By The Bakersfield Californian
Those who follow me on Twitter and Facebook know that since Christmas, I've been regularly sharing my exercise regimen.
After a full year and a half of hitting the gym three to four times a week in the quest to add 10 pounds of muscle to my small frame, I'd pretty much hit a wall last November. There are only so many barbell reps and protein-heavy meals one person can take, and no one would argue that I'm not in decent shape. So, I started taking it easy. Too easy.
First I stopped weightlifting. Then I started skipping my long runs, the weather turned cold, the holidays started -- you get the picture. So my husband bought me a Nike FuelBand for Christmas.
Even before the bracelet -- which measures every movement and creates a score that I can use to gauge progress against myself or other FuelBand users by way of an iPhone app -- became an ever-present accessory on my left arm, I've been a devoted tracker.
I have weight, pulse, blood pressure and daily calorie intake records going back a decade, but this has become mostly useless information. Today, via a variety of mobile apps, I keep track of important health markers and view actionable data that show me how I'm doing and what I need to do to stay on track.
For instance, with Type 2 diabetes coursing through my family, I record everything I eat. Yes, everything.
After I enter the data on an app, I can consult nutrition and weight charts, graphs and recognition awards for maintaining my intake of carbs, protein and fat on an even keel over the long haul, even in the face of holidays and special occasions.
The reason tracking works is not, as some believe, that it keeps you accountable, though that part helps, especially the cheering and support I get when I post my push-up counts and daily "Fuel" points on social media. (And no one was too hard on me last week when I posted the heartbreaking end of a 23-day streak of meeting my daily movement goals even after several days where I trudged up and down my stairs at a quarter-till-midnight just to make my numbers.)
But, actually, the most important thing is having those cold, hard facts to evaluate.
People are generally terrible at overestimating their healthy actions and underestimating their vices -- study after study has confirmed that the average person thinks they are more active than they really are. From normal-weight people who overestimate their exercise level by a factor of three or four, to parents who believe their children get eight times the minutes of daily movement that they really do, we routinely misperceive our routines.
Calories are another area where we're generally clueless. Studies going back years, such as a 2006 Cornell analysis, confirm that normal-weight people tend to underestimate their caloric intake by 20 percent while overweight people can guess low by 40 percent.
In the realm of wellness, knowledge is power and real information about what we do with our bodies is invaluable. Though the FuelBand has been working well for me, it's not perfect. I'd love a wristband to keep a record of my heart rate and, like some of the other fitness bands on the market, keep track of my sleep, in addition to other biorhythms.
Maybe that's coming. Rumors are flying that Apple is currently developing a wristwatch-like device made of curved glass, and though the techies are imagining email, maps and music on your wrist, I can only salivate at the health possibilities of such a device.
But we needn't go into the realm of science fiction to imagine how technology can realize tangible health benefits.
Hispanics are just one example -- they suffer from the highest rates of Type 2 diabetes, which can be controlled with good diet and exercise. They also boast higher-than-average smartphone ownership.
Combine this with the woeful news that, according to Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, Latinos are less likely than non-Hispanic whites and African-Americans to keep track of health parameters such as weight, caloric intake, headaches and sleep patterns. It should be obvious there is a golden opportunity for transforming millions of misestimators into devotees of healthy, data-driven lives.
Email Esther J. Cepeda of The Washington Post Writers Group at estherjcepeda@ washpost.com.