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Tracking Your Self-Experiment

April 07, 2020

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Essential takeaways:

  • Achieving functional health requires a willingness to test new variables and effective methods for tracking the results.

  • Tracking creates consistency, which creates results. As a result, it is fundamental to a functional lifestyle.

  • There are a number of tools for recording data that vary in expense and complexity.

  • However you choose to track your self-experiment, make sure you can draw accurate conclusions and use the information to guide future action.

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Optimizing your functional health requires a more formal and conscious approach to self-experimentation—tracking in some form is a great way to get there. Fortunately, there are a number of tools and tips that make tracking easy and accessible so you can live your self-experiment and achieve optimal health.

Routine Tracking Creates Results

Why track? Quite simply, self-tracking is proven to breed results. A 2017 study found that individuals who engage in some sort of self-tracking were far more aware of their own health, made more positive choices, and experienced greater success in achieving a health objective. Tracking requires conscious awareness and goal-oriented thinking, which often translates to actual changes in behavior and decision making. Luckily, this doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive.

Tools for tracking

Here are some great ways to make your self-experiment more purposeful and advantageous in achieving health.

 

  1. Reflection. One of the most powerful change agents we have is the act of conscious reflection. This means honest and critical evaluation of a particular variable or variables and their outcomes over a period of time. From there you can draw conclusions and take action. It doesn’t have to be complicated or follow a structure, although it can; it could simply be taking a look at how a particular change, action, etc. has influenced health and the most beneficial way to proceed. For example, think about changes you have made to your daily practice or sleep routines—do you feel better when you get to bed earlier? Is your energy better throughout the day when you avoid a certain food? Do you feel more recovered when incorporating yoga? The answers to questions like these are valid pieces of data and can be used to formulate conclusions. Be consistent and intentional—we must do this day in and day out in order to create a functional ecosystem.
  2. Get old fashioned! Grab a pen and paper and choose a format that you can follow consistently. Once you have your variables, record the data from day-to-day so you can understand the impact. Having tangible results often makes analysis easier and more complete, making this method a great tool for those looking to conduct an N=1 on the fly. This doesn’t have to be complicated; it could be as simple as writing down the time of your last meal and then evaluating sleep each morning over the course of the week. Or even recording food choices and how they make you feel. No matter what you choose to evaluate, putting it on paper places it in the forefront of your mind and makes you more conscious—give it a try!
  3. Use a personal metric tracker. Wearable devices are great for conveniently collecting biological data. 24/7 tracking provides valuable insights and can demonstrate a correlation between variables and outcomes. Utilizing a tool like this leaves the guess work out as long as your are choosing one that is accurate and optimized for your focus. We love the Oura ring because it tracks key biological indicators like body temperature and heart-rate variability to deliver accurate representations of sleep and recovery (read more about it here). This makes it easy to conduct our self-experiment and understand the true impacts of our daily practices. Whatever you do, do your research and make sure the one you choose is going to deliver the data you need.
  4. Use a specialized monitoring device or system. We’re talking products like the Keto Mojo or Biosense for ketone tracking or the Heart Math for HRV that give you real-time data you can use to make decisions and alter future action. If you are focused on optimizing one area, it may be a good idea to do some research and determine if an accurate device exists so you can get the most out of your self-experiment.
  5. Find an app! Using a phone or desktop application to assist in tracking your self-experiment is a great way to store data easily and many will even give you feedback.  There is truly an app for everything, so do your research to find one that provides the accessibility you need to effectively analyze your data.

 Tips For Tracking

  1. Be consistent. When you consistently engage in any practice, you have a greater chance of obtaining the desired results; the same is true for your self-experiment. Gaps in the data or introduction of confounding variables makes drawing conclusion more difficult and less certain.
  2. Use multiple tools for tracking the same experiment. If you have a personal metric tracker, it is also good practice to reflect and maybe even write down your objectives. Use all the tools at your disposal in order to collect as much data as possible and evaluate what works best for you.
  3. Make it focused. Don’t choose too many variables to measure at the same time or make the experiment so challenging you can’t adhere to it. Keep it simple by choosing a single variable and evaluating its effects on no more than two to three areas of your life.
  4. Pair it with technology. The same study mentioned above found that the use of tracking tools such as smartphone apps increased consistency and the probability of a positive health outcome. Just be careful and conscious of the time spent on these devices.
  5. Do it with community. If you conduct your self-experiment with others, there is a greater chance for follow-through and success. Stay curious and accountable to one another and make sure you share results. The more data the better!

What’s Next?

Now get out there and make it happen! Use these tips and tools as a starting point but customize as needed. Living a functional lifestyle  requires an open mind, constant evaluation and a willingness to try something new—make the most of each day and live your self-experiment. Use the data you collect to be the manager of your own health by drawing conclusions and holding yourself accountable to what is proven effective. This is the surest way to creating your ecosystem for functional health.

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Medical Disclaimer: This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Monette nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program. Statements made on this website have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Products sold on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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