Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Using Self Monitoring and Data

A Summary of My Quest to Use Self Monitoring and Technology to Get Healthy

Hardware and Beginning Tracking

The end of August I saw my primary care physician and my blood pressure was elevated. His advice (previously stated, as well) was, "Lose Weight." Thinking back to previous times I'd managed to keep my weight in control I realized self monitoring was key. If I don't measure it, can't control it. I was determined to track my blood pressure, diet and activity. First course of action was to buy a new scale. Settled on the Eat Smart Precision Digital. It was well reviewed and reasonably priced.

Second course of action was to purchase a blood pressure monitor, Omron 10 Series. Reviewed well, and reasonably priced.

I had a pedometer, an Omron HJ-112. It had been gathering dust and I resolved to start logging steps. Previously had used WalkerTracker, an online service. The site allows you to compete and encourage friends as you track your daily steps and optionally other data. I also started tracking my diet, daily steps, and weight on MyFitnessPal. MyFitnessPal offers a smartphone app and a database of foods. Makes monitoring diet pretty easy and offers some nutritional analysis of diet.

Refining Tracking and Exploring Data Analysis and Visualization

By beginning of October, I'm logging my steps and weight on WalkerTracker and MyFitnessPal. Logging my diet on MyFitnessPal. These sites all produce some reports and charts. I got frustrated that I:
  1. Was manually logging data on multiple sites
  2. Did not have an easy way to integrate and visualize the data
My first attempt to pull the data together was TicTrac. One advantage of this website is that it can pull data from MyFitnessPal, WalkerTracker, and other sites. Was able to set up some projects that allowed me to integrate the data from multiple sources and to watch trends in activity, blood pressure, weight, and caloric intake. TicTrac also allows for exporting the data for further analysis in a spreadsheet program.

Also, around the first of October, I invested in a new pedometer, the FitBitOne. The FitBitOne records steps, very active minutes, floors climbed, distance and even sleep. The FitBit website can share data with MyFitnessPal, and Microsoft Health Vault. Also can sync data to a health and wellness site run by my health insurance company. 

Another Hardware Update

I invested in the FitBit Aria. This scale measures weight and body fat. It syncs wirelessly over my home WiFi network and automatically logs my weight and body fat data into my FitBit account.  

Pulling it Together

  • I log my diet on MyFitnessPal
  • I log my blood presssure on FitBit
  • FitBit automatically tracks my steps, activity minutes, floors
  • FitBit with a coulple of clicks tracks my sleep duration, quality
  • FitBit Aria measures weight and body fat, syncs the data over WiFi
  • FitBit and MyFitnessPal share data on diet and activity
  • Microsoft Health Vault pulls weight, activity, blood pressure, body fat data from FitBit

Data Integration and Analysis 

Google Spreadsheets can use an API and Script to pull data from my FitBit account. A tutorial by Ernesto Ramirez explains how to set this up. My spreadsheet updates automatically.  I've not yet figured out how to get my blood pressure data into my Google Spreadsheet automatically but a couple of clicks gets me a wealth of data on weight, calories in and out, sleep, steps, activity minutes, body fat, bmi. I can set up charts within the spreadsheet that automatically update.

Microsoft Health Vault also allows exporting data into a spreadsheet as does FitBit with a premium account.

TrendWeight, based on The Hacker's Diet does some nice visualizations of weight and fat data. TrendWeight pulls weight and fat data from FitBit.

Measured Weight and Smoothed Moving Average
Meassured Fat% and Smoothed Moving Average

Taking a Look

Interactive Weight Chart from Google Spreadsheets

MyFitnessPal has a nice weight loss sticker

Created by MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter

Hacker's Diet has a nice sticker

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Using charts to stay motivated

12/7/2013 we passed through Indy.
My wife and I are doing a virtual bike ride to Seattle on our exercise bike. Using Google Maps to show how far we've gone. Wish I knew a way to automate this.  Google Spreadsheets is used to log our miles and produces the gauge charts showing our miles. The gauges will update as we add more data to the spreadsheet.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Getting Healthy Through Self Monitoring

In mid September my blood pressure was up and the doc said (again), “lose weight.” So I remembered the only success I ever had losing weight and keeping it off was when I got on the scale daily. Yup, can't control it if you don't measure it. Knew I wanted to lose weight, drop blood pressure and increase activity. Scale in the house was unreliable and inaccurate. Decided I needed some tools.


Scale: EatSmart Precision Digital Bathroom Scale

Blood Pressure Monitor: Omron BP785 10 Series Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor

Activity Monitor: Fitbit One


MyFitnessPal allows me to enter my diet and weight, as well as some body measurements. Integrates with Fitbit and adjusts my daily calorie goal based on activity level.

Created by MyFitnessPal - Free Weight Loss Tools

Fitbit automatically tracks my steps and allows me to track sleep from the device. I can manually log blood pressure and body measurements on the website.

Trendweight is based on the Hacker's Diet. It charts my weight and calculates trend. Pulls my weight from FitBit which pulls from MyFitness Pal

Microsoft Healthvault pulls my blood pressure and weight from Fitbit. Does decent graphs and allows downloading data in csv format

Hacker's Diet Online allows me to log my weight and it computes trends. Trendweight does much the same thing but pulls weight data automatically from Fitbit.

Tictrac is kind of cool, kind of clunky. Will pull data automatically from some sources and allows input of whatever you want. Does a nice job of producing some charts of whatever measurements you want to track.

Chartmyself produces some elegant charts but requires manual input of all data. I'll probably stop using it in favor of solutions which are more automatic.

Google Drive has some nice spread sheet functions and there is a script that will pull Fitbit data. I'm working on coming up with some ways to aggregate, integrate and visualize my data. Nice article on how to set it up.

Sleep As Android is an android phone app that monitors sleep. Produces some interesting data. There is a website that allows some exploration of sleep trends.

I'll be posting more about self-monitoring and other subjects.