Tim Ferriss on the Quantified Self


Tim Ferriss, the author of The 4-Hour Work Week and The 4-Hour Body, spoke about the popular Quantified Self movement at Wired’s recent health conference – Living By Numbers. The Quantified Self is a movement aimed at integrating technology into the data collection of a person’s daily life in terms of inputs (ex. calories, air quality, sleep), states (ex. temperament, excitement level, hydration level) and performance (psychological and physical). The movement started in 2007 by two Wired magazine editors, Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly. Wolf and Kelly describe The Quantified Self as “a collaboration of users and toolmakers who share an interest in self-knowledge through self-tracking”.

Ferriss is one of the many collaborators of the movement and is well known within the community for his colorful history of self-tracking. Ferriss’ self-quantification was born out of his drive to become an All-American wrestler in high school. In order to cut weight successfully, Ferriss experimented with different dehydration methodologies and tracked his progress. He then began to track his workouts, nutrition, mental state, and physical performance.

Although he originally used a pencil and paper to track his progress, his quantification toolbox has significantly advanced technologically. Ferriss uses an online blood lab, Wellness FX, to track his biomarker diagnostics. He uses the myZeo sleep manager to track his sleep quality. He also had a blood glucose monitor inserted into his abdomen to constantly track his interstitial glucose levels. According to Ferris, the act of measuring makes you more aware of your decisions and his own experience supports that. While using his constant blood glucose monitor, Ferriss saw how long after a meal glucose peaked in his body. With this knowledge he tweaked the timing of his post-workout shake to optimize his body’s ability to absorb protein and build muscle. A few of the other tools that Ferriss uses in his own self-quantification tools are the Lift App, a behavior modification application, and the Nike Fuel band, a popular activity monitor.

In addition to describing his own self-quantification behavior, Ferriss also discussed the rapid popularity of his books. When asked to explain his books’ mass following, Ferriss said that encouraging people to self-track and share their results has a perpetuating effect. If your goal is to impact the highest number of people you need to know how to market properly. First, you need to get their attention and then give you can give them a prescription. Clearly Ferriss is a master at this.

You can see the full interview here

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Andrew Krzmarzick

What you measure gets done…BUT that takes discipline to regularly monitor oneself.

Is this type of lifestyle geared toward people with a particular type of personality – those who enjoy tracking metrics and then make decisions about that data?

Or would the average person, if given the right tools, process this kind of information in real-time and adjust their behavior to achieve better outcomes?

David Dejewski

I’m one of those guys who appreciates the discipline and the boost from technology. I’ve used MyFitnessPal to track calories in, nutrition info, and exercise for several months now. It’s free and easy – with a built in scanner. Just scan the UPC code from your food and it automatically captures nutrition info. I noticed I wasn’t getting enough potassium in my diet, how prevalent sodium is in everything, how portion sizes can make a huge difference and where my daily averages need to be – to include what supplements I should take. It’s made a big difference. I also input my exercise. I run an average of five miles per day and I see exactly how that affects what I can eat and vice versa. No mystery anymore. I know exactly what I need to do to hit my fitness and nutrition goals.

I also started several groups on The Presidents Fitness Challenge – one for my Scout group and one for each of the communities I manage. This method for tracking is a lot simpler & really doesn’t give specific feedback, but it’s fun to get motivated with a group of other’s trying to get healthy at the same time. I’ve earned like 13,000 points on that in the last few weeks. Teams of people combine their points and try to win medals.

Sleep Time is another one I’ve been using to keep an eye on my sleep patterns. It’s interesting to see the quality of my sleep, how long I’m actually sleeping (vs awake in the middle of the night), and track them over time. It also has an alarm that wakes you some time within a 30 minute window of your target wake time. It picks when you are sleeping in a light cycle so you don’t feel as tired. It works!

Side note: It doesn’t work well on hard ground when sleeping in a tent.

I got 4 hours of sleep last night, BTW… had to watch the election speeches. šŸ˜‰

I Voted in 2012, Did You?