How I Tracked and Maintained my Weight Using LoseIt

Now that you’re Constantly And Never-endingly Improving (CANI) your life, and determining how quickly you need to walk (or run) to catch your trains, we can get down to business. You are following along with everything so far, right?


Now, wanna hear something ironic?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume your answer is yes…

I have weighed 138 lbs for the past several years, and the last thing I want to do is lose weight. If anything, I could use to gain a few pounds. I know I know, cry me a frickin’ river. I have a freakishly fast metabolism and know many people who would gladly exchange a kidney for what I’ve been given as a default.

I will have you know though, that it’s not all peaches and cream. I’m hungry more often than not, and spend more money on food than anything else. Yeah, wild times.

But back to my ironic observation…

I began recording my diet on 6/11/12 not to lose weight, but to track my diet to later use in my Excel classes. Being the diligent little self tracker that I am, I haven’t missed a day since (win!). I’ve also used this data as examples in my live Excel classes, and will soon be incorporating it into my online Excel classes.

The service that I use, called LoseIt, is relatively easy to learn. All it takes is a bit of diligence, and once again, not surprisingly, beginning a new habit. By the way, if you haven’t read Charles Duhigg’s Power of Habit yet, please do so now.

Here’s how LoseIt works

First I created a free account and downloaded their app to my iPhone (also Android compatible).

Then I set a daily reminder in the evening to record everything I ate that day. I use the Appigo ToDo app which I have been using for years, and absolutely adore. However, if fancy task management systems don’t put that extra bounce in your step, you could just as easily write a note on a piece of paper and put it on your pillow after you wake up in the morning. That way, you’ll have no choice but to see it before you go to sleep. Pretty nifty right? I’m pretty sure I got that idea from Bassam Tarazi. Check him out by the way, he’s awesome.

In any event, what I like about hacks like these, is that it frees up your mind to not have to try and remember anything. Ari Meisel talks about this in his efficiency framework called Leverage. You can focus on more important, creative, and interesting things like how to respond to that cute girl’s text message from last night. Speaking of which….

Here are a couple things to keep in mind

At first it will be annoying to enter new foods into your account, but after about a week or two (and depending on how predictable your eating habits are) you’ll be able to add entire meals to your log to save oodles of time. Even if you make slight variations in your meals you can quickly and easily change items and/or quantities after you initially add them. Sa-weet!

Another potential barrier to getting started, is feeling like you have to record everything to the nearest 1/8 of an ounce. This is a common trap, and one that I used to fall into all the time.

Thanks to Ramit Sethi and his philosophy of just focusing on getting 85% of the work done, which he calls The 85% Solution, and then worrying about the last 15% later, I have tamed that beast of an issue.

The real question is, would you rather have 85% of the work done, or 0%? I’ll take 85% any day. Sometimes I go back and close the gap to bring myself to 100%, but most of the time I discover that 85% is good enough. Thanks Ramit!

Next, set up your LoseIt account so that you receive weekly emails with a CSV file of your previous week’s activity. Here is a step by step breakdown:

  1. Login to your account (duh).
  2. Go to “Settings” on the top navigation bar.
  3. Choose the “Email Reports” option towards the bottom of the list on the left.
  4. Create “New Report.”
  5. Be sure to choose the “Weekly” option and check the box ON for “Include Spreadsheet Attachment.”

You can also manually download your weekly reports each week by going straight to “Reports” on the top navigation bar and choosing the “Export to Spreadsheet” option.

Be sure to download my FREE LoseIt Diet Log Template and follow along.

LoseIt Diet Log Thumbnail

Note: Only compatible with Excel 2007, 2010, or 2013 FOR PC. Excel for Mac will give you an error message, and a lot of grief. If you have a Mac, like I do, I recommend installing a virtual PC using VMWare Fusion.

Admittedly, this isn’t the most automated system I’ve ever created. It is however, one of the simplest.

When you get a new weekly report, open the CSV file, and then copy and paste special the values only into the worksheet “LoseIt Diet Log – Master”. Refresh the workbook and voila! You’re good to go.

I’ll be going over exactly how this tool works in my course, but for those of you who can figure stuff out in Excel pretty well on your own, just explore it a bit. If you have questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll be sure to help you get unstuck, or at least point you in the right direction.

As you’ll notice, I haven’t done a whole lot to analyze my diet yet. I’m no nutritionist, but I can already see a daily breakdown of my caloric intake based on the meal. I can also see the trends based on days of the week, as well as fluctuations over time.

So what’s this all for?

Again, I haven’t done much with the data yet, but I’m open to suggestions.

One thing that did change my behavior slightly though. I have my LoseIt account linked up to my Withings WiFi scale (more on that in a later post). What was really cool is that my daily calorie budget automatically adjusted to a lower number in order to maintain my weight of 138. I didn’t even realize it was doing this at first, but it was pretty cool.

It’s a self-correcting system that keeps me at the weight I want. I can go about my day, see how many calories I have left to consume, and make better eating decisions to make sure I don’t go over my daily budget).

P.S. If you’re on LoseIt feel free to add me as a friend. It’s been a solitary thing for me, and I wouldn’t mind the company :).

Subways Have Schedules?!?

Have you ever left your home in a hurry, only to arrive at the train station and discover that your train doesn’t get there for another 8 minutes?

I don’t know about you, but this was one of life’s little nuisances I was hoping to do without, thank you very much.

Having grown up in Manhattan, I had become accustomed to the idea that subways arrive at random, unpredictable times, and that part of the New York experience involves sitting around and waiting for them. And let’s not forget the added bonus in the summer of getting to sweat profusely as you enter the sauna…I mean station.

Side note: Anyone else feel like taking the stairs down into the subway moves you a few miles closer to the earth’s core?

In any event, I was delighted to discover in June of 2012 that there was actually a SCHEDULE of subway trains. Drinks for everyone!!

But hold on a second… how accurate were these schedules? And more importantly, should I make a run for it, or can I calmly enter the station just as my train is pulling in? (Oh how sweet those little victories are)

But before I break out my victory dance, I would have to record and analyze some subway information, I thought to myself. After a bit of searching, I found an iPhone app called Daily Tracker, now called Lumen Trails. A bit pricy ($10 when I purchased it), but what I liked about it was its customization options.

Long story short, every time I took the subway I would track the following 5 data points (separated by commas of course):

Train, station, direction, scheduled time of arrival, minutes late

An example of an entry would be:
A, 42, uptown, 4:52 pm, 3

Note: If a train was early, I would use a - (minus) for the minutes late.

What I discovered a month or two in, was that trains were never more than 3 minutes early, and they were actually surprisingly accurate. Even more shocking, was that the majority of trains actually arrived on time or not more than 2 minutes late. Believe me, nobody was more impressed than I. Thank you MTA, for mobilizing the city that never sleeps, day in, day out.

So you might be thinking, “Woopty frickin’ do Shir!”

If so, you should probably reconsider whether this blogger-bloggee relationship is right for you. (Hint: it’s not)

On the other hand, for those of you who appreciate the punchline of a nerdy joke (such as these), here was some additional significance in my preliminary findings…

  • If I absolutely had to be somewhere on time, I had to make a run for it and arrive at the train station 3 minutes before the scheduled arrival time, otherwise I might not make the train I needed to catch.
  • Not surprisingly, after about 10 pm the scheduled intervals between trains increased significantly, and the reliability of the schedule decreased sharply. Fortunately, I’m not the party animal that I used to be, and I rarely stay out past 11 pm, especially on weekends.
  • During the year that I taught Excel classes via Skillshare, I discovered that there was an unusually high concentration of trains departing at the time I needed to leave. There was a 5:30 pm, a 5:35 pm, and even a 5:38 pm. This had to do with additional trains going to Far Rockaway and Howard Beach. No complaints from me, since each of those times worked beautifully :D.

A couple other notes

While tracking my subway experience in this way wouldn’t provide a comprehensive map of the entire NYC subway system (tear), it would however provide an extremely relevant and personalized series of insights for me. I would be able to tell with a high degree of accuracy how likely a train would be to arrive on time, given my typical subway routines.

What this kind of tracking did for me, was put me at ease and gave me more information with which to base my decisions. That is after all, what Excel is all about. It’s a tool that helps us make better, more informed decisions. You’ll be hearing this a lot from me, so get used to it :).

Some final thoughts

Interestingly enough, I tried exporting the data into an Excel spreadsheet, but never finished. This is true with a lot of my self tracking. I haven’t gotten around to analyzing it in Excel, but I know that when I do I will have a huge amount of useful information.

Don’t worry, as soon as I create the Excel spreadsheets I will provide them here for you to download, completely gratis. Until then, keep your pants on and feel free to start tracking your own data. Don’t forget to leave a comment if you do!

I’m just kidding, pants are always optional when reading this blog.

Constant And Never-ending Improvement (CANI)

For those of you who don’t know Tony Robbins, stop what you’re doing (yes, that means reading this post) and familiarize yourself with his body of work.

Great, now that that’s taken care of I can share how Tony Robbins helped start a chain reaction of self-tracking in my life.

It began with the power talk series. One of my former salsa students (back when they used to call me “Gringo Salsero”) whom I made a particularly strong connection with recommended that I invest in myself. He specifically recommended an interview that Tony Robbins had with marketing genius Jay Abraham and it has been one of the best investments I have made. Check out the Power Talk series specifically.

In “A Decision to Ensure Success” one of the concepts was that of CANI (Constant and Never-ending Improvement). To systematically and incrementally enhance the main areas of my life, so that when I look back in 6 months, or a year, I can see quantum leaps in my personal and professional growth. Brian Tracy talks about this concept as well, but he calls it the 1000% Formula, which is based on the Law of Incremental Improvement. In any event, the assignment at the end of the disc was to write down 3 things every day: what did I learn, improve, and enjoy?

At the time I was already using the CarbonFin Outliner app for iPhone and iPad. What better way to stay ridiculously organized than to record my daily CANI entries in outline form? Match made in heaven, right? I thought so too.

The day was August 2nd, 2011. Little did I know that I would begin a journey of self tracking that would result in a daily ritual of tracking 9 separate metrics (more to come on those in future posts).

What worked so well about this structure for me, was the fact that it was super simple, and completely NOT intimidating. Just record 3 things each day. I could have written 1-2 sentences for each, and been done in 90 seconds. As you might have guessed however, that’s not how it went down.

Since I live in Washington Heights, I have a rather long subway ride to get home. This has always been a blessing for me, since the subway is one of the most productive work spaces ever. Where’s your most productive space? Never thought about that before? Might want to start that conversation with yourself.

Instead of riding the subway home and being bored to tears, or passing the time with mindless games that do not add any value to my life (no offense Angry Birds, but what have you given me? Really?), I began writing 2-3 paragraphs for each. It was a perfect way to pass the time, and also served as my daily journal.

At first it was a little challenging to come up with something for each of the 3 questions, but I quickly realized that I was ALWAYS learning, improving, and enjoying myself. It was just a matter of identifying them. What’s more, the best part about this process was that I found myself going about my days actively seeking things to learn, improve, and enjoy.

Believe in the law of attraction? Yeah, it was kind of like that. Tony Robbins talks about it too. What you focus on, you become.

In the words of Charles Duhigg, writing down the answers to my 3 CANI questions was the “keystone habit.” The habit that started all my other habits, and made it easier to track other things about myself. I got so good in fact, that I adopted the habit of starting new habits. And if that doesn’t blow your mind…you should watch the movie Inception. Dreams within dreams within dreams…epic.

Once again, thank you Tony Robbins.

Thought I was going to finish this post without giving you a sample of my first CANI log entry?

I’m not that much of a tease 😉



Learned that I need to stay out all day and only return home with just enough time to wind down (maybe) eat, and pretty much go to bed. If I am home early and I’m tired, it doesn’t work out well because it’s too early to go to sleep, but I’m too tired to be productive.
Also learned to take airborne at the first sign of sickness (even if just a scratchy throat)


Improved the way I’m living my life by adopting and incorporating the philosophy of CANI into my daily routine.
Improved the Shir Consulting Process from Karl’s 7 or 11 step strategic process from his work PowerPoints.
Improved the way I delegate tasks at work. I gave Rachel the task of calling Verizon which saved me a lot of time.


Enjoyed hearing my boss say that I’ve done an excellent job and knowing that I am doing a phenomenal job at not only fixing the mistakes and bringing more value to the company, but also COMMUNICATING so amazingly well that he is overjoyed with the amount of value that I bring to him and his company.
Enjoyed starting CANI questions.

New Habits

For several years I’ve put off creating a blog, fearing it would take too much of my time. However, after multiple conversations with internet savant maymay, I am convinced that this is the best use of my time.

According to him, I need to start a never-ending conversation about Excel on the internet that consistently adds value to people’s lives. When someone does a Google search for my name, they should see a wealth of knowledge that is immediately helpful. Right now, they see my 29 videos, and the fact that I teach classes on Skillshare (which is actually no longer the case).

The thing is, I’ve been tinkering with Excel for years, coming up with all kinds of new ways for it to optimize my life. Yet, I haven’t written about any of these ideas. As far as the internet is concerned, they don’t exist.

Fortunately, I don’t have to start from scratch. All I have to do is incorporate a new habit into my life: take my daily Excel discoveries and put them in writing. Share the realizations, breakthroughs, and “Aha Moments” with the rest of the world. Special thanks to Charles Duhigg for writing The Power of Habit and teaching me how to accomplish this.

Luckily for me, there are also many examples of successful bloggers for me to emulate. Most notably, Ramit Sethi from I Will Teach You To Be Rich and Ash Ambirge from The Middle Finger Project. They have both amassed die hard fans over many years. How? By consistently providing free, high quality content. It’s no surprise that when they announce an expensive course or product, people sign up in massive numbers.

What you can expect from this blog:

Growing pains. Let’s be honest for a minute (because until now I’ve been lying through my teeth!) – my first posts are going to suck. Okay, the first couple months will probably suck too, but that’s just how the cookie crumbles. Don’t fret though, I will constantly be learning and improving along the way.

New insights. I will focus primarily on Excel, technology, productivity, life-hacking, and self improvement.

Videos. Lots of videos. There will be step-by-step guides, probably some profanity, and overall some seriously good times.

I’ve got over 20 ideas for posts already in the queue, so I hope you’re as excited as I am.

Now grab a Diet Peach Snapple (because for some reason they are better than the regular flavor, right?), and let’s dive in!