Losing Weight with Wolfram Alpha

Hey Y’all!  So you know how I’ve mentioned a few times that I work for this company called Wolfram|Alpha?  Yeah, well, we’re awesome and so is our “Computational Knowledge Engine”.  Yup.  That’s what I said.  We actually compute data for you right on our website.  In fact, we can do a lot more than that…. like help you to lose weight!

They asked me to write a post for our blog about how to use W|A to lose weight.  I thought I might have to do a lot of research and querying on our website to find a good way to actually do that, but in fact, it was extremely simple.  We can show you the nutrition value of thousands of foods.  We can show you the estimated caloric burn of different activities based on your height, weight and age.  We can help to calculate what your caloric intake should be every day depending on what your goal weight and time allotted is.  We can do so much!  So check out the blog that I wrote to see just how handy it is.

And if you’re not interested in using it, just go and read it because you think I’m neato and you like reading what I write!  =D

One more thing.  I’ll be guest posting on ANOTHER blog this week!  Dacia over at 33 and Counting asked me to write a post, so I went all out and wrote a little about my journey and lot about food!  I even included a recipe for another delicious Indian meal.  It’s all broken down into WW PP just like I do here.  Dacia’s pretty amazing.  She’s lost over 100 lbs in less than a year with Weight Watchers!  So make sure to check it out this Friday!

I’m Bugging Out

Bodybugging that is.  And so far, I’m loving it.

It’s interesting to look back on my life and see how my journey towards health has changed.  From the fifth grade until about age 25, I tried so many different “diets” – Slimfast, diet pills, South Beach, starvation, Jorge Cruise’s 8 Minutes a Day, even some Richard Simmons stuff – and it never worked for very long.  I never felt like they were “livable” after a couple weeks, and obviously (in my experience), they weren’t.

Now that I’ve found something that works for me, I’m trying out a new kind of “supplement” – apps and products that help me to better track my calorie intake and calorie burn.  I’ve tested out all the different websites and for me, www.fatsecret.com has the best Android interface for calorie tracking, but www.myfitnesspal.com comes in a close second.  I actually think myfitnesspal has a lot more options food and exercise on the website, but their android interface doesn’t provide a widget and that’s what I want.

This Bodybugg is a recent purchase.  I found a fantastic “cyber Monday” deal and couldn’t pass it up.  I’ve been watching The Biggest Loser constantly since its now available to watch instantly on Netflix and I always see them wearing their bodybuggs.  I did my research and found the one that works for me, and wouldn’t you know it… I can track it on my phone!  So I have all my information right at my fingertips.  It’s been really fun this weekend testing out my calorie burn.  These are a few of the things I’ve learned:

– Grocery shopping makes you take a lot of steps
– My body burns an average of 1-2 calories per minute in a sedentary state (like sleep)
– I burn a lot more calories than I thought I was based on activity calculators on websites
– It’s a lot easier to burn more calories when you’re in a happy relationship ;)
– Running burns a TON of calories
– Even when just hanging around at home getting things done, I still take around 2500-3000 steps in a day

I love seeing the physical proof of a hard days work. I can track everything and feel good about my progress. And I definitely feel like I have more control over my weight loss because I know exactly what’s going in and what’s getting burned off! I’m the only one to blame for any discrepancies.

Check out the links to see what might work for you. I bought my bodybugg for $100, so don’t spend too much more than that. There’s going to be better deals out there than buying at full price!

PS – I still use fatsecret for food/calorie tracking since the bodybugg program for tracking food it severely limited.  They seriously need to team up with another website to take advantage of their food database!

Weekly Weigh-In

Happy to be alive and thriving!

I totally forgot to put up last week’s weigh-in!  It was -3.3, by the way :)  Almost to my 5%!  But then this past week I gained 1/10th…. and my girlfriend and I went on a couple long trips the past two weekends and we weren’t good at all with counting.  We DID try to make healthier choices, though!

The Reluctant Losers have lost almost 50 lbs all together!  How great is that!?!?  There’s a lot of exercising happening, which is AWESOME.  I think, as a group, we’re at a point where we’re struggling a bit to get back on track.  We’ve all had some success and then life happened and we’ve hit a group plateau.  So, it’s time to get back on that wagon!

I’ve been fighting getting sick for the past two weeks since my parents and my girlfriend have both been sick, but alas, I did not win that fight.  I’m pretty sure I have bronchitis!  But you know what?  That just means I’ll be drinking more water and staying away from too much dairy.  But enough about plans and weight loss.  Let’s talk about food!

Right before we left our friends’ house to head home yesterday, we saw that they had written out a meal plan for the week.  It was so nice and simple!  Just one line of what dinner was going to be.  My girlfriend said, “That’s such a great idea!  We should do that.”  So, we did one in the car on the way home.  AND, we’re going to get a little “weekly menu” art piece to put in the kitchen so we can write it down and stick to it.  I’m really quite excited!  I love planning menus :)  Here’s our dinner menu for the week:

Monday – Asian chicken stirfry over jasmine rice
Tuesday – Tomato soup and grilled cheese naan (an indian bread)
WednesdayBaked mac n cheese and green beans
ThursdaySavory breaded shrimp and teriyaki broccoli
FridaySweet chili chicken and veggies
Saturday – Grilled marinated pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes and peas
Sunday – Homemade chicken noodle soup

Sweet mother, I’m excited! We weren’t able to do as much cooking as we wanted last week because we didn’t have a lot of groceries. There wasn’t much sense in shopping when we knew we’d be gone two weekends in a row. But we hit Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Plum Market this past weekend and stocked up on everything good and tasty… including four new bottles of wine. We’ve gathered quite a collection ;)

I think that’s all the random thoughts I have for today. Recipes will come later this week. If you have a request for any of the specific meals above, just leave a comment! And good luck to all of you this week with making healthy choices and keeping up with exercise!

My Weekly Weigh-In. What about yours?

This is my plateau face. My mouth represents the tiny up/down motion of my weight for the past month! Heh.

minus two tenths! Erm… I guess I should be okay with it, but I’ve definitely hit a mini-plateau. I’ve been within 2/10ths of this stupid number for almost a month now. But the girlfriend lost 1.8! And my mom lost 4!!

I may need to re-inspire myself by reading through my rewards and thoughts on life, but I am SOOOO glad to know I’ve been inspiring others! Did you all know that so far, four different people have started or re-started weight watchers because of this blog!? How awesome is that!  In fact, it’s inspired an idea, but I need all of your thoughts and opinions about it.

What would you think about having a “Weekly Weigh-In” page on this blog to help keep us all just a bit more accountable?  You could use either your first name or a nickname.  You wouldn’t have to put your weight, just what you’ve lost or gained since your recent start date.  You could put up a before picture if you want and make room for an after picture, and even list out your own rewards and stuff!  It would be like a mini support community.  You’d just have to respond to my “weekly weigh-in” email and I could post it on the page for you (at least until I have full control over my blog and can set up a community forum of sorts).  I could make up little badges and awards to put by your names when you’ve reached goals and such.  You don’t even have to be doing Weight Watchers, necessarily.  You could just be eating better and trying to be healthier and losing weight in the process.

It could be so much fun!  And especially helpful for those of you who are just doing it online and not going to meetings.  I’d love to set it up if there’s an interest.  If there’s even ONE person interested, I will set it up.

So send me your thoughts and let me know if you’re interested.  You could be out there as yourself or out there with an alias.  You can be accountable to yourself and to others.  We could all do it together.

Weigh-In for the Week

Plus two tenths of a pound. So basically I remained the same. I was going to get frustrated over this since it’s been two weeks since my last weigh in, but I’m not going to.

As my WW meeting leader, Karen, pointed out, this seems to be a pattern for my body. I lose a few pounds, then my body has to readjust. Then I lose a few more pounds and my body has to readjust again. It makes me want to huff and puff a bit, but that’s just the way it is. It’s like I keep hitting mini-plateaus. But it took me 19 years to get this way; it’s not just going to fall off me. Weight loss has always been really hard for me. Being active has always felt like a chore.

The challenge that Karen gave us this week was to somehow make getting active fun. You know what I’m going to do to make it fun? I’m going to splurge and buy myself a Kinect! It will get me moving at home while letting me be an electronics junkie at the same time! I’m always in front of a tv, computer or phone, so having fun moving around to play a game in front of one should be helpful. I’m going to go pick it up after work today! Then I’ll have to weekend to get used to it.

Other than that change, I’ve still been doing well sticking to the plan. I haven’t eaten more points than I’m allowed, I’ve been drinking a LOT of water every day, and I feel healthier. The changes in my body can be seen by others. It’s going to be a slow process to drop all the weight, but each day it gets easier.

This has definitely become more of a lifestyle. It’s easier to cook the right things and the right portions, and I know that by the time I have kids, I’ll be able to run around and be a fun, active mom with them! They’ll eat healthy and tasty food that I make and they’ll be healthy, active kids! I’m definitely looking forward to that part of my future :)

I Ate HOW MANY Cookies?

A photo my mom took of just SOME of the cookies they made at Cookie Day. I probably ate that many.

If I was to attempt to count how many cookies and pieces of biscotti I ate from Dec. 23 to Dec. 30… I’d probably cry.  God bless my mother, but DAAAANG.  After I had one bite of a single sugar cookie (my Aunt Chrissy’s recipe!) I was a goner.  The flavors were so perfectly balanced and the icing was so perfectly hardened that I couldn’t help but eat more than my share every single day!  It is completely and utterly my fault and as tasty as it was eating them, I totally blew my diet on cookies alone.

Now, when it came to the other savory food, I did pretty good!  More salad than anything else, no crazy creamy dishes, just a few raviolis with sauce, more seafood than carbs and red meats.  It was manageable.  But those DAMN COOKIES!  In fact, Mom and I sat down with the recipe and figured out the points for the biscotti.  For one little piece it was SIX POINTS!  So, um, I’m not sharing the recipe.  Not quite weight watcher friendly.

I just don’t know how to NOT give in to sweet sugary temptation.  Next year, I’m going to bring gum with me and just chew that instead.  Or pace myself; one cookie, then one glass of water, then another cookie and another glass of water.  Then I’d fill up on water.  We’ll be at my girlfriend’s house, so it might be a little easier not to indulge since I’ll be more conscious of what I’m doing, lol.  Seriously!?!?!  When did people decide that baby Jesus and sugar comas went hand in hand??

How did you all survive this holiday?  Any tips for the Reluctant WW Foodie?  I’m back on track now, but I’m definitely scared about my weigh in on Thursday!  I didn’t have to weigh in the past two weeks, hence no “weekly weigh-in” entries.  I’m not excited.  I feel like I ate back five pounds of cookies and the other three I lost said “Hell no!  If you’re going back, we are too!”.

But today’s the first day of a new year.  The holidays are over for a while and I have a lot of new tools to help me get back on track.  I have a new phone – Samsung Epic – that is AMAZING.  I’ve downloaded a PointsPlus app, a WW Diary app, an app that give Nutrition Facts for all sorts of different foods, and even a workout app!  Since I ALWAYS have my phone with me, it just makes sense to track everything on there, right?  I also have a bunch of new cooking stuff and some new shelving in my kitchen which makes cooking even more fun!  My girlfriend and I took Maxwell on a walk yesterday since it was actually pretty warm out (can you say “global warming”?).  My mom even got signed up for WW online!  And of course I have all of you wonderful readers who write great comments and subscribe to my blog, which makes me more inclined to write more!  There you go.  Lots of reasons to be excited for this new year.

Now, I just have to sit down and figure out the points I’ve already eaten today!  Grrgl.

Weigh-In for the Week

Yay for weight loss and hot tea on a cold morning!

Minus 1.6!

Somehow, by the grace of GOD, I lost weight during Thanksgiving in Luckey!  So that means I got rid of that stupid pound that I gained last week and leg-lifted off just a little bit more!  WOO HOO!  So, my total weight loss so far is 7.6 lbs.  It was a great start to an interesting and informative meeting.  And now we have a new plan to follow….

It’s actually kind of exciting.  (WhAt?!?  Why would the reluctant WW foodie say that about a whole new plan!?!?)  Well, here’s why.  I’ve watched countless documentaries about how food is grown, produced and prepared and how it affects us and our bodies.  Certain foods make our bodies work harder (in a good way) to digest it and to pull out all the nutrients that body needs.  This is why a well balanced diet is so important.  It would be just as unhealthy to live off of french fries alone as it would be to live off of grapefruit alone.  Neither “diet” provides the necessary nutrients your body needs to thrive.  You’d end up with vitamin deficiencies and other health issues (and probably a case of the runs if you were only eating french fries!)

Back to the point…. WW has taken all this into consideration and they now count four things in each food item to create their PointsPlus value – fat, carbs, protein and fiber.  Those four things make up a calorie, so it makes sense!  One of the big problems with the last plan was that if you were given the choice between a candy bar and a piece of fruit to use your last points on, most people would choose the candy bar.  Why?  Because if they are both the same points value, you’d might as well “eat what you want”!  People were choosing the candy bar over the fruit each time (as long as they stayed within their points).  Now, ALL fruit is zero points and most vegetables are too!  If you’re hungry and you don’t want to go over your points, eat an apple or a banana.  They’re free!  (Points-wise, only.  Don’t be walking into a grocery store and start eating up their produce and telling them I said it was free!)  WW is now encouraging you (and giving you a good reason) to eat healthier options like fruits and vegetables.

Good job, WW.  You’re keeping up with the times!  You’ve advanced in your intelligence and finally given us a plan that encourages us to eat healthy and to not east whatever you want (but its still all up to the individual!)

Downsides?  The ice cream sandwiches that were originally two points are now four :(  All of the WW soups I bought in a frenzy when they were on sale are now at least twice as many points per serving on average :(  Upsides?  We get more points!  It really evens itself out.  And so far, I’m finding it to be much easier to stay within my points.  I also purchased some really helpful tools to keep me on track.

With this new, complicated equation for figuring out points, little gold books with a point converter just weren’t possible, so they went all techie (YES!!!!) and created little blue PointsPlus calculators.  They track your daily points, they recalculate your points right there for you each week with your new weight and they also convert points for you.  You just plug in the numbers and it calculates it all in its teeny weeny metal brain.  I love it.  It’s so much easier to carry around  and it’s waaaay more appealing to whip it out to calculate things while at the store or in a restaurant rather than that gold book with all its pages and logos all over it.  I may want to lose weight, but I don’t want it to be obvious to other random people (or my waiter!).  I also bought a dining out companion book and an everyday foods guide.  Always helpful to have those in stock!

So things are back on track, I’m excited about these new changes and I’m looking forward to where this journey is taking me.  Now, time to recalculate all these recipes I’ve posted!  Grrr….

28 Small Changes… According to Weight Watchers

I got this in an email from Weight Watchers (they get full credit!). I thought you might enjoy them. All my comments from the peanut gallery are italicized :)

… About Small Eating Changes
1. Water, water, water, water. (Your skin will look great, too!)
2. Order half portions at restaurants, or share a full portion with somebody. Or ask for a “to-go” container when you order your food, and pack up half the portion before you even start eating. (didn’t I already mention this? super helpful!)
3. Cut back on butter and mayo. (light versions are tasty substitutes.)
4. Limit fried foods to once or twice per week.
5. Use less or no sugar in your coffee or tea. (or try all natural subsitutes like sun crystals or honey)
6. Replace ground beef with meatless products or ground turkey.
7. Try at least one new food every week. If you’re bored with what you’re eating, you’re more likely to give up.
8. Eat fresh, raw veggies with sandwiches instead of chips.
9. Measure your portions until you’re sure you know what a cup, a half-cup, and a tablespoon look like. This will help you practice portion control, an essential key to weight-loss success.
10. Try not to drink high-calorie beverages. (i miss the taste of high-calorie drinks, so i tend to drink a lot of coke zero or pepsi one since they still have great flavor!)
11. Dip your fork in a side of salad dressing before each bite instead of pouring it directly on your salad. You’ll find that you are satisfied with much less than you usually put on. (unless it’s a vinaigrette. pour that on.)
12. Find healthy alternatives to all your favorite foods. (right… i think this bit of advice is kinda silly. i love homemade alfredo. i will NOT buy a jar of “light” or “fat-free” alfredo because it will taste like poop and make me want the homemade stuff even more. instead, find new foods that you like that are healthy on their own. don’t try to substitute ALL your favorites.)
13. If you don’t really love it, don’t eat it. (easier said than done.)
14. Never eat out of a bag or box. Take out a measured/counted quantity of food and put it in a bowl. This way, you know exactly how much you’re having.
15. Always eat something for breakfast. (and grab a snack to take with you if you’re going to be away from home until lunch)
16. Read food labels. Check serving sizes.
17. Add vegetables to everything. (except ice cream.)
18. Plan meals in advance; use that information to make out a complete shopping list. (also plan for days you won’t have time or won’t feel like cooking. get some easy to make or microwave meals.)
19. Give food to guests to take home.
20. Write down everything you eat and drink, without fail.
21. Plan ahead for special occasions by accounting for higher-calorie foods before you eat them.

… About Small Exercise Changes
1. Take the stairs every single time they’re an option. No more elevators or escalators. (i work on the fourth floor of a building. this is not my first option, but i’ll try it!)
2. Make exercise a priority, not an inconvenience. (too late. already an inconvenience! heh.)
3. Park far from your destination so you’re forced to walk. This works at the supermarket, the mall, wherever. (This also helps you waste less time looking for a parking space!)
4. View tiring chores (shoveling snow, cleaning the house, weeding the garden, taking the garbage out, grocery shopping) as a chance to get in some activity.
5. Take the grocery cart back to the store when you’re done loading your bags into your car. (interesting idea…. but i will NOT do that if it’s rainy or snowy.)
6. If you take public transportation, get off one stop early.
7. Work out with a buddy.

Wikis, Widgets and Weight Watchers

I have a love/hate relationship with counting points. Mostly, I love it and my girlfriend hates that I love it so much because I’m always analyzing what she’s eating! No, that’s a lie… well, a half lie. She does feel that way, but I always end up hating it too.  I get too meticulous and calculator-like and turn into a living, breathing, points counting robot for weeks at a time.  Then, I forget my stupid little weekly points book on the kitchen table one day and all of a sudden I’m about to eat lunch at a restaurant and I have no way of figuring out how many points I’ll be ingesting in the not-so-distant future and how that will affect the rest of my day and what the HELL am I supposed to do for dinner if I go over my points and WHOOSH.  I implode.  See how my crazy obsessive A.D.D. brain works when an insignificant, yet vastly crucial point counting system is introduced as a regular guest?  My eyes go crossed and I start to drool (thinking about chocolate cake, most likely) and I find it very hard to get onto the point-counting bandwagon again.

This has not happened yet.  It’s only been six days, though, so give it time.  I’d like to stave off that day as long as possible and because of the wonders of modern technology and my skillz as a fancy schmancy “data curator” for Wolfram|Alpha, I’ve found some helpful tools to turn to when my little gold book has escaped me.  Believe me, I want to keep that implosion from happening as long as humanly possible!

The first tool I found was actually shown to me by a colleague and fellow Wolfram WW participant.  It’s called “Weight Watcher Wiki” – http://www.wikiweightwatcher.com/It’s fantastic!  And one of the best parts about it is that I was able to reach it on my Blackberry when I was at a restaurant trying to figure out the points for what I’d just eaten (and then I almost fell out of my seat after actually seeing the amount of points I’d just had!).  It has a point calculator, a list of restaurants by name and a list of foods by type.  I have found it tremendously helpful!  When I think about what I want to make for dinner, I go here to look up the ingredients and figure out what the points would be.  The breakdown is very easy to understand and the whole website in general is really user-friendly.  For example, the first time I used it was while trying to figure out the breakdown of a Jimmy John’s sandwich.  It listed each sandwich and it’s points, but then it also listed a breakdown of all the ingredients.  I was able to figure out that if I did NOT put mayo on my sandwich, I’d save myself 6.5 points!  HOLY COW!  Needless to say, I did not have mayo that day.  I now have this site bookmarked.

Another super helpful site is the one I work for, Wolfram|Alpha – www.wolframalpha.com.  It’s a computational knowledge engine which means that instead of merely pulling up a list of websites where you can find information on your query… it actually computes it right there in front of you!  How has this been helpful?  Let’s say you’re interested in the nutritional information for a cup of chocolate chips (baking or devouring… both are things I’ve done). You’ll get a nutrition breakdown similar to the nutrition facts on a bag or box showing you everything that’s in it based on the serving size that you set.  It also gives you assumptions.  Maybe you meant dark chocolate chips?  Click on that assumption!  Maybe you live in Europe or Canada and you don’t use our measurements in the US.  Click on “Canadian cups” or “metric cups”.  See how easy it can be??  I use W|A constantly for nutrition facts and recipe conversions.

Another one of the useful tools that W|A supplies are these things called “Widgets”.  There are all sorts of them!  You can link to them, embed them in different webpages, or just use them at your leisure.  I created one a few weeks ago that does unit conversions.  It’s super helpful when I find a recipe I like, but the units are all in grams or ounces and I only have one clean tablespoon!  I just quickly fill everything in, press the “Convert me!” button and it will convert it right there for me.  You can reach these by going to – http://developer.wolframalpha.com/widgets/.  I haven’t gotten around to embedding some on this blog yet, but I will soon!  You can also create some of your own.

There’s a world full of online resource out there for us to use as Weight Watchers foodies; we just have to find them.  I’ve found a few and I hope that they help you all in your journey.  They’ve certainly helped me so far!  Each little tool makes it just a bit easier and keeps me further away from that impending implosion due to built up point counting anger.  Who knows, maybe with all these helpful tools, that implosion might not be “impending” after all!  It’s hard to break myself of old habits.  Sheesh, how many quotations are out there about that whole mess?  But there’s a lot more of them with positive messages.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  Where there’s a Weight Watchers, there’s at least three different food stores.  Where there’s a carbohydrate, there’s my girlfriend’s fork.  Where there’s cake, there’s my fork.  But where there’s helpful tools for healthy living, there’s a better chance of success!