Monday, June 20, 2011

Counting Calories on the Cheap

With the recent commencement of mandatory biking, I thought it would be prudent to finally start tracking calories.  After actually moving your butt, this is always the #2 piece of advice for losing weight/managing your health.

A coworker brought My Fitness Pal to my attention after showing me the app of her iPhone.  It's a free online tool that lets you track calories, exercise, and goals.  It also provides an e-community, if you're into that kind of thing. 
I've always been resistant to counting calories.  As an avid home cook, it's a pain in the arse to calculate calories from scratch.  

But there's no question that even a simple food diary can be a wake-up call.  So when I saw how easy it was to log them online, I thought I'd give it a whirl again.

Here's an example of logging food with My Fitness Pal.  They have an extensive database of brands so I've personally found it easy to use.  On the odd occasion they don't have your food in question, you can simply enter it once and then it's part of their collection.

Best part - you can save meals.  You can take a grouping of ingredients (yogurt, raspberries, and juice) and save it as "Smoothie", putting all that nutritional data in one place that you can return to.

For example, today I save "Refried Bean Burrito" - 1 tortilla shell, 1/4 c refried beans, 1oz colby jack cheese, and 1 T taco sauce.  Instead of having to log 4 items each time, now that whole meal is saved.  (PS - it's very healthy and tasty!  And cheap ...)

Here is an example of tracking your exercise time and calories burned.  Like food, you just enter the type of exercise and the duration - it calculates the calories for you.  I like how it shows where you are sitting with your goals.

Speaking of goals, the program also adds your food and exercise together so you can see if you're hitting your target every day.  You can also log in with weight or different body measures (like waist or bust). 

For me, this tool is enormously helpful.  I can immediately see how well or poorly I'm eating.  As a visual person, this is accessible and quick.  

So far, I've found that my main weaknesses are:
  • Too many calories on non-exercise days (by under 300, but still ...)
  • A tendency to go over on fat (work food days ... I'm looking at you)
  • Under on fiber (if not making a concerted effort)

I used to think I was a "neutral eater" - neither bad like a junk food junkie but not anything to brag about either.

Now, when I see my food choices for the day, I understand that anything but healthy is counterproductive.  There is no such thing as being neutral when it comes to food.  

I am the typical American diet - just not the drive-through/processed foods extreme.

<looks disgusted at self>

With that embarrassing admission out of the way, I have begun to slowly change my habits.  My biggest downfall is fruits and veggies.  I have never eaten enough and as a recovering picky eat, there are still vast foods that I will not touch.

Today went really well though - I had a plum, an apple, 1.5 cups of spinach, and spaghetti sauce that has 2 servings of veggies.  

There's no doubt that eating the recommended amount of fruits/veggies would be a huge benefit to my health.  I just have to work at it, because it's terribly easy to me to skip them altogether.

Side note - take fresh corn, cut it off the cob, saute in a modest amount of butter = super awesome!

Anyways ... :)

So I wrote this post on my own volition - I am not being paid under the table by anyone, lol.  I know there are a million tools out that this same thing - some free, others not.

Question of the Day: What tools have you used and how well do/did you like them?

1 comment:

  1. Jennie, I use an app on my iPod Touch called "Lose It!". It does the same things as "My Fitness Pal" and is also free: it tracks food consumed and calories burned. If you enter you goal weight and your current weight, it calculates your daily calorie allowance to meet your goal and tells you how long it will take to reach it. Because I use it, I know I lost an overall ten pounds last year despite the ups and downs in my weight level.