Fighting Weight with Open Source

Food scale image by Tracy Lundgren from Pixabay

Before 2011, I didn't know very much about my body. Because I'd never had much interest or natural talent in sports, I assumed I wasn't athletic. I was wrong. As was the case with grade-school academics, I hadn't done well because I hadn't really applied myself.

Something in me broke that year. My mother was going through cancer treatment. My weight had been slowly increasing over 20 years. I was scared that my weight put me at greater risk for cancer and I decided to see what was possible. 

I found a simple diet framework that denied me nothing. It was all about net calories. Combined with free-weights, it worked. I lost 37 pounds in 3 months and was in the best shape of my life, arguably. Sure, I weighed more than I had as 20-something, but I had muscle I'd never had before. I got on a plane and spent a week visiting with my mother and grandmother.

When I returned, the fear was gone and I'd forgotten everything I learned. I switched all my energy to my career and the weight started creeping back.

Then, a month ago I had another realization. I was feeling sick and weak again, weighing more than I had in mid-2011. Was it possible for a 50-something to accomplish what a 40-something had done?

Absolutely. Tomorrow will be 4 weeks of tracking, and I've lost over 13 pounds. I have high hopes for my 3-month report card in July.

What I learned over a decade ago was that I am a mesomorph. I still consider myself non-athletic and can't dance to save my life, but I turned out to be ideally suited for weightlifting. Simple movement. Compound exercises.

I still have the gym equipment but this time I decided to see what open source apps I could use to help track my progress.  If you have an Android device, I strongly suggest you add the F-Droid app store and get as many of your apps there as you can. Here are some suggestions to make it worthwhile. Once installed, put these together in a Fitness folder on your device's main screen.


From the app:

Waistline is a libre calorie counter and weight tracker that allows the user to keep a diary of the food they eat and variations in their weight. All data is kept on the user's device and can be exported or imported easily when needed. The app includes a barcode scanner that connects to the Open Food Facts database to pull in product information.  

With minimal information and no account to sign up for, you can track your calorie intake safely and anonymously.

Functionally, this is a great replacement for MyFitnessPal, the calorie tracker I used in 2011. It does not have the exercise calorie burning built-in, but that turned out to not be significant. I set my calorie intake from 2000 down to 1500 and decided to get at least 5 walks in per week, burning ~300 calories per walk (about 35 minutes in duration).

The Open Food facts database isn't huge and it's important to double-check that the numbers are accurate. I found that some entries were incorrect because people had entered the Nutrition Facts "per 100 grams" rather than "per serving". But fixing these entries is less time consuming than adding them from scratch. But, I have needed to add some of the foods (or brands) unique to my diet. Using the barcode scanner, the app will prompt you to enter a picture and the Nutrition Facts if it doesn't recognize the barcode of the item you've scanned. Do be careful to check the setting that allows you to specify the quantity.

 But what if you need more generic Nutrition Facts? For example, how many calories are in a cup of cooked white rice? Using my mobile browser's "Add to Home Screen" function, I put a link to the Nutritionix website into my Fitness folder. It's a handy shortcut. Click on the icon and search "rye bread slice" or whatever else you're looking for, then add it to Waistline's database: 

Foods  >  (+)  >  (take a picture), enter the Nutrition Facts, and save.

Whenever you need motivation, look at Waistline's Statistics screen. And if you're not losing weight, lower your daily calorie goal. It starts with a default of 2000, which is average adult intake. With my starting weight, that didn't help me. I needed to bump it down to 1500, and then the pounds started coming off.


From the app:

FitoTrack is a mobile app for logging and viewing your workouts. Whether you’re running, cycling or hiking, FitoTrack will show you the most important information, with detailed charts and statistics. It is open-source and completely ad-free.

If you are familiar with Runkeeper, or even some of the included walking apps from some mobile phones, you'll be very comfortable  with this. Again, no account to sign up for. Make sure your location is turned on, then press the (+) symbol, choose the activity, and go.

It'll draw your path on a street map and tell you (among other stats) how many calories you burned. You can either choose to "eat back" those calories, or consider them as a safety cushion while you try to eat your full allotment from the Waistline app. I've done it both ways. For now, I'm not eating back the number of calories that FitoTrack claims I've burned. It's only an estimate, anyway. 

However, hitting a plateau is common during weight loss. I hit one at 10 pounds. My approach is to take a day off from the app and try to eat sensibly but with a treat that day. Ice cream or pizza is always fun. Then, go back to the app. Usually, that one day of sensible hooky is enough to convince my body it's not starving, and the weight will resume dropping. But making sure I've gotten some walking in helps to reduce the amount of weight I gain on a cheat day (usually a pound or two). This drops off within a day or two, and then the weight loss continues as before.

See you for my 3 month report card and if you want more detail on what this was like the first time thorough, my original post in 2012 was a lot more detailed.