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Musing: Evil Technology Starves Me
The first short story I ever published appeared in a literary magazine.
That sounds impressive until you realize I’m referring to a summer program I attended in junior high school. In case my true geek credentials haven’t been sufficiently established yet, you now know I spent my summers as a young teen writing short stories at a summer camp. Not exactly cool kid cred.
To further imprint my geekdom in your head, the story was in the near future when man tried to assert his control over the computers he had invented, but ended up losing.
Sadly, as today’s musing will show, I have evolved little and technology still rules me.
Earlier this year, I celebrated my twenty-ninth anniversary of my twenty-ninth birthday. Such a birthday brings many issues with it such as exactly what should I call next year’s birthday? The thirtieth anniversary of my twenty-ninth birthday seems to defeat the point of avoiding the word “thirty.” And the first anniversary of my twenty-ninth anniversary of my twenty-ninth birthday just seems ridiculous. I don’t want to appear ridiculous.
Somewhat more importantly to this tale, the aging process, the sedentary nature of being an author, and the past couple years of zombie apocalypse have combined to create a somewhat less healthy body than that long ago twenty-nine year old. My joints snap, crackle, and pop when I stand, sit, bend over, or breathe. Muscles I didn’t know I had can cramp without warning. My eyes have graduated from bifocals to trifocals to the euphemistic “progressives” which require carefully engineered head tilts—ignoring the snap, crackle, and pop—to focus on the next word in a sentence. Even my fingers get stiff when typing at length, a somewhat critical function as an author.
Yes, that last sentence is an attempt to elicit sympathy as I explain why the next novel is taking so long to come to market.
Most frustratingly, I have to admit that my evil doctor might possibly be right. He assures me I will continue to add weight each year without a concerted effort to control diet and exercise.
Yes, I told you, he’s evil. He wants me to diet and exercise.
I’ve never been particularly fond of diets. They all seem to exclude the foods that actually taste good. Not wanting to restrict myself to grazing the grass in my backyard as my sole form of sustenance, I opted to try calorie counting. I could eat anything I wanted, but had to stop when I hit my targeted calories for the day.
I consulted a chart provided by said malevolent physician to determine how many calories I could consume. The formula was straightforward:.
Step 1—Height. Easy enough. I’m fairly tall, though about an inch shorter than I was at twenty-nine, a frustrating development which said doctor assures me is quite normal.
Step 2—Weight. To my surprise, being slightly higher than my target weight—slightly being not quite the word my evil doctor used—has an advantage. Amazingly, I can have more calories simply because a heavier body consumes more calories. So far, I’m liking this process.
Step 3—Age. Wait a minute. This chart practices age discrimination. That pesky twenty-nine-year-old can eat more calories than me. That’s totally unfair and I want to know who I need to complain to. Getting older should allow you to eat more, not less.
Step 4—Weight target. I’m to name a number—apparently lower than my current weight—and a time frame to achieve said weight. “Eons” apparently isn’t an option. That calculates an allowed calorie intake.
My mood takes a decided plunge here. Steps 1 and 2 added calories and steps 3 and 4 deducted calories to come to my target. Ridiculously unfair.
But I’m game. I recognize that losing a few pounds will be a benefit, and counting calories sounds easier than eating rabbit food.
I take my handy-dandy journal—we writers have plenty of journals—to record what I eat. I then look up the foods to determine its calories. Trust me when I say you can spend a great deal of time negotiating for the exact right description that just happens to result in a low number.
Day one. I eat breakfast, record, calculate. That’s not too bad.
This may be hard to believe, but writing is a quite strenuous activity. In order to maintain a proper writing energy level, an author needs an occasional snack. Despite my protest that those are work calories and not personal calories, I’m still required to log them.
When lunch time finally arrives, I calm my growling stomach with a midday meal and record the damage.
Now the point of calorie counting is to add up what you have consumed, and calculate how much more you can allow yourself. Using the total target calories less calories consumed results in, according to my suggested meals, a dinner comprising two grapes.
Much to my disappointment, I discovered that two grapes do not equate in calories to two glasses of wine. Who knew?
The problem here is quite obvious. Despite my efforts, I’m not looking up the right foods to get the calories for my logs. What’s needed here is a technological solution.
I downloaded a calorie counting app. The bad news—as you might have suspected despite my best efforts to obfuscate my poor judgement—is that my calories consumed tracking wasn’t particularly far off. In fact, it was higher. Damned technology.
On the bright side, the app has a place for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks—that last being particularly problematic. It also had the light at the end of the tunnel as a section—exercise.
But, of course. My calculation of daily allowed calories only included intake. I wasn’t calculating the burning of calories.
We’ve long walked the dogs daily to burn their zany levels of energy. When they are sleeping, they aren’t dismantling the house just for fun.
When we moved to Murrells Inlet, a greenway passed within a block of the house. We committed to a routine of walking both morning and evening every day, regardless of the weather. And, yes, long-time readers will remember that that commitment to every day included walking during hurricane warnings, which sounds more dramatic than it is since that doesn’t mean walking during the actual hurricane—though we might have become soaked.
When we moved back to Asheville last year, we were fortunate to find a neighborhood with a greenway, so we continued our twice daily walks—three miles in the morning and three in the afternoon. Bonus—no hurricanes.
Adding in those calories burned to my formula allowed for a much more reasonable dinner.
Now in case you think I just fooled myself into thinking I was accomplishing something, the only measurement that really matters is a bathroom scale. The calorie counting paid off because I lost almost a pound a week for three months. Despite my gripes with the technology telling me the unfortunate truth, it’s working.
I’ve become a maniac about recording everything I consume and good about making trade-offs. Want a slice of cake? Go for it, but only after I answer what is not happening that day to make up for it. Go over my calorie consumption one day because of a special occasion? No worries, just make it up the next day.
Things were going great for a while, but then the weight loss started slowing. The problem, as every person watching their weight knows, is that the first few pounds are easier than the next. I have a goal for the end of the year and I wasn’t sure I would make it unless I continued the trend. If only I could burn a few more calories…
So, yes, we’ve joined the local Y. And, worse, I bought an Apple Watch.
For the first few hours, I loved that watch. It nagged me to wash my hands, reminded me to stand once-an-hour when working at my desk, measured my pulse, and more. So cool.
And then we took our first walk with it. I selected “outdoor walk” from the fitness tracking and amused myself with pace, heart rate, elevation changes, and… distance.
Remember, three miles in the morning and another three in the afternoon? When we reached our half-way point where we turn around to go home, that watch claimed we had only walked 1.3 miles. That threw off my calorie burning calculations.
Challenge accepted. Because of a watch, we continued walking. The dogs were confused. Roscoe, our resident expert on all things routine, told me repeatedly we were doing the walk wrong. I ignored him and kept my eye on the watch face. 1.3. 1.35. 1.4. 1.45. 1.46. 1.47. 1.48. 1.49. 1.50.
Success! We turned and traipsed back home. Roscoe rejoiced we hadn’t lost our senses.
We completed the greenway and headed up the hill on the street toward our house. We turned into the driveway and approached the backdoor. I looked at the watch. 2.98 miles.
Nopity-nope-nope. We weren’t surrendering. Three miles is three miles. We circled the driveway. The dogs glared. Dinner was being delayed. Roscoe wooed in confusion. 2.99.
Another circle. Snorts of derision from our faithful canines. 3.00.
After a few walks, we had the distance down pat. We knew where to turn to achieve our target. Roscoe has accepted the new route. All is good in the world. Except…
Every mile, the watch announces in its snide little voice. “One mile. Pace 24 minutes, 13 seconds.”
Wait. What? That’s slow. It’s clearly the dogs’ fault for sniffing so much. Honest to goodness, Roscoe has to sniff 47 leaves of a bush before he picks the right one to anoint. Sadly, the watch doesn’t measure leaves sniffed per pee, but it should. Decide, boy, we’ve got pace to achieve!
“Two miles. Pace 23 minutes, 58 seconds.”
We now celebrate when we break a 20 minute pace. We groan when we miss. This morning, on our third mile, the watch announced, “Three miles. Pace 20 minutes, 1 second.” One less leaf next time, Roscoe.
The good news, though, is that the watch communicates to my calorie counting app how many calories we burn on those walks. The bad news is that it dutifully tracks not just the current minute, or the current walk, or even the current day, but it maintains a log of everything. Did we take more steps, walk faster, or go further this week than last? And it gleefully reports every detail.
My competitive spirit can’t handle it. I’ve charted leaf sniffing delay time and reviewed it with Roscoe. I’m not sure he totally grasps the PowerPoint slides I’ve shown him, but he’s promised to improve.
In case you think this monitoring only happens on the walks, the watch goes to the gym too. The trainer suggested I use an Arc trainer, a machine that is a cross between an elliptical, a stair master, and pure evil. To properly understand it, close your eyes and envision an out-of-shape guy running down a track while raising his knees to his chin and swinging his arms like a cross-country skier flailing madly out of control seconds before hitting a tree.
To make things worse, the machine sports a giant digital screen which tracks your time, speed, incline, and resistance. Anyone—say a trainer watching to ensure you hit your targets—can see the screen. Fortunately, the data isn’t stored and as soon as you step off the torture device, the screen goes blank. Timing is critical here.
Sadly, my watch doesn’t go blank. That blasted thing gleefully reports, “You did two minutes less torture today than you did yesterday. You burned 100 fewer calories today than you did yesterday. No desert for you.”
There is one bright side, though. The watch is happily announcing that I’m back on track for my weight goal. Don’t you hate it when technology is right? That’s almost as bad as evil doctors being correct.
So, yes, maybe that little story I wrote back in junior high—during the summer when everyone else was outside doing cool kid stuff—was a little more spot on than I care to admit. There’s only one solution to this:
Anyone want to buy a slightly used Apple Watch?
Calorie Counting Apps
Full disclosure is easy here. Those are NOT affiliate links. I have no connection (other than as a customer of Lose It) and don’t receive a penny of compensation for mentioning either one of them or if you chose to use either of them. Nada. Zero. Zip.
Feel free to mention other apps in the comments if you found them helpful.
Gratuitous Dog Picture: Busy Now
I asked Roscoe to pose for a few photos since he was prominently featured in today’s story. He said his schedule was full with plans to harass his big brother, Typhoon. Schedules are important, you know.
Have a terrific week and get some nice relaxing exercise! Leave the technology at home. See you next Monday.
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