I’m giving up my cell phone (at least at the gym)

For the past year-plus, I’ve used Lose It!, an app on my phone, to track my calories in and calories out. I’ve also tried using weight-room apps to keep track of reps, weight, etc.

While that combination worked out for me for awhile, in the past few months I’ve noticed two things:

  1. No matter how religiously I adhere to logging my food and exercise in my apps, the scale (and my jeans size) have not budged in more than 6 months.
  2. It is becoming increasingly difficult to convince myself to adhere to the calorie guidelines in the app. Sticking to the guidelines or blowing them completely has made no measurable difference in my progress, especially in the gym.

What’s a geek to do?

I’m a tech geek. I love how portable technology, in particular, has enriched my life. I love my calendar, task list, music, entertainment, distractions and everything else contained in that tiny little machine in my pocket.

But in recent months, I feel fragmented — my task list and notes in Evernote (with no easy way to check off tasks — ahem, user experience); my gym schedule on a clunky website; my conversations spread out across Hangouts, texts, Facebook, email; my food plans spread out across Lose It!, Pinterest, my calendar (for nights out), whatever. I can’t stand how I feel like I’m spending my days bouncing between little buttons on a little screen. I do a lot, but I don’t feel like I accomplish a lot.

So, starting this week, I’m going old school. I know I can’t go TOTALLY old school — email, texting and the like aren’t going anywhere — but when it comes to accountability and being organized, I’m returning to the basics. Here’s my plan:

For health tracking, I’m using a Fitbook. Yes, paper and pen. I started using it yesterday, and I’ve noticed already what I was missing on those apps — a daily snapshot of what I ate (including handy trackers for stuff like water, veggies, etc.), strength training, flexibility, cardio, timing of my meals, mood and sleep. Seriously, each two-day spread is eye-opening.

I am aware Fitbook has an app. But that app tracks calories, and I know how negative that sort of tracking has been for me on the Lose It! app. (I did an hour of yoga, for example, and the app said with that hour I got a whole 124 calories extra to eat? Makes no sense.) Never mind the evidence that calorie counting doesn’t work long-term, especially for people like me who are shooting for a magic number of pushups rather than a magic number on the scale. Don’t get me wrong, dropping on the scale would be nice, too, but calorie counting is soul sucking and impossible to maintain for a lifetime.

For my obligations, I’m taking a unified approach and putting all my tasks — professional and personal — on one piece of paper. I am using a white board to sketch out my week, and the final tasks go onto a handwritten checklist with expected durations next to them. Why? Because in my fragmented state I’ve been scheduling 32 hours of stuff into an 18-hour window (I need 8 hours of sleep!), then getting pissed off at myself for not meeting my own expectations. Right now, I’m balancing freelance work, personal stuff and exercise. I am losing sight of balance, and it’s time to fix that.

Still, I can’t get away from technology completely. To supplement the paper planning, I’m still using my Google calendar to schedule appointments. I appreciate that buzz in my pocket that tells me it’s time to, say, get dressed and head to the gym. But instead of bouncing from there to my grocery list to my task list to my calories app to my… whew!… I’ll just scoop up my paper and go.

Who wants to bet how long this paper thing will last?