I’m going to be away from this forum for much of August, so I thought I would post a quick report of what I’ve learned so far, from just under a week of tracking focus and diet together.
WHAT I DID/HOW I DID IT
I noted my alertness and focus (one score, 1-3 scale, 1 is best) several times during the day, and always within an hour of eating. I used Tonic to make a quick note. There was no attempt to do this according to a strict schedule. I simply pulled out my phone whenever I remembered. But I always noted when I had a bad episode of mental tiredness/fogginess during the daylight hours. I think I caught all of these as they occurred. Whenever I noted my mental state, I also noted my last meal. I know that alertness and focus are not the same, but I used one number to represent my overall feeling of mental “tone.” The goal wasn’t to take apart the subtleties of my mood, but just to note when I felt good or bad.
WHAT I LEARNED (SO FAR)
Easy to score
It was not hard to notice or score my mental state. Using a 3 point scale was useful because I didn’t have to make subtle judgments. If I felt great, I gave myself a one. If I felt bad, I gave myself a 3. Anything in between, I gave myself a 2. This counts as a lesson, because I wasn’t sure I would be confident of my self-evaluation.
Clear pattern of afternoon fogginess.
Here are the dates times on which I scored “3.” The times before 9:00 are before my first cup of coffee, sometimes after late nights, which isn’t my concern at the moment. (I’m trying to find out what slows me down during the day.) I noted that with exception of the pre-coffee scores, my problem was mostly in the afternoon and early evening. I did track my alertness a bit in the evening, and there were a couple “3” scores very late, but I threw these out because I noted that they came just as I was going to bed, and I want to be sleepy then.
Some days are a lot better than others
On the afternoons of Saturday the 23rd and Sunday the 24th I had several bad periods.
On Monday the 25th I had one bad period in the early afternoon and one in the early evening.
On Tuesday the 26th I also had one in the afternoon and one in the evening.
On Wednesday the 27th I just had one in the afternoon and one later in the evening (perhaps moving into sleep time already because of late nights previously.)
Then, yesterday, there were none. Today, none.
Without concluding anything about the specific cause yet, I still count finding out that some days are a lot worse than others as valuable. If the days were always more or less the same, I’d be less likely to think it was caused by something that was changing in my behavior or environment, and more likely to think it was just “the way I was.”
Diet is a plausible explanation
The fact that so many of the episodes come either just before mealtime or within an hour after eating is consistent with the idea that it is related to my diet/metabolism. Perhaps not as simple as “this food makes me tired,” but the fact that the pattern matches the meal pattern makes me continue to thing this is good to explore.
My notes have some ideas to pursue. There were three different general conditions that seemed to precede a crash: lack of food, OR very little carbs, OR pasta or bread in the meal. This is not certain, just a hint, because my diet is varied, and the time I eat is varied also, and I only have a week of tracking.
The proof of a pudding is in the eating
After some of the discussion above, I decided to try a few changes. I cut out nuts, and I cut out gluten. I continued to eat the carbs I wanted otherwise, including fruit, oats, and rice. On Wednesday the 27th I didn’t eat much in the morning after a late night of work, and had one afternoon dip. After a short (20 minute) nap I felt better. On the 28th, great day, no crashes. Today, also good. And I noticed that I’ve slept better for two nights in a row.
I feel I’ve got a few ideas it would be great to try. Nuts are a good source of protein, very satisfying, and I’d hate to cut them out of my diet. How important a factor are they? If I can get to a point where I’m not regularly crashing, then I can reintroduce them and find out if they have any relation to my tiredness or not. Same for gluten; an important factor, or just a coincidence? Again, if I can get to a point where I typically have good energy through the afternoon, I can find out.
I hope to pick up this conversation when I return. And I’ll hope I’ll hear something of your experiments in diet and mental focus also!