Heading in the Right Direction
At this point, we know where we are and where we would like to be. All that is standing between us and there is the journey (and it's the best part!)
Burning calories, shedding pounds, and losing inches all follow the same rules of engagement: Calories In V.S. Calories Out. Burning more calories than you consume is the mathematical way for weight loss success. The equation is the easy part, though. Knowing the numbers is the difficult part. Lucky for us, there hardly exists a food without public record of its calories, macronutrient makeup, and ingredients.
For figuring out the calorie counts to food, we can use one of these apps:
The best part of both of these apps is that they are available to Apple and Android users for free, so investigating the caloric makeup and count for any food is just a quick search away. Additionally, both of these apps have paid versions to track future calories, have deeper insights into what you're eating, and also share many articles about dieting varieties, low calorie recipes, and other healthy lifestyle pieces.
From a personal perspective, I preferred Lose It to all other diet and exercise apps. The idea of setting a goal and having the easy-to-user interface made tracking more of a delight than a chore. That being said, the decision will be entirely up to you, the reader. Many users tout Myfitnesspal for having a wider range of restaurant and supermarket food to choose from in their library, while Lose It has a selection of more mainstream options. Both feature a barcode scanner for packaged foods. Really, the best option here is to try both and then stick with the one that jives with the food you're currently eating and will give you the greatest ease in starting the habit of mindful eating and calorie tracking.
I don't call it "counting calories" because these apps don't require you to count them. They count them for you, and can advise you too, along the way, but ultimately it's you doing the tracking.
Both apps will allow you to set weight goals and ask some physical questions that have to do directly with your metabolism. Barring any medical illnesses, age, height, and weight can be input, along with a target weight. From there, the apps will offer you different regimens ranging from slow to speedy weight loss (0.5lbs per week up to 2lbs per week). [As a quick note, I set my goal to lose 60lbs from my starting weight of 308lbs, but was seeing weight loss upwards of 5lbs per week, and I'm still alive.]
The biggest misuse of the apps that I have seen and heard is the underreporting of calories and the overestimation of exercise - this practice only causes setbacks and heartache. Better to overestimate and overreport food intake and to underestimate or devalue exercises that burn calories. The buffer for this allows for some computing mistakes, forgotten food items throughout the week, and ultimately a little more wiggle room for human error.
Finally, the most important part about using these apps is honestly with yourself. If you stop eating a burger with one to two bites left, it's not '1/2 of a burger'. On the flip-side, if you are on the treadmill for thirty minutes, but stand there texting for 10 minutes or letting it run for 5 minutes, while searching for a song or show on Netflix, then it wasn't really thirty minutes. This vigilance is required for anyone to succeed.
Empowered with tools for tracking, with our sights set on an end-goal, and the undeniable science of caloric burning, we're ready for Phase 3: Diet Plans of Action!
I know some people loathe idea of having to use a mobile app in order to track their calories, and the idea of relying on a device to obtain success seems abominable. That's okay!
A great alternative is to keep a food journal somewhere handy to write down food consumed and exercises completed.
Once all exercises and food consumed throughout the day have been recorded, we can use either of the above smartphone apps to calculate the calories in and out, or any trusted online database.
The correct method of tracking isn't the one that is the fastest, easiest, or even logical; it's the method that works that is correct. So, choose the right one for you and your journey.