I’m a big believer in assessing and tracking our health data to better improve our wellbeing. I believe prevention to be a far greater strategy than cure. It’s why my clients get biannual extensive pathology testing and analysis as part of our work together. It’s also why, as an athlete, I religiously tracked splits and data from training , resting heart rate, and my menstrual cycle. In my work, I’ve constantly been encouraged to track metrics.
In every pillar of wellness, there is data that can be tracked, analyzed, and supported, in order to create an environment in which we can better thrive as humans. But when does this information, or the acquiring of said information, create more harm than good? A question I don’t believe get’s asked enough.
When it comes to pathology, I do believe information is power. But, if the information being collected does not change how one would approach a treatment protocol, or support oneself (or their clients), we must ask if it’s really necessary. We also have to consider whether the testing itself would cause greater harm than the results received. In both naturopathic medicine, and the Hippocratic oath (of which our western medical model is founded upon), one guiding philosophy underpins all care: first do no harm. In reality, this is often forgotten in a world which demands fast and efficient results.
I had my own reminder of this recently. At 25 weeks pregnant, the standard protocol in Australia is that every pregnant woman undergo the glucose tolerance test. Essentially, one must fast overnight, then present to a pathology lab for fasting blood tests. After this, you drink a solution of (75g of glucose!) sugary liquid. You then wait a couple of hours for further blood tests, as your blood sugar levels rise. This gives an incredibly accurate insight into the risk of gestational diabetes. But at what cost? As someone with none of the risk factors for diabetes, and expertise in this area, I demanded different. Instead, I opted to first assess my fasting blood glucose and HbA1c levels. Combined, this would give solid data to assess whether further tests were necessary. Thankfully, my results were fantastic, and my doctor confirmed that a glucose tolerance test was not indicated for me. But had I simply gone along with routine protocol, I would have subjected myself and bub to an insanely high dose of sugar, whilst simultaneously missed a breakfast opportunity to feed ourselves with nourishment. All for the sake of data, which for me personally, wasn’t necessary.
Similarly. with the rising use of smart watches and rings, many of us are subjecting ourselves to further wellbeing issues from excessive data tracking. For example, many wearable devices track sleep. How many hours and the quality. However, the accuracy of all them (even Oura rings), is questionable at best. If you truly have no idea how many hours you are sleeping each night, they can provide some helpful insights. However, beyond this initial data collection, the usefulness can cease to exist. When a wearable device reports changes (possibly inaccurate) to sleep patterns or heart rate variability, many of my clients have felt extra stress about this. Leading to a self-depleting cycle of stress causing worsening of HRV and sleep patterns. It’s not that ignorance is bliss. But is daily tracking really helping you here? And, importantly, does the way you sleep equate the standardized timing of such tracking to be flawed?
I’ve seen the same issue with wearable devices and step counts. Upon initial assessments, many of my clients have an ideal number of steps they want to achieve on a daily basis. This often is regardless of what other exercise they endure each day. But for the highly motivated elite (whether this be elite athletes, entrepreneurs, visionaries or changemakers), steps really are irrelevant to improving fitness levels. Don’t get me wrong, walking is extraordinary for our health, for a number of reasons. But this figure alone, tells us very little of the nuances, variability and other pieces of the ever evolving puzzle that make up our daily habits. Yes, we want consistency and focus in our efforts. But if your body truly needs an extra rest day, is reaching a high step count really helpful in this moment? Recovery is as important as the work itself.
And what do all these examples have in common? They fail to teach and support the power of listening to your body. To tune in to the subtleties and micro changes your body is constantly undergoing in order to best support us. To feel. For as humans, we are not robots. Our body responds differently to the same stimulus as the person next to you. And this, is where the art must be blended with the science of wellness. This, is how we personalize coaching and healthcare.
This blended approach, is how the true leaders forge their way ahead, as their most luxuriously well selves.
So, I encourage you to consider which data you may be tracking that isn’t really helping you move forward towards your bigger picture goals. Where are you following standardized health advice, without considering the uniqueness of your own wellbeing? Food for thought.