I’d read a million times that, in order to lose weight, one had to create a ‘calorie deficit.’ A what? I scoured articles and came across information like, “1 lb = 3500 calories,” and “eat 500 calories less.” Huh? Eventually, I figured out I’d have to track how many calories I was already eating and then eliminate 500 calories a day from that…OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT?!
There were a couple of issues with the above:
- I didn’t want to waste a week figuring out how many calories I was already eating that were keeping me at my weight at the time. No matter that I ultimately wasted much more time than had I just taken this step — I wanted something that would work, and fast!
- 3500 calories in a pound, 500 calories to eliminate, calorie deficit. I had no idea what any of it meant. It was the same maddening feeling I used to get in math class — I knew the information was all right in front of my eyes and yet, I just could not make sense of it.
Flash forward a few years and, in this our age of ease and convenience, I finally found something that made sense of everything I’d read. In September of 2014, I downloaded the MyFitnessPal app. You want to know how pessimistic I was about it? Years of experience had led me to resign myself to the idea, which I pushed repeatedly to the back of my mind, that it would only be a matter of time before I gave up on myself and failed yet again. I refused to take a ‘before’ photo because I thought I’d jinx myself out of an ‘after.’ This is how my mind works, folks.
Now, I’ll be the first to say that I think a number of factors went into my success. I was living at home again and I had a new job that, while it didn’t offer the movement that came with teaching, was less physically and emotionally stressful. But without a doubt, the biggest contributors to my ultimate success were:
- Knowledge: I finally understood what it meant to eat at a calorie deficit. The app set it up for me! I put in my goals (lose 1 lb/week), my general activity level (sedentary), my height and my initial weight. BAM! No “test week” required. Just an instant plan rooted in math.
- Awareness: Logging my foods was eye-opening. Do you know how quickly those 100-calorie snacks add up? Those tiny Hershey’s kisses? Coffee creamer? I still eat all of these things, but no longer mindlessly. The more I logged my food, the more I learned how to make smart choices about how I fuel my body. For example, I learned that a 100-calorie Fudge Stripes pack kept me full for all of maybe 5 minutes; however, a 95-calorie serving of oatmeal with berries kept me full for a couple hours. Game. Changer.
- Results: The best part about using MyFitnessPal is that it is mathematically/scientifically going to work if you use it diligently. As long as you are taking in less calories than you are burning (your body is burning calories even without exercise, by the way) you will lose weight. I know that if I eat within my calorie goal I will see a lower number on the scale. I saw results in ONE WEEK, people. And I know that’s what we all want and honestly, need. Being able to see the results of my work quickly, even though it was only a pound, gave me the motivation to keep going.
- Consistency: I love using MyFitnessPal because the progress is regular and gradual. I knew the changes I was seeing were going to last because they were slow and steady. I know that if tomorrow I decided to stop using the app I would NOT automatically gain back all the weight I’ve lost so far, because over the course of using the app I have made inherent and natural lifestyle changes. Downloading the app and logging in a couple times a week is unlikely to get you results. For me, what ensures results is consistently logging in and logging my food and exercise. Truly, consistency is key.
Well, there you have it. A simple, free app (the version I use) has seriously changed my life. Maybe it will work for you, maybe it’s not your thing. If you do decide you want to give it a shot, feel free to connect with any questions or if you need an accountability buddy. Good luck!