Processing error: The crux of too much input

July 13, 2016

“I gotta get serious, man. I’m not kidding. I still have 15 pounds of Sloppy Joan on me!”
“You look great! I’m the one who has a jiggly ass.”
“Oh, whatever!”
“No, really. I have this pair of jeans that make a crazy noise when I walk. You know, because my thighs are rubbing together.”
“I mean, I just love brownies. And cookies. And ice cream. And I can’t say no.”
“I know, it’s hard. Especially when you’re working, and raising kids, and trying to keep the house up, and …”
“Yeah, but I want to stop making excuses.”
“Yeah. No. Let’s do it.”
“No sugar, for 12 weeks. None.”
“I’m in.”
“OK, once a week. Once a week we can have sugar.”
“Yeah, that’s better.”

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from the sad docu-drama, “Baby Weight Is Not So Great: A story of pudge and pooh-poohs”.

This body, stretched and tired, just never came back to me after my third trip round the maternity ward. It is a truth that I wake up to every morning and try to kick out of bed every night. As it could be said for nearly everything in this country right now, there is work to be done here. My problem is, when I want to achieve something – anything – I tend to collect support tools. You know, like how your mom collects cookbooks or 4 year olds hoard rocks. I want the secret code in Super Mario Brothers that unlocks weight loss, a clean house, well-behaved children. Up + Up + Down + Down + A = a waistline, etc. I get sucked in to apps and gadgets and blog posts about things like protein made out of crickets. I let the promises take over, like mint in an otherwise tame Midwestern garden. The result is a hoarder’s house of apps and monitors and half-filled notebooks.

phonepaper 2

The damning evidence.
When I wake up in the morning, should I feel so inclined, I check in with my Fitbit app and see how much sleep I just got. I try to recall when and why I was restless 10x when I was supposed to be getting beautiful, restorative rest. Did I pee? Was it Spike?

I step on the scale before I head out the door just because I like to a) torture myself and b) update the weight stats on my various food and fitness tracking mechanisms daily.

I go sit at my desk, where I drink from a cup that has the ounces marked so I can measure my daily water intake.

Following each and every meal I tediously and dutifully enter my caloric missteps into MyFitnessPal, so I know exactly how high I need to rank in that moment on the self loathing scale.

Of course, some of the food isn’t that terrible. I know this because I scanned them with my Fooducate app and it told me so.

I check in with my wrist periodically … I’m at 2,000 steps … now just 2,800 … now 6,000.

My phone vibrates to remind me that I am not chained to this smudged keyboard and it’s time to get my ass moving for a bit.

Around 3pm I Snapchat a picture of my unnecessary dessert with the caption “Big girl loves cake” and, of course, a poop emoji.

When it’s time to work out, I have my usual tracking device or, if I want a more accurate reading, I’ll borrow Hank’s heart rate monitor to see just how little I burn in comparison to what I ingest in one sitting.

I jot down my activity and calorie burn tally in my exercise journal and check to make sure it registered in my Fitbit dashboard.

I’ll finish the day with a peek at my blog stats for the past week and then fire up my meditation app for a quick 10-minute mindfulness exercise.


I can remember at one point, not so long ago, my former employer decided to implement a task-tracking system so our department could make the case for more manpower. Every time you went from one project to another, took a break, or went offline, you had to document it. I was also trying to shed the pounds from baby No. 2 and got on the body tracking bug bus hardcore. Literally every minute of my waking and sleeping hours could be accounted for, examined, dissected, scrutinized.

And you can do it, too. There is a tool for gauging your every success and misstep on the market right this very second. Want to see how relevant your digital dialogue is? Get into your Facebook Insights. Care to explore how you’re spending your time? Download Lifehacker and have at it. Down to track your spending, productivity, exercise frequency, project management, mile splits … there’s an app for that.

But what happens to us when we get that introspective? How can you harness and process that much quantitative output about things like floors climbed and resting bpm? I’ll tell you … we become our own worst critics, doling out Rotten Tomatoes to yourself for every bonehead meal choice and skipped sweat session. I don’t know about you, but once my calories in/calories out get in the red, I’m out. I’m done. Cooked. I’m pounding sleeves of Oreos; plunging them into chocolate milk just to show off. It’s like I let go of the expectation I had for myself when I started entering every freaking condiment and candy hours before and just go bananas.

The pressure of so much accountability is unrealistic. It’s exhausting. I mean, I came up with 11 points of access for personal health feedback, without even trying hard. I’m certainly not going to be a hater here. It’s entirely self-inflicted. Nobody put those apps on my phone or strapped the monitor to my wrist. And I’ve had great success in the past leveraging dashboards and tracking tools and DietBets. A lot of folks have. You don’t know what you don’t know, and knowledge can be powerful when you know what you want to do with it. But I guess I don’t know what I want to do with it anymore. I haven’t known what to do with it for awhile. I have come to the realization that I am over-tracked and under-living. I know what I’m supposed to do and, as a grownup(?) I should be able to just do it, without creating a hall of records to house every failure and over indulgence.

Last week, while comforting a co-worker as she barreled toward a full-fledged presentation-induced meltdown, I told her she needed to, “Turn off the faucet and get in the tub.” Meaning, sometimes I think we hide in the info-gathering. We assume that once we have all the facts, all the data, all the feedback, the answer will magically reveal itself. But if I’m honest with myself, I know what’s going on. I know where I’m messing up. I know that the s’mores need to go and the hard work needs to grow. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still use my running app for half marathon training and weigh myself. But maybe I’ll just step on the scale every Monday. And I’ll try to eat what makes my body and mind feel good, without analyzing the hell out of the proteins, carbohydrates and fiber (Like I know what all that shit means anyway). Good things in, good vibes out.

It’s time to turn off the faucet and get in the tub.

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