Monday, January 26, 2009

+27.5 (∆ 0)

Note: Sorry if I'm a little obsessed about weight loss for the time being. Though there are surely other film-related things to write about, none of them is topical right now, and it seems I have a lot to say about weight loss. Don't worry—I'll make it educational whenever possible.

As long as I can remember, my obsession has been mathematical charting. Pie charts, graphs, statistics... I love to chart stuff. Eventually, I've realized that I'm a visually-oriented person who learns best from visual representations of things. When someone rattles off directions, I just know I'm going to get lost, but show me a map and I'll find anything.

The most frustrating aspect of tracking weight is that the changes are so small over the period of time you measure that it's hard to see which way the weight is trending. With so many weight fluctuations over the course of a week, is the weight going up, going down, or staying the same? Over a week, a tiny change might be too small to see, but you might see a clear trend emerge over many weeks, and that might be enough to motivate you to continue your dieting regime despite any of the inevitable and frustrating setbacks along the way.

One of my favorite kinds of charting methods is a candlestick analysis, which has been used to study stock markets for over 200 years. They're called candlesticks because their shape resembles a candlestick. A candlestick displays only four data points —opening price, closing price, high price and low price—but a lot of information can be gleaned from just those four data points. A simple and comprehensive tutorial on candlestick analysis can be found here.

I've often thought it would be informative to apply a candlestick analysis to weight change, but the challenge centers around which time frame you analyze. If you measure your weight 8 times every day, a candlestick chart might be useful in revealing how much your weight fluctuates throughout the day because of drink and food intake, exercise, and other factors. But seriously—who weighs themselves that frequently? Come on, I know I'm obsessive, but I'm not that bad.

However, a candlestick analysis would be more helpful when measuring weeks. To create each candlestick, you'd take the highest and lowest weight for the week and the weight at the beginning and end of the week. After week two, the beginning of a trend would become clear. In a few weeks, I'll have exactly this kind of data, so I'll make a simple chart to illustrate what a candlestick analysis would look like in this case.

Now, if I could only get someone to write an iPhone app to do this...

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