I have logged into MyFitnessPal for 660 days in a row. That’s 1 year, 9 months, and 19 days.
For the uninitiated, MyFitnessPal is a free app that tracks daily food intake. It’s more than just a calorie counter. It tracks fat, protein, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamin c, iron, potassium, and several other key nutrients. It is a crowd-sourced program, with every food you can imagine already entered into the database. Just search and select the appropriate entry from the huge list of results. If by chance you have a food that isn’t already in the system, you can add it yourself. You can even enter the ingredients for your own recipes, and it will calculate all the calorie and nutrient details per serving. These are just a few features of this awesome program; I will get into more detail in the next two episodes of this series.
Like so many other aspects of weight loss, I had ridden the food tracking merry-go-round many times. I would commit to keeping a food journal, determined to write down every single thing I ate. I would stick with it for a few days, a few weeks, maybe even a few months. But eventually I grew weary of keeping up with it, and yet another journal bit the dust. Every time.
Keeping a food journal used to feel like a heavy burden, but today it gives me a feeling of liberation.
So what made this time different? The easy answer is technology. MyFitnessPal is a convenient app that I loaded right onto my phone with most of the food information already entered. No need for a bulky journal, or writing implements, or a calorie counting manual.
But the easy answer obscures the deeper reason. Convenience and ease of use is not what did the trick. I had actually tried MyFitnessPal a few times before this current 660 day streak and did not stick with it.
It wasn’t the change in technology that made the difference. It was the change in the user.
Our trilogy begins about 660 days + one month ago….
As I have discussed in previous posts, when I first started strength training with Matt at Ludus Magnus, the only major change I made to my diet was to stop drinking sugary coffee. [For a more detailed description of my epic fail to radically change my diet in the early days at Ludus, and the subsequent decision to focus on eliminating sugary coffee, see my earlier posts “All or Nothing Leads to… Nothing” and “Leaving Precious.”] I followed Matt’s suggestion to eat more protein and fat, and I cut back a bit on my carbohydrate intake (emphasis on “a bit”).
And I lost weight. Just from training two times per week, eliminating sugary coffee, and eating more protein and fat, from August 2014 to March 2015, I lost about 25 pounds.
Then my boyfriend broke up with me. We hadn’t been together that long, but I really liked him, and I thought we were getting along quite well. I didn’t see it coming, and I was crushed.
So I did what I had always done when emotionally devastated, what I had done since I was a little girl: I dove into food. I went straight to a friend’s house after he and I parted ways, and we ordered pizza. I had a pint of ice cream later that night. The next day at work at Trader Joe’s, I vividly remember deciding to not have my usual salad for lunch. Instead, I bought our frozen Mac & Cheese and a package of peanut butter cups. That same day, a thoughtful coworker wanted to do something nice for me. He knew I liked Starbucks, and asked what he could bring me. I told him a Java Chip Frappuccino. The following day I sat on my couch feeling sorry for myself, with a huge calzone from Dewey’s Pizza and a tall glass of Mountain Dew. And more ice cream. But instead of soothing my broken heart, all I got was heartburn.
If this had only lasted a few days, it would not have been that big of a deal. Gorge on some comfort food, commiserate with friends, do some crying, pick myself up, and get back on track. But that wasn’t what happened. Once I let the compulsive overeating beast out of its cage, it was so powerful I couldn’t lock it back up again. I found myself stuck once again in that old, tired cycle of craving and shame.
I ate like this for almost a month.
I continued training with Matt the entire time, but physically I felt terrible. My body was bloated and inflamed. Getting through the workouts was becoming more of a struggle. Then I got back on the scale. For the first time since coming to Ludus, it was moving the wrong direction. I was up almost 10 pounds.
In years past, when I regained weight after a period of loss, the fear and shame would send me running even faster back to food to eat all those feelings.
But this time, when I saw the numbers going up on that scale, something shifted in me. I did not have the old reaction. Maybe the training had changed me. Maybe I had finally hit bottom with binge eating. Maybe I was just tired of living that way. I don’t know why this time was different. I’m just grateful that it was.
I had worked too damn hard at the gym, and made too much progress, to eat myself back to where I started (or worse!) over some guy. I don’t remember the exact day, but very shortly after weighing myself I decided to try MyFitnessPal again. I needed a tool to help me regain accountability for what I put in my mouth. I loaded the app back onto my phone, determined to find out what I was really eating every day.
When I began my food-tracking journey, I assumed that if I could just get back to how I was eating before the breakup, that I would be okay. Yes, I was coming off a month-long bender, but I thought I had an accurate sense of how much food I consumed when eating “normally.”
Aw man, was I off. Waaaaaaaaaay off.
Knowledge is power.
Be sure to tune in next week for Part 2 of The MyFitnessPal Trilogy and learn more about how this initial determination evolved into a way of life that has worked for 660 days and counting!
Do you need help regaining accountability for your food? If so, I would love to be your ally through that process! Call me at 614-517-2520 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and join my other clients already working with me at Ludus Magnus!
*NOTE: The header image of this blog post is the official logo for MyFitnessPal. I have not received any form of compensation from them for this post; I am just an enthusiastic user of their product.