Sunday, July 10, 2011

Why I Created the Serenity Carb Counter

I created the Serenity Carb Counter for several reasons. First, years of a sedentary lifestyle, hectic schedule, and poor diet caused me to gain a lot of weight. Second, I am always looking for a reason to learn new technologies.

Unfortunately this wasn't the first time I had to lose a bunch of weight. I had dropped sixty pounds using the low-carb or Atkins diet my senior year of high school. It turned out that a few years of college, eating junk food, and living with roommates that kept a keg floating in the bath tub was a recipe for disaster. Engineering degrees are also extremely demanding, especially when you are also working twenty hours a week. I had a lot of "one credit hour" labs that I seemed to spend eight hours a week in. One example was the embedded systems class. It required a special project board with a microcontroller from Freescale on it. It was difficult to work on that from home.

I always had an excuse for why the diet would have to wait, but I finally promised myself I would lose the weight after I graduated from college. Six months after my graduation, I reminded myself of that promise after tipping the scale at 340lbs. I had recently moved to a new team at work which had me traveling about once a month to customer sites. Getting on airplanes was demoralizing. I usually did last minute upgrades to first class if possible (I covered the additional cost), so that I didn't have to be "that guy" you don't want in the middle seat.

I ended up getting an Android smart phone, the HTC Hero, a month before I started the diet. I get a lot of cross-training in many different technologies at work, but we haven't really done any mobile device development. So I got an Android book, read it, and decided to write an application that I could publish to the Android Market.

While dieting I noticed that it was difficult to keep track of my daily intake. I always try to stay in the Atkins "induction phase" where you keep the net carbohydrate count under twenty grams a day. There isn't much room for error, and they add up pretty quickly. After dieting for a few months, you learn what you can and cannot eat, but it is difficult at the beginning. I would also guess sometimes and be wrong. For example, I was at a Sizzler and decided to do the salad bar. I saw some chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and thought they were low-carb even though most legumes are not. I was confused because they are low glycemic complex carbs and not low carb.

I needed a way to quickly track my daily intake, and I needed to be able to look up the net carbohydrate content of a food on the fly. I didn't want to make anymore mistakes at Sizzler or other restaurants. I noticed there were a lot of free applications for calorie counting on the Android Market. Some of them were very cool and included features like UPC scanning. The problem was that I wasn't counting calories, and scanning UPCs takes too much time. I find that I won't consistently use an application, if I cannot accomplish a task quickly. UPC scanning loses the "whoa that's cool" factor after you use it three times, especially if you are only tracking one piece of nutritional information.

This is why I created the Serenity Carb Counter. It only tracks net carbohydrates, and it is quick / simple to use. Once you build up a list of favorites via search or manual entry, tracking your net carb intake is a breeze. I finished the search and daily journal features a long while back, and I used the application before releasing it to the public for a couple months to ensure I completed the goals I set out to accomplish.

I have been on the diet for over a year now, and I am down over 85lbs. It is probably more like a 100 hundred, since I introduced a weight lifting regiment six months ago and started tracking body fat percentage. I am enjoying my more active lifestyle, and I finally feel my age again.

I hope you all have the same or better success with the app. I still have about thirty pounds to drop. I am debating whether or not I should post "before" and "after" photos.

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