“Walking to New Orleans?”

Chad and I had a pretty healthy 2013, and we both want to be sure that trend continues. In order to focus and set some goals, we looked ahead to races and events we wanted to accomplish, from our first obstacle course race to our “main event” the Susan Komen 3-day. (More on that later.) You may have seen my Chad’s posts this January about his goals for 2014, and many of them are mine, too.

But because we often do a variety of things, walking, biking, etc., for training, we were interested in finding a way to tie it all together as we work on all of our “smaller” tasks. Since we track our workouts on myfitnesspal and/or mapmyfitness, it just made sense to see what our total distance covered would be, and see how far those miles might take us. The data geek in me that likes any bit of motivation and reward I can find thought, “Cool, but how do we really get a concept of have far we have traveled with these miles?” That made me think of places I wanted to go that also might actually possible to “get to” during this little tracking project, and the answer popped into my head…New Orleans! Just for fun, I choose one of our favorite French Quarter bars, the Old Absinthe House. So this is the question: How long would it take to travel on foot the 961.5 miles from our house in Waterloo, Wisconsin to 240 Bourbon Street, New Orleans, LA?

Walking to NO main map

Map courtesy of mapmyfitness.com

Now for all the disclaimers and data.

  1. While we will be as accurate and consistent as possible on our end, this is a goofy project that is not at all precise and certified in any way, and Chad and I acknowledge this is all just a huge estimation. Basically, our margin of error is +/- 50%, but, it will be fun!
  2. Looking at different mapping tools, the distance can vary over 30 miles, due to route differences, measuring errors and even rounding differences, I suppose. So to make it a bit easier on ourselves, we are choosing mapmyfitness, since we are already set up with that website. (Also, word has it that they now sync with myfitnesspal, so when we start actually working out outside and covering actual distances, things will be that much easier to track.)
  3. We have another small glitch to overcome; unlike runners who run all their miles, how do we equate a bike ride with a run with a swim when it comes to miles covered? Again this is a huge “grain of salt” issue; depending on hills and intensity of the workout, actual mileage will vary, so we had to decide on some rules. After a bit of online “research” we have decided to follow these guidelines:
    1. Walking and running are counted as 1:1 straight-up miles.
    2. Biking to on-foot is 3.5:1
    3. Swimming to on-foot is 1:4
    4. The elliptical was a harder call, since it is lower impact, but I can vary the incline and resistance. Since my slow and easy miles are 12 minutes, I will count every 12 minutes as a mile.
    5. Extras: we went snowshoeing this January, where we just had to estimate the distance, and other activities will have to be judged as they come up, an others, like kayaking, may not even be added to the total.

I didn’t post this in January because I wanted to test things out a bit, and after the first month, here is my status:

walking Jan total

Looking at a map view, you can see that I’m on my way:

The blue-ish point is how far I've gone.

The blue-ish point is how far I’ve gone.

Looking forward to a healthy and happy 2014…Join us!

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Dietitian Check-in: Living La Vida Loca

We all have times in our lives when things are just CRAZY busy. Think of the couple weeks before the holidays, the start of a new school year, final exam weeks, the start of a new job or a big move. At those times, we just keep our heads down and take things day by day. We limit distractions and put all non-essential projects on hold. But when you are working on a lifestyle change, that option is no longer there, since putting things like exercising and eating right on hold would conflict with the whole concept of a lifestyle change. [Click on any chart to enlarge it.]

Weight Over the Past YearAs Chad’s wife, RD and cook, I pay a lot of attention to what he does and what he eats, even when we are not together. For the past school year, I have packed lunches and snacks for him, and he has eaten (mostly) only food that I have cooked and/or packed for him. When he does prepare his own breakfasts and eats “on his own,” he records those things on myfitnesspal.com, which he shares with me. This isn’t to say he doesn’t have a lot of work to do on his end. He spends hours and hours working out, and has had to change his eating habits regarding portion sizes, drive-thrus and countless treats brought to the office. Chad met his weight loss goal early, but has reset his goal BMI for his birthday and has a 60 mile walk (over three days) coming up at the end of the summer.

But right now we are in one of those crazy times. As Chad has mentioned, he is always busy at the end of the school year, with a different party or banquet or cookout almost every night, which can make it difficult to not overeat on a daily basis. Even for lunches, he has eaten maybe 2 out of five days from our kitchen, having more lunch meetings, banquets or other unusual things on his schedule. To make matters more interesting, we are also getting ready to move across the state, prepare to put a house on the market and start new jobs.

Each one of these may have been enough for him to go running to a drive-thru for a “jumbo everything plus dessert,” but his weight had been consistent over the last month, telling me that he is working his plan pretty well! However, as I was writing this, we did have a setback; Chad’s weekly weigh-in showed a gain of 5#.

Last 30 days with TODAY’S Weigh-In

Looking at this graph of just the last 30 days makes this gain seem quite dramatic, but be sure to compare it to the first graph, which shows the past year.

It seems that the parties, busy schedule and reduction in exercise minutes finally did take its toll.

But here comes the “glass half-full.” It may be hard for him to see, but I have just enough perspective to remember his 5000+ calorie days, where his goal is now about 2000 calories per day.
cal burned and consumedAs you can see by the above graph, while there are days he is over his calorie limit, he NEVER has 3500+ calorie days anymore, and in addition to that he continues to burn thousands of calories through exercise. But the graph also shows that his daily workouts have suffered due to his busy weekday schedule.

As in any plan or project, its important that you take a realistic look at the project and assess and reassess as things change. We have done that a few times already this year, and this seems to be another good time for that. Chad has already adapted a bit to the new situation; even though his workout frequency has changed, he has been able to add variety by adding swimming, outdoor basketball, canoeing and biking to his repertoire. Also, because his weekends are busy, we try to fit in some brick workouts when the weather permits, such as biking and canoeing in the same afternoon. And when it comes to food, he will have a brat at the cookout instead of two, or even munch on veggies and go home to eat a healthy dinner if the potluck food doesn’t fit in his daily plan (i.e. no workout that day.)

So even though life is a bit wild right now, the lifestyle change has to continue to be part of that wild life. Chad is going a great job of keeping his lifestyle changes while adding lots of others to the mix!

“Its the hard that makes it great.”–Jimmy Dugan

As always, the wonderful graphs are courtesy of myfitnesspal.com.

My Favorite Food Apps

If you have an Android device, you have over 450,000 apps to choose from, and even more for iOS/Apple users! Some apps, like Angry Birds, find their way into your life by the sheer popularity and addictiveness of the game, but where do you turn if you are looking for something a little more practical? After several years of installing, trying, and often deleting food-related apps, there are a few that have found a permanent place on my home screens. Here are my top 5. (Note: These are all Android apps, as I am an Android-er, and they are all free. I am oddly cheap about paying for apps, and I like my favorites enough that I don’t see how a paid-for app could be any better.)

For Tracking Diet and Exercise–Myfitnesspal: This is great food and exercise tracker that I have used for years. It is easy to use, and works well both on a smartphone and on a computer. It can give you some guidelines on your calorie needs, and can track your weight, and even things like arm circumference. The food tracker seems to always have the items I am looking for, but a word of caution: other people can enter foods for you to choose. While this is convenient, you are trusting that the information is complete and accurate. I try to choose myfitnesspal’s own entries when possible, or confirm that the nutritional information is at least in the ballpark.  You can also set up your personal database to focus on what your specific desires are. Watching your sodium or carbs? Need more calcium? You can choose the information to be displayed. You can also set categories of meals or snacks. For example, if your drink a lot of high-calorie beverages, you can create a beverage section, to keep a close eye on those items. You can also keep track of fitness, which then “pays you back” some of your calories; its a little extra incentive to exercise when you see your calorie allowance go up! Other great tools are all the reports you can run to see your data over time, and you can share your diary with others, have myfitnesspal friends that you can contact, or just read the message boards for inspiration and support. It even has a bar-code reader to check on the nutrition of your foods!

Chad and I have used this several times in the past, sometimes just to reign in portion sizes or be sure we are exercising regularly. Because this has so many great tools, this is what Chad is using to track his 40 By 40 progress…we love it that much!

For Recipes–Big Oven: Despite my growing mountain of cookbooks, I am often looking for a recipe that will fill an immediate need, such as when I am overrun with basil or eggplants! Big Oven is a easy way to focus on what you are looking for. It allows you to search for what ingredients you want to include (basil and eggplant,) and omit any with ingredients you definitely DON’T want! (Around here, that’s mayo and ketchup!) You can read others’ reviews and see posted pics of the recipes. You can also search for categories to narrow your search, use its recipe planner for your weekly menu or even help make your shopping list. If you save your recipes on your phone, you can always pull them up at the store to make sure you don’t forget a crucial ingredient! You can search for recipes under other categories such as diabetes, but remember that these recipes are often shared by the public, and the listed nutritional information may have errors. (Also, all recipe websites are sure to tell you they are not able to “cure” your disease by using these recipes…so use at your own risk, and always use your best judgement when choosing healthy recipes!) I am a member of several recipe sites (read: food nerd) but Big Oven has a great blend of easy, comfort, fancy and ethnic recipes, so I always get a lot of variety.

For Label-reading–Fooducate: This is my newest toy! It’s main purpose is to scan bar-codes in the store, and condense all the information on the nutrition label and ingredient list into a letter grade. It will tell you some good and bad aspects of that food, and if your food gets a poor grade, it will give you some alternate ideas that score better. For me, this is just fun, but for others who don’t want to spend time comparing 5 different types of cereal and weighing the pros and cons of each, this gives you one overall piece of information to base your decision on. Beware that using this app can ALSO take some time, so if you don’t read labels at all, this will make your trip longer. But for those bogged down by the many choices in the aisles these days, it could be a time-saver to them. One other note: It is pretty tough to get a grade above a C+ or B-, and part of that is the preservatives and salt used in processed foods–which is what allows them to be packaged and given a bar-code in the first place! Even if you only use it once, either at the store or looking into your own cupboards, you may think twice about some of the items you buy!

For Kitchen Math–Recipe Converter: Since I am always trying new recipe ideas, and I am a science nerd, I always like to have an actual recipe to follow. I follow that recipe exactly, unless I have made it a couple times and feel comfortable enough to tweak it to our personal taste, which usually means twice the herbs and spices! And there is always the doubling or halving of recipes, whether you are going to a potluck or just making dinner for two. Because it’s part of my knowledge base, I can convert grams to ounces or teaspoons into cups, but not always in my head! Recipe Converter helps me with kitchen-type math quick enough that I don’t have to stop my actual cooking. It takes a second to get used to it, but it converts both weight and volume measurements to almost any unit and can even give you the needed amount if you change the yield (how many the recipe serves.) Kinda geeky, but handy if you spend lots of time cooking or baking.

For Workouts–Map My Run: Though this isn’t a food-related app, it is part of overall health. I use it on my phone to track the distance of my runs, bike rides and even kayak trips by GPS. I have tried several others, but this app seems to be the most accurate and consistent. I can share my workouts on Facebook, and make the routes public, so others can benefit from your routes, too. This also has a general fitness tracking system where you can enter workouts, and you can map out a trip on the computer before you leave, so you know the distance you will travel. This app was fabulous when I was training and needed runs of a specific number of miles. (They do have memberships that have a fee and come with more features, but I haven’t felt anything was lacking in the free version.)

Who knows what app I’ll find next, but it makes me feel a little better knowing that it MIGHT be something to help live a healthier or better life…but it also might be just for fun. Hey, there’s always Fruit Ninja!

Please note that I do NOT receive any compensation for endorsing any product. These are my personal opinions.