Almost two years ago, I moved back to downtown Baltimore from the suburb of Mt Washington. I had moved out to satisfy my wife, who didn’t like being in the city, but she seemed unlikely to ever come back to live with me for more than a week here and there, so I decided to get closer to work. That meant that instead of commuting ten miles each way by bike or bike & light rail or walking & light rail, I would only be a mile from the office, and closer to everything downtown has to offer: theatres, farmer’s markets, and the occasional political rally.
But in giving up all that daily bicycle exercise, I began to put on a little weight. And then a little more weight. The office had free meals for lunch n learns, and bagels and donuts on Fridays. The farmer’s market had good organic food, but also sweet organic cookies and breads. I was feeling a bit lonely and sad, which I now think had to do with drinking all that RO water, and looked forward to my sweets.
So I decided I needed to lose weight, and first turned to the dieting app, LoseIt, which I had used with some success before. I wanted to lose fifty pounds in 2012, and ended up losing about thirty-five, maybe forty, which I maintained with all that bicycling.
Over a few months, tracking food and exercise got me down about forty again, and then I moved to North Carolina. My new office did throw a lot of holiday food at us, but I generally maintained all through the last Xmas season. But I got tired of LoseIt. Even though it was easier to use as an iPad app, recording the same meals over and over got terribly boring.
I began running again, but just once or twice a week. What really got me to lose the last ten or fifteen pounds was giving up sweets altogether, which was difficult. Whole Foods has all sorts of organic and free trade treats, but I had to train myself to simply not see them. Food Lion has really tasty oatmeal raisin cookies, but likewise, I just stopped even noticing them. I also cut back on restaurant pizza and calzones, which I used as a sort of weekend comfort food and reward for running.
And just a few weeks ago, I went through my cabinets and threw out chips, wheat thins, alfredo sauces … anything with canola oil or trans fats.
So now I have lost fifty pounds, and it feels very good to finally meet that goal. So my new goals are to try to regain some of my foot speed and to get back in the pool with a masters team again.
I ran across this post, Why you should not count calories. Essentially the points are:
1 – Calorie calculation may not be accurate.
2 – Food provides more than just energy.
3 – Fat is high calorie, but healthier than low-calorie substitutes.
4 – Severe calorie restriction can hurt you.
5 – Calorie intake is just a number.
6 – Thinner is not necessarily healthier.
I have been (successfully) counting calories through LoseIt, and will continue, so I thought I’d comment on each point:
1 – I am aware that there may be inaccuracy, but as a guide, my LoseIt total keeps me focused on not binging. I “burn” 600 – 800 calories per day by swimming, running or cycling, but I don’t use that to justify more food calories.
2 – I do try to eat a healthy assortment of foods. Breakfast is usually milk and cereal. Lunch is a green salad with Annie’s dressing, a Brown Cow yogurt, grapes or pineapple, and an apple. I snack on low salt cashews. My wife includes meat and vegetables with dinner, and we eat a small bowl of homemade ice cream for dessert. We are eating less bread, pasta and potatoes.
3 – I don’t eat low-calorie anything, unless you count two percent milk.
4 – My food budget is 1,904 calories, but I range between 1,600 and 2,000. I rarely feel hungry.
5 – I agree that one can go wrong by devoting oneself to slavishly counting calories alone, assuming that the number is all that matters.
6 – No, and I’m going for leaner and more muscular. So far, I feel a lot better.
As a side note, I’ve noticed something odd with my inexpensive Taylor scale. It is basically a sheet of glass, so I store it on its edge to avoid damaging it. The scale displays to the tenth of a pound, and I enter the rounded off number in LoseIt. So if it displays 199.4, I enter 199; if it displays 199.5, I enter 200.
I weigh myself in the mornings, and what is odd is that the scale shows the same weight — to the tenth of a pound — for three or four days on end. I’d expect some variations, but saw the same ###.4 every morning for a week. So the other day after running in the PM, I weighed myself and it was again the same ###.4. “Is this thing jammed?” I wondered. I grabbed a heavy toolbox and stood on it again. The display increased by some 14 lbs. I stood on it alone, and it came back .6 lbs lighter than ###.4.
Taylor’s faq claims a two pound tolerance, but I have this theory that storing the scale on its edge causes it to to reinitialize every morning. Why it re-initializes to the last displayed value is still a mystery, but I’m going to leave it flat for the next week and see what happens.
I’ve had an interesting two and a half months on LoseIt, which I started following after writing Will BF Skinner Make You Skinnier? for dagblog. As I mentioned then, my wife has devoted herself to my proper nutrition, packing salad-based lunches and controlling my dinner portions (Back, Simba, Back!). Based on the spring scale at the swim club, I lost a quick fifteen pounds in the first week. I started running again. Then I gained five pounds back. Then another five pounds. But I suspect I was adding muscle.
Years ago, OK decades ago, I used to track and record my chest, waist, and thigh measurements with a cheap dressmaker’s tape measure. I haven’t been doing that, but my clothing has gotten looser, and my belts are at the tightest loophole.
LoseIt advertises the Withings WiFi scale. You can set up this $160 device to report your weight, BMI, and body fat content to your smart phone. One Amazon reviewer claims that Withings body fat reporting is inaccurate, though. In any case, after the first month, I bought a $25 digital scale at Target. My new scale had me eight pounds heavier than the club scale, but I forgave it.
I had been on LoseIt for almost three weeks, when it wouldn’t let me login on the Windoze box at work. Withings’ site has a link page to the 40-odd apps with which it will sync up your vital statistics. So I started looking at the other apps.
Aujourd’hui was in French. Mais, non. BeeMinder expects that if you don’t meet your fitness goals, you will pay a fine to continue. That’s not gonna happen. Cal2go is for the Mac. I signed up for Cron-o-meter, but they don’t let you add foods. So you have to find the closest match, even if the yogurt you ate says 130 cal, you have to choose theirs that says 118 Kcal. Cron tells you a lot more about what you just ate, and how far along towards Minimum Daily Allowance you are of this and that. Cron also only allowed me about 1500 calories per day, or 1.5 Kcal, whereas LoseIt allowed roughly 2000. I logged in lunch and breakfast, and found that I only had 700 cals left for dinner. Then, Cron wouldn’t let me log back in.
So I signed up for the Daily Burn Tracker. They allowed me roughly 2,600 calories per day. They have three free weight plans: Weight Loss, Cardio and Strength, and others that cost money, like 5-week Fat Shredder and Six-Pack Abs. I was going to choose Weight Loss, but answering their questions steered me towards Cardio. Daily Burn prompted me to start a training plan and decide which four days next week I would be working out. But I never know what day I’ll be working out. Choosing food was fine once I figured it out, but they don’t have an add food feature, either. They do have a sleep tracker. I’m good at that.
After a day or so, LoseIt let me back in at work, and since then I’ve gotten a Committed badge for faithfully logging in every day for eight weeks. LoseIt awards badges for all sorts of achievements. I most recently got the Inferno badge for burning an amazing amount of calories for eight weeks in a row. In addition to swimming 1600 meters, I’ve started running a three mile route, and have started biking home the nine miles from work one or two days a week. So I also got the Exercise King badge for doing some exercise three times a week for eight weeks. Lawn mowing counts, BTW.
Between all the summer exercise and averaging about 1700 calories per day, I’ve lost at least twenty pounds, and considering the change in scales, probably over twenty-five. I rarely feel hungry, I sleep better and I have more energy. My trousers hang on me now, so my wife bought a tighter pair for a family wedding.
Did behavior modification make me skinnier? I suppose if TMac, my only LoseIt buddy, had been more active there might have been a case for that. But I consider LoseIt to be more of a tool that helps me monitor my caloric intake rather than assuming that I can burn it all off.