Quantified Me: Week 4 Play and Reflect Activity

 

“One day, young lady, that’s all going to catch up with you!” said almost every woman over the age of forty to me while I ate an entire tub of Connoisseur cookies and cream ice cream. Of course I took no notice of them. Why would I? I was twenty-something and invincible! By the age of twenty-four, I discovered that I wasn’t so invincible after all and in fact, it had all caught up on me. In a short amount of space I gained an uncomfortable, but not unhealthy, amount of weight. More importantly, I realized that I did not truly know what I should be eating in order to be a healthy adult. I decided to follow my mother to her weight loss group, New Mind Weight Loss Solutions. This group encourages members to recognize their detrimental food behaviours and teaches each individual how they might influence these behaviours to become healthier. New Mind is not about quick fixes, but creating a new mentality towards food that is healthy, enjoyable and sustainable. It ensures that a healthy lifestyle can be maintained forever. It was then that I started to quantify myself; today, I still track my daily calorie intake, my daily exercise and also my weight once a week.

Like Spyridopoulos in this week’s learning materials, I quantify myself because I am trying to improve an area of my life. And as Spyridopoulos states, “progress is made when progress is measured.” When speaking about weight loss in particular, Bruno (2013) states:

If you want to manage your weight … you need to measure your weight. You also need to measure the two things that control your weight – your eating and exercise habits.

Although everybody’s campaign will be different, the science behind it is the same (Freedhoff, 2013). As Dr. Freedhoff (2013) writes, “If you consistently eat more calories that you burn, you’ll tend to gain weight.” Therefore, in order to not gain weight, your calorie intake must be equal to the calories you burn. In order to lose weight, your calorie intake must be less than what you burn (NHS, 2014). Luckily the scientists also did the math for us!

I have always used the Calorie King app to track my weight and calories and exercise. Naturally, then I used Calorie King over the past three days.

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(My daily calorie intake number of 1200 for sedentary days has been decided by me and a professional after taking many factors – such as my age, height and health – into consideration)

The Calorie King app is an electronic version of Allan Boruskek’s Calorie, Fat and Carbohydrate Counter book (Calorie King, n.d).

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The Calorie King app allows you to:

  • Track the calories that you eat each day.
  • Track the amount of exercise you’ve done and how many calories you burnt during this exercise.
  • Track your weight.
  • Save recipes and the amount of calories in these recipes.
  • View reports of your weight, calorie intake and exercise.

I chose to use Calorie King over the more poplar app, MyFitnessPal. In order to evaluate Calorie King, I hope to be so bold as to display why I personally choose Calorie King over MyFitnessPal.

Pros

Calorie King is simplistic but its value, I believe, rests in its simplicity. It offers what is required in order to successfully track your weight, calories and exercise and nothing more.

  • It is not connected to the Internet, unlike MyFitnessPal. This means there are no frills such as blogs, private messages, notifications or forums, like one might find on MyFitnessPal. However, to me, tracking your calories is as mundane as brushing your teeth everyday. Could you imagine engaging in blogs and forums about brushing your teeth everyday or would you just want to get on with it? Secondly, being disconnected to the Internet also means that the food portions are more standardised than those offered on connected apps because those apps often end up as wikis. This standardisation makes tracking a little easier.
  • Secondly, Calorie King cannot connect with devices such as fitbits, like MyFitnessPal does. To me, this means that I’m not consumed with how much many calories I’m burning in comparison to how many I’m eating. Rather, I’m encouraged to plan my meals and exercise in advance, giving more structure to my week and allowing me to focus on other tasks at hand, such as obtaining a masters degree!
  • Quite simply, the format is very easy and enjoyable to use.Cons
  • It can sometimes be difficult to find rare ethnic foods. Ironically, I have to Google search the calorie value of these foods and enter them manually
  • It uses a strict controlled vocabulary. Let’s just say it took me a good six months before I figured out how M&M’s was entered into Calorie King.

Since Calorie King has played such an essential role in my weight loss and maintenance, I thought it would be easy to write a reflection on how this app impacts upon people who are not healthy with their weight, and by consequence help reduce obesity and diabetes, to name a few. Now, upon reading on the subject, I find that it is not that simplistic.

As Bruno (2013) states “self-monitoring isn’t magic, you still have to create and maintain a caloric deficit to lose weight.” Therefore, it is not just tracking your calories that allows you to lose weight but actually eating and exercising in way that will ensure you lose weight. Yes, in order to lose weight one’s calorie intake must be less that calories burnt and in order to ensure this is happening, these factors must be tracked (Bruno 2013NHS, 2014). However, if you, the reader, wanted to lose weight and all I gave you was a suitable calorie intake number and the Calorie King app, I argue that you would struggle to reach your goal weight and also maintain that weight. This is for two reasons.

Firstly, in order to achieve long-term success, one’s food behaviours need to be addressed and altered (Davis et al., 2016). In order to explain food behaviours, I thought I would provide examples of my own.

Positive: I only eat three and a half  meals and day and I rarely eat snacks in between meals.

Negative: I cannot eat only two 4 squares of a block chocolate and leave the rest in the fridge to eat over the remainder of the fortnight. It will be eaten in a night or two.

The obvious solution would be to stop eating entire block of chocolate in one night, or even refrain from buying chocolate in the first place. Certainly, I am able to do this for some space of time. Sometimes even months on end! But the fact is that this behaviour has developed over the past seven years of my adult life and it won’t change overnight just because I want it to. Ongoing advice about how you might overcomes these habits in the long run is required. (APS, 2007: I don’t necessarily propose this support come from psychologists, I believe the statistics in this article are useful). Calorie King doesn’t tell you how to change these habits, it just tells you whether you have changed them or not. A health professional, or weight loss profession or even a book or online resources can tell you how to change them (even the Queensland Government’s website (2015) on weight management provides and suggests these resources, for example).

The second reason is that weight loss and maintenance success is found more frequently by those who are supported by a group of people. (Kulik et al., 2016Moisio and Beruchashvili 2010). Generally speaking, people tend to lose weight and keep it off when they are not relying on their own strength (Heska et al., 2003). When talking about Weight Watchers, Moisio and Beruchashvili (2010, p. 827) state:

… the Weight Watchers support group does more than just lead members towards leaner bodies. The support group, as a spiritual and therapeutic companion, provides a commune for like-minded members sharing the same afflictions and struggles… the support group is a disciplinary guardian that oversees their quest for well being.

Calorie King doesn’t support you when you confess to eating another tub of cookies and cream Connoisseur ice cream. In fact it turns a furious red colour and tells you that you’re about 1000 calories over your daily limit. On the contrary, when you confess this to your weight loss group, the woman sitting left of you tells you a similar story from her week and the woman to the right tells you how she overcame a similar problem over the past five years.

These two reasons have shown that professional and personal support are generally required to successfully lose and maintain weight. Therefore, in order for an app to be impactful in its own right, it must provide these two elements, like MyFitnessPal strives to do and Calorie King fails to do. Although Davis et al. (2016) argue that apps like MyFitnessPal still do not provide these two elements to their fullest potential, MyFitnessPal is, by the the criteria woven into the literature, more effective. However, I still choose to use Calorie King. I can see now that Calorie King is only impactful when when used in conjunction of outside support, as I use it. The app’s ongoing success can perhaps be attributed to the fact that it meets the needs of those who are connected outside of the app and therefore don’t require the it to fulfil this necessity.

 

Published by

Kate

I am a Master of Information Science student at QUT. This is my learning blog.

17 thoughts on “Quantified Me: Week 4 Play and Reflect Activity”

  1. Hi Kate,
    Thanks for sharing us your campaign to lose weight.
    of course it is not just for losing weight but for being healthier.
    I think it is all about small things in our routine which need to be managed , and these apps are the key tools for this management.

    1. Hello! Thanks for reading my blog post. I think you’re completely right. Sometimes my eating habits can return to very unhealthy again but as long as I’m tracking and not snacking in between meals and doing all of these small things I know that I can stay on track.

  2. Thanks for this post Kate. I think you have really hit upon something when you talk about the no frills vs group support. That is where apps can come into themselves. Of course there are no easy answers, as others have posted, sometimes quantifying yourself in a group can lead to competitions and unhealthy behaviour. It’s a tricky issue, as you have shown!

    1. Hi Kathleen. I have found it interesting to read other people’s blogs about how competitive QS apps can be. I feel very lucky that the women at New Mind are only ever supportive and then Calorie King is not connected. When it comes to something like weight loss, I think it would be very dangerous to be competitive! I can certainly see how competitiveness could lead to unhealthy behaviour, perhaps without even noting it.

  3. Wonderful sharing Kate, inspired by you embarking the journey! Couldn’t agree more “If you want to manage your weight … you need to measure your weight” 🙂

    1. Thanks Desiree! Unfortunately measuring my weight is sometimes the last thing I want to do; too much conviction! But yes, it is the only way to truly know if you are being successful. Perhaps it doesn’t have to be a scale weight, but it has to be something.

  4. My only concern with this app not being online vs MyFitnessPal is that MFP allows you to search the food to find out the calorie amount, which can be easier than calculating/figuring it out yourself!

    1. Hey Karina, thanks for taking the time to read my blot post. Calorie King also allows you to search the food to find the calorie amount, although it’s not connected. I’m sorry I didn’t make that very clear. I only have to search Google for some rarer foods. I would assume that since MFP can work as a Wiki, all of the newest foods would be on there as soon as somebody had eaten it. Come to think of it, I’m not sure how often Calorie King updates its foods. My mum still uses the Calorie King book and calculates it all on paper!

  5. Hi Kate,

    I love your post and your artwork! I like that you have chosen an offline ‘no frills’ app. it is actually one I could have seen myself using. Unfortunately it turns out calorie counting makes me a Bellatrix Lestrange style crazy person, so I think I will stay away. I can however see this apps uses especially for the introverts who would find the more connected apps so stressful they would need to eat more cookie dough icecream. as you say this is an extremely personal issue but I would like to commend you for being so honest and wish you all the best. I am intrigued by your Quidditch playing…. I have found in my thirties that ballet is my sport of choice it makes me strong, happy and a healthy weight. And I am very happy to eat vegan peanut butter icecream for dinner at least once a week. 🙂 🙂

    Do you think the simplicity of this app would give it an audience with those who don’t own iphones and who perhaps don’t have the technology or skills to support a more complicated app?

    1. Hi Caitlin. Firstly, thanks for the Harry Potter reference! Tracking is not an easy or enjoyable task to stick to and Bellatrix is often lurking somewhere in my mind while I’m doing it! Calorie King is certainly very stress-free. I have found it interesting to read other people blogs and learn about how stressful or competitive the find other QS apps (not weight loss though). I’m so glad you’ve found a sport you like. Ballet! Awesome! When I’m not at Hogwarts, I find that dog walking and running is my thing. You certainly have to enjoy what you do! That includes vegan peanut butter ice cream once a week for dinner! On Fridays I usually have two scoops of chocolate and peanut butter ice-cream for dinner on the way home form IFN610. Can you tell I like ice cream?

      Thanks for your great question. My simple answer is: YES! To begin with I started using MyFitnessPal because it was free and Calorie King was around $8. MFP drove me insane because there was just too much going on! So I splurged and purchased Calorie King and never looked back. It’s so simple it’s good.

      1. I’ve just realised that I didn’t truly answer your question. But I still think the answer is yes. Calorie King is essentially the book in electronic form, which also does the maths for you. Surprisingly very few women in my New Mind group use Calorie King over MFP. I suppose you could also learn to ignore the bells and whistles on MFP and it would be the same thing as Calories King. But I think it is a great place to start if you are not confident with technology and just want an app that tracks your calories. MFP might be too noisy for someone who is not confident with technology to look past. My mother still uses the physical book and calculates her calories on paper. It is interesting that she doesn’t want to use the app, although I’ve offered to teach her how.

  6. I really enjoyed reading your post Kate. It sounds like you have got the balance right in your weight management journey. The app works well in conjunction with group support. Successful weight maintenance is often about more than eating less and doing more, it can be a psychological issue as well, so whilst apps like these have a place, many people still need that support as you pointed out. Well done for taking control of your weight before it became a big problem, the doomsayers are right the older you are the harder it is to maintain, as our metabolism slows down as we age, particularly post menopause. That’s something to look forward to!

  7. Hi Kate,

    I also really enjoyed reading your post and am inspired now to do something about my weight gain. After having two kids and ‘letting myself go’ so to speak, I decided to go to Weight Watchers and I managed to lose 10 kg in 3 months. What I liked about Weight Watchers was that the ‘science’ behind it worked- track the number of points worth of food you eat a day, try to eat no more than 18 points worth of food a day; you can eat an additional number of points worth of food depending on the calories you burn due to your exercise each day. Stick to the formula and you’ll lose about 1kg a week, which is more or less what happened. But sticking to the formula was definitely made easier due to the support I obtained at meetings and from a couple of my friends who joined with me.

    Weight Watchers recommend that you become a life time member so that support to maintain your goal weight is always there. I did not do this and over time I put back on all 10kgs and then some! My understanding of the formula for weight loss has not been removes nor has me my access to a food point/ exercise table, but without the sharing, encouragement and support, my motivation to lose weight has certainly waned.

    A good article associated with this is: Design and Implementation of an Interactive Website to Support Long-Term Maintenance of Weight Loss. Here’s the link – http://www.jmir.org/10/1/e1

  8. Hi Lisa. Thank you for sharing your story here. I enjoyed learning about the process from the perspective of a weight watchers member. Your story again highlights the role of support groups, even when you have the science and resources behind you. Also, thanks for that great article! An interesting read (and I wish I found it during my research :-))

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