weight loss apps

How Do You Track?

Being accountable, even only to yourself, is how you stay on the path to weight loss and successful maintenance. It’s a very different beast to kind of “count/guess” in your head and to actually write it down. Seeing it in black and white can often be the shock of reality that is needed. At least, it was for me.

If you need to catch up on some old posts on how to lose weight, here are some links:

Week OneWeek One Check In

Week Two , Week Two Check In

Week Three

Week Four

Week Five

Five Truths of Weight Loss

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. How do I track my food and fitness? Do I track every day? Yes, nearly every day. Every once in awhile I take a few days off from counting, sometimes when I’m on vacation I take a few days off but not too many. It’s been awhile since I’ve taken a break. Sometimes our brain just needs a break!

Tracking Fitness

I see people on Twitter  posing this question often: how do you track your workouts? When I’m in the gym lifting weights, I see a lot of the serious people with a little journal keeping track of what they’re doing. I’m incredibly impressed that they can do this. It lasts about a week for me. I just didn’t want to track which machines I used, how much weight I lifted, etc. (Don’t tell Suzanne!)

I *do* however keep track of mileage for running and biking. I use simple Excel spreadsheets, nothing fancy, and just keep a log there. It helps a lot when I am training for an event. I keep track of my individual mileage as well as my weekly total.

Tracking Food

When I first started counting my calories I wrote it down on paper in a little journal. Not very high-tech. Eventually I got an iPhone and started exploring the apps that are available out there. My favorite is by far the Cronometer because of the in-depth analysis it gives me.

I want to make sure I am doing the right things, eating the things my body NEEDS and kind of assess what I’m eating too much of (um…sugar, carbs…dammit….). The Cronometer gives me good feedback for that.

Eating out at restaurants is one of my weak points and I’m sure you guys struggle with that, too. It’s difficult to go to a restaurant and stay on a plan when you have no idea how many calories are in something. Some of those weight loss apps have restaurant information. Check it out.

The single biggest factor in keeping the weight off is TRACKING. Keeping track of my food has helped me so so much I cannot even stress that enough. It has to be done consistently to work, too. It’s not like tracking food one or two days a week will do the trick. In order for a lifestyle change to be effective and stick, it needs to be a healthy habit!

QUESTION: How do you track everything?

My Fitness Pal Changes

When I first starting counting my calories I used a little journal. It was a spiral notebook, pocket sized, and I wrote down everything I ate or drank. It was rudimentary but it worked. I was accountable to myself. Was it entirely accurate? Probably not. It took awhile for me to realize that those were just estimates.

If it was a food that came out of a box, it was easier to track because it was right there on the box. I’d count out a serving of Wheat Thins and write down the calories. If it didn’t come out of the freezer or a box, I used the internet to look up calories and write them down. I slowly learned that not all calories were equal. Sure an apple is “around 80 calories” but that’s based on weight. If it was a huge apple, I was probably eating more like 120 calories. It was all a learning process.

I’ll be honest–I wasn’t really technological. I resisted getting a cellphone for a long time. Eventually I got a cheapo flip-phone. Then after Michael and I had been dating for about a year or so, he got me an iPhone for Christmas. Score! Fell in love with my phone. And the apps! Who else here is addicted to Words With Friends? {raises hand}

I started using My Fitness Pal to track my calories. I love it. It’s with me at all times, I always know how many calories I’ve eaten for the day, how many calories are left. I track my exercise in the app. I can look up chain restaurants to figure out what to order when we go out. Even with the app it’s often a guessing game. I can get close to what I think the calories are, but I’m sure I’m off sometimes. I’m okay with that. Getting close is better than not trying at all.

Recently MyFitnessPal has made some changes and upgrades that I wanted to share. I’m loving the upgrade! First, there’s a new feature where I can scan a barcode. It’s such a cool feature and my first thought was, “Why haven’t they done this before??” The barcode scanner is touchy. You can see the little “barcode” in the upper right hand corner, under the “Recipes” button:

You click on the barcode scanner and this pops up:

Sometimes it takes a few tries to get it and it doesn’t have everything in there. It’s a work in progress, and you can enter your own products into the app if the barcode is not in there. I scanned a can of tomatoes for the example. Here is what the barcode came up with:

See? Pretty simple! I like this feature because it makes it easy to log in things I use all the time–like condiments for example. Making a taco salad I can scan the barcode for the can of beans, can of black olives, and the sour cream. Easy!

The other upgrade is showing graphs of the nutrients. The one I find interesting is the breakdown of my Fat, Carbs and Protein intake.

When I first noticed the pie charts I was excited for new stats! I’m a nerd that way. Then I started to wonder, is that the norm? What should my percentages be for a “healthy range”? Especially for fats. Seeing that my Fat % was pretty high I wondered if that was too high. Off to Google to find the answer (who needs doctors, right?):

Question: What should be the overall percentage of fat in my diet? What percentage of this should be good fat and bad fat?

Answer: We should aim to get between 25 percent to 35 percent of our calories from fat. Of that, less than seven percent should come from saturated fat. That would be fats from meat and dairy origin. Less than one percent should come from trans fats, and that would be primarily from partially hydrogenated fats and a little bit from animal fat. And then the rest should really come from mono and poly unsaturated fats. And that would come from liquid vegetable oil.”

Excellent! Within the range!

Here is more data:

  • Fat: 20 – 35% of total calories (average 30%)
  • Protein: 10 – 35% (average 15%)
  • Carbohydrates: 45 – 65% (average 55%)

I like that I’m within the range for all categories. It makes feel even more confident about my food choices. If I want to check the full breakdown for the day, I can look at the list of nutrients.

It tells me what my goal for the day should be and what I actually got from the food I ate. I don’t enter the daily multivitamin I take so my vitamins are probably off. I always go over my daily “Allotment” for sugars. Reason: I eat an insane amount of fruit. I asked a nutritionist about that once and asked if I should restrict my fruit intake because of the sugars and she said no. I’m healthy, I’m fit, sugar from fruit is good for me. If I was eating a bunch of candy bars, that would be a different story.

QUESTION: What’s the hardest part of counting calories for you?