May 1, 2005
by Dan Malovany
If you want to know more about health and nutrition, I strongly urge you to go to MyPyramid.gov. The Web site does a terrific job of explaining how dietary supplements work, what type of foods you should eat and how much exercise you should get on a daily basis.
However, if you want “MyPyramid Tracker” to analyze your diet and the amount of exercise you get, be prepared to waste a lot of time. It’s slow, cumbersome and tedious.
But what would you expect from a governmental body named the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion? From a nutritionist’s perspective, MyPyramid may be an imperfect but valuable tool, but from a practical perspective, it just doesn’t work for me.
Let me explain. First, you have to decide to assess your food intake or your physical activity. After typing in your age, gender, height and weight every time you log on, you can start the incredibly frustrating process of searching for every drop of food you ate that day.
If you simply snarfed down a bagel with cream cheese, you need to select the bagel’s type and size, the type of cream cheese and the exact amount used. In all, you choose from a couple dozen options. If you’ve eaten a five-course dinner at a French restaurant, give yourself about 20 minutes to input everything, including that extra pat of butter you ate.
Then you can finally analyze your diet against the 2005 Dietary Guideline Recommendations. Little color-coded smiley, serious and frowning faces tell you if you’ve been naughty, good or nice.
However, did you have wine with that dinner? Sure, MyPyramid Tracker allows you to enter the general type of wine and amount you drank, but the site is not programmed to calculate any “discretionary calories,” which includes alcohol. It’s probably a privacy issue. Go ahead. Drink the whole bottle.
The physical activity tool goes beyond that in terms of weirdness. Click on “Selection Tips,” which offers a more detailed description of the 21 Activity Types listed. Scroll down to No. 5, and you’ll see “sexual activity,” right ahead of “sports.” It “includes hugging, kissing and sexual contact.”
But there’s a catch. If you go back to the first page, where you select Activity Type, “sexual activity” isn’t there. Instead, the Web site replaced it with “inactivity light.” Okay, maybe that’s the way bureaucrats feel about it.
So, I search for “hugging,” “kissing” and “sex” under “inactivity light,” and I get nothing, which is what might happen to some people all the time.
Hmmm, let’s try “first base.” Up comes “forestry, ax chopping, fast,” which is what you probably need if that’s all you’ve got. Entering “second base” results in “skindiving fast” and “skindiving slow,” which probably depends on your age. The site’s not programmed for third base or home runs.
Maybe I’m a dolt, but why is MyPyramid Tracker such a tease? It brings up “sexual activity” under the site map, but it doesn’t deliver the information you need. It doesn’t allow you to track it or calculate how many calories you’ve burned up while engaged in that “activity.”
Oh, I know, it’s a privacy issue. We don’t want the government to know about our secret lives. However, if that’s the case, go ahead and do a search for “sitting.” Go down the long list, and you’ll see “sitting on toilet.” I’m not poopin’ you.
And, if you sat on the porcelain throne for 100 minutes, guess how many calories you burned? None. Zero.
That can’t possibly be right.
Seriously, with any ambitious venture like MyPyramid, there are going to be a couple of glitches. Yes, it can be slow, but for the tech-savvy and the generation of kids being brought up on computers, MyPyramid has enough good information in it to provide the stepping-stones for a healthier lifestyle.
Still, I can’t help wondering. What if I’m reading a magazine while sitting on the … nevermind.