Friday, January 20, 2017

Aedificamus: Temptation Bundling and Topping Out

I've been taking part in an interesting experiment over the past year and a half, give or take a few weeks. If you are reading this post, you've already seen the "Aedificamus" in the title. That means this is a post about health, fitness, and my often fumbling and stumbling approach to it.

One of the things that I have found interesting is how easy it is to find escapes from things I need to do. I have the best of intentions. I have set and calendared the things that I know I need to do. Yet, there is always a diversion, a distraction, some way I can wiggle out of what I planned to do. Then, I get down on myself for missing the mark or not doing what I know I should be doing. I think this stems from the fact that I overestimate both my energy reserves and my willingness to do things, especially if those things result in me being sore the next day. So what is an earnest person to do?

Two people have been instrumental in helping me think about this in a different way; SuperBetter author Jane McGonigal (if you have not seen her talk about "The Game that can Give You Ten Extra Years of Life", I highly recommend it) and Manoush Zomorodi of the "Note to Self" podcast. Both Jane and Manoush have explored the ways that technology, play, and the quirkiness of our brains can lead to interesting discoveries.

Jane specifically opened up the idea of incorporating gaming into my workout routines. Most of us look at gaming as a sedentary affair. True, there are fitness games and games that specialize in movement (I have several revisions of Dance Dance Revolution, as well as two high-quality Red Octane dance pads that get good use). However, the majority of games don't fit into a physical activity model. That doesn't mean that we can't tweak the way we play so that we can include activity.


I've incorporated a rebounder, or a small trampoline, into my time when I play casual games. This might sound strange, but it is surprisingly effective. As I stand on the rebounder, I am constantly shifting my weight. The bounce and the movement require my body to adapt, as well as to counterbalance. Additionally, the actual gameplay becomes more challenging. I have to play while in unbalanced motion. The net result is that I am able to do a process of "temptation bundling". The idea behind temptation bundling is we take something we should be doing but we may put off or otherwise shy away from and blend it with something we actively enjoy but may feel guilty giving our time to. The net result is, I get to play the various games I enjoy and at the same time give myself a vigorous workout.

During an episode of Note to Self called "Your Quantified Body, Your Quantified Self", Manoush shared stories from a number of listeners, as well as interviews with experts, on the promise of all of this collected data that we can record about ourselves through our various fitness trackers and devices, and what it ends up meaning to us. As I have used the LoseIt application, over time I have become familiar with a set of basic metrics. One of the key features of LoseIt is the "Challenges" space. People can compete individually or against others in teams to meet fitness and nutrition goals. What makes the metrics interesting is that they all "top out". Sure, you can do more, but the point accumulation stops.

Here's the gist of the point accumulations. Other than logging in every day and recording food and activity, you can quantify the following:

- Eat 75 calories of fresh fruit to earn 1 point. You top out at 3 points (225 total calories).

- Eat 25 calories of fresh vegetables to earn 1 point. You top out at 8 points (200 total calories).

- If you exercise (or earn a caloric adjustment from your fitness tracker) each time you burn half of your current bodyweight in calories, you earn 1 point. A 200 lb person would earn 1 point for every 100 calories burned. It would be a different value for other weights, but the same principle applies. Everyone tops out at 10 points (in my example, 1000 calories).

- If you record breakfast and lunch, and each meal has a caloric intake of 150 calories or better, you get 5 points for each meal. If you log dinner, you get 2 extra points, for a max of 12.

- If you weigh in once a week, you get 10 points. Any additional days you weigh in over the course of the week gets you 1 additional point for each day you weigh in, for a maximum of 16 points.

- You can earn points towards your weight loss goal, or while maintaining your weight. If you maintain your weight during the week, you can earn up to 40 points per week. If you lose weight based on your goal, you can earn up to 50 points per week.

Seems like a lot to wrap your head around, but think of puzzle pieces. Figure out how to get 225 calories of fresh fruit and 200 calories of vegetables, and I'm done with those needs for the day. If I burn 1000 calories in a given day, I've maxed out. If I've lost weight at the target level or maintained, I top out there, too. Topping out allows me to say "enough". If I top out, I'm good. I need not keep going for that day. Of course, I shouldn't reverse the process by doing something that will undermine my efforts, but I don't feel like I have to keep slogging. When I see that I 've topped out, I don't have to focus on that goal any longer, at least for that day.

Ultimately, success occurs when we are enjoying the process and when we can see that we have put in sufficient effort without overdoing it. Gaming may not be your thing, but maybe Netflix is. You may not have a rebounder, but you may have a treadmill, or a stationary bicycle, or something else you can do to be active while you do that thing you really like to do. I'd be curious to hear what your temptation bundles are. If you would like, please share them in the comments section below.
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