Four Problems with Calorie Counting

I found this great article over at Precision Nutrition about the issues with calorie counting.

I present to you the infographic that they shared with the article:

In particular I wanted to call out the topic of adaptive thermogenesis. I think this process is one of the things that stops a lot of people from hitting their fitness goals. The belief that eating too much is the problem means people feel that they’re doing good by eating less. I get the irony of this only one week after writing about fasting. Let's acknowledge that and move right along.  

In my experience, generally what happens is people eat less in each meal, but overall eat about the same. Maybe they’ll have small breakfast, lunch, and dinner; but because they’re hungry will end up having a few more snacks. It's because feeling hungry is stressful, and a lot of people are rightfully scared of it. Depending on whats going on in your body, feeling hungry can be anything from a minor unpleasant 'empty gut' feeling, to a fuzzy cranky brain, to full blown exhaustion and fatigue. Personally I'm less scared of feeling hungry, but only because I have experimented with intermittent fasting and developed the ability to go hungry for relatively long periods of time (24 hours) without too much trouble. But it's something I prepare for, and I've built up to over time. It's not something I started doing suddenly as a New Years Resolution. When you're used to eating something small every 3 hours, trying to suddenly reduce the amount of food you eat is bound to not only freak you out, but also be physically challenging for your body. And to top it off, even if you have the mental fortitude to push yourself through that stress, the process of adaptive thermogenesis may foil your plans anyway!

Experiments

I don’t share much on the Internet these days. I’m not on Facebook, I barely post to Twitter (though I do read my Twitter feed regularly). My last post to my website was months ago. As I’ve felt the urge to write about this stuff, I have asked myself why I think sharing on a website will catch on for me more than other social media.

After a lot of thought, I realised that it’s because a website doesn’t have to be about me. Sure it might have my name on it, and occasionally I’ll share a story from my life to help make a point. But ultimately it doesn’t have to revolve around me[1] and my life in the same way that a social media profile tends to. Obviously I could try to ignore the nudges of the Facebook, but everything about it pushes me towards using it in that way. Not to mention the powerful pull of the friends and family who are using it in that way. Since I want to write and share my thoughts, but I don’t want it to be about me, I feel that a website is the only way.

Experiments

I have been experimenting with a bunch of different things in the health and fitness space over the past few years. I have learned a whole lot so I’d like to start writing about my experiences and my research. I think there’s plenty to say about the topic even though the Internet is full of people talking about it. There’s heaps of people talking about basically anything on the Internet, so I don’t want to let that stop me.

Armed with my curiosity and willingness to suspend disbelief and implement things I thought couldn’t work, I have experimented in these general areas:

  • bodyweight exercise
  • gymnastics
  • interval training
  • intermittent fasting
  • ketogenic diet
  • (s)low carb diet
  • nootropics

I’m going to be writing about some of these topics over the next few months. I will be writing once a week, starting next week with Intermittent Fasting. This should be fun!


  1. This post is quite introspective, but I’m leading somewhere.  ↩

Day One 2 Review

The developers behind my favourite journalling app Day One have released a second version. It’s called Day One 2, and I like it rather a lot.

I’ve been testing the app for a few months now as part of the beta program for Mac and iOS.

After giving it some thought, I figured that rather than doing the typical thing and having the things I don’t like about the app at the end of the post, I’m putting them right up front. That way it’s the first thing you read, so you know what you’re getting into.

Stuff I Don’t Like - Features Removed

Day One 2 has removed some good features from Day One (Classic). It’s a completely re-written app, so I’m not surprised. I heard that the new app is using a database to store the journal data rather than the .xml files that the original Day One used.

In any case, in the process some features I liked got cut out. I’ll miss some more than others.

The Day One ‘publish’ feature is gone. I used it a total of 10 times. It seemed like a good idea, but its introduction also coincided with a dramatic reduction in me posting on social media so it never caught on for me. If you don’t remember the feature, here’s the description from the Day One website (I guess it’s still up because Day One Classic can still use it):

Publish enables you to post individual Day One entries to a beautiful webpage, then share them.

Day One 2 does still show the journal entries you have published under the filters menu (see below), but you can no longer publish from within the app.

Automatically detected tags are gone. But now you can directly set a tag using an automation app like Workflow, rather than the workaround I was using. I added a #hashtag to the text and Day One automatically detected it as I saved the entry.

The option to sync using iCloud and Dropbox has been removed in favour of the 'Day One Sync' feature. This could be huge for some people (I’ve certainly heard about it). I hope the developer considers bringing back other options - it feels a little unsafe having such personal data sitting out there with a small app development house rather than within iCloud encryption. Sure they’re less of a target, but they also have less resources to look after my stuff if there was to be an attack.

Stuff I do Like

Multiple Journals

The ability to seperate my journal into segregated journals is a nice flexibility upgrade for Day One. Visually each journal is represented in the UI by a different colour. But the separation runs deeper - each journal has its own set of tags too. There is a ‘all journals’ view where you can see everything at once, but the separation is a nice way to keep things organised.

I’m using three journals at the moment:

image.jpg
  • my original ‘journal’. This contains my gratitude journal and random thoughts. It’s my digital diary.
    • a book journal. This contains notes on the books I’m reading. I’m trying to remember more of what I read this year, so even if it’s just a few sentences capturing the key things I learnt from a book, I record it here.
    • a business journal. This contains my business related journal entries.

I can see that there are plenty of other ways I could use Day One now. I could have done this using tags in the original Day One, but there’s something about the separated journals that just fits better. As a result, the app is more flexible than it was before.

Multiple Inline Photos

You can now attach multiple photos to a single journal entry. It’s limited to 10, which is a sensible limit if you have to have one. If you need more, simply create a new entry.

This is a test entry I made back in November. 

This is a test entry I made back in November. 

Most interesting to me about the change is that photos can now be inserted inline with the text rather than just attached to an entry at the top. It makes your entries nicer to look at and means you can tell a story using your photos.

I imagine that people who were taking multiple photos throughout the day and sitting down to write a long entry at the end of the day were wishing for multiple photos per entry. For whatever reason, I tend to create multiple short entries throughout the day with one photo attached. I rarely waited until the end of the day to write in my journal, rather I saw it as something I’d do in the moment. In my mind, my daily reflections were seperate from photos so I never felt the need to attach any photos to those. I’d say this habit is at least partly because that’s the way Day One worked, so it’s nice to have the option now. I’ve been using Day One 2 in the beta for a while now, and I haven’t found myself using this feature.

Day One 2 uses a very similar photo view for viewing all posts containing photos. Day One 2 (left) provides all the same filtering options available on the main screen. You can filter by journal on the top left or any of the filters under the tag button on the top right. Because there are less options, Day One Classic (right) can fit more photos in the view. Would you just look at that happy puppy!

Day One 2 uses a very similar photo view for viewing all posts containing photos. Day One 2 (left) provides all the same filtering options available on the main screen. You can filter by journal on the top left or any of the filters under the tag button on the top right. Because there are less options, Day One Classic (right) can fit more photos in the view. Would you just look at that happy puppy!

User Interface Refresh

The new user interface is clean and simple in a way that I find easier to use. Like in Day One, the main screen has two big buttons to quickly start a new entry. But the list view of entries isn’t hidden behind a menu item, they’re all right there for you. You can swipe on a journal entry to perform actions on it, like adding a tag, star, or deleting it. There is a tab bar at the bottom of the screen with buttons representing various ways to view your journal: a list view, photo grid, a map, or a calendar. Because of the way I use the app, I spend the vast majority of my time using the list view.

The Day One Classic front screen (left) has filtering functions and journal entries hidden behind this list view. Day One 2 has almost all the same options available in the tab bar, with some behind the 'tag' button on the top right. 

The Day One Classic front screen (left) has filtering functions and journal entries hidden behind this list view. Day One 2 has almost all the same options available in the tab bar, with some behind the 'tag' button on the top right. 

Editing an entry from the front screen is simple. 

Editing an entry from the front screen is simple. 

The Day One Classic tag screen on the left. Day One 2 uses a modal tag view. 

The Day One Classic tag screen on the left. Day One 2 uses a modal tag view. 

The calendar view in Day One 2. I like the way the app shows a full calendar view to scroll through and slides up a list view when I select a date. 

The calendar view in Day One 2. I like the way the app shows a full calendar view to scroll through and slides up a list view when I select a date. 

The map view and the filter menu. You get to the filter menu by tapping the tag symbol on the top right. 

The map view and the filter menu. You get to the filter menu by tapping the tag symbol on the top right. 

I use the app mostly for adding entries. Usually the first thing I do upon opening app is tap the big plus button and start writing. If I’m using a photo, I usually add it after writing from within the journal entry screen rather than using the photo shortcut. That’s because my journal is mostly text. I’ve also been using the great Workflow app to do my daily journalling.

My primary use of the app is to enter information. But Day One 2 also brings improvments to viewing entries that I really like. To navigate between journal entries, you can swipe left or right or tap the up and down arrows at the bottom of the screen (up means go up the date ordered list, towards the newest entries and down means go down the list towards older entries). Those features together make it easier to navigate on the larger screen iPhone. You can dismiss the journal entry with a swipe down anywhere on the text, which is much better than a ‘done’ button at the top.

By moving the list view up to the main screen, the developer had to find a place for all the old journal viewing options. Some (like the photo grid) are in the tab bar at the bottom of the screen, but other options have been put into a filtering menu at the top right of the main screen. Tap on the tag symbol to bring up a filtering menu. You have the option to filter on stars, tags, years, activity, or music.

So far, Day One 2 has helped me spend more time reading my journal rather than always adding to it.

Custom Reminders

Setting custom reminders is a nice way to automate your journal. You can set up a reminder for a specific time, with a specific question to answer and pre-filled tags. I use this to remind me to write about a specific topic every day. I get the reminder, I write the entry, and it’s pre-tagged and ready to go. It’s simple, but nice.


This upgrade is a solid upgrade. The app is cleaner, faster, and allows me to interact with my journal more. I was always going to recommend this app though. I started journalling every day around a year ago, and I’m completely converted to it’s usefulness. I’ve had some of the most productive and wonderful times of my life since I started journalling. It could definitely be a coincidence, but there’s something about writing in my journal every day that has made me notice how good I’ve got it in a way that I never did before.

Day One has made my journalling habit stick, and I look forward to reaping the benefits with Day One 2.

Awesome Macro Photography

I'm so excited! I just stumbled onto some absolutely incredible macro photography over at AlexanderWild.com. You should go check it out right now!

From Alexanderwild.com. Click image for link to the portfolio - you can buy the images there. 

From Alexanderwild.com. Click image for link to the portfolio - you can buy the images there. 

Seriously, check this stuff out. There's a whole gallery combing my favourite things: insects and fungus... 

From Alexanderwild.com. Click image for link to the portfolio - you can buy the images there. 

From Alexanderwild.com. Click image for link to the portfolio - you can buy the images there. 

These photos are Alex's work - I'm reproducing them here without prior permission based on Alex's Social Media - Personal policy. Go take a look at all the photos at AlexanderWild.com and check out his blog at myrmecos.net

I love the internet. 

Mushrooms

I have a bit of a fascination with mushrooms. They’re mysterious, dangerous, psychedelic and beautiful. The things we know as fungus are only the fruiting bodies of much larger organisms in the soil. And as it turns out, for many plants soil fungi is pretty important to making the whole system work. I’ll start at the beginning.


Plants and Animals

Animals can break down, reassemble and destroy organic matter but they cannot create it. So we animals eat organic matter and rely on other things to make sure there’s enough organise matter to go around. Plants are capable of turning inorganic materials into organic materials. They make things like cellulose, proteins, and sugars from inorganic minerals derived from soil, air or water. The elements plants build with include calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, sulphur, iron, zinc, cobalt, boron, manganese, molybdenum, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen.

Despite this prodigious ability, plant roots have no way to cause the break down of rocks into minerals. They must rely on whatever is in the soil already. Depending on the situation, much of what is in the soil is not in a form available for uptake into the plant. This is because plants can only take up minerals in solution from the soil. That is, as water is evaporated through the plants leaves, the plant replaces that water via the roots. The water contains all of the nutrients available to the plant, and anything not in solution is simply left in the soil. That could be organic material, rocks, or even some types of fertiliser. Even if the nutrients are there in solution, the plants can’t decide what nutrients to obtain. You see this all the time in the garden when there’s “too much” nitrogen in the soil. The plants grow fast, and depending not he plant generally turn that nitrogen into a lot of leaves rather than fruit.


Fungi

Luckily for plants, the soil contains fungi. Fungi lives in the soil as a complex interconnected mass of threads called hyphae. The hyphae are tiny - usually only one cell thick. They break down organic matter and rock particles for food, and distribute it across the network of hyphae. The network can grow to be enormous, with the size of some single organisms measured in square kilometres. Isn’t that ridiculous?

Apart from growing to insane sizes, the great thing about the abilities of fungus is that the process of breaking down organic matter and minerals can make it available to plants. Some plants and fungi form a mutually beneficial relationship known as a symbiotic relationship. The way this works is that the fungi inserts the single cell hyphae into a root hair and consumes a small amount of the plants vascular fluid. This is not generally harmful to the plant since fungi don’t survive solely on vascular fluid - the primary food for fungi is decaying organic matter in the soil. As the root grows, bark develops around the hyphae until it is subsumed into the plant. The hyphae then breaks down inside the plant, nutrients and all. This provides the plant with nutrients that would not otherwise be available to it from the soil.

Not all plants are capable of forming a symbiotic relationship with fungi. And there are certainly fungi that are destructive rather than helpful to plants.


I hope I’ve conveyed why I’m so interested in mushrooms. I find it fascinating that mushrooms are just a tiny representation of a much larger picture. To me, they are a reminder that things are not as simple as they seem. The interconnected fungus networks are a literal example of how everything is connected.