Charles looked at me with his mischievous eyes, and said: “I chew each bite of food 30 times”. Now, I probably don’t remember the exact count of the chews, but I believe it was 30, and I don’t recall his exact phrasing of the words either. But, I recall his point. I asked him why he chewed his bites of food 30 times. Even though he never got to read my last post “Why Data”, my Grandpa knew his “why” and told me: “I chew my food so that it digests more easily”.
As a young lad, this made no sense for me, and I’m not sure I even understand it now. But, I pressed on. I asked him how he knew that he had chewed his food 30 times. He replied: “I count the number of times that I chew”. Now, my Grandpa could have been telling me a story, as story telling seems to run in the blood line, but I believed him. After that, I’d sit there at the table, with my brother and sisters, mom and dad, and count the number of times Grandpa’s mouth moved, in hopes that the food would eventually be gone. Usually, an hour or two later, Grandpa would be full, or tired; not sure which. And, then we could all get up from the table.
As I was riding my bicycle this week, and thinking about the “How” of data, I tried to recall the first time I remember data collection. And, this is the story that I remembered. Grandpa, and his nonstop chewing. Grandpa knew the “how” of his data collection; he knew how to count his food chewing. And, he knew his “why”. I remember briefly trying to adopt his data collection technique, and experimenting with his “why”, but I never could adopt his desire, and his ability to count. While I admired his dedication, I’m not sure I’ll ever match it, and I’m not sure that it matters.
When I first began my journey to better health and fat loss, I tried to weigh myself so that I’d know my starting weight. I knew I couldn’t weigh on any of the scales at our house, as they only went up to 350 pounds at the time. I remember driving by a Jenny Craig weight loss center, and trying to weigh there, but their scales only went up to 500 pounds. No luck there either. I was losing the “how” to data capture, and everyone told me it was important to know how much I weighed. I briefly considered driving across truck scales with my car, and then subtracting the weight of the car, but I decided that it just wasn’t that important of a number too me. So, I never did it.
I never understood the “Why” of weight, and I couldn’t find the “How” either. But, I knew at the time, I had trouble reaching my shoes, and couldn’t see my feet when I stood up, and I knew that couldn’t be good. So, I just decided that I couldn’t capture weight as data.
I adopted the Atkins lifestyle for somewhere between one and a half and two years. I didn’t measure time either. I knew it would take a while to lose the weight, so time and weight really had no meaning. I loved the food that I could eat on Atkins, and I loved how it made me feel. For me; the data capture was easy at the time. I counted carbs. I didn’t mess with silly things like daily carb counts, or anything complex like that. I simply ate food with next to no carbs in it.
And, eventually, the weight came off. I got to the point where I could stand for more than a couple of minutes. I could stand for 5, 10, 15 minutes. Then, it got better, and I could stand for hours. I remember being on a cruise with my son Charlie, last week’s hero, and having him record the monumental event where I climbed all the stairs for all the floors on the ship, in sequence. My hero Charlie used a camera and recorded me catching my breath at each floor, standing by the number sign indicating the floor number. We knew our “why”, because I could finally climb stairs again without dying. We had our “how” of data capture, using the camera that we had at the time. We had it all, and we preserved the photos for my wife to see.
I must confess that I don’t always know my “why” or my “how” for data collection, but I learn as I go. As I continued to see more of my feet, and feel better, I’d weigh myself on the new scales that I had purchased for the house that went up to 500 pounds. I still remember the first time I stepped on the scales, and weighed in at a feather light weight of 495. Those days were cause for celebration. But, I still didn’t understand “why” I would want to know the number. I could communicate that number to other people that I knew, but they already knew I was huge. Maybe it was for their sake; maybe it was for mine. I finally signed up for MyFitnessPal in early 2011, and started logging all my food. I felt it would be good for me too track my food intake, and what little exercise I had, and MyFitnessPal become my “How”.
It seems that the most common “why” for collecting data, for people like me, that are trying to regain their health, and lose fat, is they want to see progress. We get addicted to data, and we want to see how quickly we are losing weight. We all chose various methods of “how” to collect this data, like using manual scales, food scales, electronic scales, or we use measuring tapes to measure the size of our various sections of our bodies. For me, the easiest “how” was to just look down to see if I could see my feet.
I’ve now reached the point where I can easily bend over and reach my feet, without losing my breath, and without feeling any pain in my knees. But, I haven’t upgraded or updated my data collection methods, or their hows and whys, in many years. I still log all my food and exercise in MyFitnessPal, but I rarely pay attention to the data, unless someone asks me. I know when I’ve been eating good, and not so good. I don’t need to look at the data anymore. I don’t need to log all my bike rides using Cyclemeter, even though my iPhone and my Apple watch make it so easy to collect the data. But, I keep the metrics, and the data, because people are always asking me about my rides. I’ve lost track of most of it, but I’ve mastered the “how” for collecting the data for my food intake, and my exercise. My “why” has changed so much over the years, and to some degree, so has my “how”. For awhile, I counted calories (gasp!!!), because people told me that was important. But, it didn’t work for me. I’ve added in many new methods of “how” for data collection including logging my rides to websites and apps like Strava and DailyMile.
Even when I started Keto, I started collecting new forms of data, because the “how” was so easy. I’ve got spreadsheets of data, showing readings of breath ketones from my Ketonix, and blood readings for glucose and Ketones using my Precision Xtra. But, the “how” for collecting that data is changing for me now. I don’t find that information as valuable anymore. I still log it, and people sometimes ask to see it, but my “how” for meaningful data, has changed. Now, if I want to know if I’m in Ketosis, or highly adapted, I just quit eating. If I get hungry after a day or two, I pretty much know that I need to drop a little more protein from my diet. Otherwise, I know I’m doing well, as I rarely get any carbs in my food intake. For you, if you are going to monitor your level of Ketosis, cost may be a factor. Urine strips are inexpensive. A Ketonix to measure breath for Ketosis is a little more expensive. And the strips for the Precision Xtra for measuring blood Ketones can be very expensive. So, the costs may effect your “how”, but you still need to determine how you will collect data.
You may wonder how I can measure my level of “Nutritional Ketosis” or “Keto Adaptation” by not eating, so I’ll try to clarify that point now. If I’m not in Ketosis at all, my body would not be used to using Ketones as a fuel source and would be using glucose as a fuel source. If I quit eating food as a glucose burner, after a 24 hour period, the body would run out of fuel. At that point, the body is in “Starvation Mode”, and gets really cranky. This is known as “Keto Flu”. That is the transition period where the body transitions from burning glucose as a fuel source, and moves to burning fat or ketones. So, for people that are glucose burners, they can rapidly go into a state of Ketosis by stopping eating. They’ll be really hungry, feel awful, but the body will switch to burning fat as a fuel.
Now, let’s contrast that with someone that is already in Ketosis, but they’ve only been in Ketosis for say a month or two. At that point, the body is used to burning fat as well as glucose. If I quit eating then, I may not be hungry for a longer period of time, because my body is already conditioned to burn some fat, but is not highly adapted. So, at some point, I’ll get hungry and I’ll have to eat. This person is in Ketosis, has the ability to burn both fat and glucose, but has not highly adapted or been burning fat for a long time. Usually, this person can go anywhere from an 12 to 24 hours without eating and without being hungry. These people can easily attempt Intermittent Fasting and can enjoy the benefits of not eating. In this case, the body is not starving at all, but is getting fuel. The person will eventually be hungry because it is missing some form of nutrient like protein or something else. This is why you’ll see a lot of people fasting, and mixing in some low calorie broth, etc.
Now, we’ll contrast that experience with my experience with fasting, after being in Ketosis for over 1.5 years now. My body is highly adapted to burning Ketones as a fuel source, and can also still burn glucose. In my case, if I stop eating, since my body is already not in need of glucose to function normally, it just draws on my existing fat stores. In my case, being at least 80 pounds over weight still, I have at least a minimum 240,000 (8 * 3000) Calories of available fat fuel energy to be used. So, I never enter into “starvation mode”, and I’m never really hungry. I regularly fast between 24 and 60 consecutive hours now. On my last extended fast, I fasted 58 hours and rode my bicycle 61 miles during that time; all without ever feeling bad or feeling hungry. If I was poorly adapted to burning fat as a fuel, I would not have been able to ride at all because I would have felt hungry and weak.
As you can see, your “Why” and “How” for data collection, may change over time, as mine has. I really don’t collect data for myself, anymore, as I’ve reached my goal to be “healthy” again. Even though I’m still off the charts from a BMI standpoint, and still weigh 80 to 100 pounds too much, depending on the data standard, my goal was to be and feel healthy, and to be able to do everything that I wanted to do. I still get occasional blood testing done, and I still collect all the data, and I still log my food on MyFitnessPal, but I do all of this because other people have interest in it. It doesn’t impact my daily journey at all, as I know what I need to do and how to do it.
When you are developing your data collection plan, for the present and the future, just recognize that your “how” and “why” may change, and evaluate whether your methods are suitable for your life style. For some of you, it will mean tracking a point total on a piece of paper everyday. Some of you may be more excessive, like me, and use all sorts of devices and gadgets. But, just develop a plan, and implement it.
I challenge you to be your own hero; like my Grandpa Charles was to me. If you need to count 30 bites for every mouthful of food, and that helps you on your journey to greater health, then do it.
After all, the world needs more heroes. It’s your turn to be an awesome hero.