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Jamie Thingelstad's personal website

Weight Loss Tool: My Diary

I’m a couple of weeks down the path to losing a bunch of weight. This will be a long road and to help along I have a few tools that I’m using to help me along. The last time when I really focused on losing weight was 2000 and I used a program called Lifeform extensively, several times every day, to track everything. Now in 2008 my iPhone is almost exclusively my tool of choice for this goal.

Background

The first thing I wanted to figure out was a good way to log my food. I firmly believe that tracking your food intake is likely the most important thing you can do for weight loss. In the past I kept a very specific, to the gram and individual calorie, log of everything I ate. This was incredibly powerful, but in retrospect it was not the best long-term solution.

The reality is that you will not weigh your food and track everything you eat for the long term (even though I did it for nearly 2 years). It is too hard, obstructive and quickly becomes a crutch. While you cannot be clueless about the nutritional impact of your food, you can also become far too obsessed about it. For me this was a problem because leaving that gram-precise sterile environment resulted in drift and a lack of discipline.

However, writing everything down is incredibly powerful. I was once on a century ride with two guys that I later found were psychiatrists. I mentioned to them how powerful I thought food logging was and they explained that that power came from being able to “objectify” what you have written down. The simple act of logging allows you to step outside of yourself and review and coach your own behavior. I can see this, and would admit that I have at times changed behavior because I “didn’t want to write it down.”

Last time I kept grams and every detail in Lifeform and now I needed to find a new tool. I wanted something that I could use for logging and it needed to be on my iPhone. I did not want a web application because speed is everything. Databases become big issues with food logging programs, and the means of entering information were important. I did a lot of searching for food logging on the iPhone and I found a bunch of programs and frankly none of them were very good. They seemed clumsy. They were really designed for a mouse interface, not a native touch feel. I was bummed as there seemed no good solution.

My Diary

I then stumbled into some diary programs. This intrigued me since a food log could easily be a food diary. Simple, few word entries. The key features include multiple entries per date, ability to enter things with a time stamp in the past and searching. I found My Diary (iTunes) and it’s great for this need!

My-Diary-Screenshot-Small.jpg

That screen shows lunch, snack and dinner for Saturday, October 11th. I’ve been using My Diary now for nearly a month to track my food and I’ve found it great.

Logging your food can tip you into an OCD view of eating that ultimately is not healthy. Using a diary format allows you to not be shackled down by numbers and just focus on the healthfulness of what you eat. Additionally, something I really didn’t think about is the ability to put context in your food log. When you read “Awesome turkey burger that Tammy made!” it carries context and value. A food entry saying 112g Turkey, Fried is devoid of all context and meaning. This is very helpful.

I’ve found My Diary to be fast, simple and very convenient. You can change the date and time of entries so if you miss writing it down you can catch up later. And I can’t emphasize how great it is to have this right on your iPhone. I highly recommend using My Diary for food tracking if you are looking to do that.

4 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing the concept as well as the iPhone app. I have a similar need to log my food consumption. I know people who have had great success with this technique. One in particular also logs how he felt after the meal.

    I am a bit concerned with storing any data in an iPhone app, however. If an app accidentally gets uninstalled the data is often gone, for instance. Reading the App Store reviews, I think this is a legitimate concern. Perhaps I’m destined for text files.

  2. @Barry,

    I know your concern, particularly regarding lost data. I can say that I have done an upgrade of My Diary via the AppStore and did not lose any data. I was curious to see what would happen but it all worked just fine, no issues.

    Additionally My Diary has an email option allowing you to send a month of diary entries via email to any address you would like. I wouldn’t be surprised if under the covers My Diary just stores the content in a file-per-month using a simple text markup. Here is the text for the same day as the screenshot above.


    [2008 October 11]
    06:13 PM
    Awesome turkey burger that Tammy made! Beets. Peach.

    05:04 PM
    Fresh apple carrot juice. Detour bar. Espresso.

    01:12 PM
    Two turkey sandwiches with fresh cheddar cheese and fresh bread from market. Awesome! Apple.

    09:33 AM
    MetRX shake with yogurt. Two abelskivers.

    So you can easily backup, however, there is no means to restore this file if you needed to do such a thing. At least you can archive on your desktop easy enough.

  3. I too find the MyDiary app to be marvelous. But there does need to be a way to backup. Can you explain what you mean by archiving it on your desktop?

    I.am writing a post about journalling and want to include MyDiary. But I’d also like to explain how to back it up. Not just for readers, but for my journal too!

    • It doesn’t have a formal backup function, but it does have the ability to email your journal entries for a given month. The format of the email is shown in the comment above. So, you can easily just email your journal entries out.

      With that said, it is not a proper backup and restore. It will only work for a given month, not your entire journal. And as far as I can tell, there is no way to get data back into the journal. So, if you were to lose your iPhone you’d have a copy on your computer, but would start fresh with the iPhone copy.

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