Keeping a Food Diary Can Double Your Weight Loss
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If you are taking in more calories, fats, sugars, and carbs than you are burning, weight loss will be a challenge. Period. You can workout 5 times a day, but if you are eating more calories than you are burning, you will not see the scale move (except for maybe up). There are several online apps and programs that can help you record your meals.
My favorite 100% free app & website is MyFitnessPal. It will work on your laptop, iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, Android, or Windows phone. It has over 2 million foods in the database, provides you with a support community and the ability to “friend” your workout buddies to help each other stay on track. You can also enter your workouts into the system to track input vs. output each day.
Since we are on the topic of the additional importance of tracking your activity and workouts… let’s talk about that for a moment. There are a TON of apps and websites that will track your activities and caloric output like MyFitnessPal, but not all allow you to track nutrition. Here is a list of just a few that I have experience with:
Nike+: This is the program I started with years ago simply because they were sort of the only game in town. Nike+ works both with GPS on your phone or Nike+ watch or you can go old school and use the pod in your Nike shoes (if you don’t have Nike shoes, you can purchase a little pouch for your laces). Nike has improved their Nike+ system quite a bit and their website is interactive with lots of challenges and colorful graphics. The biggest drawback I think for Nike+ is if you are running it off your iPhone or other device it will drain power very quickly as my friend found while training for Grandma’s Marathon. It also can be quirky if you live in a rural area with a lot of dead cellular spots.
Endomondo: This is a website/ app that has both a free and paid version. It acts as a personal trainer and social fitness partner. Endomondo is ideal for running, cycling, walking and any other distance-based activity for which you want GPS. This program too has the ability to participate in challenges with your friends or strangers and tracks your caloric output as well as mileage etc. The paid version is not worth the money as far as I am concerned. The best feature of Endomondo is that it will sync with Garmin and Polar devices and also will connect to your MyFitnessPal account which eliminates duplicate entry!
MapMyRun (or MapMyRide / MapMyWalk): Powered by MapMyFitness, Inc. these apps have been selected as About.com 2012 Readers’ Choice Awards Best Running App and Best App for Walkers, respectively. Bonus part of these applications are that they allow you to seek out new routes if you are in an unfamilar area. Again it has a community, nutrition component called the Nutrition Dashboard to understand your recommended calorie and nutrient intake and track your eating habits. One stop shopping! The mobile app has the same issues as Endomondo and Nike+ however if you live in an area where your workouts may take you in and out of cell service which will affect the GPS. You can also use this on your laptop, iPhone, Blackberry, and Android.
Garmin / Polar: These are the most expensive option as you will need to have the GPS watch in order to use their sites. There are a number of huge benefits in investing in a satellite based watch and tracking system in a rural area. Garmin Connect and Polarpersonaltrainer.com both allow users access to a community-based website for runners, cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts who track their activities with Garmin devices.
I truly cannot stress enough the importance of tracking your food consumption. Every person I have ever worked with who struggles with weight loss is taking in more than they are burning. It is easy to become deluded about the food that you are eating. Something seems healthy because it is whole grains? Or lots of fruit is good for you right? Wrong. A few cookies is no big deal… etc. You will be shocked when you start tracking everything- how quickly it adds up. Oh and don’t forget what you DRINK. Alcohol packs a ridiculously huge punch in terms of calories and sugars. Soft drinks and fancy coffees also count for your daily calories. I have known people who don’t count their drinks at all or who drastically underestimate how much alcohol they have consumed because they don’t want to admit they just slugged back two days worth of calories in beer. DON’T DO THIS. You are only cheating yourself and will become quickly frustrated as to why you don’t see the results that you want. Please don’t set yourself up to fail- you deserve better than that.
I am a huge proponent of WeightWatchers since it is the program I started with and had success on. Whatever website/app/watch you choose – the main goal is to find one that works for you! Find a software or method that works for you – even if it is a plain old notebook. And do not get me wrong… I am the first person to agree that skinny does not mean fit & strong. However, most individuals have fitness and weight loss goals that go hand-in-hand. So get going and start tracking! And stick with it for at least a month… I bet that you will be surprised how the results begin to change!