Food, glorious food . . .

September 13, 2009 · Posted in Cooking 

I would say it’s that time of the year again but it isn’t . . . the fact is I’m on a diet. again. This isn’t the first diet I’ve been on and it almost certainly won’t be the last but what makes this one different from the others is that this time i’m keeping it in my pocket, it’s online, readily available and there’s no getting away from it.

I should probably back up a bit at this point and enlighten you all with some background facts. I’m 35 years old. I weigh, or at least at the start of this weighed, 19st 1lb and I have arthritis. The reason I mention the arthritis isn’t some cheap attempt to garner sympathy be simply a way to explain why I can’t just go and run the weight off like a lot of other people might.

Now even being slightly less mobile that some you still dint get to be nearly 20 stone without getting somewhat comfortable and that’s exactly what’s happened over the last few years. Add that to the fact that I enjoy good and interesting food as well as enjoying cooking good, interesting and often large food and you’ll see how I arrived at where I now find myself.

I have very successfully been on the WeightWatchers diet before and thought it was very good. In that system all food is assigned a number of points based on the amount of calories and saturated fat in it. you are allocated a certain number of points that you are allowed to eat a day (determined by your height, weight and gender) and off you go.

While the diet is great in that it stears you nicely towards healthy foods by assigning them 0 point (free food w00t!), the problem lies in calculating the number of points and keeping track of them. Points tracking and logging of everything is only available on the WeightWatchers website – something you have to pay £10/month to access. And even if you wanted to track things using paper and pen (why not, it’s only adding a few numbers together) you still need to know how many points are in your food. You’re then back to the website or you have to buy one of the WeightWatchers calculators. As far as I know WeightWatchers haven’t revealed the formula behind calculating their food points and, as it seems to change slightly every year as they update their system, they’re not likely to.

The final problem I have with the WeightWatchers is that once you’ve entered your information into their system it’s trapped.  You have no way of getting that information out to either reuse or to show to someone else. It’s a closed system that you have to pay to use and that provides no additional benefits.

The system I’m not using really takes dieting back to basics as it’s just calorie counting, if you eat more than you use you put weight on, the other way round and you lose weight 🙂 You should therefore already have some clue about healthy eating to get the best of of this but it’s OK if you don’t because the free to access website has plenty of advice.  The two sites are actually very similar (other than one being free) in that they do offer help, advice, recipes and the like but I feel that has two crucial differences.

The first is that when the website is calculating how many calories you are allowed it not only asks you for height, weight and gender but also how fast you want to lose the weight. The faster you want to lose it the fewer calories you’re allowed . . . obviously! Because you’re just counting the calories which are printed on almost everything you can track things really easily, but what I really like (being a total geek) is that they’ve also published an iPhone app that hooks into your website account. This allows you to search for foods, enter amounts of exercise you’ve done and to view how you’re doing on today and previous days. What I like about this the most is that it’s available all the time . . . you can’t forget to add something in later.

The second difference is that gives you multiple ways to get your information back out. You can access your food diary as either an Excel or CSV file, as an RSS feed or you can go straight to the website. So my food diary is available here,

So what’s the point? Well, firstly it allows you to take a copy of all your information, allowing you to take it somewhere else if you wanted to or to just have a backup or a paper copy (should you want to take it to the doctors for instance. However for me the best thing is that other people can see what you’re eating and ‘keep an eye on you’. I like to think it’s part of the support network, and that even if no-one is reading it and no-one does actually comment on it, they might. It make me think twice about what I’m eating because I’ve got to log it and therefore someone else will be able to pick me up on it.

So far it’s working . . . with the exception of 1 evening where I’d forgotten that I’d arranged a beer and a curry before the diet started I’ve been at or under my allowance every day for the last 2 weeks.  In week 1 I lost 4 pounds and I’ll find out how much I’ve lost in week 2 when I weigh-in tomorrow morning.  The strangest thing . . . I’m quite enjoying it?!?


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