Tuesday, September 25, 2012

MyNetDiary For Diet And Exercise Tracking

A little while ago I promised to write about how I am tracking my diet and teaching myself how to eat healthier while losing a bit of unnecessary weight.

The answers to many questions have been provided by an iOS app called MyNetDiary. First, I just have to say that I don't like the name. It does not tell me what the program does, who it was written for, or why I would want it. But, experience has taught me that this is no reason to avoid something. When I tested iOS calorie-tracking apps, this one was the best for my needs.
Let me break down what I wanted out of the app and then show how MyNetDiary met and exceeded my expectations.

First, I wanted a program to look up caloric values for foods that I eat and help me keep a daily log. I wanted those calories broken down into macronutrients: fat, carbs, and protein so I could see how many grams of each I was eating and how that translated into calories.

Next, I wanted the same lookup and tracking for the calories burned by various exercises.

Then, I wanted something to track my longterm weight loss goal and tell me how many calories I needed to be in deficit for my body to use up the right amount of fat that day. Not so little as to keep the weight and not so much as to cause problems from losing it too fast.

And, finally, I wanted something to correlate all of this information to help me make moment-to-moment decisions about whether I need more exercise or more food. Or, more accurately, to tell me how much exercise I'll need to do if I take a second helping of beef stew.
Well, MyNetDiary does all of this and more. First, take a look at the main screen. From here you can see some of the categories of data tracking and management. This shot was taken after dinner on a day when I wanted to short myself by an extra 500 calories.

Under meals, it tells me that I ate more than was recommended by 257 calories. Under exercise, I've done more than was planned by about 750 calories. And that gives me the daily goal under analysis: 522 calories left to exactly meet my weight loss goal for the day. Bingo!

Tracking calories in absolutely simple. Since this is on the iPod that I keep clipped to my belt, it's always at hand. Whenever I eat, I pull out the iPod and enter the food under the appropriate meal: breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack. Searching for foods is easy and robust. Once you've eaten a food, it jumps to the top of the list next time you search.

When you tell it that you've eaten 4 ounces of chuck roast, for instance, it knows about the calorie count, but it also knows all of the rest of the nutrition information, which you can configure it to track as well if you like.

The next tracking function is exercise. Again, it knows about many, many forms of exercise and can calculate how many calories a person of your current weight would burn while performing that activity.

You just tell it what you did and for how long. See those entries for "Skimble"? I'll be writing another blog post about this digital personal trainer app. After each workout, it tells you how many calories you burned. I then enter that info into MyNetDiary by hand.

Along with tracking diet and exercise, MyNetDiary helps you set a weight loss goal and stick to it. All of those numbers on the main screen came about after setting up this plan. I decided to lose the maximum healthy recommendation: 2 pounds a week. It told me that, based on my starting weight, start date and my goal that I would meet that goal on November 22nd. That seems so soon! I mean, I've been collecting this weight for 20 years. I could really be rid of it in less than three months without starving? Cool! (The key to not being hungry is to add a lot of exercise so I can eat regular meals and healthy snacks pretty much whenever I want.)

As the day progresses, it's nice to have a plain-language interpretation of what all these numbers mean, especially when I was just getting started. There's a screen for that.

Now, I don't agree with some of the basic premises behind these warnings, but its nice that they're there at the bottom of the analysis screen.

And now, the total pushing-it-over-the-edge-into-fabulousness feature: charts. I'm a visual person and receive much clarity from seeing data formatted into charts. It also gives a sense of satisfaction that's lacking in plain numbers.

First, the calorie chart. This tells me at a glance whether I need to eat more food before bed to keep my body from burning up fat (or maybe muscle) too fast. There are a ton of problems that can arise from starving yourself to lose weight so I don't want to do it accidentally.

In this chart you can see that today does not have enough calories in it. I need to eat at least 500 more calories before bed. That's a heaping spoonful of peanut butter and a glass of milk. Yeah!

And here's the end result of all this data tracking: 12 pounds lost in about a month.

See that big dip? I didn't realize how accurate this program is so I was being conservative in my intake "just in case". I lost weight way too fast for a few days and then intentionally ate more for a few days to bring myself closer to normal.

This is reflected in the calorie chart by a few days in a row of very low intake. And the next week I overdid it a few times on purpose, reflected by tall yellow bars in the calorie chart.

(Of course, being the overachiever that I am, I need to stay slightly ahead of the curve.)

Now here's the part that's weird, but I'm doing it anyhow... All of this data syncs automatically with the web-based version. I've set my visibility to public so anyone who wants can follow along with my progress.

(Caution: shirtless photos.)

I sort of think that creating public accountability will keep me focused. I don't want to let y'all down, right? Besides, I write this blog to inspire others to follow in my footsteps if I'm doing something that they wish they could do. I don't have super-special magic powers to get things done. I just set reasonable goals and do my best to stick to them, using any tool I can get my hands on to help me.

And, if losing weight is a goal of yours, MyNetDiary can take a lot of the guesswork out of managing your diet and exercise.

Disclosure: I am in no way associated with this company. They just make a program that's totally amazing!

Update: The link above doesn't show very much info unless you're a member of the forums, I guess. If you're really interested, I'm pretty sure it's free.

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