“I knew I wasn’t healthy, but I just didn’t know how to fix it,” says Samyak Pandya, VP of Business Operations & Finance at a San Francisco-based startup Ridecell.“I was just too busy to really commit an enormous amount of time and focus to eating right and tracking for improvement. Using Levels was basically like finding my reflection in the mirror staring back at me, telling me whether my food choices were good or bad.”
As one of the core team members of a rapidly growing startup, Samyak found that his nutrition was often on the backburner.
“I currently run finance and business ops for a startup and my job can get stressful,” says Samyak. “As a result of which, my health usually gets neglected. Towards the end of 2017, I started becoming much more conscious about my own health and started reading about things like low carb diets, keto, and how insulin resistance can impact your health in the short and long-term.”
Samyak began his nutritional journey by reading up on popular diets like low-carb and keto. However, being simply aware of how the diets function at a conceptual level still left Samyak’s approach to nutrition lacking.
“On one hand I feel I knew what good nutrition was on a conceptual level,” says Samyak. “But on the other hand, I was clueless about what good nutrition for me personally was. I heard about continuous glucose monitors, but it was impossible to get my hands on one because I’m non-diabetic.”
“Tracking things without a CGM was nearly impossible,” admits Samyak. “I wanted to continuously track my body’s responses to food. We track most things: we use calendars and reminders, we have tools that give us productivity metrics for almost every other aspect of life, and I wanted something for my own physical health.”
Samyak found serendipity in his search to find a way to gain more control over his nutrition within his busy schedule through a 28-day keto challenge hosted by Justin Mares, in which participants use the Levels program to stay within a certain target glucose range.
The challenge provided dual incentives: health and financial. Participants had to commit a financial sum of $800 up front, and would receive $25 of their money back every day they stayed within the target glucose range.
“I was within my range 27 out of the 28 days, and the only day I was out of my limits was because I simply just did not know how the things I was eating would impact me,” says Samyak. “I had some Indian wheat-based flatbread and my glucose levels skyrocketed.”
By the end of the one month challenge, Samyak was 11.6 pounds lighter and a world of personal insights that had long been obscured by lack of data had been discovered.
“It was easy for me to lose the weight because I was a bit on the heavier side to begin with,” comments Samyak.
“But, just being aware about how your body responds is more than 50% of the battle won. It really helped me get that discipline to keep going. I could also identify which foods spike my glucose levels and simply just not eat them.”
To Samyak, the battle for control over his nutrition was more than just picking what foods to eat: it was a psychological re-wiring in favor of a stronger accountability mechanism.
How Samyak turned data into discipline
Like many entrepreneurs in demanding work environments, Samyak often found himself at odds with his health. He was used to committing the bulk of his brainpower to work, and food was merely a means of keeping the engine running regardless of efficiency.
“I noticed that when I’ve had very demanding days, like 12 to 16 hour workdays, my desire to eat sugar is very high,” says Samyak. Having something like Levels that just keeps me disciplined to not eat something that would make me spike has helped me avoid those cravings.”
“There are certain nutrition things we generally accept as true, like sugar or processed carb-heavy foods will make your glucose levels spike, but seeing it visualized in Levels really helps solidify that correlation.”
Seeing Is Believing: The Power Of Visualization
One of Samyak’s favorite features was Meal Scores. He notes how in the beginning of the wearable challenge, he was focused on building that primary awareness of his body’s unique response to various foods.
“The immediate nature of the feedback is really important,” says Samyak. “It’s not like you’re getting it at the beginning or the end of the day when you step on the scale– it’s much faster to correlate how your body reacts to your decisions this way.”
In the latter phases of the challenge, he would use the Meal Scores as a guiding point for his daily nutritional decision making.
“If I do eat something unhealthy, I like being able to confirm my suspicions,” says Samyak. “I like being able to look at Levels and say ‘oh boy!’ and make changes to minimize those extreme spikes.”
Accountability Through Objective Data
With a lack of data and personal insights, people can become masters of justifying nutritional choices they know probably aren’t the best for them. Samyak found that Levels made this nearly impossible for him.
“Having the feedback, metrics, and visualization right in front of me gets rid of all the places to hide away from your food choices,” says Samyak. “You can justify things to yourself all you want, but when you see a graph right in front of you saying your food choice was poor, you can’t argue with that.”
“I spent way less time thinking about my nutrition because Levels was already doing the calculations,” says Samyak. “All I had to do was look at the results and make changes for the better. It really helped minimize some of the cognitive load of having to manage my health.”
The data also helps Samyak have a more healthy and flexible diet, adding an element of mindfulness to his cravings.
“The changes were pretty simple. I still have a sweet tooth,” laughs Samyak. “But now instead of doing the regular Häagen-Dazs I’ll do something like the Enlightened low-sugar ice cream because it doesn’t nearly impact my glucose levels as much. I still give into some cravings, but they’re not too drastic.”
Samyak describes continuous glucose monitors as a tracking mechanism for your own body, and Levels as a necessary coach to help you improve, similar to how an athlete’s team uses data to optimize performance.
“Levels helped me put together a nutritional mental playbook and get my nutrition on autopilot so I can focus more on work and less about stressing about what to eat and worrying about being unhealthy.”
In just one month, Samyak was able to drop over 11 pounds and gain an intimate insight into his own unique metabolic health. Today, Samyak views Levels as an incredible asset that helps him streamline his nutrition and keep him more focused on work. A vague meal plan turned into a mental nutritional playbook, with Levels as an accountability coach.