Bio-hacking Your Health and Wellbeing with Your Phone

Posted 03.23.2021

Last week I had the pleasure of spending some extended time online with a group of coaching and leadership development colleagues. During a conversation on resilience and stress management, the presenter asked us to rate our satisfaction with our physical routines – movement, sleep, and nutrition. Without any hesitation, I typed a 10 into the Zoom chat window and then immediately realized that this was probably the first time in my life I would have answered that question with a maximum score rating.

If you’ve been a reader of my blog for a few years or more, you know that I take my health and wellness seriously – especially in the eleven years since I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. In this past year of a global pandemic, we’ve all become more aware of the need to manage not just our physical health but our mental, relational and spiritual health as well. In my experience of writing about and sharing the Life GPS® personal planning tool with thousands of readers and leaders over the past 20 years, I’ve concluded that physical health is the foundation for the other aspects of wellbeing. When we can improve our physical health everything else becomes a little easier.

So, when I rated my satisfaction with my physical health at a 10 last week, I thought about what I did differently this past year that drove my rating up. The game changer for me has been using a combination of different phone-based apps to bio-hack my health and wellbeing. Doing that has allowed me to leverage a couple of tried and true maxims. The first is knowledge is power. The second is you can’t manage what you can’t measure. With those ideas in mind and the hope that it will be useful to you, I want to share the apps I’ve been using and how I’m using them:

First, the power of fitness and health and wellness apps in 2021 is that through a technology called API’s they can all share information with each other. For example, API’s enable your nutrition app to pull information on your daily calorie burn from your fitness app and the data from your daily weigh-in from the app that pairs with your scale. If you’re wearing a bio-monitoring device like an Apple Watch, Fitbit or Oura ring, API’s can pull data on your heart rate, daily step count and sleep quality into the mix as well. The result is an amazing amount of information you can use to track your health, pursue fitness goals and make better lifestyle choices based on your metrics. It’s like having a world class trainer who knows everything about your biometrics right on your phone.

With that as background, here are the apps I use every day. (I’m not affiliated with any of these apps; I’m just offering my personal experience. You should always consult with your health care provider before making big changes in your approach to health and wellbeing.)

NoomNoom is a nutrition app that uses behavioral science principles along with a really easy to use calorie counting dashboard to help you set weight loss goals and track your progress. I started using Noom last October when my wife Diane decided to use it for her own goals and I wanted to support her. I got into it and quickly realized that for years I had been way overestimating my daily calorie burn through exercise and movement and way underestimating my calorie intake (and just how much those handfuls of nuts I was gobbling down for my afternoon snack every day were blowing up my calorie count). I’ve lost around 20 pounds since the beginning of October and have decided to hold steady where I am. The app helps me do that too. The same for Diane: she’s had an amazing transformation using Noom.

HealthmateHealthmate is the app that pairs with the Withings Body+ scale we bought when we started using Noom. It links up with Noom through an API so your morning weigh-in can be tracked on the Noom app. The Healthmate app itself is fun for a data geek like me as it provides longitudinal curves over time on your weight, muscle mass, body fat, bone density and water weight. While your mileage may vary, I find tracking my progress through those graphs to be motivating and probably more motivating when the trend lines start moving in the wrong direction.

Oura – The Oura ring has electronic sensors in it that measure your movement, your heart rate variability and how much light, REM and deep sleep you’re getting every night. Diane had an Oura ring first and loved it and encouraged me to get one. I resisted doing so because I was scared to see how bad my sleep numbers would be. Ten years ago, I started taking Lunesta every night to deal with restless sleep caused by my MS and because I was traveling across time zones several times a month for business trips. Even with the Lunesta, I didn’t sleep well. When the pandemic cancelled all of my travel, I decided it was a good time to wean myself off of Lunesta and asked my doctor for a plan to do so. I got an Oura ring at about the same time and was shocked to see that based on the measurements and overall score the Oura app provided that the quality of my sleep wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. That greatly reduced my anxiety about getting off of Lunesta and made the process of doing so much easier. I haven’t taken a Lunesta since last May and have never felt better sleep wise.

Peloton – It’s no news flash to report that the Peloton bike has been one of the big hits of the pandemic. Everybody has heard of Peloton at this point. We were fortunate to get a Peloton back in October and have been on it pretty much every day since. What you may not know is that you don’t need the bike to benefit from Peloton content. The Peloton app doesn’t just have classes that you can stream on any stationary bike, it also offers yoga, pliates, strength, running, walking, meditation and other classes for a monthly cost of way less than a gym membership. And, like every other app I’m using and mentioning here, it syncs through API’s so the calories you burn during your workout also show up in Noom, Oura, Apple Health or any others you’re using to manage your health and wellbeing.

So, those four apps, Noom, Healthmate, Oura and Peloton, form the nucleus of my health and wellbeing bio-hack strategy. I’m also a parttime user of an Apple Watch and the app that goes with. I wear the watch when I work out and use it as a real time heart rate monitor and calorie counter. I’m also a longtime user of the Insight Timer Meditation App which is more for the mental domain of routines but certainly has positive physical impacts in terms of regulating my autonomic nervous system and improving the quality of my sleep. In a time in history when all of us feel a lack of control over our lives and environment, using these apps in the way that I do has provided a sense of agency in controlling what I can control to be healthier, happier and more productive.

I’d love to hear your best strategies for managing your health and well-being or I’m happy to answer any questions you have about what I’m doing. If you want to share or follow up, please leave a comment on LinkedIn if you’re reading this post there or send me an email if you’re reading this directly on the Eblin Group blog.

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