Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Weekly Update, 12/16/09

What's New?

First of all, Happy Hanukkah to all who are celebrating this festival of light and miracles! I'm not a religious person, but when I run across the WWJD acronym this time of year, I can't help but think that, historically, it would probably have more to do with applying light to a menorah rather than a tree and not stressing about what to buy the disciples. Sadly, though, He would not have known the joy of a potato latke, potatoes having been introduced to the Old World from the New World in the 1500s...I wonder how the holiday was observed back then? (Ah, count on History channel: "The Maccabbee soliders ate latkes made from cheese, vegetables, or fruits which were brought to them on the battlefields. However, they didn't eat potato latkes, as potatoes weren't available until the 16th century." Oooo...all of the above sound pretty tasty.)

Secondly, WOW!!! A big THANK YOU to MizFit and DietGirl for saying such nice things while sharing my bit o' blogger news during podcast #6 of Two Fit Chicks and a Microphone! I'm still floating! Christie O. was also featured in blogger news; way to go!!! (And not just her shrinkage, but her athletic feats--how many triathlons did you do this year, girlfriend?--and charitable work for NICU babies and their families were so inspiring to me this year!)

In other news, lots of miscellaneous stuff! The holidays have kept me busy, but I'm staying sane. (Probably because Mr. Handsome and Handy did all the work with the Christmas cards! I so owe him. But then, I did brave the post office....)

Things 1 & 2 have quite the social whirl...much more than the Mr. and me. TWO birthday parties over last weekend! At one party, which had a luau theme, the boy's mom had made this incredible lava cake and tiki gingerbread cookies. TOO cool! And a friend of theirs played "Happy Birthday" on the ukulele. *sigh*...I do so love things of Hawaii! The other was at an ice cream place, and the girl's parents had an ingenious idea: in lieu of gifts, everyone brought a gently-used, wrapped book, and then all the kids got to take one home. Of course, this had some unintended results...such as one of the boys grabbing one of the books we'd brought that was not wrapped in, er, particularly clueful wrap: "Pinkalicious" was probably not what he was expecting. Thing 2 ended up with a pretty book...that had a big wad of crusty, dried up (and looking mildewed) unidentifiable food object smashed in its pages.

It's not just a lava cake, but an entire scene!
I especially loved the palm trees made of those little tube-shaped cookies and sprigs of cilantro!
And the gummy fish cavorting through the blue jello sea is a nice touch, too!

I had to share this picture, too, of this Christmas tree that I pass when dropping off the kids to school. It's been grey weather here, and even when it's sunny this tree would be in deep shade; this tree dazzles, a little sparkly jewel set in the redwood forest.

"O Little Tree/In the Big Woods,/Pho-TOS don't do/You juuuuustice"

It's Not Just Toy Time for Kids!

For quite some time now, I've kept a paper log of everything related to my health and fitness goals: exercise, food, medicine/supplements, blood glucose levels, and miscellaneous stuff like flossing my teeth and fiber consumption. It's been a good system and it has helped me to develop much better habits overall. (Click to download the PDF if you're curious. And no, I don't think I ever did 3 runs in one week while tri training...more like 1-2 regular runs and 1 short run after spin class to simulate a "brick.")

I had resisted logging electronically, because I didn't want to have to log into a web site to enter data; I wanted to reduce it down to check boxes and simple jottings and to be able to track anywhere. Paper enabled me to do this. I tried some of the online calorie counters, but the databases had almost too much stuff in them, so I relied on the Calorie King book (and occasional forays online) when I needed nutritional data.

However...after I started tapering for my triathlon, my weight started going up. During training, I'd gotten more lax about portion control, because I'd been keeping up a level of activity that allowed me to maintain at a weight I felt comfortable with. Now, however, I'm in the "off season," and I drifted up to a weight I really didn't want to see again. I've lately been feeling that panicky, how-do-I-reverse-this-train-wreck feeling that so characterized pre-Opposite Life. So I unleashed the control freak within: I decided that I needed more data about calories, input vs. expenditure. And I found some shiny new "toys" to help me!

Toy #1: Daily Mile
While this doesn't calculate calorie expenditures, I do like the way it tracks time and miles for various activities (and I can track other non-mileage related fitness, too). It makes lots of nice charts, so I can see at-a-glance how I'm doing. I'm a visual person, so their graphics give me a representation of what I'm accomplishing through my regular workouts, now that the fitness and figure gains are more subtle. (Yeay, NSV numbers!) I also have it hooked up to Twitter, so it automatically tweets my workouts. The down sides: it's not available as an iPhone app, and Safari has issues with the login interface to the site. (I have to log in twice. Grr.) And when I'm playing catch-up with my logging, it gives the appearance on Twitter that I'm doing an insane amount of exercise in one day; wish it would post the actual date on the Twitter feed when your workout is not on the day you're posting it.

Toy #2: We Like to Lose It, Lose It!
So it wasn't until Mr. Handsome-and-Handy got an iPhone that I embarked on the wonderful adventure of playing with iPhone apps! I decided to give this one a whirl, because it was *free*, and I wasn't sure if I'd get into logging electronically. I'm LOVING it! (Of course, I now have about 70% of my usual food items entered in, so logging goes much more quickly.)

I'm not crazy about its database, but I can create my own foods and enter my own nutritional data, and I can create "recipes" by combining these foods. (For example, I made a "recipe" of my usual coffee+cream+almond milk, and then I can pull just the recipe into breakfast.) I can also copy a full meal from another day, and then modify it to fit a particular day.

This app does upload to a web site, and I can export my data, but after looking at the export in Excel, I'm not sure it's entirely accurate, at least on the export. But I'm finding that the data is helping me stay honest with myself about my calorie intake--through an at-a-glance chart--and it's helping my accountability. It forms a "plan" for you, based on age and the rate you want to lose (plus it has a maintenance option-very important!); right now, I have it set to "lose half a pound per week," and that has even been challenging, which tells me how far I've gotten off track!

I'm finding that it works best when I enter in as much of my day's meal plan as possible - for example, when I pack a lunch, I enter that in during the morning, too. This encourages me to plan my eating better, or at least pause to check before I dive in at dinner! And it also counts exercise; I'm sure it's not completely precise, but you can add custom exercise numbers if you have better data than is provided in their database. I like that it adds calories burned to your daily budget; you can still tell what is earned through activity vs. budgeted, but it seems to work like Weight Watchers' activity points. (It's like getting a reward for activity, but you know how much of a reward, rather than the vague, "Hey, I went to the gym! Now I can drink a big ol' milkshake" mentality that fitness articles warn about.) What I don't know is whether it adjusts one's calorie budget based on one's weight as one loses, and I suspect that the activity calorie burn data is an average vs. precise for one's weight. But right now, this is much more data than I was working with before, and I'm a happy camper. Oh, and I also like that it tracks nutrients, so I'm getting a better idea of my carb/protein/fat intake, saturated fat intake, and fiber intake!

The only downsides that I've encountered so far are (1) the inability to note time of meals, (2) no place for additional notes for a day - this would be handy for me, to note blood glucose levels and other miscellany, and (3) the amount of set-up required to make it work efficiently. Oh, and you can't create a recipe of zero calorie items; for example, I wanted to track my medicine and supplements via recipe. Once I assigned the proper calories to the fish oil pills, I was able to do this. (You can, however, create zero-calorie items individually; its database has items like water, coffee, and tea, if you want to track fluids.) (4) Restaurant/takeout dining will be very difficult to log; I wish Whole Foods would post nutritional data for their food bar items, for example. Oh, and party munching was tricky. At the party on Sunday, I just make one custom food item with a ballpark estimate, rather than enter every carrot stick and cheese cube. As long as I report accurately at least 80% of the time, I'm sure this will be a helpful tool.

Anyhow, time will tell how my new "toys" work for me; but so far, so good!

Progress last week

7-day blood glucose average: 99 (met goal of less than 120)
7-day fasting blood glucose average: 99 (met goal of less than 120)

Weight goals: -1 pound. Woot! Back in the 180's!

Food goals:
- 3/5 work days were food brought from home.
- Ate lots of veggies.
- Got in at least 3 meatless meals but 0 fish meals.
- Fiber: Of the tracked days, 3/5 days were over 30.

Exercise goals: Hmmm...didn't meet my 30 min/5 days goal. I'm sure there's some incidental exercise happening in there, with holiday errands cutting into the workout time, but I'm not counting that.
Total mileage: 22.26
- Wednesday: No activity
- Thursday: 38 minutes (3 miles) - Indoor cardio "triathlon" of elliptical + stairmaster + treadmill.
- Friday: No activity
- Saturday: No activity
- Sunday: No activity
- Monday: 50 minutes - 35 elliptical (2.5 miles) plus 15 minutes of strength exercises
- Tuesday: 60 minute spin class (16.76 miles)

Sleep: Missed the goal of 7 hours/night for at least 3 nights.

Goals for this week

7-day blood glucose average goal and fasting numbers: below 120.
Weight goal: Maintain or make progress toward goal.

Food goals:
Track fiber. Minimum 30 grams fiber/day. (Include both insoluble and soluble sources.)

Exercise goals:
30 minutes of activity 5 days/week, with at least 2 strength sessions worked in there.

Misc. goals:
7 or more hours sleep/night.
Have fun and breathe-relax-staycalm-ooooohhhhmmmm about the holidays!


DragonStyle said...


Thanks for writing about your reactions to Lose It! I wondered if you could tell me a little more about the potential inaccuracy in the export of the Lose It! data. Obviously, we want that exported data to be accurate!

You can reach my email directly at charles at loseit dot com. Feel free to drop me a line anytime if you see any other issues!



Lori said...

An iPod! How fun!
I am so behind on my blog reading. I was going to post on the pay it forward thread. Somehow I missed Debby's post on it, and would participate when I get caught up.

Brooke said...

i'm having the same post-training problems. i'm loving the daily mile!! :)

Courtney said...

If you have never checked it out, please look at Spark People. You can track all your food, activity, notes, other things (you could add in your glucose tracking), there are message boards, there are tons of supportive people, it is free. I love it!!
adventures in tri-ing

Courtney said...

PS, the database of food is HUGE and there are restaurants and store brands in the database too..making entering food a breeze. And there is an iphone app for on the go tracking!

Sagan said...

"it would probably have more to do with applying light to a menorah rather than a tree and not stressing about what to buy the disciples." No kidding!!

I like keeping records of my health progress, too. It's always fun to find new tools to track it all, isn't it?

carla said...



methinks I might try that for a bit too :)

Anonymous said...

While I love using sparkpeople and calorieking, I still have my paper journal on the side - something about pen to paper makes it sink in more!

You are such an inspiration on how well you control your diabetes - kudos! :D

Happy Friday my friend - and thanks for your concern for me!

Anonymous said...

Wow - I'm impressed that the Lose It people were so on top of monitoring the web that he was the first comment! Big brother is watching!!! ;)

Hope you have a merry merry Christmas!

Pubsgal said...

Juice: Yeah, I know! That was pretty amazing. Just FYI, here's the explanation of the mystery:

Me: "Here's my export file from LoseIt. It appears to put a -1 when a value is not available for a food item (e.g., if no saturated fat data
was entered for a custom food item). Not sure if that's affecting the calculations; I'm supposing that you discard the "-1" items when you
perform the calculations, and then use that to flag an item for inclusion on the "nutrient data missing" screen."

DragonStyle (a Lose It! staff member): "You are exactly right that to Lose It!, -1 means 'missing.' We handle this gracefully in our UI and in any calculations we do, but obviously less so in the exported data."

DragonStyle said...

And just to fully close the loop :). Later tonight, we'll be deploying an update to the site that includes better handling of 'missing' nutrient data in our CSV export. We'll properly show 'n/a' rather than -1.

Thank you for pointing it out!