Saturday, January 12, 2013

Using the Lose It! App

When I adopted a gluten free diet/lifestyle/whatever you want to call it three years ago, I lost 10 pounds without trying. It took me a while to figure out what I could actually eat, and in the interim I spent more time hemming and hawing over food labels than actually eating. (Not really, but that's how I felt.) For my height and body type, that weight loss was healthy. I felt great. I thought I'd found my "new normal."

But as I discovered when I made a first-time-in-months trip to the scale over the holidays, I've regained most of that weight. Part of it is possibly due to Zoloft: weight gain is a common side effect of it and many other antidepressants. Part of it is more likely due to the fact that I have more food options now than I used to (including processed foods, thanks to the uptick in gluten free snack production). School has become less stressful in the last few months, meaning that I no longer forget to eat on a regular basis. And I consume quite a bit of rice and rice products. Rice is a calorie-dense food; a little goes a long way. It's also possible that I've gained some muscle mass via the Xtend Barre workouts. That's fine - I'll take that muscle - but given that my jeans have become tighter, too, I'm guessing it's not all muscle.

So I decided to pay closer attention to what I eat - and more importantly, how much I eat - and lose those 10 pounds. To do that, I enlisted the help of a free phone app called Lose It!

Basically, the Lose It! app allows you to track your food consumption, exercise, and weight loss on your phone. You start by setting a goal. I decided on a goal of 1/2 a pound per week for a total of 11 pounds. The program calculates a daily calorie goal:

Then you just log your food every day. You can either use the search engine, OR you can use your phone to scan the bar codes on food packaging. The program will automatically pull the nutritional information from the bar code and save it! Isn't that cool?

You can label each food as breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack. The program tallies the calories for each of those categories.

Assuming that all of the nutritional information is logged correctly, you can get a daily breakdown of fats, carbs, and protein:

And then you can track your weight. I've been weighing in every day, just as a motivational tool:

You can also download summaries and reports to Excel:

What I like about this app:

1. It's helped me realize (or re-realize) the importance of serving size. Because I eat foods that are generally healthy, I've gotten into the habit of assuming that if it's healthy, I can have as much of it as I want. But three servings of rice at dinner is about 600 calories, which is a huge chunk of my daily caloric needs. Moderation? What?

2. The bar code scanner is easy to use, and the food search engine is pretty robust. That's nice because I haven't had to spend much time inputting nutritional/calorie information piece by piece. That said, I've noticed that sometimes the scanned nutritional info isn't exactly the same as what's on the packaging, so I double check. Also, the exercise list needs a little fleshing out. Running choices are limited to very specific paces, meaning that I have to round up or down in my estimate of energy burned.

3. The program saves your food choices to a handy personal food library. For instance, I've been eating oatmeal and almond milk for breakfast. My selected serving size is saved along with all of the other information for these foods, so I just have to tap on those selections and press save. No adjustments necessary unless I change the serving size.

4. It's visual. I like being able to go to the "Goals" tab and see the graph. It helps me resist the urge to dive into a bag of chips.

5. It's encouraged me to plan ahead a little more, especially for lunch. I've been assembling my lunch the night before and logging it the morning of. That way, I don't have to stop and do it while at school, and I can make sure I leave enough wiggle room for dinner and snacks.

Overall, I really like it! It feels weird to be focused on my weight in this way, but I think I needed a bit of a wake up call.

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