Life By The Numbers

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I wonder if young people talk about how much sleep they get. I’m not talking about all-nighters, burning both ends, running on fumes and Red Bull—just ordinary sleep, presented every day to those of us using wearable technology.

Here in Old People Land, where we have our Fitbits and know how to use them, by God, there’s always much conversation about how we slept according to our wrists. Last night looks good, then. Looks like I finally got back on track and caught some decent ZZZZs.

On the other hand, we both know that these aren’t really accurate. Sleep is inferred by the Fitbit; a long movie can fool it into registering a nap. It’s an eyeball sort of thing, then. A rough estimate, a snapshot. Under 6 hours and I know it wasn’t a great night; over 8, and I assume I did pretty well.

And it’s important at this point in my life. Sleep. Sometimes too important, but you know. Gimme my ZZZZs.


I just saw that this morning and thought about how we digest data. I glance at the weather display on my desktop before dressing for outside; it never occurs to me to doubt it, but then it’s an estimate thing anyway. I tend to layer and peel in the spring, because we have those kinds of seasons.

The sleep thing I explained. Some data is useful and easy to trust—I assume the Fitbit tracks my pulse accurately. I’ve got a blood pressure cuff around here somewhere, although I never drag it out anymore. I did check it at the drugstore yesterday, just on a whim.


Nothing to see here. That’s a pretty normal BP for me. I have no reason to doubt.

Or my scale. I’ve seen scales get wonky, particularly when batteries are wearing down or, say, you drop them. Most of the time, though, it makes sense. It varies because what we eat varies, and food has weight. Et cetera. Not gonna talk about scales.

Except to note that the fat percentage number is pretty bogus. The scale sends a weak electric current through the soles of my feet up to around my groin, then down the other leg. The impedance or something is supposed to estimate the fat, or something, although maybe I have leaner legs can see. Maybe it’s useful to watch it move up and down. At any rate, I always step on the scale first thing in the morning, and most of us are dehydrated first thing in the morning, which means that the scale is always going to assess our fat percentage as higher than it is (just trust me).

It’s just interesting to me, what we trust and what we’re skeptical about. I trust my speedometer, although I have no way of knowing. I absolutely trust Google Maps, although I’ve had some bad experiences. I’d trust a thermometer to take my temperature.

Lower stakes would make a difference in trust. Simpler is easier than complex. Experience is the best tool.

But I worry that we get lulled by bells and whistles, by shiny displays that tell us untrue things, or at least unknowable things.

And don’t get me started on oven temperatures.


My daughter had some suggestions to me about how to quietly add in some calories and good nutrition in my little quest to get that scale to go a bit higher without eating a ton of junk. For one thing, I’d get bored quickly with ice cream and donuts, to a point I don’t want to think about (i.e., developing an aversion to them, which cannot be allowed to happen).

And secondly, c’mon. Look at that graphic. First thing in the morning, standing in my underwear only, the lowest weight of the day. 161.1 pounds. Now look at this.

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I’m somewhere between 5’11 and 6’, closer to the former I assume, but this is close enough. My only worry was that I went through a period when the pounds kept dripping off, bit by bit. That’s not really the case anymore, although overeating is hard to do now. You wouldn’t think so but yep. Again, unless I want to eat a bag of M&Ms every day, and again, look at the graphic—I’m not dying, I’m not wasting away, I’m right about at a perfect statistical weight. I’d just prefer to not feel so gaunt. I’d prefer to add weight primarily with muscle. That’s all.

Anyway, this is my fault. I fretted publicly way too much, and since it appears the vast majority of people I know have exactly the opposite issue, there’s not a lot of understanding and so I double down, determined to explain more clearly.

So, forget that. Beth suggested some techniques that make a lot of sense, mostly to sneak in calories without really noticing. I make smoothies a lot, cramming fruit and greens into the blender in an attempt to at least get some minimal nutrition.

I just upped it, then, creating the Kitchen Sink Smoothie, which I’m now pretty proud of. I fill up the vitamin and mineral tank, I get good fats from nuts and avocado, it’s delicious with a slight aftertaste (that would be the chard), and it clocks in at around 50 grams of protein and 1200 calories. I drink the entire thing, about 25 ounces, and it doesn’t seem to affect my appetite much at all.

And it makes me feel good, and I don’t need a wristwatch to tell me that.

Chuck SigarsComment