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Using my Android Apps to lose 2lbs a Week

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Tuesday, August 6, 2019
2017 was a stressful time and not great for my fitness goals so in 2018 I found myself needing to lose a decent amount of weight again. 🙁 I'm a few lbs away from my goal and thought others might be interested in knowing how I'm doing it and what free apps I use to help.

In the beginning of 2018 I just focussed on exercising more and trying to be more careful of what I ate. More vegetables and fruits, less fried foods, cut out eating out almost entirely, no more making cheesecake or ice cream (which really hurt,) etc. Exercise became more frequent as well. I started making time to hike regularly again.

The weight was coming off but it was slow. Then in October 2018 I set a goal to lose 2 lbs a week. That's pretty tough but there are a few apps and other tools I use to help me stay on track and monitor my progress so I can lose the weight faster.

Disclaimer

I am not a doctor, nutritionist or personal trainer. These are just the things I do for myself that I've found to work. I've tried to learn as much as I can so I can make the best decisions for myself. You should really try to do the same before making major changes that affect your health and speak to your doctor.

My Android Fitness Apps

I keep all my fitness apps on one home screen so I can access them quickly.


I'll go over the major ones in more detail below but here's a quick list (most frequently used in bold):
  • Samsung Health
  • Google Fit
  • MyFitness Pal
  • Push Ups, Squats, Pull Ups, Sit Ups from Simple Design, Ltd.
  • 5 Minute Plank
  • C25K - Couch to 5k Running app
  • JEFIT - Custom exercise routines
  • Body Measurement
  • Omron Wellness 
  • Noom (don't really use anymore but keep it for legacy data)
  • An app to easily keep my screen on when I'm on treadmill
  • Some hiking and meditation related apps.

Nutrition

Counting Calories Consumed

There's no better way to lose weight than to count calories. 2lbs a week is the maximum you want to aim for. To lose 1lb of fat a week you need to have a total 3,500 calorie deficit for the week. Meaning you burn 3,500 more calories than you consume. That's 500 calories a day. For 2 lbs it's 7,000 calories a week or a 1,000 calorie deficit a day.

I use MyFitness Pal to count all the calories I eat in a day. You enter your current weight, some other stats like age, height and gender as well as your goal weight and how much weight you want to lose a week. You can choose 1/2 lb, 1 lb, 1-1/2 lbs or 2 lb/s per week. My goal is 2 lbs of weight loss per week and I'm getting pretty close. Currently doing about 1.6 lbs per week which I'm trying to improve on.

Just the act of writing down everything you eat in a day will probably help you make better choices.

I didn't follow any specific diet. I ate foods I liked, entered that food into an app and would see how the calories matched up with what my goals were. As I went along I would say "I'm eating too many calories, mostly from fat and too much saturated fat, not enough fiber or certain vitamins if I cut out cheese and mayo from lunch and substitute spinach and pickle chips instead the numbers look better." Sadly, a lot of the changes I made involved cheese 😢

With MFP you can create your own recipes and meals which make it easy to add them to your food diary without having to select every item or ingredient. In the beginning it was fun creating and fine tuning recipes and meals to get an ideal balance but that got old fast so I wound up sticking to some of the recipes I already made for simplicity while making some changes here and there so things didn't get boring.

My basal metabolic rate is about 2,000 calories per day. That's the amount of calories I would burn if I just laid in bed all day. You can find a calculator online to calculate your BMR. I have a hard time eating much less than this so I aimed to consume about 1,800 calories a day which is only a 200 calorie deficit. This is enough calories that I don't feel like I'm starving myself. My body also doesn't go into starvation mode, where it tries to conserve energy and burn less fat. That's happened a few times when I haven't eaten enough. When my heart rate goes well below normal that's usually my first sign but it may be different for you. When that happens I'll go over my calories to get back to a normal metabolic rate.

MyFitness Pal tracks more than just calories though. I can see a breakdown of macro and micro nutrients which I found to be very important.

Macros

I try to break up my food so I get about 45% of my calories from carbs, 30% of my calories from fat and 25% of my calories from protein. 

Protein

Protein is the most important macro for me. The human body can't substitute anything for protein and if it needs protein it will consume existing muscle to get it. I'm exercising a lot more. Both cardio and weight training. When you lose weight you tend to lose muscle too. When you get heavier most people tend to get more muscle too. It takes more muscle to move that fat ass from place to place. 

Exercise and consuming enough protein will help maintain or build more muscle. To maintain muscle mass consuming 0.8 grams per pound of lean body mass should be enough. To gain muscle aim for 1 to 1.2 g per lb of LBM. Your lean body mass is your weight - (weight times body fat percent). 

It can be hard to consume that much protein so most days I'll take at least some whey protein powder supplement.

There are a lot of foods coming out now that are higher protein versions of regular food. I've tried things like high protein pancakes and even higher protein granola but in general I stay away from these and most other processed foods. When the low-fat craze happened food manufacturers jumped on that bandwagon and wound up making low-fat versions of otherwise good foods worse. I'm worried the same might be happening with protein. Lean meats, beans, nuts, greek yogurt and other foods are where I got most of my protein from with some help from whey supplements.

Micronutrients

Sodium and Potassium

I try to keep sodium down and potassium up. It's very hard for me to keep my potassium levels up to the USDA recommended 4,700mg per day. I try by eating a lot of leafy greens and other potassium rich foods at every meal. I'm considering taking a potassium supplement but there are a lot of warnings about doing that. When I eat enough potassium though my muscles don't feel as sore from all the extra exercise I'm doing.

Fiber

I'm also having a hard time meeting my fiber requirements even with all the fruits, vegetables and legumes I'm eating. Fiber is important for good digestive health and it also helps you feel full. At breakfast and sometimes even at lunch I'll take 2 rounded teaspoons of a fiber supplement like Metamucil in a glass of water. It's the first thing I'll do as I'm preparing my meal so by the time I start eating my stomach already has a good bit of bulk in it which helps me avoid overeating.

Exercise

There's two main reasons to exercise while trying to lose weight.

  1. To burn extra calories to create a calorie deficit
  2. To maintain muscle mass
As for burning extra calories, I found that if I only achieved the desired caloric deficit through food, I felt hungry. If I ate about 1,800 calories a day and exercised enough to burn the rest I didn't feel hungry.

Most of this was cardio. I would aim to walk 10,000 steps a day or about 5 miles. Sometimes I would do more strenuous cardio such as hiking, trail running or jogging as part of those 10k steps but I stuck to that goal almost every day. I used Samsung Health to track my steps and synced it with My Fitness Pal. This was produced the most accurate calorie count between food intake and exercise. 

Getting all those steps in was hard. Sometimes I would sit at my computer all day and have to walk 5 miles in one stretch but for the most part I tried to get in as many extra steps here and there as I could. Little things like parking farthest away from the door of the supermarket and walking, always returning my cart to the front, taking stairs instead of elevators, walking instead of driving to local shops if I had the time all helped. 

Samsung Health can automatically track the steps you take as well as determine if you're doing other exercises such as cycling or running but I found it best to start a workout in the app if I was going to go for a run, hike or bike ride. That way I was able to get more data on my workout. Google Fit has similar capabilities and while I did use it to automatically record workouts and to help sync data from other apps, I found that Samsung Health's calorie and step counts were more consistent with what I was seeing in my progress. Google Fit had higher calories burned and overall so I stuck with Samsung Health.

I use AllTrails to help find hikes, Avenza Maps was great when I was up at Stokes State Forest which had maps for the app and NJ Palisades for my local hikes if I needed them on trails I don't do often. I used to use Strava and Map My Ride to track bike rides but I got lazy and started using Samsung Health more. I'll still use Strava to find some rides other's do in my area.

To maintain muscle mass I just did a variety of body weight exercises 3-5 days a week. Mainly squats and pushups. Sometimes sit ups and pullups. I used apps from System Design Ltd to track these exercises. Push Ups Workout, Squats Workout, Abs Sit Ups Workout, and Pull Ups Workout. I liked them because they guide you through the workout using the phone's sensors to determine when you've completed a rep as well as when to increase reps as you progress over the weeks.

I sometimes did some other exercises and used Jefit to track those. It's a really cool app that lets you find or create workout routines and helps you log them. I used it mainly for dumbbell exercises but you can do a lot more.

Tracking Progress

It's important to keep track of your progress so you know how your plan is working. If my plan wasn't working I had lots of data to go over such as what I was eating, what was my macronutrient ratio, how much was I exercising, etc. As I progressed I fine tuned my diet and exercises to get closer to the results I wanted.

I would weigh myself every day but try not to obsess over the minor changes from day to day. I used a body fat scale and body measuring tape to get some extra data and entered that data into Body Measurement Tracker. That app doesn't sync with all the other apps so I'd also enter my weight into MyFitness Pal which would sync with other apps like Samsung Health.

Measuring yourself every day can be discouraging. Sometimes I gained 2 lbs overnight and was thinking WTF?!?!? That's not a reason to panic. What time of day I weighed myself made a difference so I tried to be consistent and weigh myself 2nd thing in the morning after peeing because there's no need to measure that extra water.  As long as the general long term trend of the chart was heading in the right direction that's all that mattered.

When I got within 8 lbs of my goal I decided to take a much needed break from thinking about losing weight constantly. It's like having a part-time job. I kept eating the same way I did when I was actively looking to lose weight and exercising regularly but I didn't adjust my calories to lose a lot of weight and just worked on having the weight come down at a more gradual pace until I got to my goal. 

Here's a picture of my progress close to the end of the intense part of my weight loss.

How did it work out?

It wasn't easy but I did it. I feel better, I'm able to do more, my blood pressure is good and I feel happy. To have this be the last time I go through this I had to make some relatively minor changes that I thought were going to be big. Going out drinking all night hasn't been something I was into for years so happy that's gone. Some people are gone too, but they're ones that should have been gone sooner for multiple reasons. Few people would describe me as selfish so it was hard making some of these choices but they wound up being good in the end. Being selfless got me into a lot of trouble and I owe it to myself to put myself first.

All that walking and squats almost every day made my legs feel tired all the time. That was the worst for me. I had to take breaks from at least the squats every 4 weeks or so and sometimes my schedule didn't allow for all that walking. One day I was walking to a local store to pick something up and realized if I wasn't in public I would be on the verge of tears. It wasn't intense pain but it was just constant. That's when I decided to switch from doing squats 5 days a week to 3 which helped as did upping my potassium intake.

My goal of eating what I need to eat to maintain my weight worked. I'm eating the same and it seems like a lot of food now. I'm exercising but I'm more lax with 10k steps every day and I'm maintaining the weight. I don't necessarily have cheat meals or cheat days but I never removed all bad foods I just altered the frequency and portions. For example, pizza night isn't just pizza. There's always at least a big, healthy salad and usually some steamed vegetables. If I fill up my stomach with some things that aren't pizza first, it makes it easier to eat fewer slices instead of that whole delicious pie.

Snacks were things like trail mix, the mostly nuts and seeds kind with maybe some dried fruit which was high in protein and low in sugar and other carbs. I'd keep some easy to snack on veggies in the fridge like baby carrots, cucumber spears, celery and even fruit.

I basically spent months training myself to eat the right foods.I'll go over a post of what are some of the things I ate. A lot of cheese, dairy and refined carbs were cut out but I'm very happy with the food I eat. Everything was cooked fresh, I'm not into meal prep. I can make a healthy dinner in about 20 minutes, eat it and have dishes done in an hour. In a future post I'll go over some of the changes I made to my diet.

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