Two years ago, I downloaded the MyFitnessPal app, and it is only now that I can say that I have used it consistently for 53 days in a row. I have loved the idea of it ever since my friend told me that she lost 60 pounds logging in everything she put into her mouth. However, whenever I tried to use it for a couple of days, I would try to eat as clean as possible, and then blow it. Subsequently, I could not admit how much I had blown it to myself, or to this app. I have written about it before, multiple times before, written about my hope and my frustration.
Yet in this 53 day streak, I have written everything down, junk food or not, large quantity or not. When I gave up sugar and flour for 14 days, I started logging my food into MyFitnessPal every day because I already had to write it down and tell someone. Once that 14 day period ended, I still wanted to remain accountable, so I kept logging.
The app calculates how many calories I should eat based on my weight and weight loss goals. The app then allows me to eat more calories on the days that I exercise, based on the type and intensity of exercise. At the end of the day, when I finish logging, it says, “If you ate like this every day for 30 days, you would weigh this much.” I have been logging my weight on there for two years, so I can see weight trends over time.
Lately, I have been absorbed in the nutrition section of the app. Every day, it helps me keep track of what percentage of my daily fat, saturated fat, trans fat, protein, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, sodium, potassium, iron, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, etc.
For the most part, I discovered that I do not have a problem reaching my daily goals for protein and dietary fiber and the majority of categories. I learned that when left to my own devices, I do not eat enough potassium and iron. Yes, I could take a supplement for that, but studies have shown people absorb nutrients more effectively from food than pills.
I have enjoyed finding foods rich in potassium and iron, particularly those that are low calorie and low sugar options. For instance, when I told a friend that I did not consume enough potassium, he said, “Bananas and potatoes.” I wanted to find less starchy sources. After all, I needed the most nutrition in the fewest number of calories. Some of the best sources of potassium I found were celery, cucumbers, watercress, yogurt, and low-sodium V8 juice. The Blue Monkey brand of coconut water with pulp is one of the most delicious sources of potassium, but it is expensive so I only drink it a couple times a week as a low-calorie treat.
When I looked for iron sources, everyone told me to eat spinach. I am resistant to spinach, because long ago someone told me that raw spinach inhibited calcium absorption. I have started eating a spring mix that includes spinach and provides 20% of my daily needs, but I do not consume dairy products at that meal. I also found out that a seaweed product that I have been eating since college, the Maine Coast Sea Vegetable triple blend flakes, happens to have 20% of my daily iron requirement in a teaspoon. I add it to my eggs and voila, lower calorie than blackstrap molasses. I also like refried beans as a source of iron. 1/2 cup of oatmeal is 10% of my daily iron requirement. Nuts are a less processed source of iron. Processed foods like cereal and pretzels have iron from the grains being fortified, but I want to rely on more low-calorie, naturally-rich sources. Although I only consume it
a couple times a year, I am impressed with the Chex cereal brand: not only is it gluten-free but the Rice Chex packs 50% of my daily iron requirement in 100 calories.
After all, after spending two decades cutting out this or that food group, I finally believe what a relative has been trying to tell me for years. “There are no bad foods.” Part of me wanted there to be bad foods, because swearing off food groups always felt easier to me than counting calories. Yet winning this battle is about counting calories. I tell myself that a trained monkey could do it. MyFitnessPal users do not have to be brilliant, yet strangely some of the most brilliant people cannot be bothered with food journaling, with being honest with themselves.
Just as my tenth-grade English teacher plastered everywhere, “Success is a habit, not an act.” I still think about that, whether I am trying to hold a plank or packaging up my meals for the next day. Of all my new habits, I am the most proud of MyFitnessPal.