AppleWatch exercise tracking, linking with MyFitnessPal, and comparing with MapMyRun and an indoor bike

I have a Series 1, inherited from a friend who upgraded to a Series 4.

I really like the watch, but had felt that one of its shortcomings was calorie tracking.

It was syncing steps to MyFitnessPal just fine, but I was getting about 1/8th the calorie credit that I would get for the same workout when tracked in MapMyRun. And believe MapMyRun was correct, because I compared with charts of step counts and calories for a man my age and size.

This past week I started using the Watch Exercise app itself, turning on “Outdoor Walk” and trying that instead of MapMyRun. I was pleased to see it did better and actually gave results close to that of MapMyRun. In this case I would give benefit of the doubt to the Watch because it has more information – my heart rate in addition to the distance traveled. I guess distance is synced from my iPhone because the Series 1 doesn’t have a built-in GPS.

The Watch is convenient for an outdoor walk like this because I can glance at it and see how far I’ve done, how many calories I’ve burned, etc., without taking out my iPhone and opening up MapMyRun.

The only nuisance is that I need to confirm I’m still using it sometimes. It seems to think I’ve put it in pause mode accidentally at times. But at least it confirms it. Also, since using this feature I noticed I use up more battery during the day. But there is still at least 25% or more left by the time I put it on its charger at bedtime.

All in all, I think I’ll use the Watch for outdoor walks going forward.

Indoor cycling is another thing entirely though. If I turn on Indoor Cycling and start going it regularly gives me credit for only half the calories my indoor bicycle does. In this case, I would give the benefit of the doubt to the indoor bicycle because the bicycle has more info. It also tracks my heart rate (which matches that shown on the Watch very closely). In addition the bicycle knows the distance I’ve traveled, and the tension setting. It is more accurate I believe.

In this case the Watch is still useful because my bicycle is older and doesn’t automatically sync with MyFitnessPal. So the Watch creates a “placeholder exercise” when it syncs. Then I can go into MyFitnessPal and just adjust the calories.

In general, I think the device with the most info wins.

What I still don’t get, though, is why the Watch syncs steps to MyFitnessPal at all when not running the Exercise app if it’s only going to give a tiny fraction of the calorie credit. That’s what I was confused about at first. I had assumed it was going to be a continuous activity and calorie syncing device. But using the Exercise app seems ok too.

I don’t know how Fitbit works in this case. For example, with a Fitbit do you have to start and stop an exercise like on the Watch, or with MapMyRun on a synced iPhone?

Anyway, I’m happy to be using the Watch for even more things now.

Suggestions about better ways of doing this using the Watch are welcome.

Quarterly health results, August 2019

My quarterly blood test results are in, 46 weeks after recommitting to WFPB (Whole Food Plant Based), following Dr. Greger’s guidelines in “How Not To Die,” and following additional recommendations for comfortable, sustainable weight loss from people like Chef AJ.

To sum up, blood sugar is normal, cholesterol is fantastic, and I continue to lose weight. 

The rest of this post are details, if people are interested in numbers and more!

What I eat and don’t eat

I try to follow Greger’s Daily Dozen for the most part. As I mentioned last update, the main exception is that I avoid eating nuts. As with many people, I find that they do, in fact, impact on weight loss. Calories do count. See Chef AJ’s advice for example. She’s very supportive. 

I’ve also been “sequencing” more, which is recommended for people trying to lose weight, by Chef AJ and others. Sequencing just means starting meals with very low calorie density foods, like a big salad. Then going on to cooked non-starchy veggies. Then, if you like, finishing off with satisfying starches, like potatoes.  Desserts are just fruits. I find sequencing really helps with calorie control. In fact, it’s usually hard to reach my calorie limit when eating this way. There is no feeling of deprivation. If I’m hungry I’ll eat something, like a fruit, or some cherry tomatoes, or even a potato. 

So I eat lots of veggies, and have multiple fruits every day. In other words, I eat lots of carbs. Carbs do not impact negatively on blood sugar or weight. 

I also eat firm (momen) tofu a few times a day. I find it filling, and it has a lower calorie density than potatoes, and has lots of protein. I’ve been eating tofu in place of other legumes in general lately. It agrees with me more. 

I avoid animal products, oils and other added fats (completely), added sugar (as much as is practical), added salt (as much as is practical), and also stay away from highly processed high calorie density foods, like breads and pastas. I don’t obsess about tiny amounts of animal products, like bonito extract in miso soup at a restaurant. I’m trying to make this easy and sustainable. I will also very occasionally have some sushi with a friend. When I eat rice I try to go for brown rice when possible, but I will eat white rice if that’s all that’s available. 

I do not do intermittent fasting. It’s not necessary and I’m not interested in that.

Logging with MyFitnessPal

I log my food and exercise calories in MyFitnessPal, and keep within 1540 net calories per day (food calories minus exercise calories). 

Today is my MyFitnessPal Streak Day 2,657. Daily logging in MFP has been a great sanity check and prevented me from having a complete rebound when I fell off the wagon in the past. 

Blood test results

Here are the last and previous results. Normal ranges are in parentheses. 

Total cholesterol (120-219)

  • Aug 29 – 116
  • Jun 8 – 136
  • Mar 19 – 133
  • Dec 20 – 124

This dropped a lot this quarter. Healthy eating helps. 

HDL good cholesterol (35-80)

  • Aug 29 – 40
  • Jun 8 – 34
  • Mar 19 – 38
  • Dec 20 – 36

LDL bad cholesterol (70-139)

  • Aug 29 – 56
  • Jun 8 – 73
  • Mar 19 – 72
  • Dec 20 – 67

Quite low! But that’s supposed to be great for your heart. 

Triglycerides (30-150)  

  • Aug 29 – 79
  • Jun 8 – 129
  • Mar 19 – 114
  • Dec 20 – 100

Also a big drop from last time, which is good. I had been worrying because it had been creeping up. 

HbA1c (4.7-6.2)

  • Aug 29 – 6.1
  • Jun 8 – 5.5 (wow)
  • Mar 19 – 5.9
  • Dec 20 – 6.5

Previous HbA1c quarterly values were 8.2, and 10.8. So it’s a great improvement over time. This value does not fluctuate over the short term. It’s a 2-3 month average. 

While it is up slightly for some reason, it is still within normal range, and my doctor said such fluctuations are normal and it’s all good and not to worry about it. I was a bit surprised/disappointed though. 

I met with the nutritionist, and she recommended cutting back on bananas in favor of berries and watermelon. I might do that.

And weight loss!

Weight loss is also going well. Slowly but surely – more or less a straight line. Since last September when I recommitted to WFPB my weight is down 24.0 kg = 53 lb.

My total weight loss following WFPB is down 41.6 kg = 92 lb since my peak back in 2012. It’s never been this low since 2012. 

According to BMI calculators I’m now just 13 kg from a normal weight. It’s starting to look possible!

My doctor reduced my blood sugar medication last time. He says next time he might reduce drugs more. He’s taking a conservative approach. Since he’s my doctor, I will stick with his advice for now. 

My daily exercise is back up again after going down after my accident in May. I’d say my strength is back to normal now. 


After 30 weeks on “Starch Solution” having problems and returning to plain old calorie counting – yet again

Previously I had posted here about my first 15 weeks on Dr. John McDougall’s “Starch Solution” and the better results I achieved compared with Dr. David Ludwig’s “Protein Power.”

Unfortunately at week 30 I’ve regained about 1/2 of what I lost those first 15 weeks. I’m still down about 20 lb from when I started 30 weeks ago, but I had been down 40 lb, so I’ve regained half of what I’ve lost.

My blood tests remain good. My blood sugar HbA1c is now in the normal range, and my cholesterol is extremely low. All my blood tests are in the normal range.

But I think my blood sugar will start going up unless I can, yet again, get weight loss under control. I had dropped below 100 kg for a few weeks, and now I’m above it again. For the year I’m down a disappointing 11 lb only. I suppose you could say if my new year’s resolution was to lose weight this year I’ve technically kept that resolution, but still…

And I am still down 46 lb from my high in 2012. So I’ve managed to avoid a complete rebound so far, for the first time ever. So that part is good.

But “Starch Solution” just isn’t working anymore. I need to rethink again.

As I posted in the “Starch Solution” support group on Facebook, I appreciate everyone who gave constructive comments. Different diets work for different people I think. I don’t think there is a universal answer that works for everyone, which is why people everywhere are endlessly debating different kinds of diets.

Multiple people in the Starch Solution support group agree with what I wrote and say they have the same problems I do. So I know it’s not just me.

For now, I think the best way to get back to losing weight is to strictly count and control calories again. Just keep on logging everything in MyFitnessPal, which I’ve been doing for over 1,600 days now, through good and bad days, and really try hard to stick within calorie limits.

I know calorie counting works. And it offers the most variety. However, I also know it’s not sustainable after a couple of years, having done it many times and then rebounded. But to be honest I also feel that while Starch Solution worked at first, it too has turned out, for me, to be yet another diet that isn’t sustainable long term. Some things about that diet are not right, and some things Dr. McDougall, the author of the diet, has said also turned out to be hyperbole at best.

I do recognize that Starch Solution seems to work for some people and am not disputing that. Even low-carb ketogenic and near-ketogenic diets seem to work for some people (though not for me – too high calorie). I imagine even “Protein Power” works for some people, though I gained weight trying that.

The advantage of low calorie diets, where you take into account what you eat, and calories expended in exercise, and log everything, and are very careful to keep calories in balance, is that it always works as long as you can stay on it. And calorie-counting offers the most variety (no particular food is forbidden), and offers a positive, measurable encouragement to do exercise (the more you exercise, the more you can eat and/or the more weight you lose).

The premise with Starch Solution, that the starches would keep you satisfied and control your hunger, only seemed to really work for me for the first 10-15 weeks. And during that time I was also ill for 5 weeks with a bad summer cold and lost my appetite. So I lost an unnatural amount of weight during the illness. Since my first 15 weeks, though, It’s been rough and I just need to try something “different” while trying to figure this out.

So it’s back to “good old” calorie counting for now. And I’m not particularly caring exactly what is in the food I eat as long as it’s low calorie and seems to satisfy me so I don’t overeat. I honestly think everything else – cholesterol, blood sugar, overall health – comes with weight loss. After all, if you are on a low-calorie diet then it’s impossible to eat too much fat, or too much sugar, or really overdo too much of anything unhealthy. Calorie limits create a cap on everything. The fact there might be non-vegan ingredients in food doesn’t, by itself, really matter than much. For example, think of ordinary miso soup. The dashi in miso soup contains some bonito extract. I can’t believe that is going to make the difference between good and bad health.

Calorie counting also makes it easier when on the go, because calories are labeled everywhere, even in many restaurants.

Anyway, here I am going with yet another change of diet. And it’s a diet I’ve been on before too, so while I’m not exactly full-to-the-brim with confidence I am going to try it again.

All I can do is keep trying.