25 Tubs of Crisco

Today is the first day of our 2008 HealthVault Solutions Conference. I am pretty lucky at these things ... Our partner and business teams carry the brunt of the load and, except for a presentation tomorrow and a few Q&A sessions, I just get to sit here in the back corner of the ballroom and enjoy the show. The most exciting thing about it for me is to see the cross-section of folks attending. From doctors to entrepreneurs to executives to geeks like me ... there is real energy around doing something that matters.

However, that's not the point of this entry. As I alluded to a couple of months ago, I've been on my own journey to lose some weight and overall get myself into better shape. I hit a milestone of sorts the other day, and figured I'd share a bit about the process.

Twenty-five tubs of Crisco. That was the goal -- from 190 pounds to 165 in whatever time it took. Let's go.

Phase 1 - Fit but Fat

My first approach, starting late last year, was to get myself going with some aerobic activity. I picked up a simple rowing machine and lugged the treadmill in from the garage -- a good workout just moving all that junk around! After a tough start with pretty painful metatarsalgia, I got myself some high-tech running shoes and I was off to the races.

Since I was putting in all this effort running, I figured I ought to at least track what I was doing. So I started using the AHA application on a regular basis. And despite -- as I have said before -- the fact that running sucks, I did start to feel a lot better.

With the bump in energy I was getting, I decided to add in some mild strength work. My son is determined to play for the Red Sox, and right now that means building up his strength to throw faster and pop out of his catcher's crouch more quickly. So we started doing some leg work, pushups and pullups together at night before he went to sleep.

All great stuff -- but I sure wasn't losing any weight.

Phase 2 - OK, I get it

It was clear that if I was going to make any progress here, I was going to have to just quit eating, well, so much food. Which is a bummer, because I really quite like food. But ... time to get serious.

Back when I was in college, I had the greatest little diet tool ever. I did some calculations to figure out out that, given my body makeup, I would consistently lose weight if I ate no more than 1,440 calories a day. No magic here, just have to eat less than I use.

Then I had this little pocket-sized reference book with calorie counts for all kinds of common foods. It had a little dial on it, and as I ate during the day I could just keep track using the dial of where I was against my quota. Super-simple, and super-effective.

Unfortunately, I lost my little book -- and since it's out of print it seemed a bit pricey. So instead, I looked to my trusty smartphone to see what my options are. It's not HealthVault-enabled, but I found what I was looking for in Iambic's Health and Diet Manager. It has a lot of bells and whistles I didn't need --- but it was the most effective tool I could find to get the job done. Be a simple reference, and keep track of calories each day.

While I couldn't keep track of my caloric intake in HealthVault, I could keep track of my weight -- which I did with a combination of the AHA application and the Vista Weight Gadget.

Phase 3 - Sticking with it

Finally I was making progress ... losing a few pounds a week and feeling pretty good about it. But I noticed that my enthusiasm for the exercise was flagging, and that was clearly helping keep the momentum going on the weight loss front. Not by itself, but together with the calories I was doing well.

Enter RouteTracker -- my favorite HealthVault application out there so far (although I may have to do another survey ... we announced a bunch of new ones today and PodFitness in particular looks pretty sweet). I wrote a bunch about RouteTracker already, so I won't do that again.

But I will update you on my DisneyWorld-to-Disneyland progress ...I am currently in Denham Springs, Louisiana ... just passed by Lake Pontchartrain of Hurricane Katrina infamy. It looks like a beautiful place -- named for the mineral springs nearby that folks used to use to try to cure Yellow Fever.

I continue to be impressed with the ability of this application to keep me engaged ... the whole time I'm running, I'm looking forward to seeing where I'll end up next. The hardest part is not spoiling things by peeking ahead.

Phase 4 - Hey, I made it!

So, a few months later here I am at 165 pounds ... pretty cool, except that I had to buy new pants which was a pain. Realistically -- in 3-4 years I'm probably back where I started. But hey, better to yo-yo a bit than just stay huge.

Three main conclusions: First, counting calories works way better than crazy stuff about carbs or grapefruit or whatever. It's pretty easy once you get into a routine, and it just makes sense ... energy in, energy out.

Second, exercise does help. Doesn't make me lose weight, but does keep up momentum and definitely makes me feel better. Still hate it though.

Last ... the real key for me? Measure everything! Use my stable of HealthVault applications, see progress (good and bad), use my data across applications, and just be cognizant of where I stand. This seems to have been the real thing. Otherwise, it's really easy to let a few days go by on the exercise, have a few extra snacks, and just not really notice.

Not world-changing observations perhaps -- but twenty-five tubs of Crisco later, they worked for me!

Updated 12/3/2008 to use a generic image!