Whitney E. Boesel: My Numbers Sucked, But I Made This Baby Anyway (Part 1)

Despite the fact that our human existence relies on pregnant women and birth, there is surprisingly very little understood when a woman doesn’t fall within the “averages” and the “knowns.” We are all so different, and any woman knows that her body at some point will most likely not fall within the “average” range and when that happens, we must investigate. For humankind depends on this investigation.

Whitney E. Boesel, a scientist by trade and QS’er by life fortunately has been tracking her own magical body both pre and post pregnancy and sharing her results with Quantified Self along the way. So, this is a two part post: pre-pregnancy and the next one will share a post-pregnancy discovery.

Whitney wanted to have a baby and learned that she was “too late” to have children. However, by disregarding the average, she started tracking her AMH (and other hormones) as a result, but the most important things she learned had nothing to do with endocrinology. In her project, My Numbers Sucked, But I Made This Baby Anyway, Whitney discusses the abnormally low numbers and how she managed to conceive and give birth to a very healthy baby despite all of the odds against her.

Whitney shares her project My Numbers Sucked, But I Made This Baby Anyway at QS17 in Amsterdam

Whitney shares her project My Numbers Sucked, But I Made This Baby Anyway at QS17 in Amsterdam


We hope you can join us to share your learnings from a project, or simply be inspired at this year’s Quantified Self 2018 Conference in Portland on September 22-23. Register here.

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Vivienne Ming: Tracking My Son’s Diabetes

Vivienne Ming is an accomplished neuroscientist and an entrepreneur, however this project is not about her kick-ass professional work, instead, it’s deeply personal about how she manages her son’s diabetes. Vivienne presented her project, Tracking My Son’s Diabetes at the 2013 QS Global Conference.

When Vivienne’s not conducting research or working on new ideas she’s busy taking care of her son, Felix. Two years prior Felix was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Vivienne and her partner tackled his diagnosis head on and started tracking everything they could. In this talk, Vivienne learns through tracking her son’s heart rate and blood sugar constantly that stress is a factor of his blood sugar level peaks. She explains what they’re learning together about tracking her son’s diabetes.

Vivienne Ming presents her talk at the 2013 QS Global Conference

Vivienne Ming presents her talk at the 2013 QS Global Conference

We hope you can join us to share your learnings from a project, or simply be inspired at this year’s Quantified Self 2018 Conference in Portland on September 22-23. Register here.

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Ilyse Magy: Know Thy Cycle, Know Thyself

Women are increasingly (albeit slowly) taking more control in work, politics, life and society. However, unfortunately, being a woman means one has to consistently work extra hard to understand and know her own body to stay in control, because, unfortunately according to the laws of many governments and society-at-large, her body isn’t truly hers.  At 2015 Quantified Self Conference & EXPO, Ilyse Magy presented a fabulous talk, Know Thy Cycle, Know Thyself, that focuses on her recent learnings of her body and menstrual cycle, inspired by a MUST READ book for every female: Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler.

Ilyse Magy talks about how the author, Toni Weschler took the mystery out of the menstrual cycle with her book. By tracking certain metrics daily, Ilyse learned why her body is doing what it’s doing and can then conduct her sexual and emotional activity accordingly.

Ilyse Magy presents Know Thy Cycle, Know Thyself at the 2015 Quantified Self Conference. @ilyseiris

Ilyse Magy presents Know Thy Cycle, Know Thyself at the 2015 Quantified Self Conference. @ilyseiris

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Tracking Our Senses: Elliot Hedman

Another thoughtful project that studies the human’s physiological response to music is one by Elliott Hedman who studied himself and others’ physiological measurements during a classical concert.

In addition to tracking himself and others with EDA sensors, Elliott also videotaped the sensors to track where in the music, people’s sensors were triggered and shifted. He learned that the transitions from loud to quiet or the reverse triggered everyone’s sympathetic nervous system. He learned that people may have a different reaction to familiar sounds, because when a xylophone was played, Hedman was the only one triggered. He assumes he was moved because he used to play the xylophone when he was a kid.

Elliot speaks to the benefits of being less quantitative and more qualitative when collecting data, and less “self-centric” and more “community-centric” when analyzing.

We hope you can join us to share your learnings from a project, or simply be inspired at this year’s Quantified Self 2018 Conference in Portland on September 22-23. We have only  a handful of discount tickets left. Register here.

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Using Freestyle Libre To See How Stress Effects My Blood Glucose Levels

Justin Lawler, the organizer of Quantified Self Dublin, has been doing some interesting self-studies about how various changes in his life affect his blood glucose levels. Blood glucose is typically tracked as part of diabetes care, and there are some excellent emerging tools for convenient tracking without doing finger stick tests. (Although these systems are not yet accessible everywhere without a doctor’s prescription, we’ve seen them more and more often in Quantified Self projects over the last few years.)

In a recent post, Justin outlined some of his latest projects and discoveries. Among the most interesting findings was the clear relation between psychological stress and blood glucose spikes. For instance, this chart that covers the time he was giving a talk at last year’s Quantified Self conference in Amsterdam.

“My worst data point by far,” Justin writes, is when I’ve been most stressed—giving a talk at the Quantified Self Europe Conference.” You can see his graph below, which shows his blood glucose spanning the time of his talk.


For Justin’s full account, see his excellent Medium post: Continuous Glucose Monitoring — The First Four Weeks.

You can hear Justin talk about his work and learn more about how to track your own blood glucose levels at QS18: The Quantified Self Conference, which will be held on September 22/23 in Portland, Oregon. There are currently 10 tickets left at the early registration price ($325), so please sign up soon if you want to come.

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Most Young People In The United States Have Used A Health App

The recent report by Victoria Rideout and Susannah Fox, “Digital Health Practices,Social Media Use,and Mental Well-Being Among Teens and Young Adults in the U.S.” deserves sustained attention for its exploration of the relationship between social media and mental health in teens and young adults. While the study is designed to contribute some realism to the question of whether social media is associated with depression, it contains some important basic data about what’s going on with the use of technology generally. Based on a national survey fielded by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, the study is the only one I know of that has carefully examined into how often young people use apps to track their health and wellbeing. Key results include:

  • 64% of young people have used health apps
  • 26% report having used a nutrition related app
  • 20% have used an app to track menstrual cycles
  • 11% have used apps related to meditation or mindfulness

These are large numbers. And yet, as many QS toolmakers have already found out the hard way, the survey data shows that the use of these apps is episodic.

As Rideout and Fox put it:

“While 64% of young people say they have “ever” used health apps, 25% say they “currently” do. It appears that many young people are using health-related apps for just a short time – to reach a goal, for example.”

We’ve recently been in a lot of conversations with toolmakers about how difficult it is to sustain a business offering apps and devices for self-tracking. If a quarter of all young people are currently using apps for things like nutrition, menstrual cycles, and mindfulness, and nearly two thirds of all young people have given these kinds of apps a try, why have toolmakers found that creating a business to support this practice is so hard to sustain?

An obvious guess is that the problem lies with business models that require customers to pay monthly fees, or consistently upgrade devices. Where people are tracking in order to learn – and stopping once they’ve learned something or otherwise lost interest – these kinds of businesses will get in trouble.

There’s a lot to think about in this report, but what sticks with me most after reading through a couple of times is the strong force impelling young people to try to find out more about the health topics that concern them. In survey of around 1300 young people, nearly 500 people shared a favorite health app in the open ended response section. Six percent of the respondents wrote about a mental health topic they had researched that wasn’t listed on the survey, and an equal number mentioned a physical health issue that wasn’t listed. We often talk about the value of self-tracking and self-experiment for people who are thinking about something that that doesn’t match the common pattern. The challenge of understand something that doesn’t seem to “fit” is strongly felt in the many touching quotes from the open ended response sections with which the report ends.

I won’t steal them for this post: go find them at the link above.

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Tracking and The Brain: Joost Plattel

Joost Plattel studies chemistry and loves experiments. He discovered while running experiments on himself that the simple act of tracking had a profound affect on how his brain functions. In this talk, Fitting Mental ModelsJoost shares some of those discoveries.

During the last three years of tracking his food, activity, and productivity, Joost noticed his brain functioning differently. For example, when he is actively tracking his food, his brain retains what he ate all week. When he isn’t tracking, he doesn’t have the same recall.

Do you notice the same mental adaptation when tracking? Come share your experience with us at QS18 in Portland on September 22-23! Register here.

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Psychogeography By Sabastian Meier and Katrin Glinka

In honor of today being the last day of the existence of Moves, the app from which so many Quantified Self projects drew their location data, I thought I’d post this artwork by Sabastian Meier and Katrin Glinka, who constructed city models based on connecting Moves data with their memories.

For discussion of the demise of Moves, exporting, and alternatives, see this topic in the QS Forum: Moves shutting down? Oh, no! But note, today is the last day.



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Tracking Life: Mark Krynsky

Following Dana Greenfield’s post about her project Leaning Into Grief, it feels fitting to share Mark Krynsky‘s project that contemplates our own mortality digitally. How will our digital lives be archived after we die? (Spoil alert: we are all going to die).

Mark Krynsky started a blog about five years ago and began live-streaming. Having his data in various places online, he tried to aggregate his social data into a single timeline. He eventually wondered about the future of his data. What’s going to happen to it after he dies? Mark discusses digital preservation and how he created an action plan for his digital data after his death.

After presenting this talk in 2013, Mark has since launched a website specifically for this called Digital Legacy Management. The site provides information on managing personal digital data for many different aspects of one’s life, including some of the following topics:

  • Organize and backup personal data
  • Provide ways to share photos and videos privately with friends and loved ones
  • Protect identity and limit ability to be hacked
  • Backup social media account data
  • Setup and establish how you want your social media accounts treated when you die

We hope you can join us to share your learnings from a project, or simply be inspired at this year’s 2018 Quantified Self Conference in Portland on September 22-23. Register here.

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Tracking Grief: Dana Greenfield

As we’ve been thinking about mood lately–tracking it, nudging it and even reversing it, here’s a project that contemplates one experience that accumulates all moods – mourning. For anyone who has experienced grief and mourning, grab your tissues; and if you haven’t yet had the profound experience, grab a pen and take notes. I wish had this project in the back of my head when I lost my dad 11 years ago.

Dana Greenfield shared her beautiful project Leaning into Grief at a Quantified Self Conference in Amsterdam.  Dana’s project is a timeless tracking experience that inspires us to focus on the little things in life, because it is in those tiny details (as small as a Q-tip) where experience, relation, and life really show up and matter.

Dana Greenfield’s mom was a surgeon, professor, researcher, entrepreneur, blogger, tennis player, and a mentor to many medical students. Unexpectedly, she passed away in February, 2014.

Dana felt a need to hold on to what she was feeling and experiencing. When she came upon something that reminded her of her mother, she logged her thoughts and feelings using various tools (pen/paper, flickr, googlesheets). Her tracking became so specific and varied that she designed a tracking system to better understand her own grief and the role her mother continues to play in her life. Dana structured a logging form to identify multiple moods, because she found that with grieving, she could feel sad, nostalgic and also happy at the same time. She often found herself feeling what she called “warmed” which she identified meaning both “fond” and “grateful.”

With tracking her grief, Dana learns that her mother’s effect in her life continues to morph even after her death. By thinking and remembering her, Dana’s mother remains a big part of her life and continues to have a great impact. She says, “So far, each writing and logging is a reading enabling just a moment of interpersonal and intergenerational exchange that remains far more malleable, and full of potential, therefore, meaningful than the memorabilia on the shelf or in the spreadsheet.”

We hope you can join us to share your learnings from a project, or simply be inspired at this year’s 2018 Quantified Self Conference in Portland on September 22-23. Register here.

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