Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Fitday.com: Initial Impressions

Man, I wish I'd known about this back in December*. I've got a rather convoluted Excel spreadsheet I've been using to track my weight, exercise, splurges and other things I think may affect my weightloss and fitness levels. This, however, takes the whole thing to a new level. It automatically calculates the number of calories you burn per day based on your size, how much you burn based on your activity levels and all of that. What took me hours of research to track down, this site did in the 30 seconds it took me to fill out my profile. Very nice.

Like most powerful tools, be prepared to spend some time setting it up. Yesterday I found myself walking over to the pantry or fridge, getting a food item out, entering the nutritional data into the site, then putting the food item back. I'm very picky when I shop (for instance, I buy low carb low fat flax pitas - there was nothing in the "pita" catagory that was even close to the calories and carbs in what I buy) so a lot of what I eat isn't in there as food. I think it's awesome that you can add your own, custom foods. The only downside is that there doesn't seem to be a way to "build" your own recipes. When I select "Chili con Carne, with beans" from their menu, it gives me the nutritional information, along with a list of ingredients and processing methods. I can customize the nutritional information, but not the ingrediants. If I could just change "celery" to "green peppers" and add a few other things to the ingredient list, it could tell me what the nutritional value of MY chili is. That would really rock.

Accountability is easy to get as well. You can choose (as I have) to make your daily information and current progress available for others to see. I'd imagine it would make you think hard before you eat that piece of fudge if you know the whole world is going to see it on your daily food list.

I'm a little disappointed that I can't seem to find my type of walking on the list. I walk about 3 mph while carrying a load of 10 pounds - 5 in each hand. I can tell you based on how my arms, abs, and shoulders feel at the end of my walk that carrying that weight adds a LOT to the exercise that you get. My guess would be that it comes close to doubling the number of calries burned. The closest I see is "uphill, carrying load" or "carrying load, upstairs". I can throw on a 10 pound weight vest and not get nearly the same amount of exercise I get carrying those weights. I'm fudging it a little and listing my walk as "Walking, 4.0 mph, level, firm surface, very brisk pace" when I'm carrying the weights, and as "Walking, 3.0 mph, level, moderate pace, firm surface" when I'm not carrying the weights. Here recently, I've been trying to do both every day.

Today I plan on adding more of my "custom" foods, so I can get an even more accurate picture of where I am, and where I want to be. As you can see in the screenshot, Fitday has some really cool reporting features that let you really get an idea of how you're doing, and where you could improve. My Excel spreadsheet will likely stay with me until I've been using Fitday for at least a month, then I'll retired it. I'll also post an update on my long term impressions of Fitday.com, and it's usefulness as a tool for weight loss and fitness.

*I did go back and enter my "weekly weigh in" data going back to December 5th, which is why my public chart has data going back to the beginning of March.

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