My FitBit and Me

In ear­ly Jan­u­ary, Angela and I got match­ing his-and-hers Fit­Bit One’s to start track­ing our activ­i­ty. Ange­la’s actu­al­ly been wear­ing a pedome­ter for years now. But the Fit­Bit does a lot more data track­ing than a sim­ple pedome­ter. I’ve been wear­ing it every­day since then.

There a few tech­nolo­gies I’ve adopt­ed that I would con­sid­er life-chang­ing. Maybe not the sort that change the entire course of my life, but cer­tain­ly that have had a dra­mat­ic impact on my day-to-day behav­ior. DVR (TiVo), smart­phone (iPhone), and a per­son­al activ­i­ty track­er (Fit­Bit). As a pro­fes­sion­al, I’ve always been at a desk for a lot of my time. But when I prac­ticed engi­neer­ing, I was often going on site vis­its and mov­ing around through­out the day. Now that I’ve been work­ing remote­ly for a soft­ware com­pa­ny, that’s not the case. My activ­i­ty lev­el can vary dra­mat­i­cal­ly from day-to-day. I had no idea just how much until I start­ed wear­ing the Fit­Bit.

Pocket Location

I keep my Fit­Bit one clipped to the watch pock­et in my Jeans.

One day I’d break 10,000 steps short­ly before lunch (if I went run­ning, typ­i­cal­ly). On anoth­er day, I might be lucky to approach 2,000 steps. What’s more, is my eat­ing var­ied just as much. And my activ­i­ty (i.e., caloric expense) had absolute­ly no cor­re­la­tion with my eat­ing (i.e., caloric intake). So my body would one day get twice as many calo­ries as it real­ly need­ed and anoth­er not enough. I was essen­tial­ly train­ing my cave­man-era/lizard-brained body to hold on to every scrap of calo­ries it got because who knew what tomor­row would bring.

Daily Achievement Unlocked!

Meet­ing your dai­ly goals comes with bonus endor­phins!

Wear­ing the Fit­Bit and care­ful­ly track­ing my calo­ries eat­en has help to change that behav­ior. I now track my calo­rie intake using LoseIt1. Hav­ing a num­ber of activ­i­ty goals —steps, active min­utes, stairs, and miles— all of which gam­i­fy my phys­i­cal activ­i­ty. Of course, I don’t meet the tar­gets all (most?) of the time, but just hav­ing the goals points me in the right direc­tion rather than stum­bling around in the dark.

Of course, just track­ing the data is one thing. It would be all too easy to just pile it all togeth­er in some use­less place. Fit­Bit’s web site and iPhone app are real­ly excep­tion­al. In fact, I sort of use my Fit­Bit as just a recorder (and occa­sion­al time­piece) and rarely take it out of my pock­et. I sim­ply use the iPhone app. On an iPhone 4S or new­er, the smart­phone syncs direct­ly to the Fit­Bit via Blue­tooth 4.

Power Walker

I must have got­ten lost that day.

I also use the Fit­Bit to track my sleep, although that’s more to make sure I’m get­ting enough rather than judg­ing the qual­i­ty of it. Appar­ent­ly, I’m gen­er­al­ly 98% effi­cient at sleep­ing, what­ev­er that means. The vel­cro wrist strap is a pain and tends to come off my arm. I’m on my sec­ond wrist strap, as well as sec­ond sil­i­cone clip. As a result, I’m con­sid­er­ing upgrad­ing to a Force next year. The One has been great so far.

  1. LoseIt has a great iPhone app and syncs both ways with a Fit­Bit account. []

Dairy Farm Tour

Gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, there are two sides to how we get food in this coun­try: how we think our food is pro­duced and how it real­ly is pro­duced. These two seem to have dras­ti­cal­ly diverged some­where in the 1950s. To a cer­tain extent, this has allowed greater pros­per­i­ty in the form of cheap food for the mass­es. How­ev­er, to a much larg­er extent we are learn­ing that much of what we sac­ri­ficed for low­er prices, uni­for­mi­ty, and uni­ver­sal avail­abil­i­ty is slow­ly killing us. Fur­ther, it has near­ly already killed off the way our food pro­duc­ers (farm­ers, most­ly, but even those fur­ther down the pro­duc­tion line) do their busi­ness.

I’ve been talk­ing for years about the eth­i­cal and envi­ron­men­tal rea­sons for buy­ing local prod­ucts and foods but since we’ve had kids, we’ve also been con­cerned about the health rea­sons. We had been buy­ing organ­ic foods when pos­si­ble (prod­ucts which are get­ting eas­i­er to find and cheap­er as a result of greater demand) and also recent­ly went about try­ing to find local­ly grown or made prod­ucts. As Wyatt is about to turn a year old — and thus will be switch­ing off baby for­mu­la and on to cow’s milk — we decid­ed to try and find some local milk. This is what led us to Hatch­er Fam­i­ly Dairy only a few miles away from us, in Col­lege Grove, TN.

We had intend­ed to just head down to the Hatch­er farm store to have some sand­wich­es for lunch and get a cou­ple of gal­lons of milk. We end­ed up also pur­chas­ing some ground lamb and gela­to, as well as sign­ing up the entire fam­i­ly for the farm tour lat­er that after­noon. This would be Wyat­t’s first gal­lon of milk and would­n’t it be fun to see exact­ly where it came from and how it was made?

Wyatt's New Friend

If you watch the film “Food, Inc.” — or even read almost any­thing from Eric Schloss­er — you’ll learn about some pro­posed laws which would make it ille­gal to report on or pho­to­graph food pro­cess­ing plants in the U.S. I’m not going to com­ment on these laws, their cur­rent sta­tus, or even if this is an accu­rate descrip­tion of what they pur­port to do; but just want to men­tion that at least some peo­ple in this coun­try are con­cerned about this aspect of the state of food pro­duc­tion in this coun­try. So what would we expect from food pro­duc­ers who had noth­ing to hide? How would we expect a com­pa­ny who is actu­al­ly proud of how they pro­duce our food? Well, you can find at least one answer at Hatch­er: they offer bi-month­ly tours of their farm facil­i­ties, by mem­bers of the Hatch­er fam­i­ly and their long-time staff. They — in no uncer­tain terms — make it clear that if you as a cus­tomer have any issues with their milk, come and see them. They are the epit­o­me of the cliche “the buck stops here.” Their prod­uct is expen­sive and they freely admit they don’t have plans to feed every­one; but you can’t help but respect their will­ing­ness to be com­plete­ly open and hon­est with any­one who walks off the street and onto their farm.

Hatcher Family Dairy Farm

It is also worth not­ing that it is clear that the fam­i­ly and staff at Hatch­er sure­ly do love what they do. I already knew enough of dairy farm­ing to know that no one choos­es it because it is an easy life. When you take into account that imme­di­ate­ly across the road from the farm is a huge golf course and sub­di­vi­sion of half-mil­lion dol­lar plus homes under con­struc­tion; you have to real­ize that farm­ing is a lifestyle they want to con­tin­ue. It would be so tempt­ing for any farm­ing fam­i­ly sit­ting on a few hun­dred acres in one of the coun­try’s wealth­i­est coun­ties to sell out and retire (and like­ly free a cou­ple of gen­er­a­tions to come from ever hav­ing to con­sid­er if they want to con­tin­ue the fam­i­ly busi­ness). It has hap­pened time and time again all across Williamson Coun­ty. But here are the Hatch­ers, of whom the youngest sib­ling just grad­u­at­ed with a degree in agri­cul­ture busi­ness and now runs the busi­ness in addi­tion to per­son­al­ly milk­ing most every cow, dai­ly.

At the end of our hour-and-a-half tour, our two young kids prob­a­bly did­n’t have any bet­ter of an idea of where their milk comes that they did before. After all, Ains­ley already knew that milk came from cows. How­ev­er, as an adult, it is amaz­ing to see that some­one still makes and sells their milk just as they did since before the Civ­il War, when they start­ed the farm.

That being said, we all could appre­ci­ate the sam­ple of choco­late milk we got.

Ansley and a Calf

Lat­er that evening, we made beef & lamb burg­ers with some of the ground lamb from Hatch­er and then had some of their vanil­la and straw­ber­ry gela­to for desert. Din­ner with the fam­i­ly out in our back yard was the best; know­ing much of it came from anoth­er fam­i­ly down the road.