One Mom’s Journey from Fat to Skinny to Confident

WEEKLY QUESTIONS

The Ultimate Food Journal App?

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I truly believe food journaling is one of the biggest puzzle pieces to weight loss and maintenance. I have continued to keep some sort of journal on and off for the last 10 years and there is no doubt it’s a key factor in my success.

Ten years ago I started with the paper journals you would get from Weight Watchers.

Reminder these? 

FoodJournal01

That is actually my first week’s food journal from when I first started WW in 2005. I saved every single one documenting my 70-pound weight loss.

I haven’t looked at them in years! I know I’ve come a long way but I don’t think I realize how far. I’m not sure if you can read it but my “Day 1” consisted of things like Lucky Charms,  a raspberry yogurt cup, a hot dog, baked beans, a fudgcicle and something else interesting but I can’t read my own writing — Mom always told me not to write with such chicken scratch but I didn’t listen.

Even back then I’d have “Bad Days” where I would just scrap the journal for the day and start fresh the next.

FoodJournal02

That was Day 7 of my very first week!  I honestly have no recollection of it but it apparently didn’t hold me back. I just keep trucking doing the best I could with the food journal and posting my weekly weigh-ins — I have not looked at this page in a LONG time.

Over the years I changed up the journal. I remember I started emailing myself while I was at work so I would have notes to post here on the blog at the end of the day. I used FitDay for a little while. I posted all sorts of food journal styles here on the blog. I even went back to good old paper and pencil for a while.

Lately I’ve been using MyFitnessPal and for the most part I like it, although I think it could use a few tweaks to be better. For example, last night I had an out of the ordinary dinner of homemade nachos using leftovers I found in the fridge. I made them with the family using some steak, an avocado, cheese and salsa. We sat around the table eating nachos and playing Monopoly. It was a great time and a fun dinner!

However, how in the HECK do I enter that in the food journal? I don’t know how many I ate and even if I did I don’t how much cheese or steak was on each one. Sure, I could have sat there meticulously weighing everything, and I have done things like that in the past but in the moment, with the kids and The Husband all helping and us having a good time it would have been a buzz kill.

It just wasn’t worth it.

Of course I could just enter estimates in MyFitnessPal and be done with it, and honestly, that’s usually what I do. But really, I had NO idea how many ounces of steak or what percentage of the avocado I personally consumed.

So I just let it go. Abandoning my food journal for the day exactly as I did on Day 7 back in 2005.

I’m not saying that’s the right thing to do, I’m just saying it’s what I did.

There are two things I want to point out about this.

1. It’s NOT a BIG DEAL!

I don’t feel like I cheated or binged or pigged out. I made a conscious decision to have nachos for dinner and I MOVED ON. Today I went right back to journaling without giving it a second thought. Way back when, “Old Roni” would have totally used it as an excuse and walked away for weeks or months until another burst of motivation (or a Sunday or a New Year’s Day or someone other PERFECT TIME TO START) inspired me to begin journaling again. In the meantime, during the walk-away period I would pretty much eat anything and everything in sight because it didn’t count. I wasn’t keeping a food journal. I was off plan.

2. I wish there was an Ultimate Food App!

Of course one can argue paper is the “ultimate food app” but hear me out. I LOVE MyFitnessPal. I really do. It does a lot of things right:

User-entered items build a pretty diverse database of foods and recipes. I mean, even GreenLiteBites stuff is up there!

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Customized goals, settings, and meal names — I love that I can make it fit my life because I don’t alway eat breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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Integration with external apps like Fitbit and such. Very cool!

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They also let you save meals, enter recipes and remember your most frequent/recent stuff — all really great features! Which is why I use it.

However, what if it also…

  • Let you turn OFF calories. I do believe that counting calories is beneficial for weight loss but for some people — myself included — it could become an obsession. I’d love to just track without the details to distract me.
  • Leave notes per entry. I used to do the “why” thing here on the blog and I find it very powerful when you are trying to change habits and be more conscious about your eating.
  • Upload photos? I don’t know. Could be fun! I’m one of those dorks who likes to take pictures of pretty food.
  • Embed on a blog? I know — very personal to me but I’d love to be able to easily share here without taking a screenshot or copy and pasting.

I could keep going. If I had enough resources I would totally embark on a new business venture and make my own food journal app but it’s not going to happen. Instead I will do the best I can with what is available and keep changing it up to match my current needs and goals.

Are you a food journaler? If so, how do you keep it? What features would you love to have in an ultimate food journal app? 



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I’d love to hear your story or thoughts on mine.

However, to prevent the massive amounts of spam I was receiving I have turned off comments on any post older than 5 days old. If you'd like to leave me a note regarding this post or anything really try me on twitter (@RoniNoone,) my Facebook page, or even IG (@RoniNoone) I'm so sorry for the inconvenience. I never thought I'd have to do this but it's gotten way out of hand and comment management has become simply too time consuming to manage.

Discussion

There are 30 comments so far.

    Imacrazymomof4

    March 4, 2015

    918 days and counting for mfp. I do love it, it’s just a routine. I did the whole writing down thing and had to look things up and felt the process was too time consuming and made me feel like I was spending too much of my day journaling and thinking about food. Also, I would put it somewhere and forget where it was. With mfp its with me all the time and it literally takes seconds because the database is so wonderful. I don’t really pay attention too much to the daily calories, but more so the calories over a week. I havent really been one of those people who thinks I just blew it so it’s over either which may have something to do with my streak. I just put it in to keep some sort of track because I have 4 kids and life is crazy! I forget what I ate half the time…if I wasn’t mindful I’m sure it would be eating with reckless abandon. Sometimes I wish the exercises were different…they sometimes don’t have what I need, but then again i figure it’s probably not accurate anyway so whatever…no biggie. its nice to be able to look at my stats over time too.

    Bonnie

    March 4, 2015

    I use My Fitness Pal also. I have also used Sparkpeople but it isn’t compatible to Humana Vitality which is our insurance for work. We earn points by recording our phone which saves us on premium dollars!!

      Bonnie

      March 4, 2015

      Not “phone” it should say “food” duh…

    Kate D

    March 5, 2015

    So….you’re running several successful blogs for going on 10 years. You organize an awesome conference every year. You wrote a book. Im sure you could find a way to make that app happen!

      JennieM

      March 5, 2015

      My thoughts exactly…don’t sell yourself short!

      Chris

      March 5, 2015

      YES! I’d beta-test tha hell outta that new app. :-)

      roni

      March 6, 2015

      LOL No. Maybe… one day… :)

    Annie Gomez

    March 5, 2015

    I’ve been using Fatsecret for almost 6 years now. I love it and can’t imagine ever switching. I have tried a few others in the past but the food database never seems as robust as FS. Plus there is a social aspect to the site also to encourage your buddies. You can track recipes, exercise, etc. It’s fab. :)

      Chris

      March 5, 2015

      I’ve never heard of FatSecret – I’m curious and will check it out – thanks for sharing!

      roni

      March 6, 2015

      I’ll check it out! MFP has social aspects too. Totally forgot to bring that up!

    misskola

    March 5, 2015

    I use My Fitness Pal as well. However, because many of our local foods don’t have formal calorific information, there is a lot of estimation/approximation going on. I don’t even trust the figures submitted by others because they are conflicting. I have no problem with fruits and other things and basics like rice and chicken, beef and fish pieces. But our soups, stews and yam or bean based flour products are difficult. I just try to keep them small (fist sized) and use a reasonable estimate. On fail days, I am tempted to choose the lesser of two calorie information on My Fitness Pal. Trying to be more accountable though…

    Annette

    March 5, 2015

    i agree. I am currently tracking points but in the past have also wanted an app without calories or points.

    Sarah P

    March 5, 2015

    THANK YOU for this entry! I needed this!

      roni

      March 6, 2015

      You are so welcome!

    Martha G

    March 5, 2015

    Totally a food journal junkie. Started back in 2010 on livestrong and tracked every day for over a year before I got serious. When livestrong.com got “wonkie” I switched to My Fitness Pal and love it. I do wish I could just track food and not worry about the calories because that does become obsessive.
    Seriously though I don’t worry too much about getting it RIGHT. The whole thing is an estimate and if I have nachos, I’ll enter something that seems about right. I know a plate of nachos isn’t 100 calories! If I go to a party and have no idea how much I’ve eaten, I’ll put down 2,000 calories. No matter what I enter calories.
    What that does for me as I look at the week, I’ll see a day where I was in the red. That’ll help me stay more focused for the next couple of days.

    this time I got away from “good” or “bad” days. There is no moral judgement in this. It’s food. Some days I make healthier decisions and other days I choose to eat food that isn’t so healthy or more of the healthy food. Most days I stay at or under my calorie goal, others days I don’t. I move every day and I’ve been at our under my goal since April 2013 and feel better than ever.

      roni

      March 6, 2015

      I agree.. I generally use “bad day” as more of a ” I don’t want to deal today” day but I need a new name. :)

    Heather

    March 5, 2015

    An app that does not count calories is Rise Up. It is a place to track what you ate and how you felt when you ate, with little face icons. It’s a bit geared for people that have strugged with ED but I think it has been useful for me when I didn’t want to be a slave to calorie counting, yet still be accountable to myself.

      roni

      March 6, 2015

      I will check it out! Thanks!

    Chris

    March 5, 2015

    OMG I could write about this for DAYS. HOURS, at least. I used LoseIt! for several years, then got a BodyMedia armband, which doesn’t synch with LoseIt! and which has a TERRIBLE food log function, so I switched to MyFitnessPal. Overall I liked it just fine, I like a lot of the features you mention, but what I liked BEST was that they provide an opportunity to create a PRIVATE blog. I occasionally blog publicly, but my freakin’ mother reads it. So… I edit myself there, at minimum, for that, but for other reasons as well. If I’m pissed at The Hubs for some reason and I’m working that out via food behaviours, I certainly don’t intend to make that public – it’s not fair to him and let’s face it, I’m a crazy person when it comes to my relationship with food and there’s no reason to drag him into the discussion. It’s MY issue.

    OK I got off-topic there… but I found the UP24 band and ditched my BodyMedia, in part because I missed my online community on LoseIt!. I had online friends there and supporters, cheerleaders, and people I missed interacting with on that site, and frankly, I was sick of re-entering all my old recipes and customized foods that were on LoseIt! that I had to re-build on MFP. Wish there was a way to export those personalized things and import when you switch.

    I mean, if Microsoft can do it with your email addresses and Facebook contacts and phone contacts and Gmail addresses, certainly the good people at MFP and LoseIt! can find a way to do it with nutritional information – for Pete’s sake, it’s already standardized info…

    And boy, if LoseIt! would add a private blogging option to the site… I think it’d be just about perfect for me. And that Meal 1, Meal 2, Meal 6-7-8 thing… that’s pretty great.

      roni

      March 6, 2015

      I think MFP just added an import feature but I haven’t checked it out yet.

    Tina

    March 5, 2015

    Just popping in to say that it my eyes popped seeing your day 1 journal. Seeing how you eat now, and reading what you ate on your Day 1 of journalling is completely different. Way to go! (I used to eat a chocolate croissant for breakfast and another one for lunch. Yikes). And yes to food journalling! Every day, I write it down, pencil & paper.

      roni

      March 6, 2015

      Little changes add up! :)

    Thea @ It's Me Vs. Me

    March 5, 2015

    I do use MFP, but not religiously. If I don’t log a meal or two (or three), I don’t stress about it because I know my overall eating has improved.

    A couple of thoughts:
    1. My Fitness Pal offers an API for developers, so it would be super-easy to develop an app with their database – http://www.myfitnesspal.com/api
    2. I work in product development at a large software company (millions of users) and we LOVE hearing how customers use our stuff as well as cool things they wish they could do with it. If you want to send them feedback – maybe just a link to this post? – their address is marketing@myfitnesspal.com

    I’m willing to bet they’d love to hear from you!

      roni

      March 6, 2015

      I actually HAVE written them. No response. :(

    Lori

    March 6, 2015

    I use Lose it! and they give me the ability to enter a recipe which I can then enter a serving of for whatever meal it was. So for your nachos, for example, you would create the recipe with 4 servings with the total amount of ingredients used. No, it wouldn’t be exact because the kids may not have eaten a full service and you may have overcompensated for that and eaten more than a serving, but it gives a general idea. And you only have to create the recipe once and any future meals it will already be available for you to use. Sorry if MFP has this feature to and I didn’t need to explain. I’m not familiar with it. I have so much data & recipes entered into Lose It! at this point I would probably never switch to something else; too much work. lol

      Chris

      March 6, 2015

      I agree, the recipe builders are so helpful as a guideline – and the more healthy choices I make, the more I cook at home and don’t have a standard nutrition label to rely on. The UP24 app allows for photos of food – they even suggest that pictures may in some ways be more useful than the raw data – looking at portion sizes, colors, etc. Too bad all these features can’t be available in one amazing place.

    erin

    March 6, 2015

    I often wish I could turn the calories off. I hate seeing a negative and can get kind of obsessive about it. I also hate seeing that I have a bunch left and feeling like I should eat something because “what if I’m not eating enough?!?” I wish it’d still count them but they didn’t show up on the main screen.

    Joe

    March 16, 2015

    Great information. I’ll try myfitnesspal! Thanks.

    Teagan

    March 23, 2015

    So, I just downloaded an app called TwoGrand. Have you heard of it? It lets you take a pic of what you ate and then caption it however you want. It seems pretty customizable– made me think of this post. I’m teaganroz on there if you decide to check it out :)