You can estimate how many calories you need per day based on your age, height, gender and activity level using the Harris Benedict equation.   Your calorie needs are the amount of calories you require to maintain your current weight.

If you want to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week,  you need to subtract 500 -1000 calories from your estimated total daily calories.

You can calculate your daily calorie needs, by using the Calorie Calculator provided by the Mayo Clinic.

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Whether you’re the electronic or the paper-and-pen type, keeping a food and exercise diary is a great way to help you lose inches and get in shape.  Studies show that people who track their food and exercise habits, lose more weight and exercise more, than those who don’t log their progress.

To help you get started with your health goals, here are some free Apps that can help you record your habits.  It doesn’t matter so much which one you use, what matters is that you keep track of what you do.


Adidas miCoach: Tracks your workouts and offers training plans to help you reach your workout goals.  Tracks distance, pace, calories and time elapsed among other things.


DailyBurn: Food and exercise log.  Also provides estimated calorie needs, workout plans, challenges and discussion forums.


Daily Mile: Tracks your exercise and let’s you share your results via social media with friends and other athletes.


Fitday: Food and exercise journal.  Also has discussion forums and mood tracker to identify emotional triggers.


Fleetly:  Tracks your workout progress and provides workout options.


RunKeeper: Tracks your runs and let’s you share results with friends.


SparkPeople: Food and Nutrition log, plus recipes, fitness programs and so much more.


Lose It!  Food and exercise log. Let’s you set weight loss goals and provides you with a calorie goal.  Pros: It let’s you scan the barcodes of all foods which provides the calorie and nutrient content of the item.  Con: It subtracts the calories burned from exercise from your calories consumed.  You can also get support by joining forums and  share your progress with friends.



This app is similar to lose it. You can track food and exercise.  What I like about both of them is that it allows you to scan barcodes of food items, eliminating the need to search for foods every time you’re adding a new food. This app also subtracts exercise burned from calories.  I would prefer it was listed separately and just be a bonus.


My Pyramid Tracker: USDA’s food and nutrition log.




This is an ongoing list.  I will continuously update it as I find new great apps.


If you are currently using a free food/exercise apps that you’d like to share, please submit with comment below.



Burke, Lora et al. Self-Monitoring in Weight Loss: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. (111) (2011), pp. 92-102.


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Woman measuring waist sizeThe scale and your BMI only tell part of the story, where you carry your weight is even more critical.  You may have heard about the “Apple” or “Pear” shape.  “Apple” shapes carry their extra weight around the abdomen and “pear” shapes carry it around the hips and thighs.  “Apple” shapes have the disadvantage here.

Extra weight around the waistline results in fat deposits around your internal organs such as your heart, liver and pancreas.  These fat deposits interfere with the normal functioning of these organs and result in heart disease, diabetes, cancer, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, even premature death. Waist circumference is particularly useful for individuals with a BMI of 25-34.

Shockingly, some studies have found that even people who had a normal BMI (>18.5 and <24.9) but had a large waist size were at increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

A healthy waist size for women is <35 inches (88 cm) and for men it’s <40 inches (102 cm).

The Asian American Diabetes Initiative at the Joslin Diabetes Center use these target measurements for Asian Americans:

women ≤31.5 inches (80cm) and for men ≤35.5 inches (90cm)


What is your waist size?


Here is how you measure your waist size:

  • Place a tape measure under your clothes around your stomach, above your hip bone.
  • The tape should be snug around your stomach and parallel to the floor.
  • Exhale and measure.






1. Snijder MB, et al. What aspects of body fat are particularly hazardous and how do we measure them? International Journal of Epidemiology. 2006;35:83.

2. Abdominal obesity and risk of all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality: Sixteen years of follow-up in US women. Circulation. 2008;117:1658.

3. Janssen I, Katzmarzyk PT, Ross R (2004). “Waist circumference and not body mass index explains obesity-related health risk”. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 79 (3): 379–84. doi:10.1185/030079906X159489

4. Joslin Diabetes Center. Asian American Initiative.  Accessed on February 5, 2012.



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What’s Your BMI?

BMI is your Body Mass Index which is calculated using your height and weight.  Your BMI is one method to determine your body fat level and is an indicator of disease risk.

There are limitations to the BMI. In athletes, or those with a muscular build, the BMI can overestimate body fat levels.  For example football players may have high BMI’s but their weight is mainly lean muscle mass not body fat.

On the other hand,  it can also underestimate body fat, such as in the elderly, or those who have lost muscle muss.  These individuals may be of normal weight, have a normal BMI but they may actually be over-fat.

The Asian American Diabetes Initiative at the Joslin Diabetes Center uses lower cutoff points for BMI and waist circumference for Asian Americans.  Asian Americans may weigh less than Caucasians, but they are more likely to develop Type II diabetes than Caucasians. BMI 18.5-23.9 is a healthy range, 24-26.9 is overweight, >27 is obese

Because of its limitations it’s important you use the BMI along with other indicators, such as waist size, % body fat levels, physical inactivity and other risk factors, chronic diseases, and not as a sole indicator of disease risk.

If your BMI is 25 or higher and you are overweight or obese, you are at increased risk for the following:

  • high blood pressure
  • high LDL cholesterol
  • low HDL cholesterol
  • high triglycerides
  • high blood sugar
  • type II diabetes
  • stroke
  • heart disease
  • gallstones
  • sleep apnea and other breathing problems
  • certain cancers, such as endometrial, breast, and colon cancer

You can calculate your BMI with the BMI widget provided by the CDC found on the “tools” page.

BMI Categories:

Underweight <18.5

Normal weight=18.5-24.9


Obesity=30 or greater









U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.  Aim for a Healthy Weight. Accessed June 18, 2011.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Healthy Weight-it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle!  Accessed June 29, 2011.



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