I'm interested in understanding the benefits of what I call "micro-tracking" for their health: tracking information such as diet, heart rate, exercise routine, etc. at a granularity finer than a day.
Starting last year, and likely expanding further into this year, I am using a more "macro-tracking" approach.
For instance, for supplements, this macro-tracking simply involves tracking the start and end date of consumption of each supplement bottle. This means roughly one new data entry per month. The corresponding "micro-tracking" approach would be to record each time I take a supplement, possibly with other information such as the time of day, relation with meal, etc.
Similarly, for food, I do record all purchases of restaurant food in my activity tracker (albeit not in a computable format). I am now thinking of adding information on the specifics of all food purchases (from both grocery stores and restaurants) in a computable format. This is a macro-tracking approach. The corresponding micro-tracking approach would mean recording each meal, including information such as time of day, quantity of various foods in the meal, etc. (For the most part I do not share food with others, and my food waste is near-zero, so purchases = consumption; I can record exceptions separately).
Disadvantages I see of micro-tracking:
- Time: It looks like micro-tracking adds a nontrivial daily overhead of tracking work. Time is very important to me. Even more so, time that I need to spend daily, when I might be pressed for time on other tasks, is even more important.
- Difficulty with micro-quantification (for food): It's an extra hassle to quantify exactly how much food I am consuming. When consuming cooked food, I am usually helping myself from a large bowl of prepared food and may go from 70% to 65% of it or something like that. The food isn't perfectly mixed either, so some days I might end up having more of the tomatoes part and other days I might end up having more of the spinach part.
- Aggregation effort: Once all the micro-quantities are entered, I need to aggregate them to extract meaningful data. If I enter data at a more aggregated level, this is somewhat easier.
Advantages I see of micro-tracking, and why these did not ultimately convince me:
Better correlational analysis of day-to-day fluctuations: If I were micro-tracking my moods, physiological measurements, and physical reactions as well as my food and supplement intake, I might be able to identify what patterns of food or supplement intake correlate with what moods. People I know who micro-track tend to have reasons like this.
This is a pretty good reason for some people. People who suffer from allergic reactions, stomach issues, or large mood swings could probably benefit from such diagnostic data very concretely. In my case, I haven't had major issues of this sort frequently; the few rare times I do have such issues, I manually record in my notes folder along with details specific to the situation. I also don't trust my self-reflection to assign quantifiable and consistent measures of things like my mood.
Having micro-tracking permits some sort of aggregations that wouldn't be possible just with macro-tracking, such as information on time of day, time gaps, etc.: For instance, rather than just know how much of a Vitamin D supplement I took in the last three years, I can learn how much of it I took in the mornings versus at night, and what the day-to-day fluctuation in intake was. Possibly, such details matter a lot for assessing the impact of the supplement.
I agree that this is a potential benefit; however, as of now I am not collecting enough fine-grained data on the other side to meaningfully correlate with. It seems to me that combining total consumption with some general information on when I usually consume supplements is enough.
I'm curious to hear what people think I'm missing, or any other insights people want to share!