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70 Pounds In – What I’ve Learned About Weight Loss

*I’m writing this as a resource and guide to answer questions I am frequently asked about my weight Loss. You can share (or come back to) this post with this friendly, easy to remember URL:*

[http://bit.ly/JoshWeightLoss][bit]

# The Story So Far

At the first of this year, 2011, I decided I was done being the fat guy. I have been overweight practically my whole life, and had gotten so fat (350 pounds) that I felt like a handicapped person. I’ve written a few times in depth about my experiences trying to lose weight so far (these are long, but have all the details):

* [I’m Done Being the Fat Guy][tinyscreenfuls]
* [Weight Loss Plateaus – I’m Stuck][tinyscreenfuls 2]
* [Six Months, Fifty Pounds][tinyscreenfuls 3]

Now, in September 2011, I’ve lost almost 70 pounds. I’ve still got a long way to go. My goal weight is 175 pounds, which I should hit next fall if all goes well. I will have lost half of my peak body weight. An entire person. I can’t wait.

# Principles I’ve Learned

## It’s Just Math

> Weight loss (and gain) is simple math. One pound is approximately 3500 calories. If you want to lose weight, you burn more calories than you eat. For example, if you want to lose two pounds a week, you need a 7000 calorie deficit (or 1000 calories per day). Now, measuring what you burn and what you take in is where the effort lies, but in the end, it all comes down to this principle.

## You Know How to Play This Videogame

> I’m a geeky, nerdy type. Nerds like to treat things like a system – once you figure out the inputs, outputs, and rules of the systems, you can make it do what you want. You know how to play that game. Weight loss and taking care of your body is the same way. There are inputs, outputs, and rules. It’s not magic. Hack the system. Make it do your bidding.

## You Can’t Change What You Don’t Measure

> For me, it’s super important to stick to the numbers, and not just guess. I can’t rely on my own mind to keep track of things, because apparently, I lie to myself. 🙂 And for me, all the numbers, charts, and graphs push the happy buttons in my nerd brain. I’m all about the data.

## It Takes Time

> Last year, I had sort of fit about my weight. I felt like in this day and age, with all the technology and modern medicine we enjoy, I was *owed* some kind of easy solution. I even went to my doctor, determined to get some kind of “fix”. Pills, surgery, magic, I didn’t care. She very patiently defused me, explaining why none of those things work. It still took a while until I was [ready to actually start changing my life][tinyscreenfuls], but that was a lesson I had to learn. The change I wanted would take years of day to day effort and mindfulness. I had to accept that before I could begin.

## Protein is Your Friend

> I know very little about nutrition. I am not an expert. This is only what I’ve learned through my own experience the last several months. Foods that are high in protein – meat, nuts, eggs, etc. – help you feel full longer. It breaks down into fuel for your brain, and you can leave your muscles and the rest of your body to raid your fat reserves for the fuel they need. I’ve become a junky for beef jerky and nuts. I usually have a two ounces of jerky or nuts for breakfast, and I don’t feel hungry until lunch time. It’s very sustaining, and I’m sure it’s good for you in a whole bunch of other ways (like I said, I am not a nutritionist).

## Diet Matters More Than Exercise

> Exercise is important for health, but for weight loss, you’ll get MUCH more bang for your buck reducing your calorie intake. They say that a good rule of thumb for walking/running is that you burn about [100 calories per mile][google] (this varies with your weight, of course). So if your strategy is to eat extra calories and then burn them off with exercise, keep in mind that you’re going to have to walk or run a mile to burn off every 100 calories over your budget you are. For me, at least until I get stronger (and smaller), I’m not focusing on exercise for weight loss. (I *am* exercising more for the other health benefits – mostly walking and soon, cycling).

## Have A Support Team

> You’ve got a group of people in your life that love you, and want to cheer you on. Whether it’s family, Facebook friends, or strangers on an internet community, it helps a **lot** to have people with whom you can share your victories (on and off the scale), and who will cheer you on when you’re stuck (because [that will happen][tinyscreenfuls 2]).

# Tools I Use and Recommend

## [LoseIt][loseit]

> This one is the heart and soul of my weight loss efforts – it’s where I log every single thing I eat (and my exercise, in a round about way – see FitBit below). Available on iPhone or Android, or on the web. It’s free. Has a HUGE database of foods, and it’s easy to enter new ones. But it’s way more than a food journal. It will estimate your daily calorie burn based on your age, sex, and weight, and from there, depending on how much weight you want to lose per week (up to 2 pounds), give you your daily calorie budget. Stick to that, and you’ll lose weight. Period. When you exercise, log that, too, and you’ll get those calories added to your daily budget. It’s got a lot of other great features – syncs automatically with the LoseIt website and multiple devices, great social options for finding friends to cheer you on and encourage you, configurable reminders so you don’t forget to log, etc. There are other trackers out there ([MyFitnessPal][myfitnesspal], [FitDay][fitday], etc.), but this is the one I use and love.

## [FitBit][fitbit]

> A FitBit is a magical little $99 device – a 3-D accelerometer (like in a Wii remote) that measures your steps, and communicates wirelessly (via your computer) to a website to tell you exactly how many steps you’ve taken (and from there, it can extrapolate how many calories you’ve burned). It can also track things like how well you’re sleeping. And the coolest thing is that it integrates with LoseIt to *automatically log your exercise*. Let me say that again. My FitBit *automatically logs any walking, running, or other activity to LoseIt*. It also tells you how many calories you burn per day (rather than making a blanket estimate, like LoseIt et al). Using my FitBit, I was able to fine tune my LoseIt calorie budget (it was being too generous) to a “no real physical activity” day. Now, anything I do above and beyond that baseline gets automatically added to LoseIt as tasty calories, so I can have a bigger meal or extra snack, and still know exactly where I am.

## [RunKeeper][runkeeper]

> If you have an iPhone or Android phone, RunKeeper (free) can use the GPS in it to log any walking, running, or cycling activity you do. It works best outdoors, where you can get good GPS reception. You can program specific playlists (I love to listen to podcasts while I’m walking), and you get a really cool map of your activity, and all kinds of other details. It’s very cool, and lots of runners I know use it. When I start cycling (soon), I intend to use it to log and measure my rides.

## [Daytum][daytum]

> Daytum is a general purpose data logging and display app and web service. You can track anything, fitness related or not. I’m using it to track things like body measurements, blood pressure, etc. It takes a little bit of configuring, but the result graphs are beautiful, and the app is free (there are paid tiers if you want to [track ALL the things][knowyourmeme]).

# The Saga Continues

I feel like I’m merely at the beginning of this change. I’ve got a long way to go before I reach my goal, and what then? The best part about all of this is the worlds that are opening up to me that always seemed out of reach before. I could take up a sport. I could learn how to really enjoy cooking, and making good, healthy meals. Who knows?

I feel better than I have in a decade, or more. I have energy to play with my kids. I’m more optimistic about the future than I’ve ever been. I’m not saying all of that to brag, or to proclaim that “these miraculous changes can be yours if you do exactly what I do!” This is my journey, my life. You have yours. I simply want to share what I’ve learned. Even though I write this stuff mostly for myself, I keep hearing from friends (and strangers!) that something I’ve written about what I’m doing has helped or inspired them. In fact, someone stopped by while I was writing this to tell me exactly that. So I feel doubly blessed – first, with all the benefits of better health and a better life, and second with the possibility that I’ve not only helped myself, but others, too. And that’s pretty cool.

[bit]: http://bit.ly/JoshWeightLoss
[daytum]: http://daytum.com/
[fitbit]: http://www.fitbit.com/
[fitday]: http://fitday.com/
[google]: http://www.google.com/search?q=calories+per+mile
[knowyourmeme]: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/x-all-the-y
[loseit]: http://www.loseit.com/
[myfitnesspal]: http://www.myfitnesspal.com/
[runkeeper]: http://runkeeper.com/
[tinyscreenfuls]: http://tinyscreenfuls.com/2011/04/im-done-being-the-fat-guy/
[tinyscreenfuls 2]: http://tinyscreenfuls.com/2011/04/weight-loss-plateau-im-stuck/
[tinyscreenfuls 3]: http://tinyscreenfuls.com/2011/07/six-months-fifty-pounds/

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Best way to upload photos from an iPhone, and preserve location information (or: review of Flickup for iPhone)

I use Flickr to store my photos online. You can “geotag” your photos on Flickr, to show where, exactly, they were taken (on a map). I’ve geotagged most of the 4000+ photos I have on Flickr. By hand, dragging them to the correct location on the map. What a pain.

The iPhone, with the new 2.0 software, can take pictures and tag them with your current location (if you have an iPhone 3G with real GPS, this location information is usually MUCH more precise). Suddenly, the dream of being able to get photos from the iPhone to Flickr, WITHOUT having to manually geotag or othewise manipulate them, seemed to be within reach.

So close, yet so far away.

Right now, there are a few ways to get photos from an iPhone to Flickr. The easiest, I think, is to setup the “upload by email” feature on Flickr. This gives you a secret email address that, when sent a photo as an attachment, uploads the photo to Flickr for you. This is how I get iPhone photos onto Flickr 99% of the time. The downside is, the photos get sent at a much smaller size (640×480) than they were taken at (1600×1200). On top of that, all of the “EXIF” metadata (what make and model camera took the picture, what exposure settings were used, etc.) gets stripped off of the photo when it’s emailed. This includes the geotag/location information. So it arrives at Flickr shrunken and lobotomized and unaware of where it was taken. So sad.

Once the App Store launched, Flickr uploader apps started appearing in droves. AirMe seems to be a popular one, but I tested it, and it didn’t preserve the geodata, (and I think it shrunk the photos, too). So I deleted it.

I’ve been watching the development of an app called Flickup with interest. The author, Martin Gordon (@kodachrome22 on Twitter), is someone I kind of know from Ars Technica. But most importantly, the feature list of Flickup looked promising – it can upload photos and preserve the geotag/location information. It’s not free ($1.99), so I waited a little longer to try it than I would have otherwise, but try it I have, and I’m pleased (if not 100% ecstatic) with the results.

First of all, Flickup DOES preserve the geotag information of the photos it uploads (with a caveat):

Flickup Geo Test


This is a photo I took from within the Flickup app, and uploaded straight to Flickr. The app asked me for permission to use my location (like all location-aware iPhone apps do), which I granted, et viola! The photo appears on the map where it was taken (to the best of my iPhone’s knowledge). Click on the photo then click “map” to see it – I can’t figure out a way to direct link to a single photo on the map on Flickr.

Even better, for photos taken from within the Flickup app (as opposed to uploading saved pictures from the Photo Album), the photos go up to Flickr in their full 2 megapixel 1600×1200 glory.

If you’re looking for an app ONLY to take pictures, and send them directly to Flickr, you can stop reading here. Flickup is perfect, and does everything you’d expect it to (you can edit the title, description, and tags of the photos, etc., too).

So what are the caveats? They have to do with uploading saved pictures from the iPhone’s Photo Album.

First, when you upload a saved photo from the album, it goes as a shrunken 640×480 version. Martin says this has to do with some limitations in the iPhone’s APIs (which I believe). He also says that the API is the cause of all the other EXIF metadata being stripped from the photos (which is probably what makes this such a problem in the first place – fix your stupid APIs, Apple!) Don’t count this against Martin or Flickup.

Second, when you upload a saved picture from the album, Flickup WILL geotag it, but it appears to grab your CURRENT location (it asks), rather than use the location data stored in the photo. In other words, it will geotag the photo with the location of where it was UPLOADED, instead of where it was TAKEN. Martin acknowledges this is sub-optimal.

Flickup from Photo Album Test


(A photo uploaded from my Photo Album, but geotagged at the time of upload.)

If what Martin says about the Apple APIs stripping out EXIF metadata (and again, I have no reason not to believe this is true), then there’s probably no way for Flickup (or any other photo uploader app) to preserve a photo’s ORIGINAL location information. The best we can hope for is how Flickup works – tag it with the location at the time of upload. If you take photos and upload them immediately, then there’s really no difference. But it’s super annoying that Apple comes SO CLOSE to making this work the way it should, yet falls short in the home stretch.

So, is Flickup worth the $1.99 in the App Store? If you’re a Flickr user that cares about a) uploading pictures at full size instead of 640×480, and/or actually preserving all that fancy location data that your iPhone can tack onto your photos, then yes, absolutely. Flickup is the way to go for full size geotagged Flickr uploading goodness.

There’s still room in this field for perfection. But it seems that it will depend on Apple making changes to the photo and location APIs on the iPhone, or some really clever developers figuring out ways to get around those restrictions. Guess which one I’m betting on happening first? 😉

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