The Hacker’s Diet

‘The Hacker’s Diet’ is a diet plan created by the founder of Autodesk, John Walker, outlined in an electronic book of the same name, which attempts to aid the process of weight loss by more precisely modeling how calories consumed and calories expended actually impact weight. Walker notes that much of our fat free mass introduces noise signal when we gain or gain weight. With the help of a graphing tool (Excel is used in the book), he addresses these problems. Factoring in exercise, and through counting calories, one can calculate one ‘s own total energy expenditure (basal metabolic rate, thermic effect of food,

Walker describes the diet as approaching weight loss “as an engineering problem”, claiming that it’s approaching him to reduce weight from 98kg to 66kg in a year, and keep it stable afterwards. Walker considers the problem of weight loss and maintenance as a control system problem. Simplifying the problem to the barest elements, he models the human body as a “rubber bag,” where variables such as food type, frequency, metabolic rates and even exercise as considered negligible. According to Walker, the difference between calorie intake and expenditure is the key (a calorie surplus leads to weight gain, a calorie deficit leads to weight loss). To solve the problem, one needs to monitor calorie intake and weight loss rate, and make the desired proportional adjustments to reach the desired goal.

Walker also introduces the reader to the system and provides feedback to the system. While the diet is a fairly straightforward calorie-counting approach, the data smoothing (exponential moving averages in particular) is considered a key element of the monitoring system. Walker presents techniques for Excel-aided or paper-and-pencil data smoothing to allow the dieter to adjust the diet for themselves by the long-term trend and to not be discouraged by short-term fluctuations based on water retention or other factors. The diet also has a tendency to reduce the risk of illness. As Walker states, “The vast majority of people who lose weight end up,

Walker uses Excel spreadsheets to log weight and produce charts, but provides a list of other software packages that may be used. Walker also provides a free online website and website for his Fourmilab website, and the Eat Watch program, mobile tracking and charting services for the Palm platform.

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