Often times we vow to lose weight or change our eating habits to enforce a healthier life. How many times do we actually follow through? It is one thing to propose a fresh start; it’s another thing to act on that proposition.
I’ve been on a quest to be beach body ready for the summer (my plan is called “bringin’ sexy back to the Cape”). Exercising has never been my problem area; I’m a faithful, five day runner…minimum. I’m strong and active, but food has always been the mastermind behind the plan to derail my weight loss. I’ve learned that if weight loss is my goal, I must count calories as awful as it may be. Cutting back on sweets or carbs alone doesn’t provide enough support or motivation for me to keep tabs on my food intake. I always find a substitution for whatever it is I’m giving up. I love food, even good food, but too much of anything can be disastrous for the waistline. Counting calories shows me just how much I consume on a daily basis. It reinforces both the empty calories of a cupcake and the hunger diminishing benefits of a banana with almond butter.
When I need to count calories, I turn to technology as an aid. My Fitness Pal, a free app available on iPhone and Android platforms, holds all nutritional information for my meals as well as enables me to log daily workouts.
Before starting, I enter some pertinent personal information like current weight and goal weight into the app and it configures my estimated daily calorie intake. My daily Net Calories should equal 1200 to drop 2 pounds a week.
There’s a term you need to understand- Net Calories.
Net Calories = Total Food Calories – Calories burned by Cardio
941 = 1491 calories eaten – 550 calories burned (I have 259 calories remaining until I reach my daily 1200 calorie consumption)
Yes, I’ve gone over my daily 1200 intake goal; however, I’ve burned 550 calories. You’re probably thinking that I shouldn’t have eaten as much as I did. You’re wrong. Consuming too few calories over an extended period of time can actually slow your metabolism and send your body into starvation mode. Once this happens, you’re at risk of actually gaining more weight back when returning to a normal diet because your metabolism isn’t as fast as it once was. I know from experience. Twice I’ve had my mouth wired shut after surgeries and was only able to eat one, ground up meal a day. I lost a lot of weight but gained double once I started to eat normally again.
You can reach your 1200 daily calories any which way you want; however, you will feel more satiated after eating 1200 calories of vegetables, fruits, and proteins than sugar and fats. Your body also will change depending on which foods you eat. You’re more likely to rid your stomach of excess fat by eating those veggies, fruits, and protein instead of the sugars and fats. One step closer to showing your six pack abs!
The My Fitness Pal app conveniently enables you to search for specific food brands, scan barcodes, or enter your own meals. You can even add quick calories if desired. You may order a burrito bowl at Chipotle and find that the calories listed on My Fitness Pal seem too high. If you go to the Chipotle website, you can actually design your specific meal so that the calories are more accurate and then input these calories into My Fitness Pal either as a meal you might eat again, or simply the calories. This may all seem like more work than necessary but eventually it becomes a game to see how much you can eat without going over your net calories.
Once you’ve reached your goal, you can definitely continue to use My Fitness Pal to help maintain your weight. Your daily calories will rise but it’s still helpful to keep tabs on your diet. You don’t want all of your hard work to be eliminated because you stopped monitoring your food intake.
I recommend My Fitness Pal, but there are other comparable apps available like Lose It. Whichever you choose, these apps open up your eyes to just how many calories you eat in a day. If weight loss is your goal, you could be stunting your success by not knowing your caloric intake. We usually underestimate the amount we eat and all of those extra calories add up to extra pounds. Restaurant meals, even the healthy ones, tend to have more calories than we expect. If possible, do your research before dining out to find out the appropriate calories for your meal. Planning ahead is never a bad idea. Don’t forget to add that tablespoon of maple syrup you added to your oatmeal or that Twizzler you ate in secret. Those have calories too!