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Giveaway Winners, My Travels, and a Numbers Conundrum

April 24, 2009

Giveaway Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the Sinupret for Kids medication and The Healthiest Kid in the Neighborhood book:

MizFit

bhealthier

Charlotte

Sharon

Mary

Healthy Ashley

Marta

Kim V

Shannon

Katy

Stuffgirlswant

Fitness Surfer

Sharon Fairclough

Blake

Mishia

E-mail me your mailing address at sagan.morrow@gmail.com and I will ensure that your packages get sent in the mail!

Thanks to everyone for participating in Living Healthy in the Real World’s first ever giveaway- I’m sure that there will be many more in the future.

Traveling to Cambodia

On Sunday I leave at 8am for a 20-hour flight to Phnom Penh! My father dear is living there investigating war crimes with the United Nations, so I will be living with him and traveling around Cambodia for roughly a month. At least, I think it will be a month. It’s a one-way ticket so perhaps I’ll be “stuck there” (hurray!) for months on end 😀

If all goes according to plan I will still be posting about three times weekly. The timing might be a little bit off considering I’ll be 12 hours ahead of my current time zone. However, this is an open call for guest posts. If you’ve got something that’s pertinent to Living Healthy in the Real World, send it in!

Measurements and Numbers

I’ve said it before and I don’t mind being upfront about it: I suck at math. Actually, I really loathe math. I think I’ve mentioned previously that one of my favorite teachers in high school told me at the end of the year that he’d give me a good mark as long as I promised to never take another math class ever again, ha.

Considering that math just isn’t my thing, it’s funny that I adore numbers and statistics and measurements when it comes to anything related to health. I count calories: although I don’t use a database anymore, I’ve got most foods memorized for roughly how many calories they’ve got in them. I’ve recently re-started tracking what and how much I eat every day in a notebook (the main reason for this is to satisfy my curiosity so that I can know if I’m getting a balanced diet from all the food groups and nutrients). I wear a pedometer every day and write down in that same notebook how many steps and miles I log at the end of each day. I have access to a scale at the vet clinic that I work at, so I weigh myself a few times a week. And this past Monday, I went to the Kinesiology department at my university to get a skinfold analysis.

A skinfold analysis is when you get your skin pinched by calipers so that the amount of fat on certain areas of your body (tricep, bicep, subscapular, iliac crest, and the calf) is measured. From these tests you can figure out where you carry most of the fat on your body and if you’re at risk for disease.

The woman who did my measurements is in the process of her examination to be a certified personal trainer. She also weighed me on one of those old-school scales and checked my height. Because I have one leg that is longer than the other by nearly an inch, we decided to measure both of my calves rather than just the right calf, and it turns out there is a considerable difference between them! My right calf (the shorter leg) came up with a measurement of 8.1 on the skinfold analysis; the left calf is 12.

At the end of our little session, she went through the results with me. It turns out that my skinfold analysis is 47 with the right calf and 50.9 with the left calf. I believe that she said that anything under 80 is considered in the “excellent” range, so that was very good.

There was a moment of confusion when she calculated my body mass index and reached a number of 17 (that’s classified as underweight; a healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 25). I was especially confused because the three difference scales that I have used in the last couple months all came up with the same number for my weight, which would give me a BMI of 19.5 or 20, but this particular scale that she weighed me on actually measured me as being 12 pounds heavier than the other three scales! It took us a second to realize that there had been an error in punching the numbers into the calculator (and yes, we made sure to re-check my other measurements, too, which we all correct). So that was rather funny, albeit alarming, at first.

When I left the room it occurred to me how entirely unnecessary the whole process had been. I already knew that I’m at a healthy weight and that my body is comfortable with it. Yet I still wanted to get the analysis done.

When it comes to measuring our weight, it’s best to track it by how we feel and by how our clothes fit to see if there are any changes. I know this, yet I still can’t resist stepping on the scale- just to see what it says. It doesn’t have the power to change my mood, but the act is still unnecessary. With my small frame, I’ll be able to tell pretty quickly if my weight changes even by 5 lbs without the assistance of a scale to tell me.

It’s okay to get caught up in the lure of numbers as long as we don’t become a slave to them. Some days we’re going to eat a lot more than others (for example, my 3,800 calorie splurge not too long ago. That’s two days of food crammed into one day! I’m surprised it even all fit into my body!). But ultimately, what’s it going to do when we diligently track ourselves daily? I know that it isn’t precisely necessary to wear my pedometer every single day; my legs will tell me if I’ve been walking a lot and I’ve figured out roughly how many steps/miles it takes to get to the usual places that I walk to (ie. university and the workplace).

It would be nice to be able to end this post with a triumphant, And I walked away from the numbers and never looked back again because I listen to my body and it tells me what I need to know! But this is about living healthy in the real world, and the real world doesn’t always have those kinds of endings. I like tracking these numbers, and I’ve found that they don’t have a negative impact on me, so unless they start affecting me negatively I will continue to track. There’s a sort of fun to it. And besides, my pedometer is my baby. I love it far too much to ditch it.

I’m taking my pedometer with me to Phnom Penh. I’ll probably try to keep logging my food, although it’ll be tricky to know the exact counts with so much foreign food, so I doubt I’ll try that hard. I won’t have access to a scale, but I don’t mind. I can live without the numbers easily… it’s just that when I have access to these numbers, my curiosity is insatiable.

What do you think? Is a healthy curiosity a good thing? Or should we try to avoid relying on numbers to provide us with answers when we have access to them?

29 comments

  1. Wow. This was a great post. I think that I have the best relationship (meaning a carefree one) with food/exercise when I’m somewhere foreign or new. I don’t know what’s in the food, I can’t count, and I end up being FINE. I think this trip will be an amazing experience for you. Did I mention I’M SO FREAKING JEALOUS?!?!?!

    I’m always up for a guest post if you need one. Just let me know 🙂


  2. HOW FUN!! ENJOY!!

    I do not track ANYTHING…ever. I just track how I feel and it seems to be working out for me!

    Great post!
    ~rupal


  3. Numbers can be fun, but I agree. They’ll get you if you let them control your life.

    Hope you have a wonderful trip!


  4. What a post Sagan! When it comes to numbers I think there’s a fine line between being aware and becoming obsessed. Before going abroad I flirted with the latter but I think I may have finally reached that happy-medium 🙂 and I’ve got to agree, I find them interesting as well.

    As for the trip to Cambodia… HAVE A SAFE FLIGHT AND THE MOST FABULOUS TIME! PLEASE SHARE AS MANY PICTURES AS YOU CAN, I’M SO EXCITED FOR YOU, obviously :).


  5. I don’t think it’s good to obsess over numbers – just live life as healthfully as possible and be happy 🙂

    Have a safe trip, dear Sagan!!


  6. yay

    Im
    a
    winner!

    the numbers thing has been on my mind a lot lately and (waitforit) I have come to the realization that a LOT of my ability to blow it all off (pedometer, scale, bodyfat etc) is Im NOT a numbers person.
    hated math.
    loathe statistics etc.

    it really is all tied in together.

    have a great trip!


  7. Wow, I’m SO excited for you to go to Cambodia!!! What a great opportunity! Have a great trip and make sure to post some pictures:)

    You make a really good point about measurements. I myself LOVE numbers and LOVE math but… have a serious love/hate with my body. Still working on that whole equation…


  8. I, too, have gotten caught up in the numbers game. For me, while I was losing weight, it was very helpful and motivating. Now that I’m trying to maintain and not drop further, it’s hard to not obsess of those numbers. Workin’ on it. 🙂

    HAVE FUN in Cambodia – what an amazing experience!! We can’t wait to hear all about it. Have a safe trip, Sagan!


  9. Great post! I agree that numbers can be helpful but can also turn into a very negative way of looking at yourself and food. As long as a healthy relationship with food and calories is maintained, I think it’s OK.

    p.s. YAAAYYYY! I’m so excited I won 😉


  10. I believe there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Different things work for different people – the trick seems to be figuring out what does work and it seems like you have a pretty good handle on what works for you.

    I am a numbers person too. I prefer concrete data to abstract theory. I’ve always liked practical examples, step-by-step instructions, and I do think that translates to how I manage weight loss/maintenance and health. I want specific guidelines and targets.

    I tend to be a calorie counter too. I do take breaks from it, but always seem to come back to it. This past week was one of those times when I was coming back to it. The interesting thing is that I planned out exactly what I was going to eat on Monday without checking anything in advance. When I did enter it all into my tracker, the total calories was right where I wanted it to be. So I do seem to have a good grasp on what/how much to eat, but I feel better for seeing it all totaled up. I guess it is an assurance that I am making good choices and doing what I need to do.


  11. Heh! Have fun in Cambodia! Be sure to post lots of pictures, I’m so jealous!

    Numbers are fun, and can be helpful and motivating if used the right way. Like, I think measuring my waist and Hips is a better indication of progress than my weight on a scale. I am also obsessive about monitoring my Body Fat %.


  12. Have a great time in Cambodia! I’ll be looking forward to anything you post from there.

    Not a numbers person, myself (math was definitely not my strong suit), but do tend to weigh myself regularly (and then get depressed that I haven’t lost anything…. sigh)

    Safe journey!


  13. I think numbers (or detailed logging of non-measurable entities) add a lot of value in certain situations. Trying to lose weight or becoming healthier for someone who is severely out of shape might be a good situation where numbers can help the person track their progress. However, it is all about balance, adaptability and moderation in the real world. Having a bit of an extremist and obsessive personality, I try to avoid numbers alltogether, since every time I’ve tried to be “moderate” about them, I end up obsessing. Hahaha so I guess the best answer is to tailor your dependance on numbers according to your personality and how much real good they do to you.
    Stay very safe and have a lot of fun in Cambodia!


  14. Maggie- that’s funny, I think there’s definitely something to that!

    Rupal & Cammy- going by FEELING is the best way.

    Danielle- awareness vs. obsession… I agree. It can be tricky! And you will see many photos 😀

    VeggieGirl & Holly & Shannon- healthy is as healthy does!

    MizFit- wonder why my loathing of math doesn’t cross over to health too?

    Charlotte- but we’re always a work in progress with the love/hate thing, right? 🙂

    JavaChick- you said it ALL when you said that no one size fits everyone. I completely agree with that. And also no one size even fits one person because we’re constantly changing!

    Meg- there’s something nice about being able to track.

    Bag Lady- I’m getting so encouraged that there are other people out there who don’t have a *thing* for math. Makes me feel better 😀

    Marta- extremist and obsessive personality? Are we long-lost twins? 😉


  15. I am OCD, prone to boredom, and in possession of some definite fitness goals–you bet I track!

    Haha, I hate math, but I love numbers because they tell the truth. When used correctly, of course. For example, while I usually just use how my clothes fit, their time since their last washing changes the stretchiness. I.e, one would think I’d gained weight if I tried on my skinny jeans 1 day out of the wash vs. 1 week. With numbers, bam, argument over.

    But it’s the quality of the numbers too. I hop on the scale once every couple of weeks, but it’s more out of curiosity. And scales can be calibrated wrong. I prefer a tape measure, because those numbers tell me that I’m losing fat, not muscle. I’ll be getting a BIA when I resign for my hometown gym this summer. I’m excited!

    As far as calories, I count, because I still consider myself in a “learning stage.” 18 years of eating crap (and way too much of it) takes time to undo. I have a pretty good handle on portion control, but I like to count just to be sure. Oh, and I weigh meat, though it’s often to check my own estimates. I’m getting better! And I log it into a fitness journal, because there’s no way I could keep it all in my head.

    When I hit my fitness goals, I think I’ll lay off tracking calories so diligently, but I think I’ve gotten it ingrained enough that I will automatically tally an estimate in my head. My hope is that I will have taught myself well enough that I will be able to estimate correctly!


  16. Totally agree with you about those numbers. The scale is my enemy for that reason. We (girls) tend to retain water which could give a false weight gain which is totally depressing if you’ve worked your butt off (literally) to get and stay in shape. Anyway, how you feel is a better way to judge things. I do measure my circumference to make sure I’m on target with inches lost but as you said, not a slave to the numbers. Great Post and Good luck in Cambodia!


  17. You’re going to Cambodia????
    Can I come?
    Oh, wait, I’ll be joining you in 2 weeks 😉
    I are curious as to how you describe living with your parents again…if only for a short time. Have a safe flight and see you soon!


  18. Have an awesome time in Cambodia and post some pics from time to time!


  19. What a fantastic adventure!!! Couldn’t happen to s more deserving person.

    Bon-Bon Voyage!!


  20. Have an amazing trip. You will be missed.


  21. Good point. Sometimes we need too many measurements, to many stats, in life and in fitness. Look in the mirror and see if those pants you bought a few years ago still fit. If they do, good, if not…hmmmm…

    peace,
    mike
    livelife365


  22. Hi Sagan,
    Have fun on your trip – sounds like quite an experience – enjoy it all!!

    Numbers can be fun to check sometimes (especially when we’re trending in the direction we’re looking to head toward), however sometimes just how you feel gives you a pretty good indication of where you’re at as well.


  23. Mimi- I think we share the same kinds of attitudes!

    Spindiva- thanks 🙂 Numbers can be our friend when we use them correctly.

    Anony-mum- oh, I’ll go completely crazy living with my parents again. They’re so tough to deal with 😉 kidding, it’s going to be the best!!

    Spring Girl, Dr. J & Kristisummer- thanks! You’re very sweet.

    Mike- time is a useful judge like that.

    Lance- absolutely. It’s the FEELINGS that really count.


  24. I’m with you about numbers – it’s find to do unless they start affecting you negatively. Once in awhile, I’ll track how much fiber or protein I’m getting just to see if I’m on track.

    Have a great trip, and be safe! 🙂


  25. I estimate. Too neurotic to count every last thing. Relax and enjoy your trip.


  26. Pssst, I was going to send you a guest post…but I’m not sure where to send it.


  27. I’m very excited to read the prize =) I’ll read about health, business, and science over drama, or novels any day.

    Cambodia Wow!!! Enjoy your trip. What an experience that will be.

    I completely agree with the pinch and punching of numbers. I know when I’m healthy and some scientific equation can’t tell me other wise.


  28. I am totally up for a guest post- and will send it in asap! Have a fantastic trip, wow!

    I think living by numbers is unrealistic and unnecessary to an extent! I think people should pay attention to the numbers somewhat, as in obesity is just unhealthy and puts you at risk for so many things premature death, cancer, heart disease, diabetes- at some point, people need to say the numbers are there for a reason and you should generally stick to a healthier range.


  29. easier said than done i think, to just let go of the numbers! i haven’t gotten on a scale, but i know i haven’t been doing well b/c of the way my clothes fit. things are turning around (i hope), so hopefully that will change…



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