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.