There’s an app for that!
Mince pies, red wine, sparkling wine, sausage rolls, turkey sandwiches, duck fat roast potatoes, christmas pudding…..ahh the roll call of guilty pleasures that lead us all into the classic post- holiday season diet. January is the cruellest of months for those of us who’ve eaten, drunk and been properly merry over the holidays.
The thing is, we all know that fad diets don’t work, yet that’s what many people will resort to when they can’t squeeze back into their favourite jeans after Christmas. The weight we want to come off may well do with the 5:2/Hay/Atkins/Raw Food/Blood Type/Cabbage Soup type diets, but chances are, it will come piling right back on again as soon as we start to eat ‘normally’ again.
Obviously, the secret to healthy weight management (unless you have a serious medical condition of course) is to consistently balance the amount of calories we actually consume by eating and drinking with what we do to burn them off. We burn off calories even when we’re sleeping or watching TV; we burn off even more if we garden, walk, run or swim.
Knowing that and managing it successfully are two very different things however. What I have found to be absolutely brilliant is the MyFitnessPal app which you can load FOR FREE on your smartphone or tablet computer if you have one.
First of all, you enter all details such as your gender, height, age, current weight etc. and your target weight. The app will automatically calculate a daily calorie intake for you and show you how long it will take to get your target weight. You can adjust it to suit your circumstances, although it’s best to go for it gradually so the weight stays off.
Next, you keep a daily food dairy which is recorded in the app. It’s quite enlightening to record what you eat, even if it’s just for a little while, because that’s how you can see where you can make changes to your diet. The MyFitnessPal app makes this very easy and let’s say if, like most people, you eat pretty much the same thing every day for breakfast, you can just copy the same entry over every day. My daily breakfast of porridge with semi-skimmed milk is just 210 calories. So, I know exactly what I’ve got left to play with for lunch and dinner every day.
As you begin to use the app, you’ll start to understand how many calories are in the foods that you eat, especially the ones you eat regularly. You could be in for a few surprises! The app has the world’s largest nutrition and calorie database of over 4 million foods. I even use it when I go shopping as there’s a barcode reader built into it which means I can scan everyday foods for their nutritional values, make informed choices about what I buy, choose between brands and avoid all those hidden fats and sugars we read so much about. The nutritional analysis of what you eat contained in the app can also help you if you’ve been advised by your Doctor to watch your cholesterol levels, or to make sure you have the right amount of a particular vitamin or mineral e.g. calcium in your diet.
The other simple trick that makes this informed approach diet work is to manage your portion control – cutting down as opposed to always cutting things out. So, one slice of bread not two, rather than none at all. A small glass of wine instead of a large one, rather than none at all. I found it really useful to weigh out a few everyday things too such as butter, sugar and salt, so that I could train my eye to recognise what a particular amount of it actually looked like. The NHS recommend that we consume no more than 6g of salt a day, especially as it is contained in so much food already, but how many of us can actually visualise what 6g even looks like?
So, give the MyFitnessPal app a whirl this month and see if you can get back into your favourite jeans without resorting to fad dieting.
For more information about MyFitnessPal download the app from the AppStore or check out their blog here.
*This article first appeared in the Bury Free Press WOW Food and Drink section.