Tag Archives: diet
Sara Cambridge is an interaction designer and a frequent contributor to the Quantified Self community. This past spring she was tasked with creating a unique information visualization as part of her graduate coursework at the UC Berkeley iSchool. Given her interest in QS she chose to use her experience with tracking her diet using the Eatery mobile app as the basis for her visualization project. Using the Eatery led her down an interesting path that helped her understand her own eating habits, how she compares to others, and how people “really” rate other’s dietary choice. (Filmed at the Bay Area QS Meetup)
Jae Osenbach LOVES chocolate. Unfortunately, her body does too. She decided to go on a calorie-restricted diet of 1200 calories a day for 6 weeks and track her weight loss. In the lively video below, Jae talks about her experiments with nuts vs. no nuts and chocolate vs. no chocolate, and her surprising T-test results. She has also kindly posted her slides and instructions for how to add an analysis toolpak to Excel. Hooray for chocolate! (Filmed by the Seattle QS Show&Tell meetup group.)
We’ve posted some great talks by Amelia Greenhall here on the blog and we’re excited to bring you another insightful presentation. Last year Amelia gave a wonderful talk about her weight loss journey and the power of using running averages. In this updated talk Amelia gives a more in-depth look about how using a 10-day moving average serves as an “early warning system” that puts helps put her back on the path of mindful eating. Filmed at the QS Silicon Valley meetup group
Jana Beck was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 19 years old and has been interested in tracking her health ever since. Last year when she received a continuous blood glucose monitor she decided to take a more active role in understand what was effecting her blood glucose levels and insulin dosing. Spurred by reading about carbohydrate restricted diets, she decided to see if she could see changes in her blood glucose readings and as a result of changing her diet. In this talk at the New York QS Meetup she describes exactly what she found and shares some really neat visualizations that help tell her story.
You can read more about the last New York QS Meetup here. If you’re interested in using theses data visualizations with your own blood glucose data be sure to check our Jana’s iPancreas project on GitHub.
Sky Christopherson is a velodrome cyclist who has been on the U.S. Olympic team. After retiring, he lived in the world of startups, and when his health started to decline as a result of that stress, he turned back to the kind of quantification he had been doing as an athlete to restore his health. In the video below, Sky talks about what he learned, like how temperature affects his deep sleep and how his blood glucose fluctuates. He also shares the exciting news of setting a world record, at age 35, after his self-tracking experiment. (Filmed by the Bay Area QS Show&Tell meetup group.)
Richard Ryan was inspired by the first QS conference to spend a year hacking his life. He most wanted to solve his problems with insomnia, obesity, Ambien dependence, hypertension, and drinking alcohol – what he calls “classic New Yorker problems.” In the video below, Richard talks about the changes he made to his lifestyle, rules of thumb he discovered, and the amazing progress he has made. (Filmed by the New York QS Show&Tell meetup group.)
Nicholas Manolakos is a programmer and avid reader who has been self-tracking for twenty years. He’s recently been improving his left-right body balance, and can write proficiently with both hands now. In the video below, he talks about many of his experiments, including optimizing cognitive performance, managing anxiety, introducing complexity, dietary experiments and fasting – interestingly, one of the things he discovered is that fasting and giving blood improved his cognitive performance. (Filmed by the Toronto QS Show&Tell meetup group.)
At a QS Meetup in San Francisco about a year ago, I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in over 15 years. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that he had quietly built one of the most widely used weight loss tools: MyFitnessPal (with 170,000 ratings on the AppStore, mostly 5s!). Mike Lee explains the focus, passion and patience it has taken to do this.
Q: How do you describe MyFitnessPal? What is it?
Lee: MyFitnessPal is a calorie counter that allows you to easily track your diet and exercise to learn more about what you are eating and how many calories you are consuming and burning. We have a website as well as mobile apps on every major platform, all of which seamlessly sync with one another so you can log at your computer or on your phone, whichever is most convenient. We also provide a variety of social networking tools so that you can easily motivate and receive support from friends and family, as well as stay informed of each other’s progress.
Q: What’s the back story? What led to it?
Lee: In 2005 my wife and I wanted to lose weight before our wedding. We went to see a trainer at 24 Hour Fitness, and he suggested that we count calories. He gave us a small book that had calorie counts for about 3,000 foods in it, and told us to write down everything that we ate. Being a tech guy, there was no way I was going to do this on paper, so I immediately threw the book away and looked for an online solution. There were already tons of online calorie counters available — I probably tried at least 15 myself — but to my amazement, none of them worked the way I thought they should work. They were all incredibly hard to use; I actually found it easier to track on paper than online. I was looking for a new project to work on, so I decided to write my own calorie counter — that’s how MyFitnessPal was born.
Soon my brother joined me. We’ve kept the team very small, while slowly building up a loyal following. We passed a million users a few years ago, and are still growing very rapidly.
Q: What impact has it had? What have you heard from users?
Lee: One of the best parts about working at MyFitnessPal is the messages we get from our users. I’d estimate that anywhere from 30-50% of the emails that we get are from people simply telling us how much they love the app, and how much it’s helped them lead a healthier life. People write in telling us that they’ve been trying to lose weight for 20 years, but nothing had worked until they tried MyFitnessPal. We hear from people who’ve been able to cancel surgeries, stop taking medications, fit into jeans they haven’t worn in years, or even things as simple as just being able to stand up without using their arms to push themselves up. We have thousands and thousands of members who’ve lost 100 pounds or more. We’ve even had people get married after meeting on MyFitnessPal.
It’s hard to generalize users’ experiences because we have so many users. And they vary widely: there are people who’ve never exercised, who would find a 15 minute walk difficult, and we have professional body builders.
Still, one thing stands out, which is that the biggest benefit is education. It’s amazing how little most people know about what they eat or the activities they perform, and once they start using the app, it’s eye-opening. They discover what they eat, how much, how often, the nutritional content of the food, and the impact of physical activity. They build up knowledge that stays with them even if they stop logging their foods. With this knowledge they can make their own decisions about what to change in their lives, what trade-offs are best for them. It’s not following some diet fad, but discovering what works for you.
Q: What makes it different, sets it apart?
Lee: We really pay little attention to other apps or the media. Rather we’re fanatically focused on our own users. We listen deeply to user feedback, but we don’t just do what they ask for. Instead we try to understand their real problem, and focus our work on the things that we’ve discovered really matter for losing weight.
We know losing weight is really hard and that tracking is a pain-in-the-neck. So, we really work hard to make our site and our app as easy to use as possible. We know that the easier and faster we can make logging your foods, the more likely you are to stick with it, and consequently, the more likely you are to reach your goals. As a tool maker, it’s our job to help make that process as easy as possible and remove every barrier we can to your success. I can’t really point to anything in particular about ease-of-use; it’s just something we focus on relentlessly and something that the team is just good at.
Q: What are you doing next? How do you see MyFitnessPal evolving?
Lee: Over the past year, we’ve worked hard on expanding the number of platforms on which MyFItnessPal is available. We’ve released apps for Blackberry, Windows Phone 7, and iPad. Though they are similar, the interfaces are tailored for each platform. Now that we’re available on most major platforms, we’ll be spending more time on improving our core logging tools. We’ve got a ton of ideas on how we can make calorie counting even faster and easier, so hopefully you’ll be seeing a lot of improvements in that area from us in 2012.
Q: Anything else you’d like to say?
Lee: If you’d like to keep up to date on the latest happenings on MyFitnessPal, you can like us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/myfitnesspal or follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/myfitnesspal.
Platform: web, iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone 7
This is the 10th post in the “Toolmaker Talks” series. The QS blog features intrepid self-quantifiers and their stories: what did they do? how did they do it? and what have they learned? In Toolmaker Talks we hear from QS enablers, those observing this QS activity and developing self-quantifying tools: what needs have they observed? what tools have they developed in response? and what have they learned from users’ experiences? If you are a “toolmaker” and want to participate in this series, contact Rajiv Mehta at email@example.com.
When we talk about Quantified Self and the meaning behind tracking there is always an underlying current that the numbers rule all. That there is a fundamental truth that is available and discoverable. But, in some cases self-tracking can take on different forms. For this week’s NFATW post I wanted to two projects that forsake the emphasis on numerical tracking for something different – visual tracking.
Hugo is a shining example of the e-patient movement (which I learned recently stands for empowered patient not electronic). His experience as the proud owner of an implanted cardiac defibrillator has led him to become an advocate for patient-centered data ownership and improved access to data derived from therapeutic medical devices. He’s also a big fan of Quantified Self and on more than one occasion has inspired me to be more active by engaging in fun FitBit step challenges. For the month of December, Hugo decided he was going to try and eat a vegan diet for the entire month, and document everything he ate by photographing his food. What followed was an amazing visual record of his dietary patterns. Take a look! You can click the images for the full Flickr set.
I figure if it’s not worth photographing and sharing, it’s not worth eating. – Hugo Campos
Jeff Harris a photographer and 13 years ago he decided to begin an epic quest to document his life by taking on self portait every day. What follows is an amazing story of why he began this journey and the insights into his life that he’s learned along the way. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I will say that is well worth the six minutes to watch the video below.
We got such great feedback on the orignal NFATW post that we decided to turn it into a regular feature. Every few weeks be on the lookout for new posts profiling interesting individuals and their data. If you have an interesting story or link to share leave a comment or contact the author here.
Alex Chernavsky has kindly given me several years of weight data he collected by weighing himself daily. He read about the Shangri-La Diet in 2005 and several years later decided to try it. The graph above shows what happened: Starting at 222 pounds (BMI = 32), over 11 months he lost 31 pounds, reaching a BMI of 27. Since then — while continuing the diet — his weight has increased at roughly the same rate it was increasing before he started the diet.
He started by drinking olive oil and sugar water, switched to olive oil alone, and then, finally, to flaxseed oil alone of which he drinks 3.5 tablespoons/day (= 420 calories/day). He does not clip his nose shut when he drinks it but he washes his mouth with water afterwards. More about his method here.
Almost all weight-control experts would say these results are impossible: 1. Alex lost weight because he ate more fat. Fat is fattening say most nutrition experts. 2. Atkins dieters, who don’t say that, think the secret of weight loss is to reduce carbohydrate. Alex didn’t do that (and eats plenty of carbohydrate). 3. He didn’t restrict what he ate in any way. 4. He didn’t change how much he exercised.
Quite apart from how it contradicts mainstream beliefs, including Atkins, the data are remarkable because the change was so simple, small, and sustainable, the weight loss so large, the rebound so minimal, and data period so long.
An ordinary clinical trial has obvious advantages over such one-person data, such as more subjects and more data per subject. Less obvious are the advantages of this sort of data over clinical trials: