A smartphone app. That, of all things, was the single most important tool I credit in helping me lose 35 pounds recently and maybe giving me back a few years of my life.
I wasn’t going to write about this, but several people in the KING 5 Newsroom encouraged me to tell my story of weight loss success thanks mostly to Lose It, a free smartphone app and website that tracks the calories you take in from eating and calories you lose from exercise. I just learned that at least three of my co-workers, inspired by my weight loss, are using the app.
Please note that this is not a product endorsement. Of the half-dozen calorie counting apps I have tried, this one was the most successful for me. A different one may work better for you. I also am not a doctor, personal trainer or nutrition expert, so I won’t give you advice on what you should eat or how you should exercise. The examples are what worked for me.
Yes, I was obese
It was a typical day at work last October when the building staff was offered free Diabetes screenings. I was pretty sure that I wasn’t at risk for the disease, but I knew I was a little overweight, so better to be safe than sorry.
I was told that I was in no danger of being Diabetic or even pre-Diabetic. But, by the technical definition, I was obese.
What? Me? Obese? I was 6’1” and 225 pounds. How is that obese?
According to my Body Mass Index, I was just barely over the line between overweight and obesity for my age.
I started running through all the dangers that come with obesity, including heart disease. I’ve had some heart issues in the past, so it was a major wake-up call.
It was around that same time a friend told me about Lose It, the smartphone app he and his wife had used to successfully lose weight. For those without an iPhone or Android, there is also a Lose It website.
Gradual weight loss, not a crash diet
The first thing that impressed me was Lose It does not let you crash diet. When you first log in, it asks for your gender, age, height, your current weight and your goal weight. Then, it asks you what rate you want to lose that weight. But, it won’t let you lose more than two pounds per week.
When I asked to go from 225 pounds to 190 pounds at a rate of two pounds per week, it said it would take about three months.
I would start with an allowance of about 1,750 calories per day. OK, now how do I keep track of that? Do I really have to read every label and input it?
In many cases, Lose It does it for you. It has a barcode scanner that recognizes most supermarket foods. If you have a frozen dinner, scan the code and the app will automatically deduct the calories from your allowance.
For more generic supermarket foods, the app estimates how many calories you are likely taking in. You can also program your own homemade meals by inputting the ingredients. It will tell you how many calories are in each serving.
There are also listings for thousands of popular menu items from large restaurant chains. Just search the menu, select what you ate and it’s deducted from your allowance.
Exercising allows you to essentially “buy back” calories. The app lists about 100 exercises, everything from a leisurely walk to walking the dog, hitting the weights or playing racquetball (my personal favorite calorie killer).
Every week, you weigh yourself again and re-input your current weight. Your calorie allowance goes down as the pounds come off.
For those who are interested tracking nutients such as protein, carb, sugar and sodium intake, the foods programmed into the app are recognized, too.
You’re still human
As great a tool as the app is, it was up to me to make the weight loss happen. My willpower was put to the test -- no more four scoops of chocolate ice cream per serving or eating half a large pizza.
Yes, I had to actually measure food to keep to my calorie allowance. I was amazed to find that when I ate what I considered a typical bowl of cereal, I was really eating about 2.5 times the suggested serving size. Most of the glasses of juice, milk or iced tea I drank were twice the suggested serving size.
The gym was not going to come to me. I had to dedicate myself to going there and working off the calories. My fiancé, Kim, joined me on this journey and we spent much of our time playing racquetball. I stuck with it, even when she was schooling me on the court. The elliptical was another great calorie burner. I also started walking more during my morning and afternoon commute -- about 6 miles per day burned 400 calories.
One thing I didn’t expect was the plateau. If you’re looking to lose a lot of weight, you may reach a point where the weight loss will stop or may even see some weight gain. It happened to me when I was about 10 pounds from my goal, but I stuck with it and made it through. I learned that I should not weigh myself daily, but rather once a week during this process.
The journey took a little longer than the app predicted. Instead of mid-January it was mid-February, thanks to that plateau business. But in the end, I reached 190 pounds and lost three inches off my waist. Kim lost 20 pounds of her own.
When I reached 190, the app gave me a surprise. I could start eating 2,600 calories per day to maintain it, nearly 1,000 calories more than I was eating during the weight loss.
There was one downside to all this success. What we lost in weight we also lost in money, as in having to buy new clothes. Then there was that nasty $400 surprise from the bridal shop when they told us that’s how much it would cost to get Kim’s wedding dress altered to fit her slimmer self.
More importantly, Kim and I discovered it changed our lifestyles. Yes, our weight fluctuates a little bit, but we know that if we happen to pig out one day and gain three pounds, we’ll go easy on the food the next couple of days to take it back off. It’s not a struggle anymore because we gradually got there rather than dieting.
I haven’t used the app since I reached my goal nearly two months ago. I don’t need it anymore. It taught me to recognize on my own what I am eating, if it’s too much or if I need to cut the calories for a couple of days should I start gaining weight, again.
It really has changed – maybe ultimately saved – my life.
Here are some other calorie counting apps to try:
My Diet Diary
Fast Food Calorie Counter