Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I Have A Guilty Secret

A pair of not-so-secret pasta addicts

I have a guilty secret.  Since my decision to eat a 100% plant based diet a few years ago, I have stubbornly held on to a few, not so healthy, comfort foods.   At the top of my no-no list is sugar, next comes wheat products, especially pasta and toast and last but not least, I have a fondness for white rice.  I have done a decent job wrangling the sugar issue and it now only makes an occasional appearance.  The next big issue I'll be tackling is the processed wheat products but I'll leave that for a later discussion.

About four weeks ago, I started using an online tool which has helped motivate me towards my health goals.  It's a comprehensive online food and exercise journal called My Fitness Pal.  I've used journaling in the past to keep track of my daily food intake and found it extremely effective in helping me lose weight as well as making me aware of exactly what I'm feeding my body.   I've noticed a tendency in myself towards denial, in terms of the quantity and quality of food I'm eating and the daily diary in, (if you don't cheat yourself), makes that nearly impossible.  When I saw how many calories my beloved pasta and toast used of my daily allowance, I began measuring out smaller portions and cutting back on those foods.  (I'm now even considering using brown rice! - few calories and healthier)      

After inputting your weight, height, age, activity levels and other details, the program calculates how many calories you should be eating per day based on your weight loss goals.

There is an extensive database of foods and it may take a bit of practice finding the exact foods and amounts you have eaten but I think it's worth the effort to get it right.  After inputting your meals for a few days, it becomes much simpler because your history is saved and most people eat the same foods over and over again.  There is also a section to input your own recipes and it will calculate the calories, fat, protein and carbs per serving.  If you're interested in tracking other nutrients like sodium, calcium, iron, vitamins etc., that's also possible.

There is a section to track your cardiovascular exercise and strength training.  On the days you put in a good workout, it's great to know exactly how many extra calories you can eat without going overboard.

Your profile can be completely private or you can have a cheering section which is nice.  Your friends might see an update in their feed like this; "Lee has completed her food and exercise diary for today and was under her calorie goal!"  The site is completely free.  You can generate progress reports for weight, fitness and nutrition on a weekly or monthly basis.  I like looking at graphs of my progress in different areas.

After a long conversation with my friend Patty today, I decided to post about this tool, in case it would be of use to others.   (Pssssst Chris, I hear you're looking to take action!)   My user name on the site is leekaiken, join me there and I'll cheer you on!   And maybe somebody can teach me how to like brown rice.