Tag Archives: diet
As part of our new Access channel we’re going to highlight interesting stories, ideas, and research related to self-tracking data and data access issues and the role they take in personal and public health. We recently found this expert report, published in the International Journal of Obesity, that tackles issues with the data researchers rely on for understanding diet and physical activity behaviors, and ultimately concludes that the data is fundamentally flawed.
Researchers has known for a long time that relying on individuals to understand, recall, and accurately report what they eat and how much they exercise isn’t the best way to understand the realities of everyday life. Unfortunately for many years, this was the only way to track this information – interviews, surveys, and research measures. Only recently have tools, devices, and methods matured to a point where objective information can be captured and analyzed.
The authors of this article make the case that obesity and weight management fundamentally relies on getting these numbers right, and unfortunately most research hasn’t. Reading the background on self-report data and the call to action the authors make for developing and using more objective measures we can’t help but wonder about the role of commercial personal self-tracking tools. How can we, as a community of users, toolmakers, and researchers work together to open up access pathways so that the millions of people tacking pictures of their meals and uploading their step data can have a positive impact on personal and public health? This is an open question, one that we’re excited to be working on.
If you’re interested in these type of questions, or working on projects related to data access we invite you to get in touch and keep following along here with us.
MyFitnessPal is one of the leading dietary tracking tools, currently used by tens of millions of people all around the world to better track and understand the foods they consume every day. Their mobile apps and online tools allow individuals to enter foods and keep track of their micro- and macro-nutrient consumption, connect additional devices such as fitness trackers, and connect with their community – all in the name of weight management. However, there is no natively available method for easily accessing your dietary data for personal analysis, visualization, or storage.
With a bit of digging in the MyFitnessPal help section we can see that they have no official support for data export. However, they mention the ability to print reports and save PDF files that contain your historical data. While better than some services, a PDF document is far from easy to use when you’re trying to make your own charts or take a deeper look into your data.
We spent some time combing the web for examples of MyFitnessPal data export solutions over the last few days. We hope that some of these are useful to you in your ongoing self-tracking experiences.
MyFitnessPal Data Downloader: This extension allows you to directly download a CSV report from your Food Report page. (Chrome only)
MyFitnessPal Data Export: This extension is tied to another website, FoodFastFit.com. If you install the extension, it will redirect you back to that site where your data is displayed and you can download the CSV file. (Chrome only)
ExportMFP: A simple bookmark that will open a text area with comma-separated values for weight and calories, which you can copy/paste into your data editor of choice.
MyFitnessPal Reports: A bookmarklet that allows you to generates more detailed graphs and reports.
MyFitnessPal Analyser: Accesses your diet and weight data. It requires you to input your password so be careful.
Export MyFitnessPal Data to CSV: Simple web tool for exporting your data.
FreeMyDiary: A recently developed tool for exporting your food diary data.
MyFitnessPal Data Access via Python: If you’re comfortable working with the Python language, this might be for you. Developed by Adam Coddington, it allows access to your MyFitnessPal data programmatically
MFP Extractor and Trend Watcher: An Excel Macro, developed by a MyFitnessPal user, that exports your dietary and weight data into Excel. This will only work for Windows users.
Access MyFitnessPal Data in R: If you’re familiar with R, then this might work for you.
QS Access + Apple HealthKit
If you’re an iPhone user, you can connect MyFitnessPal to Apple’s HealthKit app to view your MyFitnessPal data alongside other data you’re collecting. You can also easily export the data from your Health app using our QS Access app. Data is available in hourly and daily breakdowns, and you should be able to export any data type MyFitnessPal is collecting to HealthKit.
Julie Price has been tracking her weight consistently for the last four years. Like many of us, she found that her weight goes up and down depending on various life events. In this talk, presented at the Bay Area QS meetup group, Julie discussed what she’s learned about her weight and what correlates with weight gain and weight loss. Specifically, she focuses on the role of family gatherings, exercise and running races, and how different food and dieting methods either helped of hindered her progress.
We’re excited to have Julie joining us at our 2015 QS Global Conference and Exposition on June 18-20th. Early bird tickets are now available, and we hope you can join us for a great three days of learning, sharing, and experiencing the latest in QS techniques and tools. Register now.
“When I look at this, this is the story of my life in these years.”
Nan Shellabarger has been tracking her weight for 26 years, including almost daily tracking since 1998. In the talk embedded below, presented at the Washington DC QS meetup group, Nan describes her experience with diving deep into how she’s making sense of her weight data. By looking over her complete history and layering in her personal contextual data she was able to find how different life events played a role in weight loss and gain. For example, she found that physical challenges and events were “tremendous motivation to get out there and doing things as well as helping me focusing on my eating.” Nan has also used a variety of activity trackers since 2010, starting with the Body Media Fit and now the Garmin Vivofit and Jawbone UP. These devices helped her explore calorie expenditure as it relates to her weight loss. On the other side of the equation, she also explored how diet tracking influenced her weight. Watch her great talk below to hear the whole story.
We hope to see an update of this great talk when Nan joins us at our QS15 Global Conference and Exposition next June in San Francisco. Early bird tickets are available for a limited time. Register now!
Bryan Ausinheiler was experiencing gastrointestinal issues for years and decided it was time to figure out what was causing it. By precisely controlling his diet – eating exactly the same quantities at exactly the same time – for a month and then measuring the quality of his stool in a self-designed spreadsheet he was able to create a baseline dataset to better understand his issues. Bryan then developed an experimental protocol that included “elimination and diet variations to figure out the cause of my frequent (3-5x/day) loose stools.” It turns out that “eating too many sunflower seeds was the main culprit.” Watch Bryan’s fascinating talk, presented at the Bay Area QS meetup group, to learn more about his process, and how he tackled self-experimentation and data collection.
Sue Lueder had a mystery stomach ailment that started after a vacation to Spain in 2011. When she returned from her trip she was beset by consistent and frequent burping attacks. After visiting her physician and receiving a diagnosis for heart burn, which she didn’t trust. she began to track her attacks and her diet. In this talk, presented at our 2013 Global Conference, Sue how she tracked he symptoms and used the data to make sense of this mystery food allergy.
What Did She Do?
Sue tracked her diet and the frequency and severity of her attacks.
How Did She Do It?
Sue was able to explore the data she was entering in to her self-designed spreadsheet tracking system. She used a few of the analytical tools and visualizations built into Excel to explore her data.
What Did She Learn?
Her analysis was able to pinpoint that dairy was probably the main culprit responsible for her attacks. Sue found out that she was able to improve her “good” days from 32% to 51% of the days she was tracking when she reduce dairy in her diet. When she experimented with adding dairy her findings were confirmed.
We’ve put together an nice list of articles for you to enjoy this weekend. As always, please get in touch if you have something you’d like us to share!
Finding Patterns in Personal Data by Kitty Ireland. Another great post from Kitty about using personal data to uncover interesting, and sometimes surprising, patterns. Some great examples in this post!
The Tale of a Fitness-Tracking Addict’s Struggles With Strava by Jeff Foss. Just because you can track, and you can get something out of it, might not mean you should. (I had a similar experience on a recent trip to Yosemite so this article was quite timely.)
Algorithmic skin: health-tracking technologies, personal analytics and the biopedagogies of digitized health and physical education by Ben Williamson. Quantified Self and self-tracking tools are not limited to only being used by conscious and willing adults. They’re also being developed for and used by a growing number of children and adolescents. What does this mean of health and fitness education, and how should we think about algorithms in the classroom and gym?
Seeing Ourselves Through Technology: How We Use Selfies, Blogs and Wearable Devices to See and Shape Ourselves by Jill Walker Rettberg. I just started this book and it appears offer some interesting perspectives on the current cultural shift toward technically mediated representation. The book includes a chapter on Quantified Self and is available for download in PDF and EPUB under a CC BY license.
Why Log Your Food by Amit Jakhu. Amit started tracking his food in March (2014) and has since learned a few things about his preconceived notions about his diet, food, and what it takes to keep track of it all.
Even When I’m active, I’m sedentary by Gary Wolf. Gary and I used our recently released QS Access app to download his historical step data. Using some simple charting in Excel we found some interesting patterns related to his daily movement.
When Do I Sleep Best by Jewel Loree. Jewel presented her sleep tracking project at a recent Seattle QS Meetup. The image above is just a small piece of a great set of visualizations of her data gathered with SleepCycle and Reporter apps.
It’s About Time by Hunter Whitney. A nice post here about the different methods of visualizing temporal data.
From the Forum
There has been a lot of great discussion on the forum lately. Check out some of the newest and most interesting topics below.
QS Access App
Hypoxic – An App for Breathing Exercises with HRV Tracking
Sleep Tracking & Hacking Google Hangout
Personal Analytics Service for Software Developers
Using Facial Images to Determine BMI
The Right Tool? (tracking and plotting sleep)
We hope you enjoy this weeks list. Feel free to submit articles, show&tell self-tracking stories, and QS data visualizations. Just email me!
Why can’t you track periods in Apple’s Health app? by Nat Buckley. With the recent re-release of Apple’s HealthKit enabled self-tracking and personal data system it no wonder that people are taking a long hard look at what data is being excluded. With the popularity of menstruation tracking apps (this app has nearly 30,000 ratings) it’s surprising this was overlooked. This excellent post is a must read on the topic.
Now That Cars Have Black Boxes, Am I Being Tracked? by Popular Science Editors. Questions and concerns about surveillance are becoming more commonplace. As someone who is looking to purchase a car in the next year or so I was happy to see this post come across my stream.
The Quantified Self community, lifelogging and the making of “smart” publics by Aristea Fotopoulou. I love it when people take a thoughtful look at the Quantified Self community and write about their experiences:
For me, the potential of QS for public participation lies in the show and tell meet-ups that constitute a central feature of this community. Meet-ups enable the exchange of stories about the success or failure of lifelogging practices; they allow people to connect and form synergies around common interests, and to explore wider questions such as personal data management and ownership. [...] members touch upon key political issues and create temporary spaces of dialogue: what happens to personal data, who has access to these data (is it private individuals, governments or corporations)? For what purposes (medical research)? And how can these data be interpreted (by algorithms, visualisations) and used to tell stories about people?
Stepping Down: Rethinking the Fitness Tracker by Sara M. Watson. Sara uses her personal journey of recovery from hip surgery to frame an interesting question: Should we trust our fitness trackers to prescribe movement goals?
Practical Statistical Modeling: The Dreaded After-School Carpool Pickup by Jamie Todd Rubin. Jamie wanted to understand if there was a way he could reduce how much time he spent waiting in line to pick up his son from school. Why not track it and model it!
Bulletproof Diet and Intermittent Fasting: 1.5 Year Results by Bob Troia. Bob takes a deep dive into his data to see if this particular diet is having beneficial health effects. Click for the great data, stay for the wonderful discussion and very, very thorough write-up.
Quotidian Record by Brian House. I’ve been a fan of Brian House since his early days visualizing Fitbit data. I was reminded of this work during a conversation about geolocation data and thought it would be a nice addition to our visualization list.
Visualizing My Daily Self-Management by Katie McCurdy.
What does my daily medication and self-management look like? How could I visualize this regimen? How can I communicate the ‘burden’ and work of caring for myself?
I decided to draw pictures of the things that I need to do on a daily basis; that way I could show the workshop attendees what my day was like instead of just telling them.
It’s Time to Eat by Karl Krehbiel. Karl, a data science intern at Jawbone used the data from their global community of users the determine the likelihood of food and drink consumption during the day. Really fun and interesting visualizations here.
On July 4th, 2009 Jan Szelagiewicz decided to make a change in his life. After taking stock of his personal health and his family history with heart disease he began a weight-loss journey that included a variety of self-tracking tools. Over the course of a few years Jan tracked his diet, activities such as cycling, swimming, and running, and his strength. In this talk, presented at the Quantified Self Warsaw meetup group, Jan describes how he used self-tracking to mark his progress and stay on course.
We’ve heard from our friend, and Pittsburgh QS meetup co-organizer, Anne Wright, many times before. She’s a wonderful proponent of the power of self-tracking and using data, research, and continuous exploration to discover and learn about what is meaningful in your life. All of that passion stems from a personal experience with overcoming various health issues. In this talk, presented at the London QS meetup group, Anne talks about how self-tracking played the key role in helping her recover. Anne then goes on to make the case for using self-tracking to learn how to forge your own unique path towards understanding in a world built around the idea of what is normal.