Tracking Diet with Tally Counter

Hi, my name is Pavel. I am a software developer by trade, but curious about many things, not just software.

I always had troubles keeping my weight under control. I tried: calories counting, keto diets, working out, vegetable-only diet, GM diet. I also read about insulin resistance, how bad sugar is (it is!), etc.

But in the end, it is always about calories in and calories out. The problem is – how to train myself to self-regulate food intake, how to see a clear warning when I am trying to calm my own anxieties with foods, or get too excited about new craft ice cream. It felt like I always would eat about 10% – 30% more food than I need to function.

I also noticed that calories counting was the most efficient way to drop off extra weight, but counting calories is a very-very-very daunting task. If you ever used MyFitnesPal or similar tool you know how much time it takes: unlock your phone, find the app, wait till it loads, go through the list of categories, find the right food (if you are lucky), try to measure what you ate/about to eat and adjust numbers, save. Eventually, it became “I will add all these things in the evening,” then I started missing days until I gave up entirely.

Even worse – I would keep track of calories during the day, but that alone would not matter. What matters – how much less/more calories you consume over an extended period combined. For example – if you overeat 400 kcal one day – it will not even register on your floor scales, because about 3500 kcal equals about 1 pound of fat. But eating an average of 400 extra calories daily through two weeks will add 1.5 pounds of weight in the end.

I had a “lightbulb moment” one day after going through another sprint at my day job. (In agile software development practice sprint means a specific period, typically one or two weeks, where developers close out bugs/requests) I was thinking – what if I assigned a particular number of points to each food I eat and try to keep points under certain threshold daily, and, which is more critical, weekly.

Look – I hate to try to find out how much energy food, I am eating, contains. And my eyes/brain always underestimate it – I know that banana is 100 kcal on average, but I treat it as a small apple (about 40 kcal). Dates – I can eat them non stop only to realize that box of these was like 4000 – 5000 kcal, etc.

I wanted an approach where I could trust myself and avoid using apps like MyFitnessPal. So instead I started using a mechanic tally counter:

I would carry it in my pocket all the time, and whenever I was about to eat food, I would estimate how many “points” this food has. To start, I used 100 kcal = 1 point. But eventually, it did not matter. Here is why:

Let’s say that I should have on average about 2200 kcal burning daily. And if I eat 22 points of food daily, and two weeks later I see I gained weight, I lower my point target and keep everything the same.

Yeah, that simple. I learned that my “internal food energy estimator” is off and I am doing it iPhone-esque way – with only one mechanical button to click.

Being a software developer, I also wanted to get some stats (of course!) – I created Google Spreadsheet (I will be happy to share it with you to use on your own) where I track sprints goals, daily points goals, weight, some notes, etc. It also shows a nice graph:


If you are interested – enter your email below, and I will send a link to a template you can use, as well as to my spreadsheet you can use as an example.

I will also send you more interesting bits about using a tally counter to improve your health, so stay tuned.