In which I stop measuring my Venn diagram of physical, mental and social well-being through very shallow lenses.

The End of the Vitruvian Man

2067 words about health — 21:00 · 27th Nov 2023

You can read the previous well-being reviews in, The Vitruvian Man, The Vitruvian Man Returns, Revenge of the Vitruvian Man, and The Vitruvian Man Strikes Back

In last year’s entry, I talked about how I was still doing all these things because they were working and how I would stop when they didn’t—back then I had already stopped one of them.

The point of the Vitruvian Man series was always to review the year that had passed around Feb-March time—because it takes a while to sort through the data—and then course-correct for the coming year.

And although I started the review process like I always did, this time I got stuck. So stuck in fact, that I couldn’t unstick myself.

So here we are, end of November.

It’s fair to say, this is the end of the Vitruvian Man series, at least in its current form.

But before we go, I want to take a moment to review 2022 and most of 2023 to look at what worked well, what didn’t work well, think about why it stopped being useful, and what I would do differently if I did it again.

The well-being questions

Am I physically active?

Great question. Too bad I only measured “walking” as an indicator of physical activity.

As my circumstances changed, from commuting to the office in Cambridge to working remotely to parenting a toddler and working remotely, it’s obvious my walking would change with it.

But another set of compounding circumstances that changed in 2022 that I haven’t talked about yet, is finding myself sicker and needing more rest than I usually do.

Now, I’m not going to diagnose myself with Long COVID—although self-diagnosis for many people is valid and sometimes necessary with contemporary doctors and their biases.

What I will do, is talk about the number of days I’ve been sick since 2018.

Year Sick days
2018 16
2019 13
2020 1
2021 9
2022 37
2023* 45

*Up until 27 November 2023.

Note: migraine days do not count as sick days.

I’ve been more sick than I used to be and it’s taking me longer to recover. This, alongside the lack of situational walking, has been a detriment to my physical activity in 2022.

Another interesting note is that in October I removed my Fitbit and haven’t worn it since. So my actual walking data for 2022 is a composite of Fitbit’s and Google’s Location History.

I removed the Fitbit because it was uncomfortable and I was finding it increasingly useless.

Having said all this, let’s look at the walking data anyway, including a projection for 2023.

Year Steps (avg) Steps (total)
2019 12,266 4,476,992
2020 10,685 3,901,561
2021 8,900 3,248,597
2022 10,471 3,821,894
2023* 9,303 3,395,534

*Up until 27 November 2023.

In conclusion, I was sick and still walked a perfectly decent amount.

So, I’m no longer measuring this, because even during less-than-ideal circumstances I still move around as much as my energy levels let me.

Do I have mature mechanisms for coping with life’s ups and downs?

Another great question—yes, there’s already a theme emerging here.

Effectively my approach here has been: measuring my day-to-day well-being (via Daylio) and researching methods for giving more direction to my long-term goals.

In June 2020 I said I expanded my scale from 5 to 10 moods.

I then realised in 2022—when the Maths wasn’t mathing—that I hadn’t actually increased it from five to ten, but instead from five to nine.

So, I fixed that and gave myself more nuance at the bottom tier.

But, rather than look at a breakdown of each mood, I want to look at my mood from one year to the next and more specifically, reflect on how stable it overall is.

Edit 10.12.2023: Updated to reflect new scale. 1 is lowest, 10 is highest.

Year Mood (avg)
2018 7.98
2019 8.44
2020 8.5
2021 8.64
2022 8.22

And then looking at the upper-tier days, I can see that most of my days are pretty good.

Year Upper-tier days
2018 296
2019 331
2020 331
2021 351
2022 341

This is all fine, but in reality, it answers the question, “How are you feeling Carlos?”

And that isn’t the question I’ve been asking myself.

It’s, “When shit hits the fan, how do you handle it?” And following that, “Do you handle it maturely?”

Whatever the fuck I mean by “maturely”.

And the answer to those questions hasn’t been a consistent Yes or No, or even a Maybe but rather an emerging mess of me figuring out my Needs and Wants, figuring out how much of it comes from patriarchy filling my head with bullshit entitlement, figuring out who (usually me) really ought to be meeting them, how I communicate it to that person (even when it’s me).

Carlos Eriksson illustrated as a Disney character who was posing as Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man but he's fallen down.
Aiutatemi, sono caduto e non riesco ad alzarmi.

What do I do when my valid Wants can only be met by someone who isn’t me, but no one is available? Do I just crumble into a sack of shit? Do I press an imaginary, “Save for later” button?

I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned here is that I owe it to myself to plant and nurture a growing garden of plants to draw from when the moment arises that needs a certain concoction or remedy—yes, I’m going for a gardening metaphor instead of a toolbox.

In the past, my garden was small, and wild and would sometimes work against me because some of the plants were given to me by someone else at a young age and should have been in their garden, not mine.

Thinking of it as a garden lets me move from a reactive moment-to-moment mindset to a longer-term mindset, where I instead can appreciate plants that haven’t sprouted yet—knowing they will—and unearth and discard those plants that never should have been mine in the first place.

It becomes an organic, unravelling that has no end and no beginning but instead seasons—yeah, going to milk this metaphor until it’s no longer useful.

Going back to the question, I think the answer is, “More now than I used to, and not as many as I’ll have a year from now.”

And perhaps most importantly, I’m happy with that for now.

Do I enjoy fulfilling relationships?

This is such a big question.

“Relationships, sure but fulfilling? Are they supposed to be that as well? Jesus!”

For quite a while: I focused on loving myself. On being present for the beautiful nuances of the relationships I already had and nurturing them. On standing my ground for the bullshit relationships.

In, You’ll Be Okay I used more labels than ever before to describe myself, and felt a wave of relief wash over me as I pressed publish.

Self-acceptance, it’s a hell of a drug—I highly recommend it!

Some of my relationships are not quite where I would want them to be, not necessarily because of anything the other person is doing, or not doing but rather because I’m not always being the person I want to be.

The next step after accepting myself, would be presenting that authentic self to other people so they can know me better and decide if they want some more of this shit “stuff called Carlos”.

Do I enjoy a healthy weight?

I had already retired this question last year and instead changed my focus towards shifting the miscalibrated image of myself.

For a malnourished guy who used to weigh ~58 kg, I’m incredibly pleased with peaking at 78.2 kg on 31 May 2021.

Since then my weight has stabilised at 71±2.5 kg.

A better question might be, “Are you hampered by your weight?”

Because in the past, I would have said, “Yes, I struggle walking when it’s too windy.”

“Yes, I can’t breathe easily when I lie on my back.”

Both answers which have changed since I built some muscles and put on some weight.

Turns out, you’re supposed to be able to breathe when lying on your back! Who knew!?

I didn’t, that’s who.

Bonus; Am I learning?

I’ve already held myself accountable to my intentions when I looked at What I Read in 2021, and when I posted the summarised results from 2022 on Instagram.

I’m learning, that’s almost a given.

Which is why the focus has been on, “Yeah, but from whom?”

As I’ve talked about before, “Literature is overrepresented by white male authors from Europe or North America.”

So, what can I do?

Well, I can develop mechanisms to balance this in favour of a more nuanced reading habit from underrepresented authors.

I can continue increasing the representation.

I can trust the research from Dr Moya Bailey and Dr Izetta Autumn Mobley, Work in the Intersections: A Black Feminist Disability Framework, to act as the scaffolding I’ve jury-rigged for examining my reading habits.

I can continue to examine if this framework and its demographic groupings are meaningful ways of holding myself accountable because they might not be, especially the way I’m using them—they’re a hell of a lot better than anything else I’ve got though.

But.

I don’t really need the Vitruvian Man series to do that anymore.

All the questions I haven’t been asking myself

At first, I accepted the Harvard longitudinal study and their questions.

But it didn’t take long before I started wondering why these exact questions and not others. Why these frequencies and not others?

Why these white guys from wealthy backgrounds and not others?

Oh, what’s that? Our old friend White Supremacist Capitalist Colonialist Ableist Patriarchal structures and culture concealed as “the universal experience” again?

You cheeky bastard you.

So, I tried approaching a new set of questions from a perspective that didn’t already assume a specific kind of starting condition.

I’m still glaringly white, so some shit still applies.

But, for one thing, I have chronic pain and that’s definitely not part of the perceived universal experience.

I also thought about the temporality of these questions. Have I been physically active consistently recently? Have I stopped being physically active recently? Details like these matter because life is lived in the details, not in the abstract of a study.

I also thought about the complexities that some of these questions raise. My answer might be, “No,” and I might not have the agency or means to change that answer. Then what?

In fact, every question should be followed by, “Do you have the agency and means to change it?”

So, here’s the updated questions I came up with, for now:

  • Are you physically active?
  • Do you have mature mechanisms for coping with life’s ups and downs?
  • Do you enjoy fulfilling relationships?
  • Are you hampered by your weight?
  • Are you learning?
  • Do you sleep enough?
  • Are you eating balanced meals and snacks?
  • Do you love yourself?
  • Does your life feel meaningful?
  • Does societal systems give you special advantages?
  • Do you have wealth?
  • Do you get moderate sun exposure?
  • Is your bodymind at ease?

As you can see, they all raise more questions than they answer, like, “What’s enough sleep?”

Most of the answers start at, “it depends”. For me, 7.5 h seems great when I get deep sleep but usually I don’t so when I’m lucky it’s longer but shittier.

Your mileage will vary.

Take whatever is useful, and discard the rest.


So there you have it, this is the end of the Vitruvian Man series, at least in its current form.

I obviously I have plenty more work to do but I think applause is in order—I’m applauding myself, you don’t have to—because I’ve come far since I wrote Managing My Motherfucking Moods five years ago.

👏🏼

I’m going to continue to take care of myself so that I can better take care of people in my life, hell, even strangers I meet because why the fuck not?

You’ve just read The End of the Vitruvian Man.

In which, 6 months ago, I wrote 2067 words about health and I covered topics, such as: journeys , data , quantified self , exercise , wearables , and psychology .