July 24, 2012
For the past three weeks my wife and I have been using Lose It!, an iOS App, to track our daily caloric intake. In a word the app is fantastic.
Six years ago I lost 57 pounds in 12 months. I did it by eating less and exercising more. And by tracking what I ate in a spreadsheet. I recorded calories for each meal and tracked my daily weight. By tracking my foods it was easy to see where snacking and poor food choices were hurting me. I was able to eliminate about 1000 calories a day from my diet and lost weight rapidly for a few months.
I wasn't able to sustain my lowest weight for more than a couple of years. Over time it slow crept up until I had gained about 20 of the lost pounds back. I was eating more and exercising less. While my weight has been stable for the past 3 years I wish I weighed a bit less.
Lose It! makes it very easy to track all the foods I eat in a day, and it tracks my exercise to give me a more accurate feel for my net calorie intake. I can see in graph form my weight loss and I have a historical record of my food, including a nutrient breakdown day-by-day or week-by-week.
One of the best features of Lose It! is the extensive database of foods. You can perform brand name searches for both supermarket and restaurant foods. Want a Starbuck's chocolate brownie? 410 calories. Olive Garden Lasagna Classico? 850. Frosted Flakes cereal? 427 for 2 cups. The app also includes a bar code scanner making it very easy to add foods. Instead of searching for Crispex cereal I just scanned the box.
Once you've had a food there are two ways to repeat it. Lose It! keeps a list of "My foods" that has everything you've ever entered into the app so you can quickly find a favorite again. The app also keeps track of your previous meals making it simple to repeat them. I tend to eat the same thing for breakfast several days in a row - Crispex cereal (220 calories) with milk (81 calories), and a glass of orange juice (165 calories). Until the box empties and I switch to a different cereal I'll eat the same meal, so being able to just look up yesterday's breakfast and reuse it today is a real time saver.
You can also easily repeat portions of a meal. Once you've selected a previous meal you can swipe any food item listed to delete them. Had a sandwich with pickle yesterday and the same sandwich again today without the pickle? Reuse the meal and delete the pickle with a swipe.
Lose It! lets you record your recipes. Once you've entered in all the ingredients you can set the number of servings the dish makes and get a calories per serving estimate. In the three weeks we've been using the app I've already created 7 recipes. Best of all through the Lose It! website it's possible to share these with my wife so she can track her portions too.
Now I know a bowl of my homemade chili is 264 calories or that 7-layer cookies are 316 calories per cookie.
In my use of Lose It! I've found it's best to enter foods prior to eating them. As with anything you need to budget knowing the cost before you spend a limited resource is important. Based on my weekly goal of losing a pound per week I can only net 2064 calories per day. Eating first and recording second makes it all to easy to over indulge and exceed my calorie budget for the day.
The first time I eat something where there's any question as to the size of the portion I get out a measuring cup and determine the exact size. I always thought I had about a cup of Crispex or Frosted Flakes in my cereal bowl. Turns out it's 2 cups.
Exercise works the opposite way. I don't enter my music playing, gardening, or walking exercise until I've completed the activity. It's all too easy to think I'll walk for 30 minutes on the treadmill and enter that into Lose It! and then not finish the walk for some reason.
When you start with Lose It! you can set a weekly weight loss goal and it determines a calorie budget for you. I set my gaol to be one pound per week and so my budget is 2064 calories a day. I believe your height and weight are factored into this calculation as my wife (who is as tall as me) has a different calorie budget goal.
The app lets you record your daily weight and produces a nice graph of your weight loss.
In the three weeks since I've started using Lose It! I've lost 3.8 pounds - just a little ahead of my pound-per-week goal. Just as recording everything in a spreadsheet 6 years ago increased my awareness of what I was eating using Lose It! has me thinking about my diet proactively. I've also started exercising on a daily basis - seeing the net calories go down as I walk is a great motivator.
I highly recommend Lose It! Having an app on your phone to track your exercise and calorie intake is wonderful. No matter where I am I can easily track my nutrition and exercise. Best of all it's free.