Lift, data, food

Three things that have been big for me this year are LiftApp, data, and food. You’ve seen me talk about LiftApp several times. It’s been really helpful in tracking my progress on goals. Recently, when I was feeling bummed about not being great about reading my Bible daily which was one of my goals for the year. I checked out my stats on Lift and realized that I had read it almost 300 days in the year. The Data helped me realize that I had done better over the course of the whole year than in the last few months, which was encouraging. I’ve been trying to be more mindful about real information this year. The facts (like the previous example) help me see where I’m at objectively rather than based on my feelings. This year, I also gained a stack of weight due to my love of food and my lack of discipline in exercise and running.


In the new year, Lift is combining diet and data doing “the largest randomized trial of popular diet.” It has two aims:

#1. Help one million people make a healthy diet change leading to: weight loss, overall health, and/or more energy. We’re providing 10 popular diets with expert advice.

#2. Perform the largest-ever measurement of popular diets. What works? How do popular diets compare? How can we all be more successful? We’re working with UC Berkeley on the science and the analysis.

People have the option of adjusting their diets to follow any of the following 10 diets (including the option of being given a random diet to follow):

  1. Paleo: eat like a caveman, mostly veggies, meats, nuts. Advised byPaleohacks and Nerd Fitness.
  2. Slow-Carb: lean meat, beans, and veggies; abstain from white foods like sugar, pasta, bread, cheese. Based on Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Body.
  3. Vegetarian: vegetables, but no meat. Cheese and eggs are optional. Advised by No Meat Athlete.
  4. Whole foods: eat only recognizable foods and avoid processed ones. Advised by Summer Tomato.
  5. Gluten-free: no wheat, rye, barley or wheat-based foods.
  6. No sweets: a simple diet change that affects your insulin swings.
  7. DASH: USDA’s current recomendation.
  8. Calorie counting: the old standard.
  9. Sleep more: the science says this should work. Advised by: Swan Sleep Solutions.
  10. Mindful eating: learn mindfulness to recognize when you’re full. Advised by ZenHabits and the Center for Mindful Eating.

When I first heard about this a few weeks ago, I was really interested in the idea, just none of the diets. Well, you know I’m already doing #5 and #6, so I thought there was no real way for me to participate in this. Recently I was listening to a Micheal Hyatt podcast (I forget which one!) and he was talking about how helpful it was for him to start tracking his calorie intake in order to understand whether he was exercising enough. I’ve always been wary of counting calories because it can become a type of eating disorder, but I also have to face the fact that I just eat anything and everything whenever I want. I have zero data about what I’m putting in my body versus how I’m spending that energy (watching Bones on Netflix, these days).

So I tried MyFitnessPal for a few days to count my calories and it was eye opening. I was sometimes 1,000 or 1,500 calories over what I should be consuming based on my activity level! I was reminded of the story from The Power of Habit that talked about those who started tracking what they were eating, it became a Keystone Habit in that they suddenly became aware of what was going into their bodies, but then they also became aware of how they were exercising and spending their money. Their whole lives turned around because of being mindful of this one thing. (Random fact: this article on Keystone Habits is the most visited post of mine via Google).

I’ve decided I’m going to participate in the study doing #8: monitoring my calories. I want to invite you to join me on “the largest randomized trial of popular diet.” All you need is to sign up here and download Lift to your phone (or use it on your browser), or read more about The Quantified Diet

Using Information To Reach Your Goals and Build Stronger Habits


Last fall I was forced to sit through a seminar at work about Leading with Data. I was about as excited as you were when you read the above title. As it turns out, it’s really helpful. I’ve applied this to my personal life and again finding it useful. What am I talking about?

Unless you’re a data analyst or took a business degree, you probably are going through life a little like me: you have an idea of what’s going on but you’re not sure. As I’ve learned, real data is helpful because it’s raw facts. You can’t argue with facts. This spring I wrote about how I didn’t do a good job in December of using my light therapy because I didn’t feel like it. The facts said: if you don’t use this you will feel worse. I trusted my feelings instead of the facts. Guess which one was right? The facts. I ended up having a crappy Christmas again because I just felt really blah. That could have been prevented if I had trusted the facts (“No, I need to do my light therapy whether I feel like it or not.”).

Why real data helps

Data helps in achieving goals because we have real information about how we’re doing. It helps us to evaluate and adapt based on how we’re actually doing. Am I eating veggies every day? More or less. I have that info tracked in LiftApp. As I begin to track it, I become more aware of it as we talked about in my post on Keystone Habits. Now I can say, “I’ve flossed once a week for the past four weeks” because I’m tracking that behaviour on LiftApp. If I scour my memory for those occasions I can remember one or two. If I rely on my memory, I wont have the full picture of what is really happening. 

Take the info, adapt

After you have a bunch of data about the habits or goals that you’re trying to track, take some time to consider what it says. Are you having a hard time getting out of bed on Mondays and so you never manage to go for a run or write or do whatever it is your goal is to do that morning? You maybe haven’t noticed this pattern before, but you see it in the data. I never wake up on time on Mondays. OK, so what are you going to do to make sure you do get up? Maybe you need to go out and buy a coffee maker that will automatically turn on. Monday morning you’ll smell that coffee when you wake up and all you need to do is stumble out of bed and get it.

How to track?

There are several ways you can track your habits and goals. In your personal agenda, on your calendar, in a small notebook like a small Moleskine or FieldNotes that you carry with you. Maybe just a note on your smartphone, or perhaps in Evernote, or LiftApp. Think about what it is you want to know more about and think of a way that will be simple enough that it wont be a bother to input the information every day.


Ok guys, I know this is a really nerdy post. I want to know what your immediate reaction is: ‘I’ll never do this’ or ‘I don’t see why it will help me’ or ‘I’m skeptical, but I’ll give it a whirl.’ Go ahead and leave a comment here

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