If you’re like me, you are generally fit. In the past, I’ve run half marathons and marathons, and I still run 5K and 10K races regularly, but I don’t train nearly as hard as I used to. I work out 6 days per week, 60 minutes of light cardio per day. If I’m really good, I will fit in 1-2 strength workouts per week ( I know, that’s not enough) but usually I just stick to the cardio.
I also have a pretty restrictive diet. I don’t tolerate dairy or gluten too well (they don’t make me deathly ill, just give me cystic acne, red, watery irritated eyes and GI distress—I’ll save that for another post). I also don’t eat meat. My dad is a colon cancer survivor, and because of that and the results from my own colonoscopy I had to have early due to this family risk, I don’t eat any animal products except fish and eggs.
So given all of that, you would think I don’t struggle with my weight, right?
You’d be wrong.
I was complaining to my sister the other day about how my stomach pooch is making my clothes tight and I hate how bloated I have been feeling. I blamed it on water retention, my clothes shrinking in the wash, peri-menopause…maybe loss of muscle mass due to laziness with my strength workouts. She had one question for me.
“What have you been eating?”
I started thinking about it, really thinking about it. Then I got defensive. I don’t even eat cheese, butter and ice cream! Or any processed snacks! I hardly ever eat desserts like cake, pie and cookies. And my diet is mostly vegetarian. How could it be what I’m eating?!?
|My Fitness Pal for iPad|
For those of you who haven’t yet seen this app, it’s a very easy to use way to thoroughly record what you eat, your workouts and your water intake every day. It starts you out at your present weight, asks for your goal weight and your activity level during your average day, then gives you a calorie goal for you to reach your chosen goal weight loss per week.
So let’s say you have your 20th high school reunion in eight weeks, so you want to lose 10 pounds by then. My Fitness Pal will set up your calorie intake vs. your calorie consumption so that you would expect to lose 1.25 pounds per week. What’s more, you can up your total allowed calories by working out and logging it in the app. If I burn 300 calories in an hour of brisk walking, I get to decide whether to eat those calories during that day. I work out almost every day anyway, but it is such a motivator to see those calories in my allotted amount.
The “aha” moment for me came when I started entering all of the foods I ate into the app. Almost every day, I eat a three egg white omelet with leftover veggies and Daiya vegan cheeze. I also eat 1-2 slices of Rudi’s gluten-free millet chia bread with some dairy free margarine. That sounds like a pretty healthy breakfast. But what I discovered was that I often used two servings of Daiya instead of one, when it didn’t really add to the flavor. I was just dumping it on there without taking the time to consider how much the serving size was. And the coconut milk I was using in my coffee had 9 grams of sugar per serving. It totally wasn’t necessary for the flavor.
Wait, you might say. That saved you, what—maybe 80 calories? Big deal. But then I also realized that I was mindlessly snacking throughout the day. I work out of a home office, so the pantry is calling me all day long. I might wander in and grab a handful of dark chocolate, some dry cereal or chips. (Gluten-free people! Anyone else totally hooked on chips?) When my stomach started growling, instead of waiting for the next meal coming in an hour, I would eat a bunch of crackers with peanut butter and jelly, then eat anyway at dinner because I’ve cooked and my family’s there, and well—it’s time to eat.
Even worse, somehow, I’d gotten into the bad habit of thinking I needed something sweet after every meal too. Luna bars, chocolate, hard candy—even coconut milk ice cream. I caught myself wanting sugar even right after breakfast. And if the evening dragged out, I probably would make popcorn or break out a bowl of cereal. Hey! I eat healthy, and I work out almost every day, so why can’t I have cereal?
I was clearly eating way too many calories for what my body needs to run each day. And my workouts were burning maybe the equivalent of a one big snack per day. I also had to admit that sugar was rearing its ugly head throughout my “healthy” eating habits.
My Fitness Pal made me accountable—to myself. All I have to do is enter the foods I eat, and usually they are already in the library. All I have to do is search, adjust the serving size or number of servings to reflect what I ate, and add. I absolutely love the bar code feature too—just train your iPad’s camera on the bar code of the food you want to enter, and add. It’s simple and easy. And here is the absolute key to my success: I am not willing to plug in that crap I was eating before and see it on the My Fitness Pal screen. I like to compete with myself and win every time. So I am more willing to tolerate some hunger pangs to see that I have plenty of calories left over at the end of each day.
So far it's going great! After only four days, I am losing that uncomfortable, snug fit on some of my clothing. I plan to update after four weeks, so I will be back to let you know how it turned out!
You might say, “That’s so annoying! I don’t want to enter everything I eat it some app.” To that, I would answer that it’s much easier than buying special foods or making meal plans for a diet. And it gets you closer right away to changing your lifestyle, which is what we all need to be healthier and maintain weight loss.
Another objection is that you don’t want to share all of that information. The simple solution is that My Fitness Pal lets you make the choice whether to link up with others through their app or through social media, or be stealthy and surprise your friends with your great results later. If you are that person who likes to commiserate with others and it helps you stay on track, then by all means reach out. I didn’t choose to share through Twitter or Facebook, but I did recruit one other lucky soul to join me.
As we hopped on the treadmills at the Y yesterday, my sister started complaining about swimsuit season. I just had one question for her.
“What have you been eating?”