Knowledge is power – or is it dangerous?

By: Quinton de Bruin

Over a week into the challenge and I think it is only natural to be wondering what the actual progress is. We spoke about trusting the process when you have done your homework and that is a given. The thing about progress is that it happens on a continuum with a wee bit of improvement in your skin folds / weight loss / speed on the one end and on the other you have the mind-blowing WOW – how did you do that result! So, as we progress through day nine, just shy of a third of the way through and the need in me to know grows!

This niggling feeling today brought up a discussion I had not too long ago about the value of having measurements on tap – be that a Fitbit, Tom Tom, Garmin or any other of the hundreds of options out there that allows you to track a rather large amount of information about your activity, exercise, food, weight and sleep. I remember a senior manager at a previous company talking about the technology that would revolutionise the activity tracking industry and that you would have all this information at your fingertips when you want it. It sounded fascinating, being an insurance related presentation, the discussion lead to how this data which was captured in real time could then be used to determine how risky it would be to insure this individual, it sounded incredible - and so far off. Well that presentation was four years ago, where in an audience of 500 there were two people that had heard about a Fitbit, now it would be the 498 who have heard or possibly even used one or a similar device.

Like any new bit of technology that comes out, there is that period where early adopters have a good play to see where exactly it fits in and Fitbit was similar. Soon it (and the competing brands were the accessory to have, measuring steps – challenges on how many steps you had done. Companies even created loyalty and rewards programmes based on your activity levels which was now so easily captured and uploaded. If you happened to be one of those people who have been in a desert without wifi for the last 3-4 years, and the term Fitbit doesn't ring any bells, it is a watch like device, on which you set up a profile and it starts automatically capturing data on what you do, every move you make. Being a triathlete (loosely speaking) I bought a Garmin multisport watch because it allowed me to have important information on my wrist while still in the race. I could tell time, distance, speed, pace, heart rate and even cadence – right there! So handy being able to see your body performance captured in a few numbers.

Information like this is GOLD to those athletes competing at a competitive level and even for the weekend warriors such as myself. The great thing about numbers is that they don't get emotional, they don't care how you feel about hearing the truth (in this case seeing). They give you that totally objective reality check – where you are at that moment in time and what you have done to get to that point.

After a very short industry history there is already research out there about the flip side of having the ability to access this data instantaneously. A flip side? How could it be negative to have this data readily available? The human mind is an amazing negotiator – better internally with oneself than possibly externally too! Here's what happens – you head out for milk and while at the dairy you see the 2 for $2 special on Cadbury bars, you look down at your Fitbit type device and see you have done 15,000 steps today, absolutely crushing your daily target of 10,000. Surely you deserve a treat? After all you have calories in the "bank" with that monstrous effort. Whether that little fact about being far enough ahead of the goal to have that item is true or not doesn't seem to matter, you have convinced yourself that you have done enough exercise that day to justify the eating of a chocolate bar or two. The outcome from the research is that in many cases, people with these devices have far poorer results over a period of time than people without them and those not looking at measurements and measures on a high frequency basis. Once again, the psychology is common sense. Assuming the same scenario as above, you don't have anything to confirm you have done enough, you might be positive that you have but have you done enough to have the chocolate bar. Apparently in more cases than not, the bar will get to sit on the shelf for another day!

So, I ask myself whether the true reason I want to know my progress is because I want to purely know that or is it to see whether I can afford to have a chocolate treat? I'm not sure, but what I can tell you from past experience, I would likely cave if I knew I was ahead of the 8-ball and right now I am not sure I am – all the Top Deck bars around the country are breathing a sigh of relief!

I woke up tired this morning which made getting to the gym a challenge, I got there and as expected once I was there, the session just rolled into its stride. It was a back and bicep day. I followed the actual training suggestion from The Fat Burning Man and did a 20-minute walk…. with a variation (I get bored quickly okay!) I set the speed constant on 6 (10km/hour pace) and spent 1 minute on incline 8, another on incline 12, and another on 15 – dropped right back to 8 for a rest. Repeated that till the time was up and felt great for it.

I got home from that, prepped what is fast becoming my breakfast of choice, which is best described as a salad (Yes I hear you, salad for breakfast) which consists of spinach / lettuce, mushrooms, boiled eggs and a protein – today was finely chopped BBQ leftover steak. Lunch was a mixed salad and dinner was pan cooked divine piece of trevally with a dukkah crust (pan roasted hazelnuts with skins removed, sesame seeds, coriander and cumin seeds, blitzed to a crumbly consistency) and a personal favourite – broccoli salad.

If you are feeling that urge to see how you are progressing, please resist the temptation. Think about the common-sense advice in this article. I personally am looking forward to a great sleep and doing it all again tomorrow.

The small print: now is probably a good time to encourage you to have a discussion about your personal situation with your doctor, a nutritionist and the Body and Motion trainers to work out how best to achieve any challenges you have in mind. The thoughts in these blogs are my own personal opinion and shouldn't be taken as direct advice. Some of the choices around what I consume or what activity I partake in may not be endorsed by Body and Motion. However, the team will always be keen enablers of your fitness goals! Talk to us today.


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