Use Your Phone to Lose Weight!

Disclaimer: I am not a Registered Dietician or health professional. The advice in this article is not meant to be used in place of a consultation with a practicing health professional. You should always seek medical approval before beginning any weight loss or exercise regimen.

Believe it or not, you can use your phone to lose weight! No, I’m not going to reveal some study that says texting burns calories, an hour of Candy Crush is equivalent to a 30 minute run, or anything like that (although I wish this was true!) There are some apps, though, that you can use to track the amount of calories that you take in to help you lose weight (or gain weight, if that’s what you want.)  Tracking my daily caloric intake using my phone is one of my secret weapons in the fight to stay trim.

Why should I track my calories? How is that going to help me?

One of the very basic principles of weight loss is what we call “calories in vs. calories out.” In order to drop weight, we have to burn more calories than we consume each day. Many people don’t know how many calories they consume each day, while others may think they have a good idea how much they’re eating. The only way to tell for certain is to keep a food diary, which means tracking everything you eat and drink each day. It can be an eye-opening experience for sure, as many people don’t really know how much they actually eat during the course of the day. Tracking your calorie intake is extremely helpful for weight loss, because knowing how much you’re consuming each day is one of the first steps in determining how much you may need to cut back.

Sounds like a lot of work, right? Well, it doesn’t have to be. Your phone can be a big help for you here! Hands-down, my favorite fitness/nutrition app is MyFitnessPal. I discovered this FREE application about 3 years ago, and I recommend it to anyone and everyone looking to lose weight.

MyFitnessPal

**Note** I’ll be going more in-depth on how to use the app and maximize your weight loss with it in a future post. For now, this is a basic overview.  

Available on iPhone, Android and Blackberry, MyFitnessPal allows you to track your daily calories, exercise, and fitness progress. You start off by setting your own weight loss goals, to a maximum pace of 2.5 lbs per week. Once you complete your initial profile (height, weight, age, activity level, etc.) MyFitnessPal calculates the amount of calories you should take in each day. After maybe a total of 5 minutes time, you’re ready to start truly watching what you eat!

One of the things that make MyFitnessPal really convenient is its huge database of foods. Simply type in the name of the food/product that you’re about to eat, and chances are it’s in the database. If it is, all you have to do is find the food/product that matches or most closely resembles what you’re eating, click add, and voila – The food is added to your diary AND the amount of calories from it are deducted from your daily total, giving you the number of calories that you have left to consume for the day. The Android and iPhone versions offer a label scanner option as well – simply scan the label of whatever food you’re eating and it is inputted to your diary automatically (as long as it’s in the database.)

If you exercise (and you should!), MyFitnessPal can help you keep track of your workouts and even give you an estimate on how many calories you burned. What’s better is that it adds the number of calories burned to your daily total, to make sure you’re getting adequate nutrition and energy.

Finally, the app also helps you keep track of your total weight loss by allowing you to “check-in” as frequently (or infrequently) as you want. Simply input how much you weigh on a given day and MyFitnessPal keeps track of it for you. You can even go back and look at the reports it generates to show you how much weight you have lost over a given period of time.

Here’s my personal MyFitnessPal badge to show off a part of the weight tracking feature:

MyFitnessPal – Free Calorie Counter

While there are many good fitness apps out there, for the purposes of tracking calories and progress I think MyFitnessPal “takes the cake” (and tells you how many calories are in it too!) The user interface is simple, straightforward and very easy to use – even for those who aren’t very tech-savvy.  Whether you integrate it into your daily life, like I do, or use it briefly just to get a clearer picture of your eating habits, it is well worth keeping a food diary. MyFitnessPal just makes the process a lot easier, and you can’t beat the price! Funny how our phones can almost do anything now, huh?

~Martin, CPT

Do you use any fitness apps that you would like to recommend as well? Would you like me to check one out that you’ve heard of, but aren’t sure how to best utilize? Hit the comments section below. Any and all feedback is welcome and greatly appreciated!

Related Reading:

Chicago Tribune: Baltimore Health Experts Share Their Picks for Best Fitness Apps

Advertisements

My Personal Fitness Journey

61031_485493095288_4483037_n

Fitness is a journey, not a destination.” – unknown

 

I was born fat. No joke, just ask my mom! I spent the majority of my childhood as the “fat kid,” and a good part of my young adult life as “the fat guy.” It wasn’t always such a drag, though. I’ve been blessed with great friends, family and a generally outgoing nature. My friends and family would probably describe me as the consummate “nice guy” (I’m also the “cool guy,” depending on who you ask!) Was I made fun of? Absolutely, but I was able to not let other’s perceptions of my physical appearance destroy my self-esteem. My own perception of myself, though, was a different story. I was fat, and I knew it.

While I never really let other people’s jokes about my weight get to me, I was always conscious of the fact that I was really big. Outwardly, I displayed a confidence in myself that was present regardless of my appearance. However, inside my head, I would always criticize myself about my weight. I hated how I looked. I guess I didn’t have any room to allow other people to affect my self-esteem – I was doing enough damage to it all by myself.

I think my own criticisms of myself were at times debilitating, but also important; they helped me to internalize my motivation. When I set out to shed tons of weight (which I have done twice – more on that later) it wasn’t an external influence that was motivating me to do it – it was my internal disgust at my appearance that kept me going. It was like a double-edged sword; at one end, I was constantly judging myself negatively, and at the other I was using that negativity, in essence, to fuel my motivation. Admittedly, it’s probably not the healthiest thing to do for your psyche, but it’s where I started. It’s a part of my struggle that I’ve dealt with since I was very young, and still continue to deal with today.

I vividly remember the only external criticism of my weight that ever truly stuck with me. I was ten years old and visiting the doctor when he told my mother and me, very matter-of-factly, that if I were to continue to stay as obese as I was I would likely not see age thirty. Was he over-exaggerating (and a dick)? Perhaps. He did have a point, though – I was on a fast track to poor health and the many complications that accompany it.

The lingering thought of being on a fast track to an early grave and my own internal conflicts eventually led to my first weight loss transformation at the age of thirteen. I was in junior high school, and my self worth was at an all-time low. I wasn’t lacking for friends, but I definitely did not feel good about myself. My sister was on Slim-Fast at the time, and I thought, “Oh, what the hell. Let me try it. I’ve got to do something!” Thankfully the chocolate flavor actually tasted pretty good, otherwise I may not have lost the weight that I did! All jokes aside, I asked my mom, who was skeptical about it at the time, if I could try it. She reluctantly agreed (after an OK from our family doctor, of course) and I started the Slim-Fast program.

Along with being on Slim-Fast, my father would take me to our local gym every weeknight after I finished my homework. It was hard, at first. I would get hunger pangs from the calorie deficit that Slim-Fast puts you on, and the physical activity from the gym was fairly new to me. I wasn’t very active prior to this. In elementary school, I would have my mom write notes for me to be excused from participating in gym class. Now I was going out of my way to get that exercise! After a while, though, I was starting to see some results and, seeing my commitment, the gym regulars would give me words of encouragement and show me new things to help me along.

In about 6 months time I went from 280 lbs to 175 lbs. I had literally become a new person. My family, friends and classmates were all astonished. It was a fresh start – people who I knew before were practically being re-introduced to me, and those who I had just met would not have known the “fat” me.  I graduated junior high that year and went on to high school as a completely different person.

During my freshman year of high school I played on the school’s football team. It was during this year that I was truly introduced to strength training, and I loved it! I learned so much from my coaches, but I wanted more. Every month, I would make sure that I saved up enough of my allowance to buy the newest issue of Men’s Health magazine and Muscle & Fitness. I was taking control of my fitness, and I was going to have the body I always wanted.

Right around the end of my sophomore year, things started to go downhill again. I fell into a depression, and learned that I am an emotional eater – essentially, my mind tells me that eating copious amounts of sugary sweets makes me feel good. My fitness took a back seat to other things, and eventually all my hard work from before was lost. By the time I graduated high school I was weighing over 300 lbs.

From high school I went on to college, and in my second semester got myself a job working retail full-time while going to school full-time. I bet you can imagine the stress! Much of that stress contributed to my ever-increasing waistline and bodyweight. I eventually switched jobs to the one I am at currently. When I started there, I was weighing in at about 360 lbs, which is my absolute heaviest.

I work in TriBeCa, where there is always an abundance of fitness enthusiasts either jogging or biking in the area. I always admired the runners/joggers, and remembered how calming it was to be out on a run from my football days. Once the “runner’s high” kicked in it was sheer bliss. I wanted to be able to run again, but it was going to take a lot of work. I started by walking from the Staten Island Ferry to the job and back each day, for a total of about 2 miles each way (4 miles a day). I learned to love it, and started dropping some weight. I started incorporating as much walking as possible into my daily routine, and haven’t looked back since.

Walking was a great way to get some exercise, but I still wanted to run. I began to read a lot of articles online and in blogs about running, and found some people who, like me, were overweight, and set a goal to run a marathon in order to lose weight. Something inside just clicked, and I said to myself, “Martin, you’ve got to do this.” So, for some time I read about the safest way to do this type of training, what I would need, and how to get started. I also kept track of other people’s blogs who were doing something similar so that I could compare my experiences with theirs and get motivated. Then, in September of 2010, I started my training and boldly announced that I, Martin Arroyo, would be running in the 2011 ING New York City Marathon.

My friends and family were a bit skeptical about my decision to take on such an extreme goal, but they were always supportive. Week by week, month by month, I trained to increase my mileage. I started by only running for maybe a total of 6 minutes a week to over an hour each session. The weight was coming off, fast.

In July of that year, I had officially lost 110 lbs. My friends, family, and co-workers were astonished and proud. I did it again! And, keeping to my goal, on November 6, 2011, after 7 hours, I crossed the finish line of the 2011 ING New York City Marathon and received my finisher’s medal. It was a moment that I will never forget.

297675_10150453861540289_1166850180_n 303114_10150458466100289_581171703_n

With that goal accomplished, I set out to face the world and take on as many physical challenges as I could, while inspiring others to do the same. Since then, I’ve lost another 40 lbs or so, and am currently working towards becoming a Certified Personal Trainer and Registered Dietician. Eventually, I would like to be a certified wellness coach, as I know that in order to make any serious physical transformation and to make it stick, you need a combination of physical, nutritional and mental wellness to succeed. I want to help others realize their goals and make lasting changes to better their lives!

As you can see, my fitness journey thus far has been pretty long, but it’s far from over! Who would’ve thought that the kid who used to get notes to be excused from gym class would end up running a marathon and going into a career that revolves around exercise? If only my gym teacher could see me now! I must say that I am happy with the transformation that I have made thus far, and have realized that I don’t need to harness any self-imposed negativity to make changes – all I need to do is focus on the positive aspects of my own wellness and improving upon that. Today, I’m 25 years old, in the best overall shape of my life, and continually seeking to improve myself. So far, I’m beating the prediction my doctor made 15 years ago, and I intend to prove him wrong.

Thanks for reading about my journey. I hope I was able to provide some insight on what it can be like if you’re just about to start on yours, and something that can you can relate to and be motivated by.

~Martin