Last June, I made a couple of changes in how I eat–I started counting calories. Actually, it was more of a change in how I approach meals. That month, I visited my younger brother who lives in New England. I hadn’t seen him for a couple of years.
He had lost 40 lb. Of course, I asked him how he did it. He told me about an app he downloaded to his phone called MyFitnessPal. He was using it to make better choices on the number of calories he ate.
Two years earlier, I lost about 20 lb in time for my son’s wedding. Back then I lost the weight through exercise…walking at a very brisk pace. In the process, I hurt the muscles in my leg and I couldn’t keep it up. So I gained my weight back and then some. After the muscles healed I returned to walking a little more sensibly. But I wasn’t losing any weight.
A New View on Counting Calories
So…I downloaded the app. Entered my profile of age, current weight. And set my goal for the rate of weight loss I was after (lose 1.5 lb/per week). Now, I never was a fan of counting calories, particularly when I was younger and could lose weight easily. “Who wants to look up or calculate all this before they eat?”, I thought.
My brother showed me the app actually did this for me. It shows the calories by portion size. It has a large database of foods and their associated calories with options from homemade to restaurant chain food items.
You simply start typing in the search and up comes the choices you can match with your meal item. If you can’t find it in the list, you can scan the bar code on the product packaging and the app will add it for you. This made the idea of calorie counting a no-brainer for me.
Conscious Calorie Decisions Before Eating
What I didn’t appreciate was what counting calories did for me. I always thought calorie counting was simply to keep me from eating too much. So I thought portion control was easier and that’s what I went with.
But I learned counting calories was more about me deciding how I should spend my daily calories.
Let me say that again…it was about me making a conscious decision, before I ate something, whether to spend my calories on the particular food in front of me or not.
Since MyFitnessPal allows me to increase or decrease the portion size and adjusts the calories accordingly, I didn’t have to stop eating the foods I ate.
Maybe that isn’t an “ah-ha” moment for you. But it was a paradigm shift for me. It goes like this: Do I want to spend 280 calories on those two slices of bread for my sandwich? I found a brand that had fewer calories per slice. Do I want to spend 360 calories on rice with my meal or eat the baked potato for about 1/3 less calories?
And on and on. I just found that I was more attuned to how I had been overspending my daily caloric requirement.
Burned Calories as Exercise Motivation
An even bigger finding was just how important exercise in burning calories. Clearly I knew I should exercise. And in fact I was walking three miles each day. But once I added the exercise in MyFitnessPal app, I could see the number of calories I just earned back! It even syncs with my iPhone and Apple Watch.
Being able to see how many calories the exercise gave me has been a big motivator to continue to exercise…And in a weak moment, even deciding to have the sandwich anyway, as long as I commit to ride my bike instead of doing a walk. I burn more calories on my bike.
I lost 40 lbs in six months!
I’m very near my goal weight now. I attribute it to my use of the MyFitnessPal app. It has helped me make calorie and exercise decisions very simply. The paid version allows you to track other things, but I’m using the free version.
I’ve told many people about the app. People who’ve not seen me for sometime and strangers too, when conversations turned to food and weight-loss. In most cases they tell me, “oh, I have that app…maybe I’ll try it again”.
So go ahead and “try it again”. Download the app yourself. It’s available on smartphones in the for iOS and Android devices.