And That’s Fun For You?

Most of my database creations begin with a single thought, “I wonder…”  For instance, I wonder how many movies I’ve watched in my lifetime.  Yep, I keep track of that, have been for 13 years.  I started it on Excel with just movie titles and my rating of those movies and their genres and ratings.  When I learned Microsoft Access I transferred my table.  I’ve added actors and actresses I care to list, directors, it’s release date, whether or not I own it, and whether my husband has seen it.  (This last one is very useful.  I can see what my highest rated movies are that he hasn’t seen and then have a special viewing with him.)  joseph hasn't seen

Is this a waste of time?  Maybe, but it’s a hobby so I don’t have to defend its practicality.  I can pull up my database by genre and tell you my favorite comedy or drama or whatever.  I even started tracking which movies I saw in the theater, 294 now.  People who know ask me, “What did you rate…” or “How many are you up to now?”  Currently 1564 movies.  movies in the theater

It’s not my largest database though.  Not anymore  My husband began the “I wonder…” statement this time:  “I wonder how many times we’ve had this meal recently.”  He also told me he thought it would be cool to see what things we’ve made and loved, but forgot to make again.   If only there was a way to search your past meals…

Yep, I’ve got a database for that now.

meal database master query

Because MyFitnessPal keeps your food diary history forever, if I’ve logged it I can look it up and I’ve been a very faithful food logger.  The problem is that it’s logging individual foods, so a Pear Cranberry Salad looks like this…


I needed to translate the food items into meals.  It took nearly a week of free time, but I have now logged all of my food history (Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner, a few snacks and desserts) since April 26, 2012.  That’s 3,666 data entries.

I’m still searching for what all I will do with this information.

I use it to see just how many times we’re eating out for meals.  When you look at a whole year at a time it’s alarming.  We went out to eat for lunches and suppers 99 times in 2014, that’s 14% of our meals.  That’s not counting our weekly Saturday morning doughnuts.  I just looked it up… we’re actually doing okay comparatively.  We’re eating out about half as much as the average American.  Phew!

I keep track of whether those meals were eaten while we were on the road traveling.  I also designate any meals we ate with friends, family, or at church, and whether our meals were vegetarian or leftovers.  Here’s my meals that are leftovers and how many times we’ve eaten them as leftovers in the last three years.  (With a database, whatever I categorize I can sort or filter by.)meals database

I thought getting to look at my meals would feel like a pat on the back, thinking I’m so diverse with my cooking, but the truth is that I see a lot of repeats.  My pride was a little wounded after seeing on the screen that I mostly cook the same handful of things again and again.  I’m sure a lot of people do.  Granted, my list will be different than yours.  My most repeatedly cooked meals (not counting when we ate leftovers) in the last 3 years are…

3. Hummus and vegetables (fixed 29 times)

2. Northern Style Curry over rice (also fixed 29 times)

1. Thai Basil Turkey over rice (fixed 35 times)

While I want to get down on myself about cooking these things so many times, I still find them delicious and am very glad that they have pretty good nutrition in them (if you don’t count the sodium from an abundance of fish sauce.)  I think next I’ll add a rating system onto my meals.  If the meals we’re eating the most often are not 8’s or more, then something is off.  What my database is telling me is that, yes, I fix the same things repeatedly, but we’re enjoying what I fix so why should I care?

Our goal with this database was also met.  We have found a few forgotten treasures in the backlogs that we need to make more of like warm Asian cabbage and chicken slaw and Peeking pancakes.  Yum!

It also has some meals we made once and were ultimate failures and were never made again, another success really.  It’s like the graveyard of recipes.  Why do I try cooking lentils?  I really don’t like them, but every so often I try them again.

What about you?  Have you kept track of your meal planning?  What would you do with this kind of information?


Manageable Health: Weight

When you are pregnant and have a normal BMI the doctors tell you to gain between 25 and 35 pounds.  I gained the latter with my first.  Lots of chocolate ice cream, which my doctor told me didn’t cut it for my daily calcium intake.  Sad.

March 2011
March 2011 – 3 months post baby #1

Post children, I am put on a medication with some awful side effects, one of which was weight gain.  So much for losing baby weight.  I was on it for 6 months after my first.  I felt like the blueberry girl in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.  I’m a terrible dieter.  I’ve only tried a few, but as soon as I’m not allowed to have something I crave it.  So… I began counting calories.

Mad props to people who have counted calories before the invention of the smart phone.  You should be able to count the research and writing as exercise.  I’ll stick with app counting.  I’ve been using MyFitnessPal for 3 years now.  I had used a different calorie counting app for a few months… I think it was called EveryDay Food.  Anyway, I switched because MyFitnessPal had a larger food database, making my entries more accurate and it has a fun feature that tells you at the end of the day, “if everyday were like today you would weigh ____ in 5 weeks.”  It’s like a scale fortune cookie.

Managing weight has become fun to me.  I’m naturally detail oriented; my favorite thing about counting calories with an app is that I can keep track of things like my calcium intake (gotta love Osteoporosis running in your family) and my vitamin A and C and Iron as well as my cholesterol (had to watch that one closely, thank you again heredity) and sodium.  IMG_1337

I consider counting calories like budgeting your money.  There isn’t a food I can’t have if I make room for it.  Pizza’s tricky, but I can do it.  My language has even become financial when it comes to my food choices.  I now say, “I can’t afford to eat that today.”  If you plan your meals ahead you can even enter them early (pre-populate your food diary) and then I can see how big of a breakfast I can have.  Or I can look on my nutrition for the day and fill in the gaps… not enough vitamin A – eat a carrot.

This was especially helpful when I was pregnant the second time.  I actually gained the 25 pounds only and I did it gradually.  My o.b. nurse was impressed.  I also did it healthier.  I’ve heard that your body craves nutrients, so until you feed it right it remains hungry.  I ate to gain while tracking my total nutrition and nearly eliminated cravings.

IMG_1338[1]If you’re a social person or a competitor, MyFitnessPal is for you.  It has a newsfeed with your friends for you to encourage one another and it keeps tally of your logging in streak.  Today I have logged in for 361 days in a row and have lost in that year 17.4 lbs.  Total loss since I’ve been counting calories, 34 lbs.  That’s more than 20% of my body weight at the time.

You can also use the app to log your calories out by exercising.  I don’t exercise.  I should and I plan to, but I really like to read books with my little bit of free time.  I think I’d get carsick if I read while working out.  (Yes, that would help lose weight, but I doubt a doctor would bless that plan.)  I’m less than two pounds from my ideal goal weight, and then I’ll add some exercise to build strength as I increase my calories to maintain my healthy weight.

March 2011
March 2011
May 2015
May 2015