Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday Weigh In

Running on my recovery plan is progressing. I’m a little surprised at some of the tweaks and niggles I’m still feeling three weeks after the Big Day. My legs are sore and tired, and I’m suffering from some tendonitis in my right knee. Mostly I’m still feeling fatigue. I took an unscheduled rest day Wednesday, and I knocked the warm down mile off my slow and easy mile intervals yesterday. But, I’m still able to put one foot in front of the other, so eventually everything will sort itself out.

Today is Friday, so it’s weigh in day! But, before I spill the possibly ugly truth, I wanted to take a couple minutes to talk about my downfall when it comes to weight loss. Face it – for us runners, it’s relatively easy to burn a few hundred extra calories a day. But, if you’re like me, it’s also relatively easy to lull ourselves into a false sense of security that because we put that extra mile or two in, we can take that extra slice of cheesecake or scoop of ice cream.

Through my own trial and error, I’ve found the best way to fight the extra dessert is to track my food intake. When I first started tracking a couple years ago, I was floored by the number of calorie tracking websites on the Internet. It took me a while to figure out what was important to me about calorie trackers:

Food Database

Let’s start with problem #1. I LOVE TO EAT!! I love trying new foods. I love varying my diet. I love to cook too. As a result, my breakfast may be menudo from a local Mexican restaurant, followed by a sushi dinner from a Japanese restaurant. Then, tomorrow, I may throw together some gumbo for the family, followed by lunch the next day at In-n-Out. The bottom line is whatever I’m going to use to track my calories needs to have a food database that supports my eating habits. Not all food databases are created equal.

Here's a prime example. Say you went to Costco this weekend. You bought some blueberry muffins. You have one for breakfast. You go to Sparkpeople ( and type in "blueberry muffin" in the food searcher. Here is what you will see:

The first thing to notice, is that there are no Costco Blueberry Muffins on the list. So, we are left to guess at that point. Seemingly, a Starbuck's Blueberry muffin might be close. So we'll choose it. Here are the gory details about the Starbuck's Blueberry Muffin:

But, in actuality, the Costco Blueberry Muffin leaves this one in the dust! Over at Calorie Count, we look up the Costco Blueberry Muffin (which is on their list):

That's a whopping 61% more calories! It becomes easy to see how not having the right food on the food list can make a significant difference, even when you think you are trying to do the right things!

Bottom line is check out the food database for the stuff that *you* eat. Not the stuff that you *should be* eating.

Setting Your Goals

Your food tracker should be able to handle your weight loss goals. Most do. But make sure that the tracker that you use supports your goals. Some require you to enter a weekly goal. Others require an end weight and date driven goal. Some track fat %. Know what is important to you *before* you invest weeks in tracking calories.

Also – be aware of this little gotcha – most food trackers also have the functionality to enter your exercise with caloric intake adjusted accordingly. But, caloric output is estimated by the program. Some do a better job than others. Take these calculations with a grain of salt.


Face it, if it’s not convenient to enter the what I’m eating when I’m eating it, it ain’t gonna happen. That is why I have settled on an iPhone app called LoseIt!

Entry of your goals are pretty easy - enter gender, birthdate, current weight, goal weight and weekly weight loss goal. The program then calculates your calorie budget and you're ready to go!

 IMG_0313 IMG_0314

The program is easy and intuitive.

Not only are there the standard foods (e.g., bread, milk, eggs, etc.) but food are also categorized by manufacturer - like in this search for Grandma's Oatmeal cookies:

Then, what absolutely blew me away? A entire database of restaurant food! I can enter my In-n-Out Double-Double!

So What Does It All Mean?

In theory, it should be as simple as do what you’re told and everything else sorts itself out. I can tell you from experience though, it isn’t always the case. The bottom line is all of these numbers – whether it’s your calorie budget, or your calorie intake, or your exercise output, are estimates. So, whichever software you decide to use, you will need to experiment a little. Set up your goals. Judiciously track your food. Check your results. Tweak here and there. And most important? Don’t get discouraged!

Last week’s damage? Down 1.8 pounds from 222.8 to 221.0!!!


  1. Great post, I'm going to download that app right now.

  2. I totally wish I had an iPhone but also my co-worker has the driod and it looks very cool and has some neat apps too. Great job with the weight loss! It is hard even when counting calories on those things because they can be wrong or not have exactly what you are looking for. Great work!

  3. Yea!! Down 1.8lbs, woohoo!

    I think I said this before, but don't underestimate the power of whatever antibio(s) you took for your bronchitis. It could be a full month for them to really clear your system and for you to get back your energy.

    As long as you have no races lined up, just have fun! Remember fun?

  4. If it's not convenient are you not going to eat it or not going to enter it? :) I have not been eating it if I can't get the calorie information. Also, I am a creature of habit Mo-Th so I eat the same breakfast and same lunch. Very easy to track. On Fr-Su I make sure I get some good runs in so I can eat more calories when I am home.

    Calorie King (not free) takes exercise into consideration in calculating the calories for the day. My calculations show it uses 150 calories per mile whether you are walking a 20 minute pace or running an 8 minute pace. As you said it is an estimate.

    Hang in there!

  5. That looks like a great program. Too bad it's not available (yet) on the anDroid. I'm not too much of a believer of strict calorie counting or Weight Watchers, etc.. I've been trying just sensible portion control and making smarter choices. But.. that's gotten me a whole ONE-POINT-FIVE POUNDs lighter, running ~40miles over the last 2 weeks. I'm going to look for something like LoseIt. Thanks!

  6. Hi Glenn,
    I am sorry to hear that you are still alittle sore from the big day. You better take care of yourself:) What a great post with tons of helpful information. Way to go on the weight loss this week Glenn:) Happy Friday!

  7. Oh, Glenn, I could have written this post. I had the same problem but after a few years, I managed to get most of the foods I eat in the SparkPeople tracker.

  8. Hey Glenn!
    Costo blueberry muffins are just evil, evil, evil.

    Congrats on the -1.8

  9. You nailed it Glenn. You think you are doing something by running those extra miles, but when you notice you are not losing anything...... Hmmmm, tracking the fuel you put in your tank I have never thought of. I suppose at the end of the day, you could get overwhelmed with the list. THen you can know why you are not losing a damn thing. Thanks for sharing all of this info. Best wishes on your weight journey.

  10. congrats on the weekly weight loss glenn! I'm glad this kind of tracking works for you. As someone who used to be obsessed w/being small in HS and at one point in college, doing this sort of tracking can lead to some extremity, so it definitely doesn't work for everyone, myself included. But I suppose the premise of it is something I adopted when I started to lose weight a year ago, more in the way of being conscious of what I was putting in, but not necessarily tracking it, which leads to the obsessive nature. Just gotta find what works for you, right? :)

  11. FYI - GU is not in SparkPeople's database but it is in CalorieCount's. It was not big deal to add it as a custom food in SparkPeople.

    I never realized GU Chocolate has 60% of the recommended Vitamin C and 100% of Vitamin E. Other flavors have even more Vitamin C.

  12. Wow, a 612 calorie muffin!!!

    Glenn, that is a pretty cool little app. Lots of good information available out there.

    Good luck to you with your weight loss goals! I am convinced you will be successful because you seem to be very driven, dedicated, and goal oriented. I wish you great success!

  13. i use LoseIt! there are some things i have to enter custom - either guesstimating or off the packaging, but for the most part it has been the easiest one for me to use. i used to use sparkpeople but i remember having to enter a lot in manually which is definitely annoying. LoseIt has been good to me so far!

  14. great job. 2 lbs down is 2 lbs closer to goal. I sure does seem like you have all of the tools that you need to be successful!

    Keep us all posted

  15. I always get the phantom leg pains and niggles after a marathon and it usually takes a month to feel normal again. Your cough is better though, right? I still have little, tiny spurts of chest crud coming up...and I remember you had that at LA...anyway, YES, the big day is approaching. I'm just trying to stay *sane* right now...that's so hard.

  16. First, nice dropping some weight in the first week. It's a healthy loss you are sure to keep off, and keep going.

    I've tried several calorie counters because, like you, I am much more dedicated to a food plan if I track my meals and snacks. I've tried several, and they all seem to have pluses and minuses. Right now I'm using MyPlate but they recently changed their site and it's a bit more frustrating to find specific foods.

    And, I used to eat one of those Costco muffins pre-long run until I discovered their calorie count too!