Quick Add: No Brainer?

I’ve quantified and monitored the calories I consume since being a teenager. I had a ‘nutritional values’ book (still have) and began by writing food diaries daily, adding up, reflecting, setting goals. I think I wanted to lose weight, although the book was a gift (c. Christmas 1999)… Maybe someone was trying to tell me something. I sometimes weighed myself, but not always. Not like now.


Back then, I had become so familiar with the values contained within and the types of foods I ate (still eat) that I could (still can) do a mental tot up in my head as I went along in a day. Rough, granted, but enough to give me a picture to work with. To know how close to 2000 I was (my daily calorie limit, not the year).

Inkedbook 2_LI.jpg

Since then, as technologies have advanced beyond printed tables, a book of leaves and ink (and then the shredder), I have upgraded to the likes of MyFitnessPal, using my smartphone to painstakingly accurately (try to) enter every morsel that passes my lips (and track over time – a lasting electronic record vs. disposing of the increasingly flammable archive). Intermittently (I’ve had it installed on my ‘phone for, what, five years?), I find it annoying and I give up. The recording bit is frustrating and dull: not the act of recording, but the process (steps and effort) it requires.

I’ve searched its database to identify perfect or best matches. I can’t use the scanner as I don’t generally eat foods with barcodes (are they UK anyway?). The portion sizes don’t readily make sense. The whole thing gets on my nerves. And, last week, I’d given up. Again. I was still weighing in, though, and entering my daily step count into the work log – so my #quantifiedself tracking was still alive and kicking (I find that if I stop e-tracking my steps and weight, I get withdrawal symptoms. Even forced hiatuses fail – see previous posts).

I was thinking about why I gave up with the food diarying (again) and perhaps revisiting the #oldskool approach. Then I wondered about combining the two. I have the approximate figures inscribed in my head and consciousness anyway. I have the MyFitnessPal app. Why not use the ‘Quick Add’ function? A ‘no brainer’?

Three days in, and I’m feeling much happier with the entering data bit (from my guestimates and actively recording – my wont). I’m counting anyway (in my head). Although a bit clunky (or maybe I just forget how to get to the bit where I can do that), I find entering a rough running total into the app much more useful than the detail. Perhaps that’s because I focus on calorie count over nutritional content… but, in any case, I’m back on track 🙂


Running rings around myself

Since adopting an Apple Watch S3, I have been using the Activity app (comes with the watch) as well as the Health one (comes with the iPhone, which I’ve been using for over a year now).

I have to say: I *really* like the ‘rings’ that Activity uses. I’m a sucker for the colours (ironic since I almost exclusively wear black) and love the tri-partite measures of success: movement; exercise; and standing.

The way that Activity works is to encourage the user to ‘close’ all three ‘rings’ by achieving the following each day:

  • 590 calorie burn through movement;
  • 30 min exercise;
  • 12 hours in which you stand (at least once, I think).


Move: burning calories is hard. Not so much if you are advised to set a more achievable target of 590/day (vs. ~900, which was the default before it recommended I switch… after a week). I seem to be busting that daily though and so closing the pink ring. Yay!

Exercise: none of my other fitness trackers/smartwatches have so clearly presented information about how many minutes I have been active for. Given the 30m/day recommendation (for 5 days/week), I am way exceeding expectations. I exercise almost double that every day. The green ring closes mid afternoon each day.

Stand: so, I stand at least once in 18-19 h/24. I am not a big sleeper, but… (see my AutoSleep file for more on that…). The target is 12. I usually achieve two thirds of that by lunchtime. #blueboss

I’m doing all this most days, and probably was before without noticing: even though I’ve been tracking and #quantifiedself for over two years now, I wasn’t paying attention to these measures – my attention wasn’t being drawn to them. What’s new is that I’m doing it all without thinking about 10000 steps/day (although I am mostly achieving this according to Activity, while Health suggests a ~1500/day deficit – using the same devices). Where I have noticed a weakness is Mondays. I fall short. Activity’s visualisation of my data allows me to see that very clearly. Roll on Monday: Monday morning, you look so fine (Fleetwood Mac) vs. I don’t like Mondays (Boomtown Rats). Meanwhile, happy weekend!

UPDATE: Fed up of food diaries

I’m still wearing the Apple Watch S3 (and charging it daily to make it work!), BUT I’m kind of fed up of using MyFitnessPal and My Water, so the health self-monitoring aspects are falling by the wayside. The food diaries on MyFitnessPal are irritating – if you eat unbranded (home cooked) or UK branded foods. I think I preferred my calorie counter book and a pad/paper back in the day. As for My Water, although I can enter real-time data from my wrist, I drink a lot of water, black coffee and black tea, and not much else (some red wine)… so it’s kind of boring. I do like the Activity app though. So far, it seems that I stand more than average, do my 30 min/day exercise, but only burn half the calories I should through movement. The visual is simple and the measure is easy to understand. I also like the visualisation of my heart data. Other than that, the constant buzzing from emails, social media, calls and stuff are useful, but constant.

An Apple a day?

Less than one month after my tracking hiatus came to an end, I bit into the Apple… not quite Snow White and the poisoned pomme, but an Apple Watch S3. A life to rent via EE. Ta da:




So far, so good. I’m loving it. I re-installed MyFitnessPal, downloaded a water drinking app (I even paid to get rid of the ads) and added Activity. I’ve also put AutoSleep on it (again, paid). I really like how much I can do at my wrist, meanwhile doing very little around the tracking (cf. manual input/multiple sources), but getting so much feedback. I love how the visual presence and connection of the device to my wrist and to my ‘phone works.

In just a few days (since Friday last week), I am religiously logging my food consumption, inputting my fluid intake (from my wrist) and have upped my activity to meet and exceed the demands of the three point ‘Activity’ – move, exercise, stand – measures. It’s a lot of fun and I’ve missed the buzz I get from being a #dataslut. Not to mention that all my social media stuff is visible (incl. high definition images) AND that I am able to delete SPAM emails on the go.

I did reflect on my ‘need’ today. I reminded (comforted) myself that I’ve been a #quantifiedself for a while now – I have tracked 11 years of periods on paper, alongside calorific intake from the age of 15, so it’s not the tech per se – but I do wonder what the fascination with shiny, computery stuff is (for me and others – as my MedicalID review indicates, there may be wider value in the data I’m not only generating, but documenting, combining and making available to share )… Watch this space.

Off track?

Since this, wearable wearing has become much less of a pleasure. I’m afraid that I’ve been spoiled… That seems to be what happens when you get used to not having to charge your device every day = not charging your device every day. Indeed, my Misfit Ray days are long gone and my replacement  MIO Slice dying on a daily basis has proved less than encouraging. In fact, I’ve given up (for now).  I’m not wearing anything. Again.

I’m still participating in the WorldWalking competition at work, where a group of us logs individual daily steps to jointly achieve a walk round the world challenge, but am relying on my iPhone Apple Health step counts. Ahem. Sorry, workies:


It’s not helpful that most of my clothes don’t have pockets and so I often leave my phone somewhere – in the office, at home or in the car – when doing short walks (to the loo, to fetch photocopies, a cup of tea or lunch… or nipping around the supermarket). On a daily basis, a lot of my activity is made up from that kind of movement, which punctuates my otherwise fairly sedentary working life. My phone is also failing to capture dog walking at home, as I usually leave it in the house.

It shouldn’t matter that the numbers are so low when I know that I am moving more than that, however, because I know the dataset is incomplete, I am skipping the stairs (why bother?) and feeling less motivated. SO I probably am doing less. I know the wearable makes a difference. Will that tip me to charge up my wristband again though? Not any time soon. I’m going away in a few days and I really can’t be bothered with the daily charge. There, I’ve said it.