Learning About My Calorie Intake…

I have been keeping Fitday records for almost 2 full years now, faithfully, and in pretty good detail. One important thing I have observed is the effect that eating a certain number of calories has on my weight. I can look at my 7, 14, or 28 day averages, and if I see certain numbers, I can almost always predict the result. Below are some calorie range averages, and what they tend to mean for me. Bear in mind that I am consistently active, getting intense aerobic exercise and lifting 4-5 days per week (and a high level of activity other days).

1800-2400 calories – I lose weight in this range. If my initial weight is high, then I can lose about 1-2 pounds a week. I may lose some muscle in the lower parts of this range, so I typically avoid going below 2000 calories when I am active.

2401-2900– I pretty much maintain my weight in this range. In fact, when I was in this range a few months ago, I don’t think I gained or lost a pound for 3-4 months (although I was gaining muscle, so I was probably losing some fat).

2901-3400 – In this range I gain. I gain slowly, but I gain. Basically, I have learned that if I start seeing a calorie figure in the low-3000 range, it is time for me to reign my eating in. If I am in this range, it usually means I am eating out too much or snacking too much at work.

3401+ – I don’t have Fitday records for a long-term average in this range, but I am guessing based on past observations that I would gain pretty quickly if my calories were averaging this range. Needless to say, I am not volunteering to be a subject in this experiment!

I am certain that your numbers will be different, but this is the beauty of Fitday and other diet tracking programs, in that you can observe trends that may be unique to you. I have pretty much carried out a nearly 2 year case study related to my diet and activity. While I admit that for most people, keeping a detailed diet and activity journal for 2 years is the height of tedium, I actually enjoy keeping such records, and the rewards are more than just intellectual inquiry: weight loss, health, and fitness!

My Review of Fitday PC 2.0

I am a Fitday junkie and have been for awhile. There are a few things I do on a regular basis and Fitday is one of them. Every evening, I’ll enter my food and exercise numbers into the program on my computer. So, having gotten so much use out of the original Fitday PC, I was intrigued by the coming of version 2.0. I downloaded it pretty much sight unseen and here are my thoughts.

First, it’s an amazing piece of software. Fitday does so much in a user friendly way. It tracks calories, major nutrients, exercise, mood, body measurements, and other things. It has a huge database, allows for custom foods and created recipes, and runs numerous reports that show progress or lack thereof. It allows you to set a weight goal and tells you how much you need to consume to lose. It also figures out your metabolism. Now that I’m more on maintenance mode, I personally monitor fiber, protein, calories, vitamins/minerals and a comparison between calories burned and calories consumed. I can say that I would not have lost the 30 pounds I did and kept it off for over a year without Fitday PC. Thus, I’m pretty pleased with it.

However, what I’ve described could easily be referencing Fitday 1.0. What has changed from version to version? It appears the color scheme has changed slightly, the food database has been expanded and updated, and you can sync the software with your online premium account (which costs). So, is the software worth the current 29.99 price? For a first time  buyer, I would say absolutely. Fitday PC is user friendly, powerful, and if used, effective. What about those who already have Fitday 1.0? I would say possibly. I don’t sync with the web and don’t care about color schemes. Is the food database worth 30 dollars? So far, it’s hard to tell. It’s much more accurate than Fitday 1.o at least. For example, Fitday 1.0 had an extra large bagel at 270 calories. Now, anyone whose been to Panera, Cosi, or another bagel shop could tell you that number is way off (too low). Fitday 2.0 has a large bagel at 337 calories, which is much more realistic. The new food database also has many more brand name items such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Snickers Marathon bars, etc.

My final word on Fitday PC 2.0 is this: if you don’t have 1.0, buy it. It’s great. If you have 1.0, ask yourself if $30.00 is worth the price for the sync feature (itself costs over $5.00 a month) and an updated database because everything else is pretty much the same.

David gives his thoughts on Fitday PC 2.0 (and some screen shots) here

Fitday 2.0 is Here

I love Fitday, a fact that I explain in my post, The Basic Math of Losing Weight. There is a new version of Fitday out, Fitday 2.0, and my brother and I downloaded it today as a kind of gift to ourselves this Christmas. Fitday’s website has no information about this new release of Fitday, although customer service told me they will be rolling it out officially soon.

Based on my initial impression of Fitday 2.0, there are very few differences between versions 1.0 and 2.0. The design is a little more sleek, but otherwise it is very similar to the design of 1.0. The food database has been updated with new foods, including more fast food items, but Fitday 2.0 still tracks the same number of nutrients that 1.0 tracked. It would have been nice if the new version would have included some new nutrients, like Lutein or Omega-3 fats. Also (if the creators of Fitday are listening), it would be nice to be able to customize a food to include any nutrient and value, e.g. the program could have the flexibility to allow me to input “Vitamin Z,” and assign an adequate intake, and and input values to any food for this made-up vitamin in grams, milligrams, micrograms, or International Units. This would make it truly customizable.

The only major new feature of Fitday 2.0 is the ability to sync the software with an online premium Fitday account (which costs $5.95 per month). This means you can update your Fitday at work, away from home, etc, and synchronize it with your software…a nice feature, but not really worth the price for my situation.

Fitday is great software. I use it regularly. It has many helpful features and reports, which have definitely helped me lose weight. I recommend it to anybody who needs to track their food intake and activity. I wish Fitday 2.0 offered more improvements over version 1.0, but nonetheless, I am very happy with Fitday 2.0 as a continuation of an already great product. Below are some screenshots of Fitday 2.0 (some of the first available online actually).

Below is the overview screen, which shows that over the last few days, I have allowed myself to eat a little more during the first few days of the holidays. I’ll be back on track starting tomorrow though.

fitday 2.0 screenshot 1

Below is the Fitday activity log, which shows that I did lift and play some racquetball on Christmas Eve, which helped blunt some of the impact of Christmas-related eating.

fitday 2.0 screenshot 2

Below is my food log, which shows that on December 24th, I didn’t eat too badly, although I notice the word “cookie” shows up a lot (what I ate on Christmas is my business!)

fitday 2.0 screenshot 3

Fitday 2.0?

I can’t find much about it online, but it looks like Fitday 2.0 has been released. There seem to be no screenshots available of it, and I tried to download it online, but I couldn’t (despite the claim that once you buy Fitday, you get free updates…we’ll see about that I guess). Does anybody know anything about it? I emailed the people at Fitday to see what is going on, and I’ll let everybody know the response I get.

I also found another diet software that looks very comprehensive, Nutribase EZ. I downloaded the software for evaluation, and while it seems more complicated than Fitday 1.0, it is rather comprehensive and powerful. The price is higher than Fitday.

UPDATE:

I received a reply from Fitday, which is pasted below. Their customer service is prompt and friendly. First, a few comments. I don’t think Fitday was very clear when they said updates were free, by which they meant bug-fixes and minor updates were free, whereas major upgrades (e.g. going from version 1.0 to 2.0) would cost . Perhaps that they used “update” versus “upgrade” should have clued me in. Second, there is still nothing about 2.0 on their site, but the site does mention it is the current version, so I am guessing it is on the way. If the upgrade is nice enough, I will definitely be paying for it. I use Fitday a lot, and I am more than willing to pay for it. It is an excellent program.

Hi David,

Thanks for your question. Version 1.0.0.6 is the latest version. We’re in the
process of updating the website and rolling out Version 2. Version 2 is not yet
available for download.

Updates are free that include patches to the current version of FitDay (version
1). But this does not include the next major upgrade to FitDay (i.e. Version 2).
Version 2 will not be free.

Let us know if you have any questions.

Thanks,

FitDay Support
support@fitday.com

The Basic Math of Losing Weight

Losing weight is somewhat complicated because of metabolism issues, etc, but in the end, weight loss is basic math. Even though it is more complicated than this, basically, 3500 calories is equivalent to one pound of body fat. So, to lose a pound of body fat you must burn 3500 calories more than you eat over a given period of time. In other words, if one day you worked out really hard, let’s say you worked as a construction worker, followed by going to the Y in the evening, and burned 4500 calories, and only consumed 1000 calories that day, you would, in theory lose a pound (but because your calories were so low, your metabolism would soon slow and you would be in danger of burning muscle tissue).

Now, let’s apply this to weight gain. Let’s say you pig out at the all-you-can-eat buffet, and take in 5200 calories that day (this is high, but not impossible for people who go overboard at a buffet), yet you sit all day at work and at home, burning only 1700 calories. You have, in theory, just gained a pound. Trust me, it is far easier to gain the excess 3500 calories, than burn them.

This is where Fitday is helpful (or any other diet tracking software). Fitday has a cool feature that allows you to program in your weight loss goal, and the date for that goal. Then, it calculates how many pounds a week you have to lose to reach that goal. And here comes the cool part. It also tells you how many calories you must restrict each day to meet that goal. Right now for my goal (13 pounds by Labor Day, starting last week), I have to burn 875 more calories than I consume each day to meet my goal. Obviously, it is not just this easy because of other factors like muscle gain, etc, but I find this a very helpful tool for gauging how well I did for the day. This allows me to eat a little more on days when I exercise like crazy, because the goal is based on calorie restriction, not on a set number of calories per day, the latter which is more artificial, because some days we burn more calories and may need to consume a little extra. Below are screenshots of what I am talking about.

In the first image, you can see I have entered into step 5 of the Fitday weight assessment process, in which I can plan out my calorie restriction needed to lose weight. It does the math for  me based on what I set as my weight goals in an earlier step. Click it to make it larger.

In this second image, you can see that I am over the calories Fitday estimates I need to meet my weight goal. However, because I am active, I have burned 1023 more calories than I consumed, which is over the 875 I need restricted to meet my weight goal on time. You can also see that Fitday allows for customized food, and that I even add my supplements. And by the way, yes I am a firm believer in Fitday, and I gladly paid 20 dollars for the software.

[Of note, you can also see some of my eating habits here…like adding cocoa to my coffee, drinking a lot of coffee, taking 1/2 a vitamin E softgel (it isn’t always easy to do that), using fiber powder to make sure I get 30 grams of it a day, making tuna salad with light mayo and honey-roasted nuts, etc. Its not on here (because it is insignificant calorie-wise), but I put cayenne powder in the soup and tuna salad, and on the fries]

Change #4: Keeping a Food and Fitness Journal

I’ve already talked about this in a previous post, so visit it for more specifics. However, I will reiterate some of my thoughts here. I know that some people say not to obsess over calories and I agree. But…I think a person can keep track diligently without being obsessed and it’s incredibly beneficial. I think many of us have hidden calories that we typically forget about; for example, that handful of chips we may grab out of the pantry or the piece of chocolate we eat at work. I’m not saying it’s bad to eat these items, especially in small amounts, but it’s important that we know about them and their potential to slow or even bust diets. I would typically munch on peanuts at my parent’s house when I visited, totally unaware that only a 1/4 cup of those things had 160 calories! Thus, for a 30 second little snack that I didn’t even think about, I had probably consumed 200 calories. Calorie counting brings such behavior to the light; whether it’s continued or changed is of course a personal decision.

If the thought of writing down and calculating scares you, don’t worry; computers have changed the way we count calories. For example, I spend about 5 minutes a day putting in my food and fitness activities; the computer program does the rest. I use Fitday software, although they also offer a free online service that is less comprehensive. I like the fact that I can calculate all of my nutrients, my general metabolism, and see it all in the form of statistics. I have included some screen shots. You also get a look into my habits.

Counting Calories

I’ve read it on many occasions from dieting experts: don’t count calories. I totally disagree. I have lost weight counting calories. Losing weight (metabolism aside) is essentially a math problem. If you consume more calories than you burn, you’ll gain weight; consume fewer you lose; consume the same, you stay the same. So, it’s helpful to know, especially when you’re trying to lose weight, the specifics of your diet. This is especially true because we can consume so many hidden calories or can be misled about what foods are helping us put on weight. A good friend of mine lost a bunch of weight, but before this, when he tried and failed to lose, he ate a lot of pretzels because pretzels were better than other snacks. True. However, he would sometimes eat nearly a whole bag. Counting calories would tell you that a 10 oz. bag would give you around 1100 calories, or over half of your daily calories.

Calorie counting (and keeping track of calories burned) in my life has been beneficial for several reasons:

1. It has revealed hidden calories- Those “little” snacks that I ate throughout the day added up to not so little numbers at the end. In addition, meals that didn’t seem so bad really were. For example, who would’ve guessed that a cup of that broccoli, bacon, cheese, and mayo salad that I loved could have over 400 calories a cup!

2. It allowed me to accurately gauge loss, gain, and maintaining weight- This was important especially as I moved towards maintenance in my diet. I needed to know if my calories were realistically coming close to my exercise output.

3. It gave me a mental sense of accomplishment- I could look at the trends in my calorie counting and see how I’d done over a long period of time. This gave me a sense of accomplishment and also allowed me to make adjustments where necessary (e.g. cutting out foods that brought lots of calories but few nutrients)

4. It created structure- This is probably the hardest to explain, but putting in my calories and fitness output was (and is) an important part of my day. It helps keep me focused and structured in my plans and also as a check on tendancies towards getting back to previous poor routines.

How should you count calories? If the thought of pen and paper scares you, it should! You don’t have to be an accountant or statistician to count calories these days; computers do it for you. I recommend the program Fitday. They have a free online version at www.fitday.com, but I recommend the software. It allows you to keep track of all your calories and fortunately has a huge, if somewhat outdated, database of foods. It not only keeps track of calories, but also a host of other nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. If your food is not there, you can create custom foods. You can also write down your activities and the calories burned. There are tons of prelisted activities and you can create custom activities. The software also includes options for measurements, mood, weight, etc. The best part is that you can run reports to see various trends, such as how your weight has fluctuated over 6 months or if you’ve gotten enough Vitamin C for the week. I also like Calorie King and Nutrition Data as resources.

So, it may go against what you’ve heard in the past, but if you want to lose weight and get fit, start counting!