Portion size. Portion control. Is a medium apple truly a medium apple? How do we know how much we are really eating? My wife and I have been using MyFitnessPal for the last year to track what we eat while we learn a new lifestyle of healthy habits. If you read back through my earlier posts, in Part 1 we delved into how to determine the number of calories in we should be aiming for. In Part 2, I dove into the ratio of Fats, Carbs and Proteins. And here, in Part 3 I am going to look at portion control. Though I dislike the term, and there as many opinions and studies as there are stars in the universe (or so it seems to me), There is something to be said about knowing how much you eat. Without it, you will never truly understand how many calories you are consuming.
Step 1 – Tracking Our Calories (using one tool)
We started this journey armed with one application – MyFitnessPal (MFP). We input our stats, set our goals and used the foods as found in the database. A month ago, we got our Fitbits and very quickly realized MFP may not be 100% accurate. Last week I added a Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) to the mix and hooked it up via Endomondo. This really started hitting home that MFP was more a generalization of calories burned than it was an accurate measure of calories burned. This, in turn, started us thinking that maybe our intake was not accurate either. For the last week we pulled out our food scale and started measuring, mostly in grams, what we ate. We were taking aback at how far off we were in measuring our intake.
For example, a medium apple is listed in MFP as having 72 calories. When we weighed the apple, then subtracted the portion we did not eat we found we ate 173 gms. This is 90 calories, or 18 calories more than just selecting a medium apple! After measuring each meal and inputting the gms weight we ate, we discovered that in most cases we were eating less calories than what MFP reported with just portion sizes. Granted, it was only 150-200 calories, but as we discovered in our last post, eating too few calories can be almost as bad as eating too many.
Step 2 - Tracking Our Calories (using multiple tools)
Now that we are using a scale, and using more tools to track our workouts, we feel more confident in the numbers we are tracking. Adding a HRM via Endomondo has shown me that I am burning *more* calories per workout than what MFP would report when I entered an activity and time. I need another week or so of numbers before I do another adjustment in our calories in vs. out. After making the adjustments (see Part 1 & 2), we have started losing weight again. Not quickly, but so far steadily.
Step 3 – Results
Both of us feel we are getting results though neither of us are excited looking at our charts for weight loss. We feel the difference in our clothes as all of our clothes keep getting bigger and bigger. Our weight is staying steady (maybe a maintenance mode?) but, if our Fitbit Aria Scale is to be believed, we are each gaining lean mass and losing fat mass. I will leave this post with a couple of my charts.
The above graph is via Fitbit and the use of the Fitbit Aria Scale which also measures the percentage fat. As you can see, we’ve only been using it for about 3 weeks so no data before the tail end of Feb 2014. What you can see though (blue line) is a downward trend before we increased our calorie intake and then an uptrend after that point. As far as weight (green line) you can see a steady loss from Dec to Feb, a plateau, then our calorie adjustment and finally a small downward trend again.
This is my measurements over the last year. While many are staying pretty constant, the one I am most excited about is my waist measurement! We take a measure every two weeks now. I’ve tightened up two notches on my belt and all of my pants look like I am swimming in them. If I looked at just my weight progress I probably would have quit last month. I just need to remember that I am no longer swimming in hormones like a twenty-something, need to work consistently and I will get to where I want to go.
I think my next post will be exploring Heart Rates during workouts…