How I Keep On Track

Another healthful bloggy blog! This one is about the apps I’ve tried and used to keep my eating habits on track. I’ve used quite a few over the years and they’ve always been super helpful in helping me lose weight. I am currently using Calorie Count and it’s the best one that I’ve found so far, so this post may be slightly biased towards it. I’m going to be comparing three different apps. They’re all available on both iPhone and Android, and if you don’t have a smart phone, they all have websites where you can track your calories, exercise, and water intake.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m a phone junkie, but I love having the apps on my phone so that I can input all my information as I’m doing it. It also helps with me being able to keep track of everything and not relying on my shoddy memory to remember everything at the end of the day.

The three contenders today are: Calorie Count, Lose It!, and MyFitnessPal.

All three apps are great (and free!), and it’s just my nit-picky nature that makes me choose Calorie Count. They all come highly recommended though.

  • Calorie Count has been talked about in Today, Self, TechCrunch, and PCMag.
  • Lose It! is so popular that it has it’s own book out and has been talked about in the New York Times and Macworld.
  • MyFitnessPal seems to be the most publicized, appearing in Today, the New York Times, BBC, the Guardian, USA Today, Marie Claire, Wall Street Journal, PCWorld, and more.

The Encourager

This portion of the app is meant to give you a support group to rally around and keep you motivated. As everyone knows, it’s always easier to diet when you have someone to diet with you because then you are held accountable by that person. For me, that person is this app because I’ll feel guilty if I type in a 1000-calorie meal into it.

If you’re dieting with friends, you can use the same dieting app and add each other as friends. This helps keep each other accountable, as well as celebrate each other’s accomplishments.

If you, like me, don’t have friends, this part of the app is completely pointless except in Calorie Count. CC gives you the published records of random users (who enable their feeds as public) and it’s just a feed of positive people accomplishing their goals. Not only that, but they’re real people who sometimes miss a work out, over eat their daily caloric limit, and ultimately, just completely relatable. Sometimes when I’m feeling the diet blues, I’ll read through these either for motivation or for commiseration.

Food Log

The food logs are pretty standard across the board. I like that CC gives you the carbs, fat, and protein breakdown at the top, as well as a grade for each food you eat. Some things that you think are healthy might actually surprise you with just getting a B rating. However, I give points to LI and MFP because they give you the remaining calories you’re allowed to eat at the top, which is really helpful.

Searching for Foods

Again, these are pretty standard. My only complaint is that the variety in LI and MFP aren’t as large as in CC. CC is partially user generated so it may be off, but a lot more brands are available. The information may be slightly less reliable, but as the great mantra of dieting goes: overestimate your calorie intake, underestimate your calorie output. Those are in my own words, but I’m sure someone out there has a more elegant way of saying it. A problem I noticed this morning is that I couldn’t find my Almond Breeze almond milk or my Whey Isolate in MFP, so there’s 150 calories that are unaccounted for because they weren’t available to me!

What I also like about CC is that if you’re easily obsessive and can’t find the certain food that you are eating, CC allows you to enter your food under “Custom Foods” and input all the nutritional information in, to keep your food analysis accurate. That information is then saved for the next time you eat it. I even put my special oatmeal from the last post into it. I’m not sure if it uploads that information so that other users can search for it though. If you’re using CC, let me know if you can find Judskii’s Oatmeal! in there. :)

Daily Nutritional Breakdown

I love this part. At the end of the day, it takes all the things you ate that day, and you can see what you’re eating a lot of, what you’re missing in your diet. What I like about it is that it doesn’t focus purely on eating less calories to lose weight, but also eating better and healthier for your body. You could be 700 calories a day, but 3x the sodium, fat, and sugar that you should, and that’s not going to get you anywhere.

I find Lose It! pretty lacking in this area, showing just the basics. CC and MFP break it down for you, showing quite clearly what percentage of your daily suggested carb/protein/fat/sugar etc intake you’ve already had, and how much you need for a balanced diet. Again, I’m slightly more biased towards CC. I find their information clearly laid out, the bar graphs instantly give you an overview of your day’s nutrients. MFP has the same information, but their pie chart is on a different page than the nutritional breakdown. Again, not a huge deal.

Activities Log

These are pretty standard. There’s not much difference, except again, I think CC has more choices and relatable content.

Weight Log

And last but not least, the weight log that allows you to track your weight from the beginning. This is the only place that  I really feel CC was lacking. It looks as though it was made only for people with large amounts of weight to lose, and it really only shows your trend after a long time of using it. That little dip at the end is after a whole month of me using it. Very disappointing.

Lose It nicely lays out your information as well as your diet plan at the top. The only thing is though, that it is not generally recommended for women to be eating less than 1200 calories a day in order to lose weight. CC doesn’t allow it, and the minimum setting you’re allowed to have is 1200 cal/day. For men, it’s 1500 cal/day. I mean, people are generally going to eat a little under anyway.

I feel like MyFitnessPal comes out on top with this weight portion. The layout is clear, you can see what you’ve lost clearly, without extra information above or below the graph, and you can toggle to see what you’ve lose in the last 1, 2, and 3 months.

And that’s all I’ve got on the subject. Choose the app that’s right for you. If you don’t want to be tethered by technology, whether it’s on your phone or the computer, you can always get one of those calorie counter books with all the nutritional information of most foods, and a dollar store journal and record your food there. It’s a great way to keep you on track, and you’ll be surprised at where most of your calories come from!

Some stand out points I’ve picked up during my journey are:

  • A cup of spinach (raw) is only 7 calories.
  • A medium banana is ~100.
  • A meal at A&W, I should have known this. I think I did, but didn’t want to admit it. A teen burger (500), fries (300), root beer (200). That’s 1000 calories in a single meal. QQ
  • Veggie soup is awesome (put that through an immersion blender and you’re ready for fall) and ridiculously low in calories. Allows me to splurge my calories on croutons and garlic bread to dip.
  • Make butternut squash fries (baked) because they are ridic low in calories and super duper yummy.
  • Counting calories may sometimes be tedious, sometimes fun, sometimes heartbreaking, but the results are always evident.

Hope you gleaned some good information from this post. :)

Cheers,

Judy

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Homemade Super Awesome Oatmeal

So, if you follow my vlog or tweets or instagram (@Judskii), you might know that I’ve been trying out this whole oatmeal thing. And if you are aware of my presence at all, you’ll know that this is in an effort to not only lose weight, but also to lead a healthier lifestyle overall. I started off buying Nature’s Path organic oatmeal as a kick off point, as I was also tentatively avoiding wheat and wheat-based products. After much agonizing over the ingredients and nutritional information, I had chosen this brand because it had less sugars, calories, and no wheat products (excluding the Multigrain flavour). It cost about $5 and after running through the 8-pack box, my friend was telling me that I should just buy oatmeal at a bulk supply store and be done with it, since it’s so cheap.

But why stop there? Instead of just buying plain oatmeal, I set out on a quest to make my own super yummy deluxe health oatmeal mixture. I stopped at bulk barn on Wednesday (senior and student discount day!) to get all the things I needed. The whole thing cost me $10.78 altogether. Well, it would have been $11.05 without the discount, but still, what a great deal! It was nearly 2kg of oatmeal mix, compared to the 400g of the $5 pre-packaged oatmeal. The only real problem was if I could include as much nutrients and healthy things that Nature’s Path did. Scroll to the bottom for a video if you don’t want to read it all.

So here it is, my list of ingredients, along with their total combined nutritional information. The chart may be a little difficult to read, so don’t worry if you don’t look at it, I’ll explain fully below.

***Nutritional information is to serving size and not quantity***

Ingredients: Quick rolled oats, textured vegetable protein, chopped walnuts, steel cut oats, flaxseed, goji berries, craisins, chia seeds, and currants.

Before I go into each ingredient, here’s a breakdown of the nutritional information of the oatmeal per serving compared to Nature’s Path nutritional information.

Each serving is a level 1/2 cup. At a quick glance, my mixture (on the left) has more fibre, protein, vitamin A & C, calcium, and iron than the MultiGrain Raisin Spice Hot Oatmeal as well as less  carbs, and a lot less sugar and sodium (which is you’re worse enemy if you’re trying to lose weight because it makes your body retain water). I’m not too sure what’s causing the elevated levels of saturated fats but at only 7.2% of the recommended daily intake, it doesn’t look too troublesome.

The price difference between the two is not as large as you think it would be because I had added craisins (dried cranberries) that I had on hand, which weren’t calculated in the $10.78 bulk barn total purchase. The bag of craisins cost about $5 and I put 2/3 cup of the cranberries in. Without the cranberries, the price per serving drops to $0.368, less than half of the prepackaged oatmeal.

The following is a breakdown of the health benefits of each ingredient.

Quick Rolled Oats/Steel Cut Oats

I decided to pick up both of these because I didn’t really know what the difference was. They seem to both have the same nutritional information, but I knew that the quick rolled oats are what the instant oatmeal is made of (softens faster) and wasn’t sure about the steel cut oats, so I added them in for experimental purposes. Now, as everyone knows, oatmeal is marketed as a cholesterol lower..er. It’s rich in fibre, which in partnership with protein, keeps you full for a longer period of time. It also allows nutrients to be better absorbed into your body and helps with bowel movements that princesses dream of.

Textured Vegetable Protein

This is often used as a meat-substitute by vegetarians and vegans who don’t get enough protein in their diet. After my unfavourable experience with certain flavours of whey protein, I decided to try this out instead. It’s a great source of protein (obviously), fibre, calcium, and iron. It’s made out of defatted soybean flour, which comes during the process of making soybean oil. It actually comes out to being cheaper than whey protein (at 0.799 cents and 3-4 cents per gram of protein, respectively). The only drawback is that TVP has less bioavailability (thanks Edmond for teaching me that fancy new word) than whey protein, which basically means that the nutrients don’t get absorbed into the body as easily.

Chopped Walnuts

I added these in for a nice nutty flavour and a crunchy texture into the oatmeal, but walnuts are known to be very cardiovascular-friendly (good for your heart and blood system!) as well as being an anti-inflammatory. They’re a good source of fibre and vitamin E.

Flaxseed also called linseed

I picked these out because through ambient knowledge, I was minutely aware of it being touted as a healthy addition to your diet. However, upon further research, it seems that chia seeds (below) have got them beat in every aspect. I might omit them next time to save the calories (they seem to have a high caloric content), or I might leave them if I decide that the oatmeal just isn’t the same without flaxseed.

Goji Berries

Goji berries seemed to crop up everywhere a few years ago when they were introduced as the world’s newest “superfood.” It’s said that they help with your eyesight and ward off vision-related health issues as you age. They are nice and tart, and really take the oatmeal out of its bland stage. They are also very popular in salads, trail mix, and smoothies.

Craisins (Dried Cranberries)

I added these cranberries on a whim just because I had them on hand and thought the added berries would be great. When I make this oatmeal next time, I don’t think I would put the cranberries in because there are already goji berries and currants in it, and I always add banana into it anyway. The craisins don’t do much in terms of nutrients and only seem to add unnecessary sugars and carbs. If you like them for the flavour, it’s okay to keep them in because the end result is already very healthy.

Chia Seeds

They are no longer just being used to grow hairy clay animals! Even Dr. Oz endorses chia seeds. They are supposed to be able to absorb 12 times its own weight, which helps you keep full for extended periods of time. They’re also a great source of protein and calcium, which means their good for your bones, hair, and nails!

Currants

I grabbed these just because my coworker and I were talking about them a few days earlier. I wanted to go with a berry themed oatmeal, so I thought these would be perfect. They’ve got good fibre, and they’re also a good source of iron, potassium, and all those lovely B vitamins.

Sorry, I don’t have the measurements in cups/spoon measurements, but below there will be a video in which you can eyeball how much ingredients I added. Though I have exactly what I used in the video here, next time I’ll probably omit cranberries and flaxseed, and add more chia seeds and goji berries/currants. The oatmeal was not too carefully planned, so don’t feel like you have to stick exactly to the recipe. Feel free to adjust it to your liking.

Recipe/ingredients list:

This makes almost 2 kg of dry oatmeal, and at 1/2 cup servings, which the above nutritional information is for, should last you about a month. For 1/2 cup, combine with about 2/3 cup of boiled water, depending on how thick or watery you like your oatmeal.

  • Quick rolled oats – 1,090 g
  • Textured vegetable protein – 170 g
  • Chopped walnuts – 185 g
  • Steel cut oats – 135 g
  • Flaxseed – 115 g
  • Goji berries – 85 g
  • Craisins – 80 g
  • Chia seeds – 60 g
  • Currants – 40 g

Some might like the overall flavour a little sweeter, so you can add brown sugar, honey, or even maple syrup. After adding hot water I like to add a tiny bit of brown sugar, and some (calorie-less <3) cinnamon. I also add half a banana (50 calories), my calories per serving jumps to 309. Although it makes me worry when I add extra calories, I don’t worry too much because this oatmeal keeps you full for a long time and gives you tons of energy.

And that, my friends, is my long-winded explanation of my daily breakfast food. Here’s the YouTube video that shows what the quantity of ingredients looks like:

What is this “exercise” you speak of?

People who know me know I don’t run. Hell, I barely walk if I don’t have to. The last time I ran was in 9th or 10th grade. Almost 10 years ago!! And since then, I don’t run. Not for busses, trains, love, or anything. I may power walk to good food. I am eternally grateful for the genetics that have allowed me to keep a thin(looking) figure because without it, I would probably be upwards of 250 pounds.

This post is about my current plans, and for anyone who wants to follow along with me at a beginner’s attempt at taking up running!

My weight has always fluctuated but never have I stayed at 130 lbs for such a long time (5 ft 7 in for reference). I would love to be back down to 116, but I would settle for 118. For about the last two years my weight gaining schedule was as follows:

  • Sedentary lifestyle; weight plateaued at 123 lb.
  • February 2011: Start working 9-10 hour days. No car, sometimes no metro pass, so more walking. 120 lb.
  • June 2011: Body gets used to more active lifestyle; effects of working at a bakery add up. 126 lb.
  • August 2011: Get a second job. Start working 16 hour days. Go to school on days off. 122 lbs.
  • December 2011: Body gets used to it again. 126 lb. 
  • July 2012: Move back in with parents. Leave both jobs. Go from working 60-70 hour weeks, to barely 10 hours a week. 131 lb.

Now the reason my weight hasn’t gone super crazy is because I’m very self-conscious about my flubby flub belly, so when I feel it get a bit bigger I start crash dieting, cutting calories, and basically going on a low-calorie binge, and when I lose a few pounds, I see that as a green light to start eating unhealthily again. It’s a destructive cycle.

Now, all that background leads to the very exciting decision to take up running! I know, big surprise. Coming from the girl that responds to, “Hey, do you want to go for a hike?” with “Wow, it’s like you don’t even know me.”

It’s horrible! :D I dislike it. Granted, I’ve only been running for one week, but I still dislike it. From what I gather, most people hate it before they love it. It’s a lot of moving and sweating and heavy breathing and chest pains. But that’s what I get for being inactive for most of my life. I thought my childhood asthma had gone away after childhood, but nope, it’s just because I haven’t forced myself to breathe hard to test it.

What I do like about running however is that because I started so badly, even just on the second day, I saw immediate improvements on my stamina. And I guess because I’m a poke-the-bruise kind of person, I revel in the next-day muscle pains. It reminds me that, yes, I am working hard. The pain is proof that my suffering the night before was not in vain. That I am seeing results. My first day, I came home with jelly legs, having to walk up and down stairs, barely able to take a shower, and my arms hurt so much that I had trouble shampooing. Yes, apparently your arms hurt when you run! The next day was sore legs, arms, and obliques. And it felt, GOOD.

I’ve always drank a lot of water. During the height of my 2 jobs & school days, I would go through about 1.5 L of water a day. Now, I am actively trying to drink even more than that, usually about 2L a day, up to 3L. Drinking more water coupled with my new running regimen, I have already lost 4 lbs in one week! I’m sure most of it is water weight and since I’m peeing at least 6 times a day, the first few pounds are super easy, but it’s a nice confidence boost to see all my effort actually culminating in something.

My current path is only 1.5 km long, but I figure that’s a good start for me. Also, the distance from my house to a major street happens to be 0.75 km, so it’s convenient for me. Right now I’m taking it very slow, walking when I’m tired, which for the first day was more than half of it, but I am loving how quickly you see results. Here’s the difference in my first and second run!

Day 1:

Day 2: 

 

Once I am able to run the whole 1.5 km, I’m going to change my route into something longer. That first day, oh man that last leg was rough! But my iPhone decided to give me that one last push I need in the form of Childish Gambino. It served as my “Eye of the Tiger.”

Right now, I’m running every other day. Beginning with light jogging in my driveway to warm up the muscles, followed by some stretching, and then my run. Here’s to keeping up with the plan and hitting my goal weight of 116 lb!