What I learnt from tracking my body fat % every day for 6 months

That’s not me, that’s 50 Cent.

50 Cent likes Vitamin Water. He invested in the company early on and regularly advertises its products.

50 Cent is in good shape, so Vitamin Water must be good for you.

But then… Vitamin Water also contains a remarkable amount of sugar: almost 4 teaspoons per bottle.

So is it healthy (vitamins! water!) or not? And what about other foods? What are the factors that make a real difference to health?

I felt confused by conflicting messages about diet and exercise. So decided to measure it for myself, by tracking my body fat % every day for six months.

Why body fat %?

I figured this would be a good way to capture the effect of both inputs (food/drink) and outputs (exercise). I assume that the body fat % is a net result of those two.

Also, I thought that whatever I saw in the data should be reinforced by visible changes when I looked in the mirror:

Poor guy who went through that before/after photoshoot.

What happened to me?

Headline news: my body fat % went down :)

  • My fat % went down for the first three months, then stabilised
  • Two possible reasons why it stabilised:
    • After three months my daughter was born (less sleep, slightly less healthy eating, slightly less exercise)
    • It took a little while to burn off the excesses of Christmas
  • Fat takes 1-2 days to form in your body (even after a pizza party, the effects would not show up in my body fat % for 24-48 hours)

What did I conclude?

  • You manage what you measure – i.e. the simple act of writing down the numbers influences your choices about what you eat and how often you exercise
  • Tracking this stuff is very easy now (much easier in fact than they way I did it, with a combination of Tanita scales and Evernote – there are devices/apps that record all this automagically)
  • The impacts of bad food/booze and exercise were exactly as I suspected. Bad food/booze = more fat, exercise = less fat (duh!)
  • Pizza is still delicious, no matter what you do…


If you’re interested in self-tracking, jump to the posts on tracking money and running.

For more miscellaneous musings, follow @toddmgreen on Twitter or sign up for emails.

Cheers ~ Todd




My first job was as a Runner at the BBC World Service. Amazing and inspiring – Bush House corridors lined with UN Sec-Gens telling stories about how their lifeline, their connection to the world, was the WS.

I vox-popped members of other services to get an international view on stories for Outlook (which in the late 90s was a live, daily, 1hr magazine show) – and ruined the tapes by saying ‘Hmm’ and ‘Oh, right’ in the background instead of leaving the vox pop recordings clean.

I opened the post for Steve Wright’s show and read about a Ugandan factory worker who was 5 mins late every day because he couldn’t miss the end of the show – and when his boss finally challenged him about it and he confessed the reason, the whole company got free breakfast if they came in early to listen to the show on the canteen tannoy.

This all was an inspiration. But most of the people I worked with then are gone – cut. The craft has gone with them. But for me, still at school yet able to go back 4 summers in a row, it was the start. That was the experience that got me into FremantleMedia (worked on The X Factor, Got Talent, etc), and now I’m in Stockholm working in games, running Candy Crush Saga.

I really doubt this would have happened without that experience at the BBC – it gave me a feeling and a love for how something can be made from nothing and can mean so much to so many people around the world.

From our hands, to their minds.


For more musings on why the BBC World Service is so great (well, maybe – I’ve never actually written about that before), follow @toddmgreen on Twitter and sign up for emails.

Laters ~ Todd

Picnics in the rain

In Oman you can wait 6+ months for rain.

So when it does rain, people jump out of their cars to take photographs, students beg for class to be cancelled, and families picnic under the downpour.

Seems mad to me, living in the UK. In London it rains on 44% of days. Everything is seen differently by different people.

A friend’s dad told him:

Son, not everyone’s going to like you – that’s just how it is. Everyone sees you differently.

I found out last week that my friend had died. So this one’s for him.

Rest in peace mate x


Links: Rain stats, Oman blog and photo.

Initial idea came from From Our Own Correspondent, but I can’t recall which episode.

For more posts, follow @toddmgreen on Twitter or join the mailing list.

Small numbers

This ammonite fossil is 170 million years old.

That’s a hard number to grasp, so let’s put it in context.

It’s just over 2000 years since we switched from BC to AD. For us, 2000 years ago is ancient history.

But 2000 years are nothing to this little fossil. What proportion of his existence do those 2000 years represent?

Not much: he is so old that the entire AD era – starting when the Romans ruled Britain, Augustus was on the throne, and Jesus was born – is only 0.00001% of his time on Earth.


When Arthur Evans excavated the Minoan civilisation at Knossos, he created a competition: a prize for the first man to dig down to the Minoan layer. A strong incentive!

The result: much of the Roman layer was destroyed.

Incentives work… sometimes, a little too well.


Links: Arthur Evans, In Our Time on The Minoan Civilisation.

For more pseudo-historical odds and sods like this, follow @toddmgreen on Twitter or join the mailing list.

Primitive car safety testing

Another story from the Robert McNamara archives.

Before becoming Secretary of State, he worked at Ford on car safety. He described their testing programme in The Fog Of War.

I said, “What about accidents? I hear a lot about accidents.”

“Oh yes, we’ll get you some data on that.” There were about forty odd thousand deaths per year from automobile accidents, and about a million, or a million two injuries.

I said, “Well, what causes it?”

“Well,” he said, “it’s obvious. It’s human error and mechanical failure.”

I said, “Hell, if it’s mechanical failure, we might be involved. Let’s dig into this.” I want to know, if it’s mechanical error, I want to stop it.

“Well”, they said, “There’s really very few statistics available.”

I said, “Dammit, find out what can we learn.”

They said, “Well, the only place we can find that knows anything about it is Cornell Aeronautical Labs.”

[Cornell] said, “The major problem is packaging.” They said, “You buy eggs and you know how eggs come in a carton?”

I said, “No, I don’t buy eggs. I never have — my wife does it.”

Well, they said, “You talk to her and ask her: when she puts that carton down on the drain board when she gets home, do the eggs break?”

And so I asked Marg and she said “No.”

So Cornell said, “They don’t break because they’re packaged properly. Now if we packaged people in cars the same way, we could reduce the breakage.”

We lacked lab facilities, so we dropped the human skulls in different packages down the stairwells of the dormitories at Cornell. Well, that sounds absurd, but that guy was absolutely right. It was packaging which could make the difference.

Testing and iteration by dropping skulls down stairs. Smashing!


More McNamara here (my post on the terrible odds for WWII US pilots). Full interview transcript here (I made a few edits for clarity’s sake). Image by pegasus22 on Etsy.

If you’d like more McNamara-related posts, follow @toddmgreen on Twitter or join the mailing list.

The Strangeness of Silicon Valley

From a conversation between John Naughton and Judy Wajcman:

The technology industry is actually rather small. And dysfunctional. And solves its own problems. But Silicon Valley has convinced us that the problems of a small set of socially-unusual people (who sleep at their desks and have no social life) are actually our own problems too, and that we need products and services that help to solve them.

In case proof of this were needed – here’s Elon Musk (PayPal, SpaceX, and Tesla founder) on relationships:

I would like to allocate more time to dating. I need to find a girlfriend. That’s why I need to carve out just a little more time. I think maybe even another five to ten — how much time does a woman want a week? Maybe 10 hours? That’s kind of the minimum? I don’t know.

Clearly a genius, but a rather strange one. The other side of the Valley.


Links: Naughton/Wajcman, Musk.

For more oddness, follow @toddmgreen on Twitter and join the email newsletter.


The Robots Already Won

You can relax! Our robot overlords already took control.

Three examples of their successful infiltration:

1. Ipswich Town’s PR teambots

Ipswich defender Tyrone Mings paid off all his mum’s debts. Wonderful news! A footballer with a conscience!

An Ipswich spokesman said it was:

A private matter between Tyrone and his mum.


2. Verizon CEObot

Verizon spent $4,400,000,000 (that’s $4.4bn) on buying AOL. Blockbuster deal!

Lowell McAdam, Verizon chairman and CEO, said:

Verizon’s vision is to provide customers with a premium digital experience based on a global multiscreen network platform. This acquisition supports our strategy to provide a cross-screen connection for consumers, creators and advertisers to deliver that premium customer experience.


3. Local councilbots

Water fountain dating back to 1853, adorned by Biblical quote. Historically interesting! And possibly significant!


Game over, see you later. MAYBE.


Links: Mings, Verizon, Water.

For more warnings from the future, follow @toddmgreen on Twitter or join the newsletter.




Now on academia.edu

I have (finally) created a profile on academia.edu.

It’s a site which now has >10m users (by which I think they mean registrations), and which aims to make academic research freely accessible to all.

There you can find my first academic publication (on IP on interactive TV), plus slides from three talks:

  • How Data Can Make You More Creative
  • The Biggest Problem in TV is… Split Attention
  • European Media Management Association conference presentation of the IP in interactive TV paper

If you’re an academic, or interested in reading academic material, hit me up on academia.edu.

Quantified Selves

The Quantified Self blog has recently featured not one, but two of my posts – as part of best-of summaries on money tracking and on running.

How kind! Thanks very much to Ernesto Ramirez for that.

My next QS project is about health. Every day since 1 January, I’ve been tracking my body fat %, plus recording what exercise I’ve done, and noting down any ‘bad’ things I’ve eaten/drunk.

I want to find out:

  1. How much body fat do I have – and what is a healthy amount? I assume 0% would look a bit weird
  2. What effect do exercise, sloth, bad foods, and booze actually have on fat? Is the effect immediate, lagging, or seemingly random (i.e. dependent on other factors that I’m not recording)?
  3. How often do I actually eat/drink ‘bad’ stuff?
  4. Will I manage what I measure, and gradually reduce the % as time goes by?

It’s been two months so far, and patterns are starting to emerge. Full write-up coming either later this year or early next, depending on how long I keep up the measuring.

Stay tuned to find out what I learnt, how you cut down your body fat, and whether I am indeed mad enough to keep track of my own for a full 6-12 months.


~ Todd


To find out what happens, and what you can learn from my experiments in order to manage your body fat %, join the mailing list.

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