My Fitness Frenemy

My last article was about eating poorly, but whatever, I was in Hawaii, where giant scoops of macaroni salad and rice are served with every meal. Now that I've resumed my normal life, I'm back on a mission to get my old jawline back- the jawline I had when I was 24 and my dietary habits were totally deranged. I'm not sure if that's attainable, but I'm trying.

I'm a fan of MyFitnessPal or as I call it, “MyFitnessFrenemy,” because we have a love-hate relationship.

On the one hand, the app makes it monumentally easier to keep track of my eating habits, something I'm not naturally great at. I tend to underestimate calories and also like most people, probably underestimate junk food in small increments. I work in an office, where rarely a week goes by without a birthday or bon voyage celebration (on Wednesday, there were gourmet cream puffs). Even on a normal day, there's a lot of temptation: a vending machine full of snacks, candy dishes everywhere. A Dove chocolate square is so small that it's easy to discount or even forget about it, but each one is about 50 calories and those add up.

On the other hand, I imagine MyFitnessPal being a person with a really smug expression on its face. It's like, "Watch your sugar intake…” and I'm all, "It's just a banana, shut up.”

Even though MyFitnessPal is snarky and judgmental, I like it because it holds me accountable. Seeing everything written out in front of me makes it easier for me to eat more balanced than I may on my own. If I want pizza for lunch, I'll plan to eat something light and healthy for dinner since my caloric budget is right before my eyes.

I'm still getting used to logging. Cynthia Sass, a writer and nutritionist whose work has appeared in Fitness, HEALTH Magazine and on CNN Health, believes that diets often fail because people try to do too much too soon. So, my strategy for right now with MyFitnessPal is to do it just five days a week. I typically take weekends off.

That's not to say I'm eating poorly, but Saturday is when I'm most likely to go to a restaurant, and that can be tricky. How big is the stuffed grape leaf I just ate and what is it even stuffed with? That kind of frustrating minutiae has probably gotten plenty of people to quit the app. Instead, I’m trying to make basic meal-tracking an unconscious habit first rather than "try to boil the ocean," as advertising people are fond of saying.

The fact that meal tracking is kind of annoying has an unexpected side benefit. "Can I have a bite of your ice cream? Wait. How do you log a bite of ice cream? How many ounces it that? Is it… eh, nevermind, I can't be bothered."

My other strategy for adjusting to life with MyFitnessPal has been a tough one for me: I’ve stopped exercising for the time being. The app also tracks activity, but that’s a slippery slope for me. Calories consumed are pretty self-explanatory; you can’t argue with math. But I’m not sure MyFitnessPal is sophisticated enough to really paint an accurate picture of the calories I’ve burned.

I can say how much I weigh and how long I spent jogging. But it doesn’t know whether I’m a 300-pound bodybuilder with a 32-inch waist and biceps the size of bowling balls, or a 300-pound couch potato who just ran his first mile. Those two bodies have a drastically different approach to burning calories. I don’t want to overindulge thinking my calorie deficit is much bigger than it actually is, since I’ve definitely been known to try and out-train a bad diet. You know, the thing literally every single personal trainer on earth will tell you not to do.

So for now, I’m learning to eat more balanced without using working out as a crutch. And I’m getting there. Even if MyFitnessPal is kind of a jerk.

How do you keep track of your food intake and exercise?
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