The Smartphone Diet

The Smartphone Diet

It’s the holiday season, which traditionally means great parties, great food and, of course, great adult frosty beverages. Sadly, it also means a great number of calories – an overabundance of which can cause all kinds of post-holiday anxiety. Is there anything you can do? Of course there is! You can use your smartphone to help you quantify your holiday calories. Here’s how.

After using my smartphone to lose 50 lbs. in about four months, I was encouraged by my friends to explain how I did it. In truth, the formula was simple — eat less and move more. But, as anyone who has ever been on a diet will tell you, “…that’s easier to say than it is to do.”

I did a TEDx Wall Street talk entitled, “A Quantified Journey,” where I described the process.

Here are the simple steps and a few related articles I’ve written. There is much more to come as I’m currently writing a new book with the working title, The Smartphone Diet™. I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Creating A Personal Quantified Self Currency

3,500 calories = 1 lb. Every 3,500 calories you eat that you don’t burn, you gain a pound. Every 3,500 calories you burn that you don’t eat, you lose a pound. While this is not strictly true (for reasons that are not important here) it is a great guideline for setting up a “calories in/calories out” goal.

Each day I try to eat less than 1,500 calories. I try to burn 2,300-3,000. All of this is measured with hardware and apps mentioned below. In all likelihood, these numbers bear no resemblance to what is actually happening — but — since I’m using the same tools each day to measure the same numbers, the playing field is level and I can use the over/under number as a “currency” for my calculations.

The results speak for themselves. I’ve lost over 50 lbs in the first four months and I’m still going strong!


I use the Jawbone UP wristband. There is all kinds of controversy about which personal monitoring band is “best.” Best needs context — best for ____. In our case (yours and mine) “best” means: 1) I can wear it all the time. 2) I can get it wet. 3) It creates a consistent “currency” I can use to manage my calories in/calories out metrics.

UP has a related app you can get at the Apple iTunes App Store or Google Play Store for free. If you have an Android device, check compatibility Moto and HTC units are not all compatible with UP. That said, the new Jawbone UP24 is a Bluetooth device and will work with any smartphone.

Of course, you can also use any one of a dozen wristbands or personal monitors. The most popular is probably Fitbit, but Withings, Fit Bug and Nike Fuel all work just as well.

Next, go get a Withings Digital Scale. I think the WS-30 is fine (the cheaper one). The WS-50 measures more stuff, but the extra stuff it measures is meaningless. Either one is fine. Now, download the associated app for the Withings scale (you won’t use this often, but it’s fun to have).


The MOST IMPORTANT app you will download is MyFitnessPal. It’s free at the Apple iTunes App Store or the Google Play Store, and it’s where you will input the calories you intake. As with every app today, there are many alternatives. Some other popular calorie counters include: Lose It!, Calorie Counter PRO, FatSecret and’s calorie tracker. While I’m a fan of MyFitnessPal, you may prefer another app. I don’t care which one you use… just use it everyday!

When you get your UP and your Withings Scale, you will tap the “APP GALLERY” area of the MyFitnessPal app and let the program know that you have an UP band and a Withings Scale.

Do the same with the UP app: it wants to know that you are using MyFitnessPal and a Withings Scale.


With your scale, wristband and calorie counting app all connected, you only have one number that you will care about each day: calories over/under. I try to burn between 800-1,000 calories more than I eat every day which translates to somewhere between a 1/4 lb. and 1/3 lb. per day. Obviously, due to variables, it can be more or less on any given day and, more importantly, going 1/2 lb. in the wrong direction – even though you’ve done everything right – can and does happen.

I would resist the temptation to average your calories over/under on a weekly basis. Food is fuel, if you don’t use it, you store it, and the way you store it is in your fat cells. So while it may be mathematically correct to look at a weekly total and expect a specific result, in practice, your body does not average its food intake any more than your car averages gasoline usage.

Get Going!

That’s the short version. Now, it’s up to you. Start walking and start eating healthy food in small quantities – the results are magic!

About Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the Professor of Advanced Media in Residence at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and CEO of The Palmer Group, a consulting practice that helps Fortune 500 companies with technology, media and marketing. Named LinkedIn’s “Top Voice in Technology,” he covers tech and business for Good Day New York, is a regular commentator on CNN and writes a popular daily business blog. He's a bestselling author, and the creator of the popular, free online course, Generative AI for Execs. Follow @shellypalmer or visit



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