At my annual physical toward the end of 2017, it became clear that it was time to lose weight. Not that I didn’t already realize it, but my doctor went through my blood work and was pretty matter of fact about my bad blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar results and gave me the stats about the likelihood of “an event” occurring because of my age and these numbers. She is too respectful to come right out and say, “Asch, you may be short, but you’re fat,” but I could tell that’s exactly what she was thinking.
I whined a bit about how hard it is to lose weight because I like to eat what I like and it’s no fun to deprive myself. Had she not had my blood work staring her in the face, I probably would have tried to blame my weight on an undiscovered thyroid condition. My doctor ignored me and said, “Here’s what I recommend. Get this app called Lose It!, put yourself on a 1500 calorie a day diet, lose a pound a week, and come see me in a few months.” Before I left the office, they had me make an appointment three months later. I decided that it would be mighty embarrassing to go back in three months having gained weight so I decided to give the stupid Lose It! app a try.
Lose It! is a pretty basic, free calorie counting app. You start by entering your starting weight, your goal weight, and your allotted calories per day. Each day, you enter what you eat for each meal and snacks and the app determines the calories. Lose It! also calculates calories for various exercise regimens, yardwork, and housework. Lose It! facilitates the data entry by allowing bar code scanning, picture taking of foods, and a large database of food lookup.
Still, there’s no getting around that it’s a pain to enter everything I shove down my gullet in a day. Furthermore, it’s even more difficult to count calories if you travel a lot and eat in a bunch of different places. For me, I usually eat mostly at home and the app remembers my foods.
Until my Lose It! experience, I’d never really considered what I ate at the calorie level. Sure, I knew I shouldn’t have a burger and fries followed by ice cream (yet I did it anyway), but I never much considered the actual calories in all of this. I also tended to exaggerate the number of calories burned by exercise and minimize the calorie content of food. The Lose It! app taught me that it’s just the opposite – it’s super easy to offset any exercise with some bad food choices. Before Lose It! I just figured that if I exercised every day, I could eat mostly what I wanted and everything would even out; this is exactly why I started gaining more weight as I aged.
The reason I like Lose It! is because it doesn’t ask anything of me. It merely records what I put in and indicates if I’m over or under for the day and the week. When I enter my current weight, it tracks against my goal and predicts when I will reach it. Lose It! has higher aspirations and offers a paid version with lots of bells and whistles. Although I’d be happy to pay this company some money because I like their app, from what I see about the paid version, it’s everything I don’t want. It gets into nutritional issues and starts getting judgmental about the quality and types of foods I’m eating. Who wants a sanctimonious weight loss app? As it stands now, Lose It! provides some hints of the ulterior motives of its paid version. It has some pattern matching capabilities which, in the free version at least, are rudimentary and not very smart. For example, the app may notice that I eat a banana every weekday morning and most weekdays I keep within my calorie allotment. The app infers that bananas are the key to my goals.
So what about this is gaming my fat? To be honest, I get a little thrill when I can keep my intake lower than my burn and see the graphics for it in the app. I’m ashamed that I can be motivated by a pretty picture, but I blame it on the childishness of our species. In order to make difficult accomplishments, we sometimes need a motivational push.
Lose It! takes it a step too far for me by awarding motivational badges for accomplishments, but I really can’t blame them. When Lose It! provided its congratulatory badge for losing 15 pounds, it also mentioned that I’d lost the weight of a bowling ball. I had to admit that losing a bowling ball was a significant achievement. The problem is that it’s so easy to gain a bowling ball right back!
It seems like everyone I speak to who is trying to lose weight has their own preferred diet and method. From Paleo to Atkins to Weight Watchers, each one has its gimmick and we adherents buy into them. The common denominator of each is that you have to do one or more unpleasant things, pick your poison – give up sugar, no beer because it’s too “carby,” no dairy, unlimited vegetables, just eat less… Some diets acknowledge that if you think of it as a diet, you’ll gain back all of the weight once you stop. That’s why these diets attempt to change your thinking and make changes in your eating habits part of your lifestyle. For me, any lifestyle that demands an existence with no pizza is not worth living.
So what have I learned from my almost six month weight loss odyssey? A few things:
- For me, I cannot keep within my allotted calories for a day unless I burn a significant number by exercising.
- Exercise alone does not give me carte blanche to eat whatever I want.
- The human body, at least my human body, is reluctant to lose weight. I reach plateaus where I stop losing and I’m guessing my body wonders if its supposed to preserve its vast fat reserves.
- My scale is a lying bastard. Sometimes my weight before going to sleep is less than when I wake up – how can that possibly be?
- I’m super jealous of people who care so little about food that they forget to eat meals. These “food for fuel” types just make the rest of us seem weak.
- An occasional hamburger is okay. Occasional french fries are okay. The combination of a hamburger and french fries will take almost all of my calorie allocation for a day even if I exercise. Baked fries and Boca Burgers enable me to keep within my limits.
So the big questions remains — after all this trouble to lose weight, will I just put it back on once I reach my goal? For people with more discipline than me, the answer is that sometimes the weight stays off. More often, we’re weight loss recidivists. For now, however, I have my goal to meet and many more motivational badges to acquire!