Drafts and diet

Bad habits are insidious and hard to shake. As my wife went through cancer treatment, I began to eat poorly and too much. The modest discipline that had allowed me to lose 15 pounds a couple of years earlier seemed unimportant, and I adopted the attitude of “at least I’m not drinking.” Now it’s time to put that year of self-indulgence and rationalization behind me and redevelop the good habits I abandoned.

The only way I’ve ever been able to lose weight is by weighing myself every day and keeping track of the progress (and backsliding). There is, I know, a school of thought that says this approach is wrong-headed, that daily weight fluctuations will drive you crazy. Luckily, I know enough about statistical process control that I expect certain variations and don’t let them mask the overall trend.

My assistant in the daily record keeping is Drafts, the fast and flexible note-taking app, and a simple Dropbox Action I’ve created for it. After I weigh myself, I open Drafts, type in the weight, and tap the “Weight” action. A second later, I hear the bi-doop sound that tells me the weight, with a datestamp, has been appended to a file, also named “Weight,” in my Dropbox folder. Here’s how the Action is defined.

Drafts Dropbox Action

The line appended to the file starts with a simple mm/dd/yy datestamp, followed by two spaces (I like the extra separation) and the weight.

This is, I think, the fastest way to do this. Drafts launches quickly and always opens in edit mode, ready for me to type.1 Its timestamping tag language means I don’t even have to go through the minimal effort of typing a TextExpander abbreviation to add the date.

When I want to track my progress, I can open the “Weight” file in Notesy on my phone or in BBEdit on my Mac. The format I’ve chosen makes plotting the data easy, too, although I’ve never found that especially helpful.

  1. I have Drafts set to start a new note whenever I’ve been away from it for more than a minute, so it always launches with a clean new note in the morning when I weigh myself. 

6 Responses to “Drafts and diet”

  1. Uwe Honekamp says:

    For the record, another option would be to simply use Weightbot. Hasn’t been updated in decades but works like a charm.

  2. Michael says:

    I agree with your weight loss technique. Only way I’ve ever lost weight either. I use Weightbot and a wifi Withings scale because I’m super lazy and need even less friction than opening Drafts.

  3. Hagen says:

    In the past 10 years my weight creeped up to a pretty unhealthy number. I’ve adapted your method of weight loss five month ago and I was able to drop a few pounds for the first time in years. Thanks for that :).

    For tracking I’ve put a PHP script on my server which saves the number with a timestamp and generates the javascript for plotting with Google Chart Tools. I usually access it with my smartphone.

  4. Henry says:

    I fully agree. Logging my weight once per day has been a key part of getting my weight back toward a healthier level. I’ve been meaning to switch over to a Drafts-based system just as you describe, but have been using some random weight graphing program on the iPad (which will let me export data when I get around to it).

    Exactly because of the variation (+-1-2 lbs per day for me) it would be annoying to me to weigh myself only once a week. It’s only with weighing myself every day at the same time that I can easily see through that noise to the true trend. (A thought to those fancy digital scale manufacturers, though personally I wouldn’t want it, is to display the mean of someone’s weight over the past N days.)

    The other key for me is logging what I eat. It used to be in a Field Notes style book. It mattered less if I added it up, just the act of pausing to record helped me. (After listening to a Mac Power Users episode a few months back I switched to using an iPhone app for recording food, which is working too.)

  5. adam says:

    Would love to see a way to track weight/exercise and have them plotted in the new Panic Dashboard app.

  6. Michael says:

    @adam: It does not look like the Withings scale has a way to easily do this. Their export options are pretty limited: You can export the data as a CVS but only manually; I can’t find an RSS feed for it; and their “html” export is a flash widget. I’ve emailed them to see if it sparks an interest on their part for development.