The sound of no app tracking

Does untracked exercise actually exist?

In recent months, in my attempt to improve my health and well-being, I’ve been using various tracking apps on my phone. There is my calorie app, and my two running apps, and my walking app (which is a variation on a theme). I’ve been keeping up with my walks, aiming for every day but not clinging stubbornly to that idea, especially if the weather is inclement. But I do get a little satisfaction when I get my weekly tally of kilometres travelled, minutes active and calories burned.

So when my phone started to lose battery charge more quickly than it should when doing these mundane things, there was a moment of panic.

Well, perhaps not panic… but maybe an unhealthy attachment?

In this era of health optimization through data gathering and crunching, the loss of that data stream feels like an enforced blindness. But that’s not a healthy way to get healthy. That dances far too close to disordered thinking – the hunger to push those numbers higher dovetails nicely with the hunger to push calorie numbers lower; to challenge the body to do more exertion with less intake – to cut out all that is unnecessary and only ingest what is perfectly nutritious and adequately caloric.

And how will you do that math if you can’t see the 5 minutes of stair climbing calorie burn compared to that tall holiday spice flat white? (an acceptable caloric splurge, given the protein and calcium content)

Maybe it’s just me, in my dual quest – part trying to get myself back into a shape that I used to have, part trying to be healthy so that I can’t blame that for my continuing facial tingling. But the pattern emerging through continued observation of when the tingling occurs places the majority of the blame on posture, with a not insignificant percentage being associated with stress response.

You know what’s not helping my stress? Trying to maintain absolute control over my exercise and food.

The problem is that I just don’t “feel like” doing a gym workout. I use my running app so I can listen and “participate” in a story as I run. And afterwards, I’m happy and proud of my accomplishment. But the lethargy is strong in this one. At any given moment, I’d prefer to curl up with a book, my knitting, a tea, or some computing device. I really don’t want to do exercise for exercise’s sake. How boring. Which is why I have to schedule it – if it’s an “appointment” or a “meeting” then I have to do it. It’s best if I don’t actually think about it at all, and just suddenly find myself in exercise clothes and poised to do a boring, repetitious task which will make me feel pain and will make me sweat, but in the long run is “what is good for me”.

I’d compare it to having to eat your broccoli, but I actually like and occasionally crave a good pile of 2-minute-steamed broccoli, with a grind of salt over top and a tiny splash of lemon or lime juice. Mmmm, maybe I’ll add that to my dinner plans tonight…

I’m tired of blaming a lack of discipline when I feel like most other things in my life are achieved through discipline. I’ve metaphorically dragged myself by the scruff of the neck to and from work some days. I have discipline.

Maybe I am addicted to watching those numbers change. Or maybe that’s what I’ve been using for motivation. Either way, I’m looking at replacing my phone so that it can be fully functional again. But in the meantime, I’m observing what not tracking my calories and exercise is doing.

I don’t bury myself face-first in my calorie tracking app as soon as I’m done a meal, guessing volumes and masses. I’m not gaming how long a walk needs to be for me to feel good about eating the food my body is telling me it needs. I’m not multitasking setting up my activity tracking app as I’m heading out somewhere with friends or loved ones.

But I still think about it. I still look at my meal and think that I could have made a lighter calorie choice. I feel guilt for not scheduling a run on a perfectly sunny day off. I feel guilt for not doing yoga five times a week.

Or maybe I could be less hard on myself? I read somewhere that an analysis of the various tracking apps showed that they can be completely inaccurate – the “calorie in versus calorie out” being, at best, incorrect, and at worst, having no correlation to reality. Much like the “calorie burn” on a treadmill or elliptical machine – they are a rough guide and should not be relied on as truth. Maybe when I get my new phone, I’ll be more selective about the tracking I do with it.

Otherwise, I’m enjoying getting back into running, although I am trying to be careful not to drive myself back into my injured state. I do feel so much better after a yoga practice. It’s lovely to go for a walk and explore what’s happening in my environment day to day, as the seasons change. And there’s nothing wrong with reading a book in a sunbeam sometimes, while drinking a nice cup of tea. I just need to remember that.



I did my gradual return to work over a month and a half and now am back full time.

And today I am at home, sick with a virus that someone brought into the office. *sigh* I don’t even know if I have the sick time to cover this, but I can’t spread this further.

I’m still experiencing the prickling but my desk is being set up ergonomically, so hopefully that helps. I’m trying to follow the recommendations of all my health care providers and move, refocus my eyes somewhere more distant than my screen, set healthy boundaries (for myself and others), walk away from my desk every noon hour.

But I always have that internal critic, sniping at me and making me feel like I have to justify myself, and that drawing boundaries is “letting myself off easy”. But I can physically feel that the boundaries are necessary. When I turn off my computer at night to go home, it’s because I have to. I need to do something other than my work. Sometimes I barely have the energy to make a decision about what that will be before my alarm goes off, signaling the beginning of my medicated time, and the rapid approach of the end of my day.

I don’t know where I picked up this sickness – perhaps I could blame society or some aspect of a work culture. But it is a sickness. I remember feeling so righteous in my overtime. Moments that disappeared into the void of a “good job” given with a quarter of that person’s attention, because they were so busy being busy. Or perhaps not even a thank you. Which led me to believe that this was what was expected of me in that job. Sacrificing moments of my life to ensure that something was flawless.

But nothing is flawless. And to chase down every obscure flaw provides diminishing returns. At some point, you’re just driving yourself into the brick wall for your own ego’s sake. A man on a flying horse isn’t going to notice, as my grandmother said. Good enough.

I have a couple of personal projects that I want to do. They are at the top of my “things to do when not at work” list, but they take effort. And effort is something I haven’t felt like I have a whole store of. I was hoping the medical leave would have helped to refill that, but maybe I’ve been running on fumes for so long, I didn’t realize that my tank was that empty.

So right now I’m working on a work project that I was asked to do just before I had to take my medical leave. And I’m trying to keep track of my symptoms daily to try to describe the patterns.

And I’m trying to live healthily. I’m incorporating more exercise, and I’m eating well, I think. I’m enjoying some deep breathing exercises and keeping my mind mostly clear. I’m playing piano and playing some video games and reading. I am watching shows and movies with my husband. I occasionally even socialize.

Some days I’m okay. Some days I feel like a shadow of who I was. I don’t know if people notice. I don’t like the side effects of the medications that are supposed to be helping me. I’ve been on most of them for over a year now and I’m still experiencing the same symptoms. 

But the world shows its beauty and I am grateful to witness it. I try to keep my head up and ears open. Slowly, I am determined that I will be back.

Canvas prep is messy work

Outside again, on my comfy blanket in the shade and the gorgeous breeze. Finished a weird chapter that will likely change significantly after editing but that is for later. Starting a new chapter to try to get them to their next destination and thought I’d give myself some time outside before my social evening #2 starts.

One week left in my eight wandering weeks. This time has flown by. I’ve gotten through almost 50 pages in my novel, written a short story that will be followed up with another, and started what I thought was a short story that is apparently another book. Plus, I finished and delivered a painting, and started a new one. Just today, I completed a doodle canvas and prepped six more smaller canvases. One will be a painting and the other five will be doodles.

I still have lots of other things I’d love to do (enumerated to my friend last night, it seemed suddenly like a tsunami of creativity). But reality does have to be acknowledged at some point. My job does still need to be done. ;)

Writing al fresco

Too many Things I Should Not Have To Deal With are popping up inside, so I decided to grab my stuff and a comfy blanket, and write out in the fresh air for a bit. Complete with a new jasmine white tea that I picked up this morning.

I’ve been feeling very pressured, stressed and frustrated for the past two days, and part of it is linked to work intruding into this time off. I am disappointed in this because I have taken a large pay cut, including other benefits, in order to have this time. I am not being paid right now. That is how I’ve “paid” for this time. I know it’s due to timing (particularly: bad) that this is coming up. And I know it’s out of respect that the work is even mentioned. But it’s an emotional response to it right now on my part.

I just finished reading Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking (see my Reading page) and in it she talks about the inner Fraud Police. These are the voices who taunt and torment you from your own mind, saying that what you’re doing isn’t worthy of respect and recognition, that you’re a fraud and shouldn’t expect to be able to do this creative work. That creative work is playtime and you should be Working A Job Like A Grown-Up.

Having work intrude on my creative time… Hell, having a lot of things intrude on my creative, unpaid sacrifice time, feels like the Fraud Police have become real. That the voices exist and are supported by those people who are causing the intrusions. And it makes me want to cry. I cried last night from the feelings, although I wanted to growl at them and drink whisky and tell them to fuck off. A part of it is that I have expectations of myself for these weeks and I feel like little things like errands are frittering away my time, like I’m not taking this seriously either.

Yesterday afternoon, I was slammed back into my stressed-from-work emotional eating, and I was shocked. I still have time and I’m already feeling the high blood pressure, tight chest, emotional eating stress of work that has caused me to pack on 40 lbs in the last few years.

I want to cry now as I sit in the park near my house trying to escape.

I’ll try to use the emotions to flesh out the turmoil my characters should be feeling. I don’t like crying in public.

Gritty downtown writing 

It’s muggy and it’s been hot for days. The sky is overcast and threatening to rain and I don’t have an umbrella. But I had to pop by work quickly to leave instructions for some work travel coming up in November that we need to get approved ASAP. So I went in. And didn’t stop to talk to anyone and said “I am not here…” to everyone who did see me.

I don’t think my Jedi mind tricks worked on them either. But I was in and out in half an hour.

But this way, I get to stop by my new favourite downtown coffee shop, Morning Owl, and enjoy their dark roast and do a bit of out-of-the-house writing. And hit my local art supply store to pick up a couple of appropriately sized canvases for upcoming projects.

Beautiful writing Friday

My handmade cup, full of Bengal Spice tea, and my pencil that travels with my novel notebook. The living room was my writing spot today and it was perfect and productive. Mostly.

A gorgeous breeze flowed through the house, keeping everything cool and summery. The air contained just the slightest hint of sunwarmed curtains, and they danced aside, allowing the outside air in.

Feeling better about my writing now, at the end of the day. There were a few moments of distraction and walking away, but the journey continues for my characters. I might even be able to put down some words this weekend.

Ah, irony

I just opened a fortune cookie – the final step of my lunch that I ate about half an hour ago, and received this fortune (doubled, because the same message was stuffed in the one cookie twice):

Each moment should be treasured.

As I was just mentally preparing my blog post for today. Indeed, fortune cookie. Each moment *should* be treasured. So let’s unpack the moments I was about to relate.

I just popped over to try a “new” Viet-Thai restaurant that opened up not far from my house. I was feeling like having some deep fried vegetarian spring rolls, so I figured today was as good a day as any to try them out.

I walked in the door late in the lunch hour and there are a total of four customers, all older men. The lady seats me at the front of the restaurant, in the window, beside two of these customers.

Planning on doing a bit of writing while enjoying my lunch, I get out my book. I had forgotten my pencil somewhere, so I used a pen instead (I usually use pencil because then I can erase if I want to change something, rather than scratching it out). I ordered my veggie spring rolls and a shrimp pad thai, because their pho is all meat based. *sigh*

And so I try to concentrate on my storyline, where did I leave my character, how she will overcome what she just endured, that sort of thing.

But these two customers beside me, two old goats, are bleating on about this and that. The first about how he’s trying to game his “Woman. Lawyer. *knowing look*” neighbour because their shared retaining wall has to be fixed (hers, obviously, because of when each of their houses were built, although she can’t figure this out because she’s a woman, clearly).

<bawk bawk bawk>

My food arrives quickly, and I don’t have a chance to write down three lines, so I set my book aside and focus on my bloody hot spring rolls straight from the deep fryer. They’re alright, although I never understand why potatoes are included in the filling. Then my pad thai arrives before I finish eating my last bite, so no writing will happen now. It is also just alright. I try a bit of fish sauce on it, and slightly improve the one spot so I put more on, and promptly ruin it by making it too salty. Dang.

All the while, I’m learning that the second fellow’s upstairs neighbour has an alternative lifestyle that results in his not getting up until 4 or 5 in the afternoon, and moving furniture around at inappropriate o’clock at night, which makes his doesn’t-have-a-licence-so-she-doesn’t-drive wife angry. So he said that this is the last time he’ll be politely asking the fellow to be more considerate of others, and then it’s going to get real. And maybe the upstairs neighbour should change his meds if he can’t function like a real person.


Next they’re discussing lawn care, and the first old goat is talking again about his “Women. Lawyer. *knowing look*” neighbour and how he takes care of this triangle shaped sliver of no-man’s land between their properties, and how she went and stuck her garbage on it, enraging him. And how he waited until she left to get out his tape measure and figure out where his property line goes, because he doesn’t have an actual survey to refer to. But he had to do it when she wasn’t there, because, well now, he didn’t want to tip her off, and she works from home.

The second fellow, who clearly lives in a condo or some kind of apartment building, has taken it upon himself to do the lawn care and snow clearing for the building, so he’s looking for a broken snowblower of the same model he has so he can salvage parts from it, or he wants a specific chain drive new model. And I think, or you could let your landlord handle that and you wouldn’t have to worry about any of it… Or about submitting receipts to him so he’ll pay you back for doing it…

<bawk bawk bawk>

So, I’m finished my food and still have about half a pot of tea left and a full glass of water. At last, a bit of a chill moment with empty hands, so I can write and enjoy my beverages before I toddle home (to more noise because of construction two doors down from me, and the property manager doing renovations today on the empty basement apartment in our building).


Then the old goats start to talk politics and the election. And how proportional representation would be awful because then we’d be in a situation like Greece.


I feel like leaning over and explaining that it’s not proportional representation that’s the problem in Greece… For example, there is this. As well as issues with people actually paying taxes and whatnot… But I don’t, and they continue.

<bawk bawk bawk>

And I just frankly don’t want to hear it. So instead of chilling in the restaurant, I get up to go.

The second fellow kind of notices this, I think, and he mentions to his friend as I’m packing up that he had been having a good day until they started talking about politics.


At any rate, I’m not going to go back to that restaurant. I really miss Taste Ramen + Fusion, where I could go, get great tofu dishes, sit in a quiet (or noisy) space (just far enough away from other conversations that it didn’t matter) and write during my lunch hour.

Let’s examine what I can treasure from these moments. I learned a few things, including barking your opinion in public as an older adult just makes you look foolish and opinionated. I didn’t like that restaurant’s food. And that there are sexist jerks living in my area. Although the restaurant staff were very lovely. Oh, and the one server called me sir, and then corrected himself to miss/ma’am. Yeah…

I’m going to enjoy my home brewed pot of Harney and Sons peppermint tea now, put on some ambient music and write my next chapter. Then, I might prepare myself to paint this evening.