My Latest Thing

I have a stated goal for my summer of losing roughly 20 pounds — going from a flabtastic 180 to a pants-fittable 160 — and aside no longer permanently wearing a feedbag filled with Reese’s Pieces, here’s another tool in my arsenal: The LiveStrong calorie counter, which is available as an app on the iPod Touch. I entered into it my height and (then-current) weight, my activity level (lightly active — SHUT UP) and then also entered the amount of weight I was hoping to lose on a weekly basis (a pound a week, which I felt was reasonable). It then spit out the number of calories I should consume a day to hit my goal, which is, in case you’re curious, 1,743.

I have found this to be a perfectly reasonable amount of calories on a day-to-day basis; it’s fewer than I was eating, apparently, but not so few that I get randomly hungry and try to gnaw on the cats. Aiding in this task is the app’s database of food item calorie counts, so I type in the name of the item and it tells me how many calories I am jamming into my maw. The database is stumpable but most of the big brand names and chain restaurants are in there. Logging one’s calories is surprisingly addictive, which is why I suspect at this point it’s working for me — I’m at 173 pounds at the moment.

This won’t get me to 160 by the time I get to Worldcon, but it’ll get me to about 165, which is the weight below which I no longer have the “defeated middle-aged white man” body profile. Which will work for me.

80 Comments on “My Latest Thing”

  1. Interesting, I’ve been looking for something like this, because while I’m getting more active, changing my diet has been a bit more hit or miss. Thanks for the plug.

  2. I started doing this last year (March 1st), and it took about six months but I managed to drop about 60 lbs. I did want to gnaw on cats for the first couple months, but after that everything became routine. For me, I used diet controller ( and it worked out really well. When I hit my limit for the day, I just went to bed hungry. I feel a lot better and I can run/bike much farther than I used to.

  3. Try varying the calorie count from day to day so it’s not the same every time. Your body will get used to the 1700 and change, so you might lose a bit more early on, but the “gains” would level out. Apparently, varying the calorie intake tricks your body so it continues to burn them efficiently.

  4. Coincidentally, I just this morning celebrated finally getting down *to* 180 lb. It’s a nice feeling. Best of luck to you!

  5. Good luck! The real trick is cutting carbs and eating lean protein and vegetables.

  6. I assume you’re waiting to reach your goal weight before posting “before” and “after” pics of yourself in a Speedo (front and profile). Because we’re totally counting on it. ;-)

  7. Man, I need this. Wife and I have changed to a mostly non-processed diet and are trying to get away from salt and HFCS and have been losing a bit of weight but really need to start watching how much I eat. And man, wife and I are good cooks and we really like to eat. Still, gotta’ be able to keep up with the kid and be around a long time for her.

  8. I used a very similar app called Lose It! ( Started at 202, with a goal weight of 180, losing 1 1/2 pounds per week. I hit the target last week, right on schedule.

    I love the simplicity of this type of weight loss. Here’s how much you can eat. Exercise and you can eat more. When you’ve hit your calorie limit for the day, you’re done. No games or gimmicks.

  9. It’s not creepy that we use the same app to track calories and food (BTW, walking burns almost as many calories as running, and it’s easier to walk much further), but it IS creepy that the app says my daily caloric intake should be the same as yours. To the calorie.

    And we’ve met, we don’t share a similar height or build.

    I don’t remember the phone you have, or if it has GPS, but if there is a version of “RunKeeper” for your phone I’d suggest getting it. It keeps track of your walking/running/etc, and tells you what numbers to punch into the LiveStrong app.

  10. You might also consider working the other side of the equation as well: increase your activity level.

    Interestingly I have discovered that weight training has a double benefit: the calories you burn while your exercising and the calories you burn while you heal. The cool part is during the second part you’re not doing anything.

    Like magic

  11. Good luck! Reducing calorie input and increasing calorie output really is the only way to lose weight. The best way you make that happen is, of course, a matter of personal preference. I lost 80 lbs. with a structured diet program and lots of exercise, but after gaining some of it back, I am trying to get a handle on my intake again using “Lose It” on my iPod Touch. In addition do the features you mentioned for the LiveStrong app, this one also allows you to enter in any exercise you do, the calories for which are then added back in to your daily food budget. I am not sure if this is a good feature, as I would probably be better off sticking with the lower calorie budget regardless of exercise, but you might find it useful.

  12. I’ve used this tracker before on my iPhone and love it. I go on-again-off-again with the calorie counting, especially when we’re making meals with uncertain calorie values. That’s the one downside to apps like this. It’s great for the sandwich I might buy from Jimmy Johns, but poor for the homemade pasta puttanesca.

    But, as a weight loss regime, the “burn more than you consume” method of counting calories and exercising daily is an excellently simple and engineer-compatible method.

  13. I agree with Steve at #3.. this does help.

    I started logging my calories in January or so.. and I managed to lose about 20 pounds. Since I have met my boyfriend I have gained about 5 since he likes to eat out a lot.. but I have managed to keep most of it off, and am still at a weight that I like.

    It IS addictive to log calories. I use which helps a bit. But actually I just write my calories down on a dry message erase board on my fridge. :) Not high tech but it works just as well.

    I was very surprised to find that a lot of food actually still tastes good even when its not drowning in mayo and cheese.. in fact it was an interesting experience to actually taste the FOOD I was eating, rather than the condiments.

    Good luck! You can do eeeeet!

  14. “The database is stumpable …”

    What does “stumpable” mean, please?

    Thank You.

  15. Curious, do you know if it will work for weight gain? Some apps stupidly prevent you from entering an end weight that is higher than your starting weight.

  16. Sounds like you’re saying you already lost 7 lb. I’m impressed! It really keeps getting more difficult the older you get, so you’re smart to be dealing with this now.

  17. Like Jack @ #10, I’ve had great luck with the LoseIt app. :) I’ve lost 26 pounds since December of last year and am aiming for 40. I’ve become a big fan of how it provides instant accountability; I can see quite clearly that if I went up a couple of pounds in a week, it’s because I had a couple of huge meals and/or got too crazy with the snacks. Highly, highly recommended for iPhone owners.

    Good luck on your own efforts, John!

  18. Gomi: This is the problem my wife and I have, most of our meals are home cooked. And I tend to eyeball ingredients. So you can’t just say “I ate an X from Y” you have to sit and tell it all the ingredients, guess at the amounts, and what portion of that you ate since I always try to make leftovers. She’s always gotten fed up after a week or so, and I doubt I’d make it even that far. So now we just generally try to eat less and exercise more. This isn’t working though.

    Kinda sucks.

  19. I use Lose It! on my iPhone. As long as I follow it, it works fairly well. Tracking calories is a bit of an education. I exercise a lot and that’s helpful, too, although it can be alarming to discover how much exercise you might have to do to burn off, say, a large fries.

  20. good for you, john!

    one word: VEGETABLES.

    i recently started the Selat* diet not two months ago and have already lost ten pounds.


    * Stop Eating Like A Teenager

  21. I’ve been using and it performs much the same function as the other sites people mentioned. It has a large food database so tracking intake is pretty easy, plus if they don’t have what I just ate I can sit down with the package (assuming I didn’t just eat that too – I’m such a piglet sometimes) and enter the numbers from the nutrition label to create a custom food entry.

    I don’t use the food/calorie tracking now that I’m into a fairly healthy eating habit, but it was very instructive while I was learning what was okay and what to avoid. (Fast food fries are almost as many calories as the sandwich they come with, and fast food chicken might as well be beef by the time they get done with it.)

    I still use the goal tracking feature of the site, and it’s nice to be able to tell when I’m slipping off the wagon and need to pay more attention to what I’m eating. It estimates my calorie needs and how much less I need to eat to meet the goal too. It also computes BMI, which relates body weight to height and is a little bit more realistic indication of whether a given weight is healthy or not.

    For not being on a “plan,” I can’t complain about the results: 27 pounds lost since mid-April.

  22. Easy Pro Tip:

    Avoid eating after 8PM (or 4 hours before you go to bed). It doesn’t take much effort, and it can make a big difference if you’re a late night snacker.

  23. I’ve been using Livestrong to track my food all year. One thing it’s done for me is make me painfully aware of how calorie dense junk foods are. 3 Oreos are 150 calories, and generally leave me wanting 3 more Oreos. I can eat a whole lot of popcorn before I come anywhere near 150 calories.

    Just that little bit of awareness, plus hitting the gym 2-3 times a week, has me down to 174, after starting the year at 194.

  24. “defeated middle-aged white man” body profile…

    I’d be laughing out loud at that one if I didn’t resemble it so much. Still, less food, more excercise, is the only way to really make this work.

    When I left the Navy it was balloon city. Now I’m paying the price of dropping the regimen I had while enlisted. I’m watching the input and have added biking to the extra walking my wife and I do together. Down 12 since May looking to drop another 60 over the next year. I think it’s possible.

  25. For years I told my wife that if she wanted to lose weight, she needed to eat right and exercise.

    2 years ago she started training for an Olympic distance Triathlon. She completed her first Half-Ironman Triathlon 2 weeks ago. She now has 4 of different lengths under her belt. In the last 2 years, she’s lost 50 pounds.

    Sometimes, it helps to have a goal in mind while eating and working out. Ever think of doing a triathlon?

  26. I started tracking my calories this year as well, I use, and absolutely adore it. Glad you found something that worked for you.

    And yeah, reduce calories, increase caloric expenditure, it really IS that easy.

    We hear so much about low-fat, low-carb, all-potato, no-potato, only sweet-potato diets, that it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the contradictory information.

    I’m aiming for a 1# a week loss as well, and am hitting it with relative ease (I only lost 1/2 a pound on vacation, but I’m okay with that) I’m down 12#s since I started tracking calories 12 weeks ago, and it’s pretty darned exciting.

  27. Good shopping habit to get into…only buy foods on the perimeter of the groceryt store, produce, dairy, and unprocessed meats..avoid the precooked package stuff in the aisle (well of course, coffee and tea) One drawback..the bakery is also on the perimeter..;-0

  28. I second someone’s recommendation of Runkeeper. Excellent app.

    (Also, if I were 180 I’d be on the edge of “a ilttle too thin”. 160 would be in the “skeleton” range. Ah, tallness.)

  29. Oops, something (@ #30 above) slipped through your spam filters. Excellent discussion by the way

  30. I’ve lost about 40 pounds so far. I hope to lose 10 more to get to my fighting weight.

    So far, I’ve lost it all by eating less. I need to add exercise to my regular schedule because it has lots of other benefits, but as far as weight loss goes, half an hour workout might burn 250 calories. But you can eat 250 calories in about 5 seconds. So, eating less is definitely the bigger win per time.

    I’ve taken to eating oatmeal, made from quickoats and water. You can buy a big tub of quickoats pretty cheap, and all you need to do is microwave some water, add oats, wait a minute or two, and you’ve got oatmeal. I used to add raisins or honey, but lately have been eating it plain.

    Benefit 1: It is very low on calories and *very* filling. When I get the hungry horrors, I try a small cup of oatmeal.

    Benefit 2: my cholesterol is down 30 points. I also stopped eating bacon, fast food fries and burgers, and other junk, but oats is good for lowering cholesterol too.

    I also got myself a digital scale accurate to a tenth of a pound, and I weigh myself every morning when I get out of bed. Losing a pound a week means that your weight loss can easily be lost in the noise if you wear heavy shoes one day and shorts and tshirt and barefoot another day. So, I weigh myself every morning wearing my pajamas.

    The scale is kind of my reality check. Sometimes I think I’m doing good and turns out I gained a couple pounds. Sometimes I think I’m doing bad and I lost a pound. The scale gives me an objective measure that can counter subjective myths I might be telling myself.

    Good luck!

  31. Good for you!

    I’ve been doing something similar for about a year, and I’ve lost 32 kg. (~70 lb, I think). My BMI dropped from “morbidly obese” to just shy of “normal” – and I should fall into that early August.

    Like others have said, ignore any advice other than diet and exercise, especially the carb superstitions. The only real trick is to remember that it takes time, and it’s slow enough that you won’t really notice it in the mirror. Keep some before photographs around for that.

  32. @Sam Young:

    Great, now I have Captain Vegetable going through my head at volume 10.

    It is I, Captain Vegetable! With my carrots and my celery!

  33. One thing I highly recommend…take some time to find some physical activity you enjoy. Every single exercise regimen I’ve started because “it’s good for me” I’ve abandoned within three months. The activity I actually enjoy (for me, that’s dancing) I’ve only stopped due to injury.

  34. Having just eaten about half a cup of chocolate chips (70% cocoa), reading this post is downright depressing. Aside from sugar or bread cravings, I’ve been eating a healthy diet for years: lots of vegetables, only whole grains, small servings of meat, all homemade food… but I can’t get past my cravings.

    I don’t know how to do it, either. I can go a couple of days, but then it’s splurge time. I’ve logged calories for so long, I can estimate a meal in my head (and that’s using the ingredients, because I avoid most processed food unless I have no other choice – like during family reunions). But none of this lets me lose weight if I indulge in the homemade ice cream with nuts and my special fudge sauce. Or get out the chocolate chips after my all-organic lunch of romaine lettuce, shredded zucchini, sliced radishes, shucked peas, and tuna fish.

    With only 1200 allowable calories a day, I must now skip dinner to stay in line. That’s not likely to happen.

  35. Haven’t used the app you are using, but the LoseIt! app is also free and fabulous! I’ve finally taken off the ten pounds I’ve been trying to lose for twenty years. Good luck on your journey :)

  36. I used LiveStrong site to track my daily calories. From the middle of January to the middle of June, I lost 40 pounds.

    People ask ” how’d you do it?”

    My reply: “Eat less food.”

  37. Apparently the same psychology works for those who actively monitor their home energy use as cuts of 20% or so are pretty common. I’m several inches taller than John so losing 20 lbs would bring me down to a “fighting trim” of around 175, which is doable.

  38. Greg@33: “Sometimes I think I’m doing good and turns out I gained a couple pounds. Sometimes I think I’m doing bad and I lost a pound. The scale gives me an objective measure that can counter subjective myths I might be telling myself.”

    I do the same thing – daily weigh-in every morning before I eat or get dressed for the day. I also see the 1 or 2 pound ups and downs, but they correlate to what I’ve eaten in the previous day or two. Something carb-heavy like pizza, a sub, or a large portion of spaghetti the night before really shows the next morning. The morning after, though, it’s usually gone. My suspicion is it’s water being retained by the carbs. Adding a pound of fat back onto your body in a day means you’d have to eat 3500 calories on top of your normal intake, but adding a pound of water means you’d have to drink only a pint.

    Marlene@37: My sweet tooth was a main culprit in my being too big to start with. (Food is my drug of choice, and I’ve been self-medicating very heavily over the past 6 or 7 years.) Then I noticed every time I ate something sweet, a little while later I’d be craving sweets again. Once I recognized how that addiction worked I could remind myself that if I fall for that tempting Twinkie (or anything with sugar in it) now, I’ll need another one later. The first one is the easiest to resist; after that it’s a slippery slope to the next one.

  39. Seconding (or sixth-ing, as the case may be) the free “Lose It!” app for the iPhone / iPod Touch — I’ve lost 36 pounds since November, and should hit my goal weight (160) in another month. For years any weight-loss plans of mine ignored the “diet” component of diet-and-exercise, and fizzled out after a few months… but using a pocket calorie counter had an effect almost immediately. (Specifically it prompted me to say “Holy cow, there are THAT many calories in [unhealthy food I consume on a regular basis]?” and adjust my eating habits accordingly.)

    Also worth reading is The Hacker’s Diet, by John Walker — I didn’t use his tools and spreadsheets, but his approach to weight loss as an engineering problem (i.e., the human body is a rubber bag filled with mostly water, and calculating what goes into and out of the bag is the only weight-loss system that works) is illuminating.

  40. Marlene: but I can’t get past my cravings. I don’t know how to do it, either.

    I’ve had ravenous attacks for food during the time period where I lost 40 pounds. My kryptonite is sweets. I recall wolfing down a brownie-sunday-for-two a couple months ago. Probably 2000 calories, if not more.

    The best I’ve been able to do is figure out a calorie “budget” for the day, stay way below it most of the day, and give myself something to satisfy my sweettooth when I have the urge, so that I still come in under the calories for the day.

    If I try to completely forbid myself something (bacon, for example), I almost immediately want to sabotage all progress I’ve made and wolf down a pound of bacon. If I can budget for it, adn still come in under the calorie budget for the day, I’m more likely to stay within budget.

    The other thing I have to do is consciously manage feeling hungry. Some foods fill me up and then I’m hungry again in fifteen minutes. Some foods never fill me up (Mint Girl Scout cookies are like eating pure-air-calories. I could eat an entire box in one sitting and still eat more). So I found some foods that are low calorie but very filling, and I actually like eating them. For me, oatmeal is one. And then I plan out the day to eat a little bit every couple of hours because that’s how often I feel hungry. If I screw up and don’t eat my afternoon oatmeal, I’ll get home from work and devour four times as many calories because I feel like I’m starving.

    I haven’t figured out how to stop myself once I get into ravenous mode, but I have learned a few ways to avoid feeling like that in the first place.

  41. This is a brilliant idea and the first thing I’ve seen that really made me want an iPod Touch. Good luck! Oh, and aside from some crazy schemes, I think all the pricey programs DO boil down to: eat less, move more. So it seems like you’re on the right track.

  42. John,

    Lost about 20 pounds this year, simple, really, as I took on a job that combined with kid chauffering kind of eliminated lunch … then the lack of food made me less hungry, so more active, as you say, and stopped eating. Cool, I should write a book. 8-)

    It also had the tendency to improve my food groups, less snack stuff, good whiskey, steak, veggies.

  43. Hacker’s Diet ++; I use the EatWatch.

    360+ –> 280 –> 320 –> 280–> (180-220, whatever I’m at, at 15-18% body fat and keeping it there. The exact number’s not important.)

    Eat less, move more.

    Lots of veggies, some meat, a little sugar and fat.

    Tai Chi Chuan. USMC Daily 16.

  44. Greg: Yes, the food budget is a good idea. It’s a better idea if your budget is 1700 calories, not 1200. No wiggle room in 1200.

    Expending more energy is the next step, but so far, that just makes me hungrier. I more than make up for the calories I burn, by the additional food I eat.

    I keep trying, though. Eating less and moving more really does work, in both losing weight and improving health. Calorie tracking is a big help in eating less, so any program that makes it easy to do, is great to use. Since I eat mostly homemade food, I have to enter the ingredients and add everything up. I use my own program written with Excel.

    I’m exactly like you, needing to eat every couple of hours, and falling into ravenous periods where I devour everything in sight. I used to have wild fluxuations in blood sugar that left me shaking and out of control. I fixed most of this problem a few years ago by adding fat back into my diet and increasing the protein. Completely cutting out refined grains helped, too, as these just basically turn to sugar in your bloodstream.

    I hardly ever get the shakes anymore, but the ravenous periods still happen once in a while. Being female, I suspect a lot of it is hormones.

    Dave H: LOL! I’m so glad I don’t eat Twinkies! Except for the sugar, even my sweets are basically good for you. That’s one of the things that makes it easy to justify eating them. For me though, the hardest one to resist is the first. Once I’ve eaten that, I can usually forget about it.

  45. How do the cats feel about their emergency End-of-the-World food source leaning up? Have they started bringing you dead things yet? That’s the cat version of mom’s “you’re too skinny” speech.

  46. Way to go John! I started using the Livestrong app back in April. At the time I weighted 194 pounds. I was biking up to 50 miles a day on the weekends, and exercising at least three times a week, and didn’t lose anything. When I started using the app and counting calories I got really motivated. Last weekend I weighed in at 172 pounds and I’m still going. Everyone will tell you about the weight loss tricks, low carbs lean protein, etc, but the real trick is to be brutally honest when you fill in the daily data. Anything that goes in the mouth goes in the app. If you follow that one rule, and stick to the calorie guidelines (so I guess that’s two rules) you’ll be successful. The first week or two suck unless you’re planning your diet carefully, because you’ll find that you run out of calories pretty quickly and you either go hungry at night or you exceed your goals. But after you get used to it, it’s a piece of cake.

    Good luck and I’ll post my before and after pics if you post yours.

  47. I’m doing the same thing–counting calories and exercising–with a different app on my laptop. I’m also doing it really slowly. Since 2002, I’ve lost 89 pounds.

    Good luck!

  48. I see mostly good advice here. And congratulations to everyone who has been successful in getting back to a healthy weight!

    The one point I want to add is that the common idea that “a calorie is a calorie” is not quite correct. Just in the past month or so, I saw another report of research demonstrating that test animals fed equal amounts of calories, but from different sources — carbohydrates vs. fats — showed significant differences in their weight. Those eating fats gained little or nothing. Those eating carbs became overweight.

    So when you are counting calories, try to divert your choices away from dense carbohydates in all their forms. High fructose corn syrup may be the single worse thing. The fact that it is used in so many processed foods may be the reason that processed foods seem to be so bad for weight gain. But sugar in other forms is not good, nor are concentrated starches — mainly grains of all kinds (whether whole grain or processed, and all products made from them) and starchy vegetables, such as potatoes and the like.

    You should eat just enough protein for body repair and growth (usually 50 to 70 grams per day for a typical adult — any more gets converted to glucose, which is not desirable), as much non-starchy vegetables as you like, and enough healthy fats and oils to meet you caloric needs.

    Exactly what are healthy fats is a bit complicated. No trans fats, of course (avoid margarine, shortening, and similar products). Most vegetable oils are too high in omega 6 fats, so it is best to limit their use. For cooking and baking, olive oil or coconut oil are better than most popular cooking oils. Fish oils are great, since most people don’t get enough omega 3 fats. Most animal fats can be good, except so many animals these days are fed grains, which upsets their biochemistry, which, in turn, changes the nature of their body fat into something less good than it could be. Still, butter, whole milk, meats, fish, all are good for you in reasonable amounts.

    The reasons for the above are rooted in the biochemistry of how the body digests the different kinds of things we eat. Oddly enough, the biochemistry of the metabolism of carbs of all forms promote storage of fat (though some carbs are somewhat better than others, none are good). Fats in your diet, as long as you don’t greatly overeat them, do not promote storage of fats.

    The perverse meme that a low-fat, high-carbs diet is healthy got established on the basis of one grossly flawed study published by a respected researcher in the 1950s, which, despite much evidence to the contrary, became established as received truth. We are only recently starting to correct those wrong ideas and the damage they have done. For any who are interested in that history, an article about it in the New York Times Magazine does a good job of explaining:'s%20All%20Been%20a%20Big%20Fat%20Lie&st=cse

    If this link doesn’t work, use the search to look for the article titled “What if it’s all been a big fat lie?”.

  49. Oh, sorry, I forgot this, even though I proofread my previous post:

    It certainly is difficult to cut back drastically on concentrated carbohydrates, since the standard American diet has been so heavily tilted in that direction over the years. I don’t mean to make it seem easy. But the effort will be worthwhile.

    And one amusing rule of thumb I’ve seen: “If it couldn’t have been on the dinner table 10,000 years ago, you probably should avoid it.” That’s kind of tongue-in-cheek, but there is a lot of truth in it.

  50. I just lost 25 pounds myself over the last few months. I have found that you can’t just cut calories, to lose weight and keep it off. You need to increase your activity. As we get older we tend to sit alot more. Activity doesn’t just mean workout. It means get off our butt and go out and do stuff. You can burn alot more calories by going outside and taking a walk every day.

    I have a sendentary job like you. So its sometimes addictive to just sit down at the end of the day. The good thing is that its easier to go out and do stuff when it is warm than when it is cold.

  51. I love this site! I’ve been using it for about a gear, and my weight loss has been slower, but significant (25 pounds). One thing I really love is that I can create recipes for things I cook at home or throw together meals I eat regularly so that it becomes simpler and simpler to log calories the longer I do it.

    Congrats on the loss!

  52. It’s a better idea if your budget is 1700 calories, not 1200. No wiggle room in 1200.

    penciling it out for an average “good” day, I think I’m eating about 1300 calories.

  53. Scalzi was there the night I had the epiphany that started the exercise/diet regimen that saw my weight go from an all time high of 220 to 170 pounds in roughly six months. (I’m 5’9″, by the way.)

    I’ve leveled off around 180, but am back at the gym to make sure, at the least, it’s a toned 180.

    That was a good, albeit loud, night, right John?


  54. I don’t have a smartphone *yet*, but I’m planning on getting some kind of Droid soon (Xtreme or Galaxy S? Anyone?) because I’m on Verizon and not on ATT/iPhone.

    I haven’t checked out the droid app store, but I assume there are droid equivalent apps for calorie counting? I don’t know if the LiveStrong app is on droid, but something similar?

  55. @Greg: The Livestrong app is available on Blackberry, iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch and Android.

    Supposedly LoseIt! is getting Android support at some point too, but not yet.

  56. Good luck with it – and to everybody else who is on the same path! These calorie counter things are really helpful. Just be sure to be serious about your exercise, whatever you are choosing to do. I think by just cutting calories alone to drop weight, people are more likely to yo-yo back eventually.

    btw I’ve found in watching my eating more that those “Eat This Not That” websites/books have been really helpful and an eye opener. Plus they are funny as heck. If there is one consistent lesson I’ve taken from that series its “NEVER EAT AT CHEESECAKE FACTORY. EVER” :)

  57. Exercise burns more calories than what are burned during the time that you exercise. Particularly if you are in a state of low fitness to begin with.

    In addition to the calories burned in order to perform the actual exercise, your metabolism changes for some period of time afterwards. If you are relatively unfit your body will begin to adapt to the regular increase in activity. Repairing and improving muscle and bone tissues, expanding the system of capillaries throughout your body, and more. All this takes energy and time.

    Strength training, such as weight lifting, yields better results than aerobic exercise for increasing your metabolism for extended periods of time. Weight training every other day will keep your metabolism elevated nearly continuously over pre exercise levels, if done properly. A combination of strength training and aerobic exercise yield the best results. Combining the two seems to have a synergistic effect.

    If you are exercising at a high level and dieting you have to be careful to make sure you eat enough. If you don’t fuel your metabolism to the extent required for your body to recover properly from the exercise you can easily decrease your fitness instead of increasing it, and even cause some pretty serious damage.

  58. @Rafe Brox: Your site is great! Thanks for posting that, I hadn’t heard of it before.

  59. I use Livestrong to do my daily calorie counting. (And I’ve lost 15 pounds since March 1, but then went up 2 because of two self-indulgent weeks while work was stressful.)

  60. @John Scalzi:

    Thanks for posting this link. A couple years ago, I was using a spreadsheet (The Geek Diet) that I would enter my daily weight into and get charts about my progress. It was good, because it gave me the feedback I needed. I lost about 40 pounds over the course of 9 months with it.

    Then my computer crashed, I rebuild the machine, but never got the spreadsheet back together… and I’ve put 30 of those pounds back on in the last year or so.

    Livestrong looks easier to use than that spreadsheet, does everything it did, and does it better.

    I’ve signed up and started back on the path of sane weight management.

    Thanks again!

  61. I’m still a fat person, but I have lost about 40 pounds over the last 15 years.

    Having small snacks helps. But, if you want a snack, have a little one and don’t eat the whole bag.

    Do some activity every day. I walk at least a mile. Keep moving. I should add, all the walking I did during Anticipation meant I lost 3 pounds during Worldcon last year, even though I ate French Fries fried in duck fat every other day I was there.

    Alcohol is just empty calories. Try to limit it.

    But, I am the world’s worst dieter. I still don’t like most vegetables and I really don’t like to exercise. And, I do like to eat. So, I keep moving and watch most of what I eat, even though I suspect I will always be fat. I just might be less-so in the future.

  62. I lost 130 pounds in the past year, mostly with the use of and lots and lots of running.

    Quite the wild ride, that was.

  63. I told my 21-year-old son, who approved, that after he passes the California Bar Exam, perhaps we should re-start our Shotokan Karate training under Shihan Tom Serrano. My son earned his Brown Belt in an astonishing 18 months (it’s an old-school rigorous dojo). I failed or missed the Blue Belt exam 3 times in a row, so am technically still Orange (but have forgotten almost everything). Karate belt colors tend to progress from lightest to darkest. White is almost universally the starting color, with either red or black being the final belt. In a typical full-spectrum color progression, the belts would be white, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, brown, and black.

    The issue here (to stay vague on-topic): I was 20 pound lighter when I did an hour each day of vigorous martial arts (including the stretching and meditating time, but not the shower nor the commute). I slept better, felt better, and the mind-body interface was higher bandwidth.

    At such time as my son gets a Black Belt, his limbs become, under California law, lethal weapons. But he’s the attorney, so that’s his problem, if it ever comes to trial. We pay attention to what martial arts masters in the Science Fiction authorship community tell us, such as Steve Barnes.

    Now, what color belt goes best with In’n’Out burgers, and your shelf of Nebula, Hugo, and John Campbell trophies, Mr.Scalzi?

  64. I’ve used Livestrong for the past two months myself and have dropped from 189 to 168. It really works well. Good luck on your goals, John.

  65. Marlene @ #37: I totally hear you on the issue of needing to get past your cravings and not knowing how. Here are things that have helped me:

    1) Dropping diet soda out of my diet. That cut down significantly on my sweet tooth.

    2) Exercise. I walk about four miles a day getting to and from work. On days when I can’t walk, I will get on the treadmill instead.

    3) Combined with #2, I try not to have sweets at all in the house if I can help it. So this means that if I really want ice cream, I need to go out and GET IT, and that’ll mean more walking!

    4) Let myself have one day a week where it’s OKAY to go to Starbucks to get that tasty, tasty vivanno and a hunk of cinnamon coffee cake. But only ONCE a week. That way I have something to look forward to on the week. :D Could you do something similar? Set aside one day a week that’s your allowed sweets day, and focus the rest of the week on earning the calories for it?

    Hope some of this can help. Good luck!

  66. Thanks for clueing us into the app. My husband’s already loaded it into his iPod and started playing with it.

  67. A bit late to the party on this but: Hooray! Go you! This type of thing (different app) worked really well for me.

    I did have to revise my timeline a bit but the key is to not worry or get morose about the occasional blip up or plateau.

    Good luck with your program. It feels really great once you hit your targets.

  68. I downloaded an Excel workbook a few years ago that has the whole Weight Watchers thing set up on it — a list of point values for over 2000 foods, plus a weekly point tracker and calculators for determining point values for exercise and foods that don’t appear in the (extremely comprehensive — they have points for *possum*) food points listing.

    I’d be happy to email it to you (and anyone else who wants it) if you’d like. Just say the word!

  69. Good luck. I lost 25 pounds over a 6-month period. Reached my goal weight and am currently maintaining. Thankfully.

    By the way, I had an app like this on my iTouch. I unfortunately needed to do a system restore on the darn thing and lost all of the personal info I had placed in the app, including all the foods I had painstakingly entered.

    So rule #1: backup.

    It also made me switch to a server-based, web-based calorie/fitness tracker, which is And they have an iPod app, so you can both enter things directly from your computer or while you’re out on the town.

  70. Brian ~ Would you like a copy of my Excel Workbook with the points listed for 2100+ foods, etc.?

    I just lost 30 lbs. in 3 months using that plus exercise, and won the Biggest Loser contest at my work. :-)

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