Friday, January 24, 2014

Time to Throw Away the Crutch

I've praised the My Fitness Pal app, and indeed it and apps like it are great ways to start eating proper quantities of food, whether you want to lose weight or just even maintain your current weight. For those of you who have tried Weight Watchers and are familiar with the points system, it's not entirely unlike that, except here you're basing your plan on calories and not a slightly more complicated formula.

There are other cool features of the app that you might miss. Not only does it record the amount of calories you consume, it will give you a fuller nutritional breakdown of what you have consumed each day. If you're going for a 50/30/20 breakdown of calories based on carbs/fat/protein, you can pull up a graph showing you how close you are to achieving that nifty little breakdown. There's also a barcode feature, so if you're eating or drinking something that's got a barcode on the packaging, you don't have to guess how many calories you're consuming. And if you're not entirely sure how many calories you're consuming, the search feature will provide you a number of choices, and it's up to you to make a reasonable estimate. I would suggest making an accurate guess as possible. I certainly tended to overestimate, if anything, though you don't want too guess too high because then you're depriving yourself of too many calories at the end of the day.

The app also allows you to punch in your exercise calories. The calorie estimate is based on the duration and exertion of your exercise, as well as your weight. For instance, if I run 6 miles at a 10-minute mile pace, I will have burned approximately 1,100 calories. The same distance at a 9-minute mile pace will be more calories, etc.

The point of all this is to calculate your net calorie expenditure for the day. As I'm sure you've all heard by now at some point in your life, if you consume 3,500 fewer calories than you burn you will lose a pound, and if you consumer 3,500 more calories than you burn you will gain a pound. So, since I established a goal to lose 2 pounds per week, then means I have to run a deficit of 1,000 calories each day.

That sounds more daunting than it really is. A very rough estimate of how many calories you burn each day is to multiply your body weight by between 10 and 15, depending on your activity level. That is a very simplistic formula, and there are other, more accurate ways to measure how many calories you burn per day. But, as a very rough estimate, I burn over 3,000 calories per day, leaving me with the ability to eat 2,000 calories per day and still lose weight, and that's without factoring in exercise. If I have a particularly long run I can then go and eat about 3,000 calories worth of food, if not a little more, and still be on target as far as net calories burned. This is where being a larger man is a definite benefit.

Whatever the exact formula, you want to have at least some idea of your net calorie expenditure. So I do encourage using an app like My Fitness Pal or Calorie Counter.

That said, this was a big week for me as I stopped using my calorie counting app. I've been using it for nearly three months and it helped me shed over 20 pounds. But I'm of the mind that I cannot be entering every single thing I eat into an app for the rest of my life. It's kind of neat to be barcoding a beer to measure the calories consumed, but it gets old. At some point you have to learn to just listen to your body. If you've used the app or if you've been on Weight Watchers long enough, you should have a pretty good idea whether or not you've been eating too much without the app telling you exactly how much you've consumed.

It's like taking off the training wheels. You've learned to control your eating and should be in some kind of rhythm. For me anyway it was time to take off the training wheels. I've done so and I've actually lost more weight this week than I have in over a month, though it will take a few weeks to see how this really shakes out.

Now I am not ditching the app totally. I still will use it to track my weight and my measurements (another cool feature, and I should stress the importance of tracking measurements, which might be more telling than your weight). And if I see my weight starting to stall or even tick up a bit, it might make sense to get back in the habit again. But for now I'm gonna try and just get in tune with what my body is telling me and to keep making sensible dietary choices. That seems like a much healthier long-term plan.

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree more with how nice the MyFitnessPal app can be, but also that moving past it is important. I had logged my food for over a year (it was a requirement for boot camp) and I used to get excited seeing my consecutive days logged count go up in to the high hundreds (I used to log food a couple of days ahead at a time and sometimes on weekends I forgot to check it, zeroing my count).

    I am now trying to stay off of the food logging, but like you I might return if I see that my choice freedom isn't getting me where I want to go.

    Great post!