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More with the Quantified Self stuff

This is me. Specifically, my weight over the last 20 or so days. That's the red line.

The blue line is the average of the weights reported over the seven days previous. There's only one weight recorded at first, so the starting points are the same. I'm told this is an excellent way to normalize the data, to even out the peaks and show the trend. It seems to work.

I was asked "Have you lost weight?" today, but conversation changed before I was able to explain that I can quantify the weight loss, and it's four pounds. That's probably a good thing.

Once I have some things together, I'll definitely put it up on Github. I'm even considering the next step, doing something -- gasp! -- commercial with it! The commerical version will be different, because I've coded this for one person, and I'll have to rejigger it for many parallel users.

  • It's in MySQL, and I'm happy with it. I've been told by someone in the Perl community that I should really go with PostgreSQL, which I don't have a problem with, either. 
  • I've been able to put all the logic in the query and just get the numbers, which I grab using Perl.
  • Using Template Toolkit, I take the numbers and generate an R script. I'm not particularly happy with the means of running it, a system call in the Perl, but I'm happy that it runs, and I'm happy that I can mess with the view, more or less,without having to worry about the model. Metaphorically speaking, as this really isn't MVC. And you can write R that looks much better than this.


  1. BTW, a side note. Instead of weight, which can fluctuate all over the place during the day/week (due to elimination, evaporation), some have suggested measuring waist line instead.

  2. That's fair. I don't really have a measuring tape of the right type, but that's fair. Weight fluctuates. Tim Ferriss wrote how he essentually hacked his weight, dropping easily fluctuatable water weight to drop weight classes and win a martial arts competition. I also have a body mass calculating tool that I don't have the first clue about how to work, but would be a more precise measure of the the important part of my increasing health.

    But ...

    I don't have a methodology and workflow for checking waist size. I don't have the better part of a month's worth of data on my waist size. I don't have a memory of what the high-water mark of my waist size is.

    I will ponder.

  3. I love what you're doing with that. I did something similar years ago and dropped 50 pounds with zero additional exercise beyond my day-to-day life (NYC is a walking city).

    My inspiration was the Hacker's Diet by John Walker. Essentially, as long as your daily weights are generally below your moving average, you're doing well, and the slope of the moving average helps define whether your calorie consumption is right. Too shallow? Eat less.

    Admittedly, as Tim Ferriss and others have shown, that's not quite right (source of calories and other factors matter), but it's right to a first approximation. That's the genius of it -- weigh yourself under roughly the same conditions each day and that's all you really need for tracking progress.

    I recommend the Withings scale to make it super easy to weigh in and record weights. Step on, get weighed, and your weight/body-fat gets uploaded via wi-fi. It doesn't get any lazier than that!

    FWIW, I lost my 50 pounds on the "Zone" diet -- a 40/30/30 mix of calories from carbs/protein/fat. If I had to do it again, I'd probably lower the carbs even more (along the lines Ferriss suggests) as that seems to do the most to curb my food cravings.

    Good luck!

  4. @xdg. I saw the Hacker's Diet. I actually have it on my Nook. I haven't actually read it much. I need to do it more, but life and distraction get in the way.

    I've looked into the FitBit scale but not the Withings scale, altough I think I've seen it online before. I've thought about modifying a scale by adding an XBee antenna, too. Me making things is as much a goal of this project as me getting skinnier.

    Thanks for your support!