Dear Data Chain Data - November 2015

In November I participated in Chain Data - a version of Dear Data where participants collect data on a topic over a week and then create a postcard sized visualisation to send to the next person in the chain. If you've not heard of the Dear Data or Dear Data Two project before you should definitely check them out! Chain Data is organised by the fabulous Brittany Fong.

My topic was the food I eat and its ingredients. Here is my finished postcard:

Data Collection:

I collected my data using the MyFitnessPal app. I tend to use this any way to log the foods I eat as part of a larger quantified self project. So for me the data collection part was kind of easy as it wasn't too much of a diversion from my usual routine.

However it's not easy to get data out of MyFitnessPal. I used a third party website to enter in the date range of data I wanted to export, got the meals in a html table which I then copied and pasted in to Excel. I was going to put it straight in to Tableau, but I needed to do some data clean-up first.

In Excel I had some serious work to do! The topic called for the individual ingredients I ate, rather than the whole meals. In MyFitnessPal I enter in meals - so it might say "chicken stir fry" - so I had to split this out manually in to the individual ingredients. I should really have been less lazy in the week and added the ingredients to MyFitnessPal rather than the meals, but I didn't.

Viz Design:

After extrapolating out my data in to individual ingredients I put it straight in to Tableau to start getting some quick ideas about what to visualise on my postcard. When I think about food I eat I always wonder if I have a healthy diet or not. I was surprised to see how unvaried my eating habits are! I tend to have the same foods for breakfast and lunch each day, the most varied meal tends to be my evening meal.

I thought a good mini-theme for my viz might be the question "Do I get my 5 a day?". In the UK the '5 a day' slogan is from a series of government advertising campaigns promoting increase consumption of fruit and vegetables. I decided that my personal goal would be at least 5 a day. So any days where I didn't eat 5 fruits or vegetables would be under target.

I created my visualisation first in Tableau, this was mainly because I was too lazy to go through my data and individually count the number of fruits and vegetables each day (or do some calculations in Excel - because I hate Excel).

However I do kind of regret starting in Tableau now, I wish I'd started with pen and paper and then maybe I would have come up with a more interesting chart type than a bar chart! But I also think the bar chart best represented what I was trying to portray - distance to goal. I'd be interested to see any other suggestions!

Here's my Tableau version of my postcard:



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