So now what? A big part of my weight loss was just setting my mind to it. But after fully committing myself to it, & understanding that the change was not going to happen overnight, and that I was in it for the long haul, then there was the how….
I knew how it *wasn’t*….no magic pills, no vogue diets, no fad devices, no shortcuts.
I was going to do the old fashioned plan of eat better, exercise more. But I needed accountability…something just to help me stay on track. I decided that food journaling might be a good method, and that was where I decided to start…writing down everything I ate, just to build awareness of what I was putting in my body and being able to look back at an entire day and see if I could start identifying bad habits I needed to break.
BUT, knowing my own busy schedule, it had to be “easy” and always with me. The one thing I always had on me was my phone. So, I thought I could use “notes” to record what i ate each day. Then I thought “wait a minute, there’s GOT to be an app for this!!!” So I searched in the app store for “Food Journal” and I found the App, My Fitness Pal (also available as a simple website for those without smartphones).
I LOVE THIS APP.
The initial setup asks you questions like how much do you weigh, what’s your goal weigh, how tall are you, how old are you, how much do you want to lose per week (with a maximum planned loss of 2#/week, which is the most you should try to lose per week to do it in a healthy way), what is your regular daily level of activity, how often do you plan to exercise and for how long, and then it calculates all of that into a recommended number of calories per day to achieve your goal.
The app can use my phone’s camera as a barcode scanner, so when I eat a packaged food of any kind, I can simply scan it, and the app will search its MASSIVE database of foods, find what I scanned, and add it to my daily journal. (There’s also a nice search feature for non-barcoded foods, which also includes quite a few common restaurants dishes as well as common preparations of foods that other users have uploaded.) And this app doesn’t just track calories, it tracks fat, cholesterol, sodium, potassium, carbs, fiber, sugar, protein, Vitamins A, & C, Calcium & Iron. Not only that, it will adjust the recommended levels based on your number of calories, so that your ratios are balanced. At the end of the day, I can look at my overall stats and see how I did. The app will display my total intake for each category, my goal for the day (which is based on my total number of calories per day) and what I have remaining, and I can look at that at any point in the day and evaluate and adjust as necessary. Once you start tracking your food, it’s amazing what you realize. I remember being STUNNED at how high in sodium and sugar my diet was, and I think this is pretty common, because we don’t pay enough attention to what we put into our bodies. 2500mg of sodium per day. That’s all you should have, no matter how much you weigh, or how much you exercise (unless you are exercising EXCESSIVELY in the heat and sweating out salt….then you might need to make up some of that, but this is in extreme training situations and not applicable for most people). However, when you start looking at what you eat for dinner and find that between your main dish and a couple of sides you have about 1800 mg of sodium (pretty common), and THEN you reach for the table salt, and you’re not even counting your breakfast and lunch….and then there’s sugar. I was shocked to find out that even a light yogurt contains about 16 g of sugars. Based on the number of calories I consume, I should keep my sugars at around 25g per day (before exercise). If I have a yogurt for breakfast, I only have NINE grams of sugar left of the day! But I digress.Another nifty chart in the app is the pie chart. It calculates where your calories are coming from and shows you in percentages. A healthy ratio is generally around 55% carbs, 20% from fats, and 15% from protein.
“What about carbs?” You might ask. I wouldn’t have the energy to work out the way i do without carbs. Remember, my goal was not only to lose weight, but also get fit and healthy. Which means exercise too (more on that to come), and in order to exercise, you need to have something to give you energy. Like a fire, you need fuel to burn….burn off the fat, and that fuel comes from Carbohydrates. It really bothers me that carbs have gotten a bad rep, and get blamed for people being overweight, and this whole business of cut carbs entirely out of your diet? It strikes me as unbalanced, and in my philosophy, unbalanced = unhealthy. Eat carbs, don’t abuse them…..like anything in your life…moderation.
Another really great feature is the ability to create your own recipes. You enter the ingredients, & the number of servings, and the app will calculate the calories and other nutrients per serving. Then it stores those recipes for future selection too.
If you don’t have a smart phone, you can do all of this on the website . The app or website also tracks your exercise (and you earn back calories for your efforts!). You can also save specific foods or meals for quick reference/adding, and you can have friends within the app to help keep you on track. David and I did it together, and I found a few other friends along the way – some were friends I had first who then began using the app, some were friends I made as a result of the app.
The important thing to remember is that the app won’t do the work for you, it just helps you make the right choices. It gives you the tools you need to be successful. Oh and the best thing about it? It’s a free app. yes, that’s right, FREE!!!! Gotta love that!
Stay tuned for my next tip coming soon, and as a bonus for making it ALL the way through this LONG post, here’s perhaps my most embarrassing picture. Pretty sure this was me at my heaviest.