Monday, February 25, 2013
Variable Diet Plans and Net Calorie Debit Using Excel
I use a Fitbit Ultra to keep track of my daily steps, calories burned, distance traveled, etc, in conjunction with calories consumed via the Fitbit Android app. While the Fitbit website offers a few interesting ways to visualize this personal data, exporting one's data to excel opens up a virtually limitless number of options in terms of self-quantified analysis. One of the most common metrics that anyone tying to shed some pounds would be well advised to keep track of is daily net calorie consumption (or reduction). There are many factors that can contribute to how quickly one gains or loses weight (age, sex, types of calories consumed, etc), but the simple idea that you need to burn more than you consume is a fundamental concept of weight loss. By subtracting my daily calories burned from my daily calorie intake using a simple calculation in Excel, I can visualize my calorie intake/reduction progress over extended periods in one quick glance, something the Fitbit website surprisingly doesn't happen to show on its own. By adding a weekly average to the data, I can easily see behavioral trends in this area and one interesting piece of insight I was able to infer in my case is that my net calorie debit/intake tends to cycle in ~20 day intervals. The simplest way of quantifying cycles with this particular data is done by examining the peaks and troughs of my weekly average, then summing and averaging the distance between either the peaks or troughs themselves. The result is a clear indication of a broad trend in my behavior, self-knowledge that is only apparent when seen through the the lens of Excel and cycle analysis. With knowledge such as this, a dieter may be able to create a flexible/variable (as opposed to static/unchanging) calorie intake plan that is attuned to their own personal cycles. By doing so, they may be more likely to stick to a plan that doesn't go against their natural rhythms. Additionally, one could know when to "take the foot off the gas pedal" when the cycle is peaking while also realizing when to increase exercise intensity and/or reduce calorie consumption when the cycle is bottoming, so as to achieve maximum results. And in case anyone was wondering, the two instances on my chart where the calorie reduction exceeded 2000 for several days in a row, once near the beginning and one near the middle of the chart, represent two 5 day fasts.
Posted by Tucker at 9:36 AM