How I plan to lose 20 pounds, Part 1: The Social & App Strategy

June 25, 2013 | By | Comments (18)

Twenty pounds in five months doesn’t sound like a super-aggressive goal, but the most I’ve lost in the past is 10, after which I encountered those confounding plateau challenges everyone talks about. Somewhere at the 10-pound point, I’m going to hit a wall on the Cooking Light Food-Lover’s Social Diet—this I know.

Genetically, the odds aren’t with me, either. For one thing, every male in my immediate family is somewhat to dramatically apple-shaped, with funny torsos perched on skinny legs. For another, I eat pretty evenly—no chocolate addictions, no binges—and I exercise regularly. With one exception, there is not a lot of low-hanging fruit in my diet. (The exception is my cocktail predilection; more on that another time.) So I have to attack the problem of eating less the way we approach eating in general at the magazine: portion control, mindfulness, and even more plants and whole grains than I already eat.

The math is simple: fewer calories in. But to this simple goal I intend to bring complicated weapons, rituals, and assets: two apps, this blog, related tweeting, the Board of Advisors, and an audience of several million to keep me honest.

Yes, it’s a project. Guys, as the Board of Advisors (who are women) rolled their eyes and noted the other day, like projects. We erect complicated structures to achieve simple things. (“Wouldn’t it be easier to just join Weight Watchers?” Of course! That’s why I won’t do it; plus, I’m shy.)

myfitnesspal

This MyFitnessPal screenshot shows my weekly calories consumed.

MyFitnessPal: Daily Diet Diary

Another MyFitnessPal screenshot displaying my daily diet diary.

I need (and most people who try to lose weight need) the feedback loop of a food diary. That comes courtesy of App #1: MyFitnessPal (a free app that I’ve experimented with before). It allows me to easily journal what I eat, with a daily goal of 1,550 calories (the app says I’ll lose a pound a week at that level, or 20 pounds in five months). That’s a low calorie count, but the app adjusts the allowance based on exercise.

How does it do that? Well, exercise is monitored by App #2, called UP. The UP app is free, but it requires a nifty $129 wristband pedometer, meaning the app actually costs $129. (Full disclosure: I bought one and liked it, and now the Jawbone company, which makes the wristband, has supplied five more to the Board of Advisors so we can group-test it.) When I take the bracelet off and plug it into my iPhone, UP talks to MyFitnessPal, and vice versa. It tells the food diary the calories I burn exercising, which then induces MyFitnessPal to increase my food allowance. Nifty, yes?

UP Sleep and Activity report

UP Sleep and Activity report

A few minutes ago, for example, I synced the UP bracelet and was “given” an extra 120 calories because I had taken a long walk in the country. You can calibrate the bracelet, but how accurate the math actually is is not really the point: The simple fact of food journaling lowers consumption (for me, anyway), and the incentive of a 10,000-step-per-day fitness goal, with its calorie bonuses, keeps me running and walking.

Is this approach silly? Is it overcomplicated? No doubt some will say yes. If the real goal is a holistic, adjusted approach to eating that can be sustained for the rest of my life without turning me into a permanent neurotic record-keeping calorie bore, should I even be using these crutches?

Well, the alternative is just too daunting. If I don’t count what I eat, I’ll lose motivation before I lose weight. I want to get my portions in check, get the weight off, and then see if I have internalized the behavior enough to shed the tech.

Would you like to join our weight loss project? Set goals, share ups and downs, and let us know what works for you.  Comment here, email @ Scott_Mowbray@timeinc.com, and tweet @ScottMowb or @Cooking_Light using #SocialDiet.

COMMENTS

  1. me

    No Minecraft when a grown-up is trying to talk to you.
    And in the event that doesn’t get you excited — especially in case you’re a Minecraft fan — you
    literally don’t know what you’re missing. me

    September 6, 2014 at 2:51 am
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    Thanks for sharing such a nice thinking, article is nice, thats why i have read it fully

    February 20, 2014 at 8:28 pm
  3. Like Abs | I Made My 20-Week Weight-Loss Goal: Now What?

    […] success was possible. I wrote that together with a few friends and colleagues, we had launched the Social Diet. We cooked the Social Diet up for food lovers, not dieters, and we would be the guinea pigs. The […]

    January 12, 2014 at 2:29 pm
  4. I Made My 20-Week Weight-Loss Goal: Now What? | Doohickey

    […] success was possible. I wrote that together with a few friends and colleagues, we had launched the Social Diet. We cooked the Social Diet up for food lovers, not dieters, and we would be the guinea pigs. The […]

    January 10, 2014 at 8:28 am
  5. I Made My 20-Week Weight-Loss Goal: Now What? | Wonderful Tips

    […] success was possible. I wrote that together with a few friends and colleagues, we had launched the Social Diet. We cooked the Social Diet up for food lovers, not dieters, and we would be the guinea pigs. The […]

    January 10, 2014 at 8:28 am
  6. I Made My 20-Week Weight-Loss Goal: Now What? | Cooking Light

    […] success was possible. I wrote that together with a few friends and colleagues, we had launched the Social Diet. We cooked the Social Diet up for food lovers, not dieters, and we would be the guinea pigs. The […]

    October 15, 2013 at 3:43 pm
  7. Kathy

    I have a Fitbit One which also syncs with myfitnesspal …I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE them both….got it for Mother’s Day and have lost 25 lbs as of this morning! Yea me!

    August 24, 2013 at 9:42 am
  8. Half way to my weight goal, I’m getting afraid of reaching it – Simmer and Boil | Cooking Light

    […] comes with adjusting the calorie in/calorie out dials in order to lose weight (that’s all apps, bracelets, and scales do, they help with the numbers in the […]

    August 7, 2013 at 3:01 pm
  9. Amy Ternet Sorrell

    Another app that works with MyFitnessPal is Runtastic and it’s free. Of course there are lots of bells and whistles you can buy for it, but the basic app is free. I turn it on when I take a walk and it syncs with MyFitnessPal.

    August 6, 2013 at 10:45 am
  10. Five Reasons the Social Diet Helped Me Lose the First 10 Pounds – Simmer and Boil | Cooking Light

    […] support, empathy. I would encourage anyone interested in losing weight to follow our simple setup. If you want more details, e-mail me at […]

    August 2, 2013 at 8:01 am
  11. Do You Really Want Your Friends or Coworkers Looking at Your Food Diary? – Simmer and Boil | Cooking Light

    […] Light Food Lover’s Social Diet, as I’m pompously calling this little effort, is that the MyFitnessPal and UP apps share progress with friends (or, in my case, with the Board of Advisors). At least they […]

    July 18, 2013 at 3:00 pm
  12. How Home-Improvement Is Helping Me Shed Pounds – Simmer and Boil | Cooking Light

    […] house; as I find more to do in Birmingham, it becomes a better place to live. The support of the Social Diet group keeps me motivated, and the Up band is always there to remind me that keyboard strokes aren’t the […]

    July 17, 2013 at 12:30 pm
  13. Shawna Stewart Greenway

    I need to finally lose the baby weight since the baby is turning 6 in September. I really like My Fitness Pal and find it very easy to work with. Everyone keeps talking about how great the Fitbit Flex is but it sounds like the UP is a good one too. Anyone using else using UP who wants to share their thoughts on the device?

    July 14, 2013 at 8:22 pm
  14. JM Hulshoff (@JMHulshoff)

    I have been using My Fitness Pal for two months and it is my journal and conscience. I joined the local YMCA and do aqua aerobics, cycling, and cybex weights 5 days per week. I synced the Y’s expresso bike to My Fitness Pal account. Also bought a heart rate monitor (Polar F4) which monitors and records a variety of data. I have lost 6 pounds and feel fitter than ever.

    July 13, 2013 at 5:32 pm
  15. Kathie Swanson

    My doctor recommended MyFitnessPal and it has really helped to enlighten me! I am actually looking at the foods I eat before letting it pass over my lips! I am on a slow weight loss, very slow (I still cheat, a lot…) but it helps being accountable to myself thru MyFitnessPal. Exercise is another piece of the puzzle I need to tackle…. I am looking forward to reading about your successes, keep up the fantastic work!

    July 2, 2013 at 10:05 am
  16. Jack Morris (@jack_morris)

    Both are great apps! I use them daily and they keep me motivated on what to eat, how much,and most importantly exercising.

    July 2, 2013 at 1:14 am
  17. Now I’m Obsessed with Walking 10,000 Steps a Day – Simmer and Boil | Cooking Light

    […] true that stepping out this much leads UP to “credit” my food journal with an extra 250 calories of eating, but that’s not the motivation. Apps like UP demonstrate […]

    June 27, 2013 at 7:00 am
  18. How I plan to lose 20 pounds, Part 2: The Food – Simmer and Boil | Cooking Light

    […] the last blog I outlined the two apps I’m using as part of what I’m calling the Cooking Light Food Lover’s […]

    June 26, 2013 at 7:02 am

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