Can An App Really Help You Lose Weight?

My Fitness Pal is a free app that I utilize daily to record my food and exercise. Not only does it help tweak my diet, but I’ve found the daily articles and recipes to be extremely helpful too.

Today, for example, I read an article written by Kim Westerman titled, “Losing Weight When You Physically Can’t Exercise: Doreen’s Journey.” Doreen used My Fitness Pal to log her meals. I’ve also benefited from logging my food and exercise each day in my quest to reach my fitness goals.

I, too, have experienced issues with mobility over the last ten years because of injuries, arthritis, and a couple of surgeries. I also have an acquaintance who is in even worse shape than I am, so I hoped that the article would prove to be an interesting and motivating read. It was.

SO I’M OVERWEIGHT—WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?

I think what many people don’t realize is that obesity is far more detrimental to one’s health than they might think. Everyone pretty much knows that obesity can cause heart attacks or clogged arteries. But the very fact that someone is obese may bring on nasty metabolic changes, which in turn can cause diabetes, chronic inflammation, and arthritis.

New research suggests that it’s not the stress on the joints that causes arthritis, it’s the metabolic changes caused by an over-abundance of body fat. That was definitely an eye-opener.

It took being diagnosed as pre-diabetic in May 2015 to get me started on the road to fitness. I knew my body could only handle minimal impact exercise, so I took up swimming and water aerobics to build up my strength and flexibility. I cut my sugar intake drastically, ate better, and lost a little weight. I began going to the gym. But as the months went by, I found my weight loss was unbelievably slow and frustrating.

In July 2015, a friend recommended My Fitness Pal to me. I downloaded the app on my mobile devices and have been using it ever since. I heartily recommend it. So far, I’ve lost 61 pounds. Yes, I still have more body fat to lose, but I now have normal glucose levels. And that’s a big win for me!

Most people go on a diet to look better. But I’ve discovered that it was more helpful to consider looking good as a happy byproduct of losing weight. The true motivation for me to lose body fat and to gain muscle was to regain mobility, avoid diabetes, and increase my longevity.

I’M THIN—WHY DO I NEED MFP?

But what if you don’t want to lose weight—should you still use the MFP app? The short answer is yes.

You may think you’re eating a healthy balance of macros and micros, but nine times out of ten, you’ll find there’s something in your diet that needs tweaking. Most people that log their food are amazed how much sugar, fat, sodium, and calories they actually consume. And are you getting enough iron, calcium, and vitamins A and C? Usually the answer is a resounding no.

You won’t know the answers to your questions until you log your food into an app such as My Fitness Pal.

MORE ABOUT MFP

MFP doesn’t differentiate between ADDED sugars and what is naturally found in food. Since food labels do not reflect that information yet, MFP can’t either. Unfortunately, it’s the same with B vitamins. I’m hoping that once labels are improved, MFP will incorporate that information into their food analysis.

It’s important to note that if you’re eating clean and sticking to fruits, vegetables, and dairy, there will be naturally occurring sugars in those foods. Those are not inherently bad sugars. (However, if you’re needing to manage blood glucose, there are extra steps you need to take to ensure there are no untoward spikes, such as sticking to low glycemic load foods.) I always eat protein with every meal or snack to help my body deal with naturally occurring and added sugars.

One of the real dangers to healthy eating is consuming processed foods that are almost always laden with added sugar and sodium, not to mention additives, preservatives, and food coloring.

But there’s another danger that is often overlooked by even those who consider themselves to be clean eaters: adding too much sugar or salt to what otherwise would have been a healthy meal.

For instance, when I began making my homemade vegetarian soups, I diligently logged all the ingredients. To my surprise, I discovered that I was using entirely too much salt. It sure didn’t taste too salty!

So I cut back drastically on the salt and threw in a lot more spices to give my soups more flavor. I also add one or two tablespoons of Bragg’s nutritional yeast to each bowl of soup for additional B vitamins and flavor. I’m not a fan of nutritional yeast’s taste except in my homemade soups—that’s where I think it adds greatly to my veggie soups’ savoriness.

A friend of mine has strict dietary requirements for his various ailments, and he’s always prided himself that he’s been eating clean for years. However, he was adding two tablespoons of maple syrup to his daily breakfast of oatmeal and berries. Maple syrup is sugar. Even though he was eating egg whites with his breakfast, he still was consuming a big load of simple carbs each morning. This practice was detrimental to his health goals.

I advised him to stick to steel cut oats, not rolled, to lay off the maple syrup entirely, and to add a tablespoon of chia seeds instead. The chia seeds provide antioxidants, as well as healthy fats which help slow absorption and keeps you feeling fuller longer. That’s what I do, and even though I consider myself to be a recovering sugar addict, I’ve found I don’t miss the sugar in my oatmeal at all.

BUT ISN’T IT A HASSLE?

I wasn’t sure I wanted to log my food and exercise. I had tried keeping a food diary on paper many years ago, and I had hated it. But by using the app, the experience has proven to be fairly hassle-free and far more rewarding than I had assumed. I’ve been logging my food for over 600 days now. I think I can safely say that it’s a good habit that I’ve acquired.

Try MFP for a month. It’s free. And what can you lose, except those bad habits that have prevented you from being the healthiest you’ve ever been?

Good News!

imageAs some of you know, I had a total blood panel done in May. The hemoglobin A1C, which tests your blood glucose levels averaged over a span of two or three months, came back at 6.1. This meant I was pre-diabetic. Normal is 5.6 or lower. Pre-diabetic starts at 5.7, and diabetic is 6.4. And 7.0 is when organs start failing.

Well, I was bound and determined that I was not going to become diabetic, so I changed my eating and exercise habits drastically. The next blood test I did showed no change in my A1C, although my blood pressure and cholesterol tests were now normal. So I had another complete blood panel done about two weeks ago. I kept calling the doctor’s office to find out the results. They had the test results but couldn’t tell me what my A1C was yet because the doctor hadn’t signed off on the test results. Frustrating!

I called my doctor’s office again this morning. The person who answered the phone said my results were normal. I didn’t expect such good news, so I asked for the specific number. My A1C has gone down to 5.8! That’s practically normal. There are two other blood GL tests that I’ll find out about tomorrow when I go to the doctor tomorrow. But it all sounds like my hard work has paid off!

Am I out of the woods now? Heck no. I want to get my A1C to a much lower level, such as 5.2. The problem I’m having now is because of my knee, I went from exercising 7 days/week to none. The knee has improved slightly, but I need surgery.

So how do you lower your A1C?

* Lose weight if you’re overweight. This alone can lower your A1C.
* Exercise if you don’t already. All you need to do is walk. It’s that simple. Start with 10 minutes a day. Indoors or out. Just walk. Work your way up to 30 minutes of vigorous walking 5 times a week.
* Don’t consume a lot of sugar. Ditch the soda. Read labels. Sugar lurks in places you wouldn’t dream of.
* Eat a healthy diet that is rich in fiber (plant foods), protein and healthy fats.
* Eat foods with a low glycemic load and always eat protein when you consume carbohydrates.
* Take necessary steps to ensure both blood pressure and cholesterol levels are normal.

MRI UPDATE: I got the MRI done on my knee last Tuesday. I couldn’t straighten out my knee, couldn’t put any weight on my left leg, and I could barely walk. A friend drove me to my appointment. The MRI itself was OK, but because the technician had to straighten out my knee, I felt pain radiating up and down my leg, into my hip and down into my foot. I breathed through the pain, tried to relax, and hoped my muscles wouldn’t start to spasm. They didn’t. Whew! Unfortunately, my ortho surgeon appointment to get the results of the MRI isn’t until December 16. I’d like to schedule the surgery as soon as possible, so I can start recovering.