Diet Planner Pro User Manual
Your body needs energy to power vital organs and fuel to sustain you during your daily activities. This energy comes from food and is measured in calories. The number of calories our bodies need just to keep vital organs functioning is called the Resting Metabolic Rate or RMR. Our RMR depends on our age, sex, weight and height. By calculating your RMR and comparing it to the calories your eat and those you burn off exercising, it's possible to estimate how much weight you'll lose or gain.
As the name suggests, Diet Planner Pro is a diet or meal planner. By planning your meals in advance you can adjust your diet so you don't eat more than your RMR. By ensuring the calories you eat are not more than your RMR, you'll lose weight. This is because your RMR doesn't include the calories you need for daily activities and exercise. If you like, your RMR is simply the calories your body needs to do nothing!
So, with your RMR as your target, you'll lose weight by eating less or exercising more. For lasting results, combine both in moderation and move to a sustainable and healthy lifestyle change. By setting yourself achievable targets, you'll be far more likely to stick to the regime, unlike crash diets, which can not only be detrimental to your health, but are also to draconian to be sustained for long.
Calculating Your RMR
Diet Planner Pro calculates your RMR automatically. Simple enter your current weight, sex, age and height into the 'Profile' spreadsheet.
Under the RMR calculation, you can adjust how you want to split your target RMR calories between the basic food nutrients. Different diets recommend different proportions of protein carbs and fats. From experience, we've found that diets with around 40% protein, 40% carbohydrates and 20% fat works well, but feel free to follow your own preferred diet.
It's a good exercise to start off by doing a meal plan based on your present eating habits. This should really emphasis your current shortcomings, not only in terms of the total calories you've been consuming, but also how high most present day diets are in fats and carbohydrates. Probably the biggest shock will be how many calories you currently consume over your RMR. Many people labour under the misapprehension that the reason they're overweight is because of a slow metabolism or some form of genetic disorder. In nearly all cases, people are overweight because they eat too much and don't exercise enough; it really is that simple! But don't take my word for it; enter what you currently eating into Diet Planner Pro and start counting those calories!
To get the most from you diet, it's important to work with your body rather than against it. By following the tips in the 'How to Lose Weight' section and in our dieting discussion forum on Google Groups, you'll make the whole dieting experience much easier. There's no need to go hungry; in fact you want to avoid being hungry as this can cause the body to go into starvation mode and stubbornly hold on to any morsel of food it does get!
Add Your Own Foods
The next step is to add the foods you eat. We have intentionally avoided loading Diet Planner Pro with the nutritional data of thousands of different foods. We all have different tastes and each of us probably has a staple diet of just a handful of foods we eat regularly. It's as quick, if not quicker, to add your own favourite foods as it would be to wade through a huge food database covering everyone's preferences.
Most food manufacturers and supermarkets now label foods with their nutritional data. You'll find the total calories and how many grams of protein, carbohydrates and fats they contain. Enter this information into Diet Planner Pro's 'Foods' spreadsheet.
Some foods, like vegetables for example, may not be labelled. You'll find an excellent food database in our 'Dieting Links' section, which not only has the nutritional data for most foods but also the calories burnt off during most forms of exercise and daily activities (you'll see why you need this data later). In the 'Dieting Books' section, you'll also find a handy pocket size book for calorie counting, appropriately called Calorie Counter, published in the UK by Collins.
The 'Food' spreadsheet allows you to add more than just nutritional data. You also have the option of adding price information to help you not only compare the nutritional values of different foods, but compare their prices. Many supermarkets market ranges of healthy, low fat foods and ready meals. You can use Diet Planner Pro to see if the premium prices charged for these foods translate into significant reductions in fat or carbohydrates. You can also use Diet Planner Pro to produce shopping lists based on your daily meal planners, which can be printed out to help organise the weekly grocery shop. If you don't want to use Diet Planner Pro for shopping lists, simple leave this information blank.
Meals & Recipes
Having added your foods, you need to add your meals and recipes. This is where you tell Diet Planner Pro how you intended to use the foods and in what quantities and portion sizes. Once you've defined your meals and recipes for the first time, you can use them over and over again. You can also refine them over time, as you find alternative low calorie ingredients. One of the great beauties of calorie counting on Diet Planner Pro is it's easy to see which foods are creating the greatest calorific impact on your diet. By finding substitutes for theses, you can make a huge difference to your daily calorie intake.
A meal is simply the name of a recipe. You list your meals in the 'Meals' spreadsheet and categorize it to help you find it at a later date. Something as simple as a glass of orange juice could be entered as 'Orange Juice, small glass', with a category 'Beverages'. The meal name should be descriptive to help you remember it in the future, as it will be used to create you daily meal plans.
The 'Meals' spreadsheet is just a convenient place to list your meals so you can remember what you have already defined. As with many of the spreadsheets in Diet Planner Pro, you can sort the list using Excel's 'Sort & Filter' functions.
To sort or filter a column, click the down arrow in the column header and choose from the various options in the dialog box. You can sort and filter multiple columns, but if you choose the filter option, its a good idea to return it to 'Select All' when you've finished, as its easy to forget the column has been filtered when you need to find something again in the future.
The 'Sel' (select) and 'Fav' (favourites) columns are so you can flag meals so you can find them more quickly. As your meals and recipes grow, you might want to flag your favourites with a '1' so you can quickly find them.
Tip: Cells with little red triangles in the corner indicate context sensitive help text. Hover over the triangle and a window will open with help relevant to the spreadsheet you're working on.
The next step is to list the ingredients of each meal in the 'Recipes' spreadsheet. This is probably the most painstaking part of calorie counting, but thankfully, by using Diet Planner Pro it only needs to be done once. It's also the most important part of preparing your meal plans and can reveal lots about your food choices. You don't need to add all your recipes in one go. By just adding the recipes as you need for each weeks meal plan, you'll break the task down into more manageable chunks.
To create your recipes add the meal name in the left hand column and the list the foods used as the ingredients of each recipe. You need to repeat the meal name on each line and both the name of the meal and food needs to be exactly the same as you used in the 'Meals' and 'Foods' spreadsheets. You'll find Excel's 'Copy/Past' function helpful for this.
Once you've added the ingredients, you need to tell Diet Planner Pro the quantities to use and how many portions the meal will serve. For example, if you bake a cake, you'll need to add the quantities for the whole cake, but hopefully you won't eat it all in one go! Your cake recipe will probably provide around 8 slices or portions.
Tip: Reducing your portion size and eating more often is a good way to help you lose weight. Learn more...
The 'Meal Planner' spreadsheet is a calorie counter, summarising the calories in each meal and how many grams of protein, carbohydrates and fat each contains. You can also see what percentage of your daily target each meal represents and play around with different alternatives before planning your meals in the daily meal planners.
To simulate a daily meal plan, add a '1' in the 'Sel' (select) field next to the meal you want to include. Use Excel's 'Sort & Filter' functions to select only meals flagged with '1'. The totals for the day are given at the top of the table in the header rows along with the percentages of your total daily target. Totals in green are under your daily target, while totals in red indicate you have exceeded your targets.
You can do pretty much the same by adding the foods to your daily meal planners. The 'Meal Planner' spreadsheet is just another way of getting a feel for which foods offer healthier options.
Daily Meal Planners
The tabs at the bottom of Excel marked with the days of the week (Mon, Tues, Wed...) are the 'Daily Meal Planners'. It's here where you'll create your meal plans for the week. Simply go to the appropriate spreadsheet and add the meals you plan to eat that day.
If you intend eating a standard portion as defined in the 'Recipes' spreadsheet enter '1' in the 'Portions Per Meal' column. If you're being good and trying to cut your portions down, say to 3/4 of the standard portion, enter '0.75'. On the other hand, if it's a special occasion and you've decided to treat yourself to a bit more than usual, enter '1.25' for example.
As with the 'Meal Planner' spreadsheet, the column header rows automatically calculate the total calories in your plan plus the weights of protein, carbohydrates and fats it contains. You can compare you plan with your targets and rectify it accordingly.
You can plan up to one week in advance in each Excel file. If you want to plan meals further ahead, simple use Excel's 'Save As' function to save a new file for the following week. If you want to keep each weeks history, you could name a file after each week in the year.
The simplest method of using Diet Planner Pro would be to have just the one file and update it daily. Diet Planner Pro lets you store your weight history in the 'Weekly Summary' and 'Profile' spreadsheets, so you don't need to save weekly files unless you want to go back and analyse what you ate each week. You could create your plan for the next week, or even just for the next day. At the end of the week record you 'Weight History' section in the 'Profile' spreadsheet, and start over the following week, replacing last weeks plan with next weeks.
The emphasis of Diet Planner Pro is on planning ahead and setting yourself daily targets. If you stray from your plan, and as more of a theoretical exercise than anything else, you could also update your plans with what you actually ate. However, as the damage has already been done and will be reflected in your weight anyway, it's really not necessary. You know in yourself whether your sticking to your plan and by recording your actual weight daily, you'll have the physical evidence to prove this.
Recording your weight history is your real motivation. Watching the graph fall as the weight drops off is a huge boost to moral, while seeing it plateau or increase should encourage you to try harder. So if you do stray, learn from your mistake, put yesterday behind you and try harder tomorrow. If you make meal plans within your daily RMR targets and keep to them fairly religiously, include a moderate amount of exercise and following the tips in our 'How to Lose Weight' section, you'll be surprised how easily the weight comes off.
In a similar fashion to adding your foods, you need to add your exercises to the 'Exercises' spreadsheet. You'll find an excellent exercise database in our 'Dieting Links' section, which has the calories burnt off during most forms of exercise and daily activities.
Once you've added the basic exercises, sports and activities you perform, you need to tell Diet Planner Pro how often and for how long you perform them in the 'Exercise Plan' spreadsheet.
Apart from the benefits to your general health, you can look at exercising in two ways:
Once you've created your meal plans and added you exercise you can now go to the 'Summary' worksheet to see the overall impact you plan will have on your weight. By combining a healthy balanced diet with a moderate amount of exercise, you'll not only look better but feel better too!
Weekly Summary: 'The Energy Balance Sheet'
The 'Weekly Summary' spreadsheet gives you an overview of your daily energy input in terms of food, and your energy consumption in terms of your RMR and exercise. It's like an 'Energy Balance Sheet'. If the energy input is balanced with consumption, you're weight will stay the same. By inducing a mild energy deficit, you'll gradually lose weight.
Based on the calorie deficit or surplus, Diet Planner Pro will estimate how much weight you'll lose or gain. If you wish, you can then record your actual weight on a daily basis to monitor your progress. If you've stuck to your plan, your projected weight loss or gain should be similar to your actual weight loss or gain. Bear in mind, the projected figures are estimates and like any forecast, they should be used as a guide to help you set realistic objectives.
The 'Energy Input vs Consumption Graph' helps you visualize the 'Energy Balance Sheet' graphically. By keeping the red 'Food Input' line below green the 'RMR + Exercise' line, the blue 'Deficit/Surplus' line will be below zero, giving you the calorie deficit you need to lose weight.
Recording your weight in the 'Profile' spreadsheet will put your whole diet into perspective. You'll see where you've strayed, perhaps during the holidays or Christmas, and you'll be able to take corrective action to get back inline to achieve the target you've set for yourself.
On a personal note, the graph below was the target I set myself in 2006 of 95 kilos (209 pounds). By the 11th of December I had surpassed my original target and set a new one of 90 kilos (198 pounds), which I achieved in February 2007, even with a mild setback over Christmas! That's a weight loss of 16 kilos (35 pounds) in six months; over half a kilo or around 1.5 pounds per week.
With a little self-discipline and a moderate amount of exercise, calorie counting really does work. But don't be tempted to try and lose the weight to quickly, between 1 and 2 pounds per week is healthy; more than that and your body can start destroying muscle instead of burning fat.
You also have the option to use Diet Planner Pro to create shopping lists based on your weekly meal plan. If you prepare your meal plans before your weekly shopping trip you can print out a shopping list for next weeks groceries. Diet Planner Pro calculates the number of packs of each item you need based on your meal plans. You can then enter the actual number you want to buy in case you already have the items in stock or want to increase your stocks further.
Once you've entered the quantity of each item you need to buy, use the Excel 'Sort & Filter' function to filter your list to only show items you're going to buy. In the 'Sort & Filter' dialogue window deselect the box (Blanks) to exclude the unwanted items. You can then print out your shopping list using Excel's print commands.
As scientists learn more about nutrition, appetite and how the body processes food, its becoming easier to lose weight naturally, without having to resort to drugs that suppress appetite or reduce the absorption of fats. By understanding a few basic rules about how your body digests food and learning which foods naturally keep you felling full the longest, you can lose weight by eating a healthy balanced diet without feel hungry. If you combine Diet Planner Pro with the tips below you really cannot fail:
Count calories - eat less food then you burn
Eat smaller quantities six times a day
Increase the protein in your diet to feel full for longer
Reduce carbohydrates in your diet to avoid cravings
Switch to good carbs like brown rice and wholegrain bread
Reduce fats and only eat healthy fats like olive and sunflower oil
Drink plenty of water
Good luck with your diet, and remember that to avoid putting the weight back on you need to make a healthy and sustainable lifestyle change. Avoid fad diets and quick fixes. It has taken a lifetime of overeating to get where you are today, so give yourself some time to get where you'd like to be tomorrow.