Losing Weight, Slimming Apps

Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie

Hi and welcome back.

Even the best laid plans of mice and men are thrown aside sometimes.  My dieting regime had gone a little off balance recently.  Nothing alarming but enough to make me think that my own advice wasn’t working terribly well.

It came about from me just feeling hungrier than normal, and rather than stoically keeping to the calorie count, I gave in to the craving whilst saying “back to good behaviour tomorrow”.   Sometimes you simply can’t resist your body saying “feed me” like raving mad super pot plant Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors.

I avoided the pull of the dark side thanks to my phone.

I had previously written about apps that assist you with dieting, and had briefly mentioned MyNetDiary.  Despite singing its praises, I’ve been diligently writing down my calories in a notebook because I just found it easy.    Why I decided to give MyNetDiary a second chance is anyone’s guess but I figure that it was something that could calm my stroll to larger waist jeans.

I think my biggest objection, (and this may be down to my Scottish ancestry) was that it was free on Android and $4 on the AppStore, but I remembered it had been the best of the apps I’d tried before I returned to simple pencil and paper and downloaded it anyway.

I was surprised to find that it was the push I needed.

For those of you who’ve never heard of it, its a simple app (it can do a lot more if you start paying for premium services) that shows you your net calorie consumption and remaining balance based on its calculation of a few parameters you supply.

Android Diet Utility 1


Basically you give it your current weight, height and age and your target weight.  It then establishes the reasonable calorie limit it has computed you need to stick to to get to your target in, in my case a month.   It was 15 calories off of the 1800 value I’ve always successfully used in times I’ve been over the BMI which was was inspiring.

You then select a meal group from Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Snacks and then add what you eat.  It handily has a scanner so you can use barcodes to short cut the process, though it can sometimes give you values that are less than a standard serving because of whatever database tables it establishes its version of a serving.  To get around this there’s a custom mode where you can enter anything you want, along with its calorie count.  It also allows you to add detailed data for the food if you have it, while seeming to miss the point that you’re using custom mode because you don’t have these figures to hand, or need to butcher them significantly were you of a mind to supply what for me is way too much information.

The app provides useful feedback about the food / drink you add.  If you click on the > to the right of the Analysis summary on it’s lead screen you get a summary of progress to date (called Bottom line) which explains how far under standard calorie consumption you’re having to manage and the rate it predicts you’re losing weight at.  (All positive news).  Below this there’s a Day highlights section which enthusiastically lists the good points of your performance while not playing up too significantly minor bad points (like including 5 grams of ‘fiber’ – it’s misspelling not mine.

I’ve only been using it a few days, and it has coerced me back towards target, which I definitely wasn’t on a few days and several chocolate bars ago.

I’ve found so far that it’s marvellous if you eat a lot of pre packaged food, where its scanner can (with a few excursions into silliness re servings) and background logic can confidently establish your calorie count.  Where I’ve found its not so easy is when you prepare your own food, for example by making your own sandwiches.

Before the app, I’d reasonably guess the calories dependent on portion size, e.g. 50 grams of Tuna.  With the app, you feel passively persuaded to get this right and enter the right information, which leads to the weighing scales coming out and extra effort (probably using uncounted calories in their own right) has to be expended to obtain the proper figure.   I say passively because the 1 and 0 counting phone app has no idea of anything else aside from its quite clever AI assisted logic.  You could be a pink pelican for all it cares.  That would almost be an advantage because you never see them fussing around with weighing scales.

I also found that the initial enthusiasm of patiently scanning and correcting the program began to give way to a little bit of indifference, when I realised that MyNetApp (as far as I’m aware) is not at all concerned about regular use.  It positively gushes if you enter your weight readings, but doesn’t castigate you, or broadcast your failure to utilise its clever interface to all and sundry on the web if you just ignore it.   I find myself just being lazy with it – it needs you to be diligent and painstaking, and sometimes that’s just not part of my day (unless it comes to my job where I’m being paid to be painstaking).

Despite the fact that at present I feel that I will inexorably be drawn back to pencil and paper, I am sticking with it because without being melodramatic I feel it’s a temporary guiding light to get me back on the path, and when I’m still recovering from injury it’s a help.

It isn’t too heavy on paid services reminders but you find that after a while a little reluctance creeps in to using its links because half of them inevitably lead to billed premium services.  This is fine once you can differentiate between them, but the more you explore the more you encounter these and you do begin to wonder why you had to pay for the app (on iphone at least) when so much of it is only unlocked by an £84 a year subscription (£7 per month).  I don’t pay that to Netflix so the chances I’ll succumb and press the purchase buttons is remote.

Saying this it has enough on board to keep you exploring, including a food check function you can use when buying food which allows you to compare it with similar offerings, the ability to link activity trackers and access to forums used by other people  using the app.

I’m going to use the app for another two weeks and see if my grumblings were excessive or bang on, and compare two other apps with it to see which looks the best value.

If you have observations on your use of this or any other weight loss app I’m sure those looking for help with their slimming regime would be interested, particularly if you’ve found any apps to become erstwhile electronic companions that you’d now be reluctant to part company with.

Bearing in mind this is only part 1 of a two parter, if you think this has been useful please click the like button so more people can see the article.   There may be other useful stuff in my previous blogs that will assist with your diet.

If you’re wondering where the reference to ‘best laid plans of mice and men’ came from, it wasn’t from me, but originates from Robert Burn’s poem ‘To a Mouse’ about a farmer apologising to a mouse for wrecking his home while ploughing, and is the origin of the also much quoted ‘Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie’.  Of Mice and Men is also of course the title of the famous novel by Ernest Hemingway.


Here’s one for reference.

Last and not least, keep up your dieting – you will make it!

See you in a couple of weeks and hopefully not too many choccy bars.



How to recover when the diet slips

A change in direction

Hi and welcome back.

As the title suggests, this blog heralds a change in direction.  I think that I’ve put sufficient information in the articles so far, for anyone to be able to take a fresh look at losing weight, and am reasonably confident that following them will produce results.

They produced results for me, but I have news about this.

My grandfather and uncle fought as pilots in the 1st and 2nd world wars.  They I am sure never took their eyes off the fact that the most dangerous part of their missions was landing, where low on fuel and ammo they could so easily have become cannon fodder for marauding German pilots.


This is a Spitfire.  My uncle flew an unarmed mark 16 reconnaissance version in enemy territory towards the end of the 2nd world war.

Much less critical but just as timely is the period when you get to your weight target, and marauding circumstances will lay in wait to throw your best laid plans off course.

I have suffered injury to my knees from, I am pretty sure, and given my age, the change in exercise activity through walking and cycling which has characterised the last eighteen months.  Its made exercise much more difficult and rather made me lower my guard with what I ate, and the pounds have slipped back.  Happily only 9 of them, but after a year and half it makes me feel it is a set back which I don’t currently view positively.

I’ve employed calorie counting and exercise in my weight loss schedule since I started, and now I am having to rely on calorie counting only, at least until I recover from my sports injuries, and predict that it will only be safe to resume them at a more leisurely rate, meaning they won’t be able to assist as much as they have done.

Just like my uncle and Grandfather who saw the unanticipated restart of hostilities with the Germans back in 1939, I am now having to take to battle again (with food) to restore my previous low BMI.  I would never presume to think my calorie counting represents anything like the life threatening challenges faced by my relatives in their flimsy aircraft during a manifestly difficult time, but the metaphor is useful none the less.  Just like I said a few blogs ago, losing track on the diet is not the end of the world and I am confident that I will eventually make the ground up.

The change in direction of this blog will simply be slightly smaller blogs chronicling what I hope will be progress, but which I anticipate will also include some setbacks because I haven’t had to follow my advice without the benefits of exercise.

Hopefully in a couple of months time I’ll be able to announce that I’ve regained the ground I’ve lost.  I hope that narration of my progress will spur me on, and assist anyone else reading who has also faced setbacks.

My objectives are losing the nine pounds and hopefully a little more, by the 6th of March.  My current weight is 12 st 5 lbs and I’m looking to get this back to 11 st 11 lbs or less by losing around 1.5 to 2 pounds a week.  My target today is 1800 calories and I’m still on course, though I’m pretty sure I’ve got to dump a pudding I had hoped for to get in under the line!

Wish me luck, and all the best with your slimming.

Tally Ho! Ian. 😀


How to start exercising

How to start exercising – Part 1

Welcome back!

In the last article I described why its a good idea to compliment your dieting with exercise.  In this and following articles I’ll suggest ways that you can do this, most of which are completely free, point you towards mobile apps that’ll help you count your exercise (including Strava and Map My Walk), and explain why this is called the Bank Diet.


The simplest form of exercise, that requires no lycra (unless you like it a lot), is to go walking.  If you have a dog or a particularly cooperative cat, you may be exercising just by walking them.  If not, then its simply finding somewhere you’ll enjoy walking and going there, and walking.  If you walk to your walk, then that’s even better.


I’m fortunate that I have country on my doorstep.  If you aren’t then you might want to visit your local tourist board’s website or simply google ‘best places to walk’ or similar to find a site that will advise on local walks you can do by driving to a start point, parking up and grabbing the walking boots from the back of the car.

A site that I came across that was easy to use is Walking Britain.  You simply add your town and it’ll find walks in your selected radius, e.g.

walking britain example map

Hovering over a red balloon on the map will give you a link which will then allow you to see details about the walk including how to get to it, and information on similar close walks with mileages and links to further information on them.

I know its probably teaching granny to suck eggs – after all what’s difficult about walking!  but, the following may be useful if only as a reminder.

If you’re looking to walk a few miles it pays to take a small backpack with water, the walks instructions, your mobile (charged up of course), some food in case you get hungry, waterproofs and perhaps a jumper in case the weather changes for the worse.  As its winter, its advisable to also carry a torch.  The key thing to remember is that there’s no downside to having more clothes than you need on a walk as you can always  take them off and chuck them in your backpack.  If you’re not a hat wearer and its cold, try to wear one as your head is more sensitive to changes in temperature than most of your body, and without one you’ll feel colder.

If you’ve heard that you lose 90% of heat from your head recent research alleges that this is a myth which began with incorrect US Army training manuals in the 1950’s.

If its pretty cold, take a thermos of tea or coffee.  If you’re walking in the country on exposed tracks, you’re subject to wind chill which will likely make you feel colder faster than you think.

Also, if you’re walking in the country, try to let someone know where you’re going and the time that you expect to be back, in case you run in to difficulties.

If you can find someone to walk with, all the better, as you’ll provide conversation and motivation for each other.   The Ramblers is a charity whose web pages say that their goal is to protect the ability of people to enjoy the sense of freedom and benefits that come from being outdoors on foot.  Their site includes information on local walking groups, which is why I’m including it here.





Try to take regular drinks before you feel thirsty.  If you feel thirsty then technically you are already dehydrated and this can disturb your energy levels.

I have read that you only need to be 2% dehydrated to lose 30% of your performance.  How you measure this is another thing.  I try to take a small drink every kilometre and this seems to work.

There’s no harm in taking more water than you need.   Getting thirsty with miles still to go is no fun.

Try to take snack(s) with you as well.  If you’re out for a couple of hours, snacking will keep your metabolism going.  Chocolate is a good snack while walking as it will provide fast energy should you start tiring.




If your walk is going to take you into dusk, try to take a torch and some bright or reflective clothing.  You may find yourself on a bridleway used by horses and mountain bike riders.  Mountain bikes can travel at some speed and may not be able to see you until the last moment if you’re completely blacked out.  Torch and reflective clothing also allows you to be seen by motor vehicles for those occasions when you need to take to or cross roads.

If you’re on a road without pavements, it makes sense to walk on the right hand side towards oncoming traffic but try to stay on the outside of corners, crossing the road beforehand if its necessary – traffic will see you a lot quicker.  If you can get hold of a red rear facing light you can clip on the hood of your jacket or backpack, this improves visibility to traffic behind you.    e.g. these lights from Amazon.

If you have a mobile with applications like Map my Walk or similar, then turn it on before you start, and just as important to your calorie control, stop it when you finish.  Nothing worse than finishing a walk, only to discover that you’ve been logging your footsteps around the house for a couple of hours afterwards.

Saying this, if you know what time you set off and finished, you can work out roughly how many calories you used.  Most people walk about 4 kms an hour and this consumes roughly 240 calories, or 60 calories every 15 minutes.

If you don’t use mobile walking apps, try to keep a simple log of how far you’ve walked.  It should show black and white improvement in distance and speed over time.

Walking Apps

There are loads of these and you don’t necessarily have to spend any money to get one.

‘Map my Walk’ is a good example and is downloadable from either the Google App store of Apple’s App Store.

map my walk example screenshots

It shows:

  • Duration
  • Distance
  • Current Pace
  • Average Pace
  • Calories Used

It also gives you an audio description of your stats every kilometre and shows you in map form where you have walked.  The map is useful if you’re not on a circular walk and need to check that you’re returning the way that you went out.  The app will also usefully let you takes photos of your location and let you add a journal entry describing your walk.  You can also see your walk history.

You can pay for premium analytical services which I haven’t yet tried, which give you services including:

  • Live location tracking
  • Interval Training
  • Audio Coaching
  • Heart Rate analysis
  • Routing services (Route Genius)
  • Mobile coaching

Paying means you get an ad free experience, but I haven’t found the free service’s adverts too intrusive.

I use the audio feedback every kilometre as a reminder to drink to prevent dehydration.

After you’ve completed the walk


Relax like Mr Tibbs above, have a cup of tea etc and then establish how many calories you’ve burn’t by walking.  When you have the figure, add this to your allowed calories.  You wouldn’t expect to run your car without adding fuel and you’re just the same.  You have to pay (in calories) for that exercise.   The nice bit about the paying in this case is that you get a bunch of calories that you can add back into your diet.  Don’t worry – the diet will still work – you’ve used the energy already and now you’re putting it back.

e..g If you have a calorie limit of 1800, and have walked 4 kilometres, you’d add roughly 240 calories which then gives you a new limit of 2040 calories.  Don’t forget to take off any snacks you’ve consumed while walking.

If you don’t have time to walk

If you don’t have time to get out and walk on an established route somewhere nice, there are other ways you can introduce walking as exercise.  On the way to work, try parking the car further away from work than normal and walk in.  When you arrive, take the stairs instead of the lift.  Go for a walk for half an hour at lunchtime.  Park at the Park and Ride and walk in (as long as its safe to do so).  You’ll be surprised how the calories tot up.

If this isn’t enough, and its too dark to go walking after work, you could join a local gym.  Perfectly good ones only cost around £20 per month, are invaluable when its raining, and have walking machines which give immediate calorie count feedback.

I’ll be going in to more detail on gyms in the next article, speaking of which …

Next Time

This article has introduced the use of walking as a form of exercise.  Next time there’ll be advice on cycling for fitness, detail of a mobile app to help you count the calories while cycling, a beginner’s guide for the use of gyms to keep fit, and how the ‘bank’ part of the bank diet works.

Hope to see you then, and keep up the diet!

All the best. Ian.

Planning Weight Loss

Establishing a sensible weight loss plan

If you’re returning to my blog, welcome back.  If this is your first visit, thank you for taking a look.

Hopefully you have your weight, in either pounds or kilograms.  If not, find it out when you can and follow these instructions.  With this as a starting point, we’re going to put together a safe and just as importantly, realistic schedule for reaching your ideal weight.

Finding out how much weight you have to lose

Ok, the first step is to visit the NHS Choices BMI Healthy Weight Calculator.

This opens like this:

BMI Healthy Weight Calculator

Click the Start button and you’ll be shown this panel:

BMI Healthy Weight Calculator 2

Enter the fairly self explanatory values it asks for.  The buttons at the far right allow you to switch between metric and imperial.  When I used it, I added the following:

BMI Healthy Weight Calculator 3

The Calculate button will take you to a new screen which will ask you to select your assessment of your activity levels.

I chose the following, which was correct at the time:

BMI Healthy Weight Calculator 4

Select the Next button reveals its results .  You can’t close your eyes at this point – remember its going to help whatever it says.

Mine (over a year ago) gave me this result:

BMI Healthy Weight Calculator 5

The slider bar pointer and the orange banner below it show two important things; firstly your BMI, and secondly the calorie intake you should be using to address this.   If you’ve tried some diets, the calorie figures might look higher than you expect.  This surprised me at the time, as the lowest weight I’d ever been as an adult was 14 pounds higher than this, and I remember thinking to myself “That is impossible”.

BMI or Body Mass Index quantifies the amount of tissue mass (muscle, fat, and bone) in an individual, and then categorises that person as underweightnormal weightoverweight, or obese based on that value.

If your BMI pointer is in the yellow or red areas, you probably need to lose weight.  Your eventual target is to reach the green healthy weight band which has a BMI range of 18.5 to 25.  A sensible first target is the yellow zone if you’re not already in it.

Is your result what you expected, or have you been surprised as I was?  I thought about it in terms of bags of sugar – 49 pounds is almost 25 bags of sugar! Can you imagine filling a shopping trolley at the supermarket with that lot and then carrying it around with you?  Because the weight comes off slowly you don’t actually notice the reduction.  The people who do notice are those who haven’t seen you for a while!

I found that the bulk of the work of reducing my weight was dedicated to getting to within a stone of the 25 BMI figure.  Getting to 25 became a part 2 as it were.  If you get to within 14 lbs off of the eventual target, believe me, you’ll already be grinning like a cheshire cat!



Okay, you got me – this isn’t a Cheshire Cat, but you get the idea.  (He could still have come from Cheshire, or like their cheese).

The good news is that getting to the green band is not impossible, and the information I am going to show you will help you do it.  (There isn’t any bad news – at least not here).

Establishing a timetable

Ok, you’re now ready for the next step which is to establish how long this will take you.

Not saying that you’re not great at arithmetic but if you’d like to use it, you may find this easier using Google calculator.

Please write down / add your actual weight.  For me this was 15st 1lb which is 211 lbs.  If you have kilograms instead, that works too.

Then write down/ add your highest healthy weight figure in pounds or kg.  (For me this was 11 st 11 lbs which is 165 lbs) e.g.

BMI Healthy Weight Calculator 5a

Now subtract the second figure from the first, e.g. 211 – 165.  In my case this gave me a difference of 46 lbs (or 3 st 4 lbs).

Now divide the result by 1.5.  This gave me 31.  1.5 is how many pounds you’ll be aiming to lose every week.  31 was the number of weeks it was going to take me to lose the weight if I lost it at this rate. e.g.

Weight        211
Target         165
Difference    46
Divided by   1.5
Equals           31 (weeks)

If you follow the steps above, you should the number of weeks its going to take before you look like a brand new you.  The weeks figure may look like a long time, (it can be made to look better if you convert it to months and remember that instead).  Anyway, time flies, and if you follow my guidelines you’ll soon be looking back and grinning, and wondering why you had never been able to do this before.  (That might be because you hadn’t read the right stuff).

Why 1.5 and not 2 or 3 or 5?

The reason I’ve put 1.5 is that this is achievable.  It may be slower than perhaps you’ve predicted, but it is achievable.

Ever rushed into a diet only to find a few weeks later that the weight is going back on even faster? One of the reasons for this is that the human body doesn’t react well to sudden change.  For instance it can take six months or so before someone emigrating from a hot country to a cold country feels that it isn’t freezing.

Like a tree that bends in a storm and doesn’t break, the more that you can work with your body rather than against it, the more successful you’ll be at losing weight and keeping it off.


Working with your body and knowing how you can counter its sometimes overkill reaction to what it perceives as an emergency is something that is discussed in the next article.


You’ve taken the first step to reducing your weight and improving your health!  Not only by reading this blog this far, but by working out how long it should take you to get to a healthy weight.  Wasn’t too painful was it?

The next article shows you how you can start to do this.  Once again there’s no hidden costs or agenda – I just want to share what I’ve found has helped.

NB: Although this plan is pretty gentle, if you’re at all concerned, speak to your doctor and ask them if they have any reservations against you starting a calorie controlled diet.

Explain that you’re looking to lose a couple of pounds a week and tell them your target.  If they are happy that your body is capable of sustaining this, you’ve got the green light to continue.


I’d love to hear your feedback (below) whether its good or bad, and if you really like the page please hit the Like button to show you’re impressed.

This blog has shown you how to establish the time it will take you to lose your excess weight and explained why a slow burn approach may work better.  Part 3 explains how to start using the calorie figures and embark on your new lifestyle.  Its not as far fetched as it may sound.  It really can happen, and if I can do it anyone can.

Catch you in part 3.

Best wishes.  Ian.