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A disclaimer

I’m not a health professional and this isn’t medical advice. Talk to your doctor. Seriously, from a medical standpoint especially, I want to introduce a non-warranty here. Talk to your doctor. Furthermore, dietary methods are highly, highly disputed in the medical world, and I’m not from the medical world.

That said this worked for me, and I think probably will work for you. It isn’t based on anything too drastic, just calorie tracking.

About org-diet specifically

org-diet is a methodology and collection of tools for using orgmode for dieting purposes. It works, and I know it works, because at the time of writing I’ve lost approximately 65 pounds by it, and am still losing weight.

At the base level, there’s almost nothing at all to org-diet. It’s just calorie tracking. That’s it. Just calorie and day to day weight tracking. Everything on top of it is just a bunch of nice tools to make sure you can meet your goals from there.

Like org-mode, org-diet does a great job of scaling both up and down. At the most minimal level, you can simply weigh in every day and graph that and just enter your calorie information every day in tables. Eventually if you want to add graphing, you can use the graphing tools. Eventually if you want to calculate your BMI, you can do that. Want to add habits? Add habits. Whatever. But you could keep it really simple, and for a long time daily weigh-ins and calorie tracking was all I had (I hadn’t written the other tools yet), and it worked good enough for me, good enough to lose the first 35 pounds of my journey in 5 months before our wedding.

At the time of writing I still have a bit to go, but I’ve lost enough weight to go from a BMI that said I was slightly above “morbid obesity” (what a scary phrase) past “obesity” down to simply “overweight”. By my calculations, in a few months I’ll finally hit “normal weight”. If I could do it, you can do it. I promise. (Well, I promise socially. No warranty of course. :]) Everything past this point is just careful planning.


To be fair, much of the approach and reasoning I’ve taken for org-diet is based off of reading The Hacker’s Diet, which is a wonderful book for approaching dieting by taking an engineering approach to it. If you are having problems with your weight, I recommend reading this book; I think it does a great job of taking the whole problem of dieting and making it make sense.

The main thing you need to know about dieting via calorie counting is this: the amount of weight you gain / lose over a period of time is pretty simple math. Here’s how it works.

  • There’s 3500 calories in a pound.
  • Your metabolism is the amount of calories you burn every day not including exercise calories. Just the calories of you living.
  • Exercise will burn a certain amount of calories also.
  • Every day, you eat. The amount of calories you eat add up.
  • Yes, your metabolism is probably affected by the quality of food you’re eating and your regular activity level, but it isn’t affected by that much.

So every day you have calories in (what you eat) and calories out (what you burn through metabolism and exercise). Figuring out the “difference” can tell you whether you’ll lose or gain weight. The equation is pretty simple:

calorie_diff = cals_eaten - daily_metabolism - exercise

You can calculate your metabolism either by taking a best guess; there are a lot of “metabolism calculators” on the web which might figure out your daily calorie burn… it’s probably sufficient to run a number of these and average them and you’ll probably get a pretty decent guess of what your metabolism is (presuming you don’t have some sort of serious genetic offsets). Or you can reverse engineer it by keeping track of your diet for a while, seeing how much you lose / gain relative to the calories you take in for a while and then you’ll know. I did this once, it turned out to be pretty close to what the metabolism calculators online give. Might as well just start with those and adjust later, I guess.

So presumably, if you want to burn a pound a week, the math is pretty simple: 3500 calories in a pound, 3500 / 7 is 500, you need to consume 500 calories less a day than you take in. (Conversely, if you took in 500 more than you burn per day, you’ll gain a pound per week.) It’s that simple. So if your metabolism is roughly 2100 calories per day, you just need to keep yourself at or below 1600 calories per day and you’ll meet your goal if you stick with it.

I used to shoot for 1200 calories a day (but generally hit more like 1400 per day) when I started my diet, and I lost a lot of weight really fast. I’m now shooting for about 1300-1600 calories per day (more on that in the Habits section) and I’m losing weight a little bit slower (5-7 pounds per month instead of about 9) but it’s still going rather well. You can figure out what works for you. You can even just set a goal and see how fast you lose weight, and if it’s not fast enough, you can adjust later.

So one major difference from the way The Hacker’s Diet does things. John Walker, the author of that book, recommends that you don’t bother to track your calories every day and he shows some good techniques to do things without a detailed tracking like this. If that works for you, great; you could even adjust org-diet to take a path closer to his, but personally I find that if I don’t track every calorie obsessively, I completely blow away my diet. YMMV. I suggest you try my way of doing things… if you’re reading this, you’re already an orgmode user, which means you’re used to obsessive tracking anyway. How much harder could it be to add calorie tracking to all the other crazy things you do in org-mode? ;)

Nonetheless, I seriously, seriously recommend reading The Hacker’s Diet if you or someone you know has a problem with your/their weight.

You don’t need to buy into expensive or fads pushed by the diet industry. Screw that. Calorie tracking is basic math, and it works.

PS: don’t take the progress of your first 3 weeks as indication of anything. You might not see much progress, or more likely, you’ll see a TON of progress that won’t keep up.

Enough ranting! Let’s get started.


Simple weigh-in and calorie counting

Here’s what to use for capturing (you can remove CAL-IN if you don’t want to do calorie clocking):

(setq org-remember-templates
        '(("Weigh-in" ?w "* CAL-IN Diet for day %t
| Food / Exercise | Calories | Quantity | Total |
| %?%&                |          |          |       |
| Total           |          |          |       |
#+TBLFM: $4=$2*$3::$LR4=vsum(@2$4..@-I$4)

" "~/org/diet.org" "Daily Logs")))

; Optional, bind org-capture to "C-c o r"... or whatever.
(define-key global-map "\C-cor" 'org-capture)


Calorie clock-out

; Or add to list, whatever
(setq org-todo-keyword-faces
      '(("CAL-CANCEL" . (:foreground "orange" :weight bold))))


BMI & other tools