Saturday, February 21, 2009

Weight Loss And The iPhone

I had a few extra pounds after the holidays. OK, a few more than a few. But not as many as some previous times. I'll leave my efforts to get off the diet roller coaster for another post (current thinking), but suffice it to say that I have once again managed to shed some poundage.

In late December I realized that I was going to have to buy a new wardrobe if I didn't do something. Sure, I used to have clothes one size up (and two sizes up and three sizes up...), but I got optimistic and threw them out after the last time I lost weight.

So my plan was to do the diet journal thing again. Set a goal, calculate a calorie budget, write everything down in a Moleskine Cahier and generally keep myself on track.

Then it occurred to me that I have a shiny new iPhone. Like a Moleskine Cahier and Space Pen, it can always be with me. Unlike a Moleskine it has the potential to do portion size calculations and easy numerical tracking. Plus since I am a gadget freak using the iPhone adds considerably to my motivation.

So I downloaded most of the apps in the App Store that I thought might do what I want. What I want is:
  • Ability to track calories by meal
  • A database of foods to replace my trusty Calorie King book
  • Ability to track weight over time
  • Ability to add my own foods to the database
  • Ability to track just calories (so I don't always HAVE to add something to the database)
I eventually settled on iShape. It does all of these things except that the database isn't complete by any means and doesn't replace Calorie King. It has some other nice features too. You set a goal weight and activity level and it calculates a target calorie limit for you and estimates when you will meet your goal. You can customize many elements (like set your own daily calorie target) and you can add in the effects of exercise and track your waist measurement and BMI. Plus tons of features that I never used (track water, fat, protein, exercise, etc).

I also added WeightBot for some additional weight tracking because I really like the user interface. And the sounds. Slick. But it lacks the one graph view I really want (start to finish), so it ended up not being quite what I wanted. iShape does it all.

Anyway the iPhone is a pretty good system for the diet journal approach. I always had it with me. I always had the ability to google for things that weren't in the database. I could snap a photo of a meal if I didn't feel like estimating it right that moment. It is slower than a notebook to add new foods, but much faster to deal with your favorites. The calorie tracking graph in iShape kept me honest and allowed me to try to make up for some bad days with some good days. The weight tracking (in both apps) kept me motivated as I saw the changes.

If you are a nerd and you have an iPhone and you are overweight (are those three things completely redundant?), give it a try. I guarantee calorie tracking works if you commit to it.

I hit my goal this morning. I have officially been under the "overweight" line for a few days, but it feels really nice to actually hit the target.

I hit my goal just in time to absorb the extra calories from my fresh homemade doughnut breakfast this morning. Did I mention that I got a deep fryer? All things in moderation.


(for anyone reading this who has never met me, those numbers are correct - I'm 6' 7")