success with less stress

History of WeighTracker

This website was born out of my own frustrations with trying to keep my weight stable. My weight would rise to unhealthy levels every time I reached a comfortable weight and stopped focused dieting. You often hear it said that dieting is not an activity but a way of life. My problem is that I never had the right tools to help me make it a way of life.

Luckily, several years ago I found a particularly helpful, and free(!), book called "The Hacker's Diet". I heartily agree with a good portion of the material in that book and encourage anyone seriously dieting to read through it. The book details some helpful calculations to turn your bathroom scale into an "eat-watch".

The premise behind the calculated eat watch boils down to the following problem: scale weights are subject to arbitrary fluctuations are unsuitable as direct feedback on the progress of your diet. Imagine the frustration you would feel on every spike up on your scale if the following image was your February scale chart.

There are at least six places on that chart where the dieter could feel discouraged by the chart despite doing everything right. If only it was possible to see that the scale readings were a reflection of a perfectly linear weight masked with random perturbations. Which is in fact what the following chart shows:

"The Hacker's Diet" introduces the reader to some relatively straight-forward calculations which the author uses to smooth out the scale readings. Because we can never truly know the ideal weight (the blue line), this smoothed out calculation serves as a reflection of the progress of the diet. And in the next chart, you can see that smoothing calculation (purple) does in fact closely match the slope of the ideal weight, which we cannot actually know.

There are two significant problems with the smoothed calculation used by "The Hacker's Diet". One of these is readily apparent in the previous chart. While the smoothed calculation appears to acurately reflect the trend of the diet, it does not give a useful value for what one's ideal weight actually is. In fact all the calculation values are significantly higher than reality in that chart. But let us consider another scenario, one in which the diet's progress is changing direction:

In this most recent chart, the individual's diet (and consequently real weight) is suffering from large oscillations. Perhaps they are crash dieting and excercising to exhaustion followed by a small period of burn-out and then falling off the diet wagon and indulging in high calorie foods. How does the "Hacker's Diet" smoothing calculation reflect this reality?

Unfortunately, not well. Not only is the smoothed calculation unreflective of the actual weight, but it's trend is in fact misleading for portions of the month. During the 2nd through the 5th of the month, the calculation indicates a weight gain even though the individual is really starting a meteoric dive. The opposite can be seen around the 20th of the month where the smoothing calculation indicates a weight maintaining status when the reality is that the person is already packing on significant weight.

With these shortcomings in mind, I set about to come up with a calculation that would reflect a less volatile reality than raw scale weights while not suffering from the significant lag of the calculation that we saw previously. By sacrificing the simplicity that made the hacker's diet calculation attractive, I was able to come up with a formula that retains a significant amount of the smoothing while being both more reflective of one's actual weight and much more reactive to changes in one's diet.

In 2003 I started generating these charts for myself in a speadsheet program. Over the next couple of years I started making these charts for family members and friends. Now thanks to the power and ease of use of Google App Engine, I am making these charts available to everyone without having to pull out my hair from doing these all in spreadsheets.



WeighTracker is a website which provides free charts and indicators which give you clear, simple, realistic guidance on your diet performance and path forward to reach your weight goals. Counting calories is hard and fickle scales are demoralizing. Here calorie counting isn't required and peace with your bathroom scale can be achieved.

© 2009-2015, Stephen Anderson  All Rights Reserved        Design by : styleshout | Valid XHTML | CSS          Written in: Python |  Hosted on: Google App Engine