Counting Calories with FitBit and learning about your food choices.

I’ve never been one to count calories, however after a long battle with my weight, understanding what I was doing wrong and increasing my education about the food I was eating was paramount. You might be surprised to learn that my FitBit has been an incredible support in educating myself about food. As a new mum I developed an interest in food that I previously hadn’t had. Possibly my greatest fear about becoming a mum was that my child would starve because I couldn’t cook. As it turns out my fears were unfounded and surprise surprise I’m actually quite a good cook. However feeding a growing little boy that burns calories seemingly 10 times faster than I do was a real challenge, trying to find a balance between cooking for him and creating meals for myself who needed to lose a lot of baby weight.

Over time just hanging out with my little boy eating food and discovering new things to eat with him was fun but I was unaware of how slowly more and more weight was going on me until I was nearly 15 kg heavier than I was prior to having him.

In my 30‘s I was a size 10 sometimes slightly larger sometimes slightly smaller usually depending on the weather to be honest. If I wanted to drop a kilogram to feel better in a bikini it was no big deal, easily done. I ate quite lightly, lots of salads, lots of open sandwiches, lots of soups, a bit of fish and chicken and lots of fruit and vegetables and so my weight was quite easy to maintain. I’d never had to lose weight in my life.

Introducing a child into the equation blew my eating habits apart. Pregnancy made me hungry, all the time, then 12 months of breastfeeding, followed by another few failed pregnancies and my relationship with simple food was out the window.

I started cooking for my son diligently once he was about 2 years old, that meant pies, pasties, lasagne, cannellon, pasta, roasts, homemade pasta, hearty soups, risotto, muffins, cakes, pancakes, waffles you name it, that’s what mums do right.... I truly went a bit cooking nuts.... and lucky for me he loves my cooking. Obviously this wasn’t sustainable.

Interestingly it’s once I got my Fitbit that it was a game changer. Suddenly I could track my exercise, my calories burned and best of all I could do an analysis of my calories in and calories out by logging my food intake. I could use the app to check the calorie content of what I was eating and was SHOCKED!

What an eye opener. I had been encouraged to try using the FitBit App and all its capabilities by an Italian IT Researcher who I met at a Christmas party, he explained his research was on the use of self managed technology in the health and fitness field and the potential for these apps and devices to revolutionise self diagnosis and health and medical management to help ease damand on face to face health professionals. Now I’m not suggesting anyone do their own medical management, however for the purpose of self education my experience has been a testiment to the effectiveness of app managed heath improvement. So this researcher showed me some of the ways to get the most out of the FitBit App, in particular learning about using the App to understand the huge variances in calories in foods and the absolute necessity to have a calorie deficit each day in order to lose weight and how easy it was to track this on the FitBit. Obviously if you are trying to maintain weight you need to maintain a better balance of in and out calories. I’m not about to provide any advice on calorie intake recommendations, I’m not a nutritionist or a personal trainer. However as a professional educator and researcher I find the use of these tools for learning an exciting innovation that can be used widely to address the obesity crisis.

So looking at the App here is an example of what we are aiming for using calorie counting to reduce weight.

Now I’m only just in the early stages of this journey and I still have a good 5-6 kg to loose to reach my personal goal. So these are some of the lessons I learnt through this analysis.

Understanding my mistakes in my eating has been the key. Such as:

1. Making a healthy lunch that had too many individual high calorie foods, for example as a primarily vegetarian supplementing protein with nuts is quite normal, however too many almonds, cashews, muesli was tipping my calorie intake at lunch time way up, sometimes as much as 300 calories. Likewise choosing high calorie fruits like apples can be reduced and supplemented with blueberries, strawberries or slightly lower calorie mandarines or simply reducing the portion size.

Using the App I was able to analyse the calories and quantities of my favourite food to create meals that stays within my limits to remain in the fat burning zone.

An interesting lesson was that my seemly simple habit of a cup of tea and toast followed by a coffee was actually consuming almost as many calories as my super healthy grazing platter of fruit, yougurt and seeds.

2. Understanding my BIG snack weaknesses. I’m a self confessed sweet tooth, however that is all changing now that I fully understand the consequences. Let’s take some of my favourite treats for example. The humble Tim Tam .... adding 2 of these for dessert was adding another 200 calories, or the humble doughnut... they’re a shocking 200 calories for 1. What’s even more interesting is that the FitBit App allows you to look at the protien, fat and carbs. I could clearly see my bad habits were throwing my balance of out of whack, which is still a bit of a constant battle for me, especially trying to maintain protien levels without very much meat.

3. Lastly my beloved coffee and bread. My two great weaknesses. Sadly they are going to have to take a back seat, at least while I’m in weightloss mode. With my average latte hit adding another 115 calories it’s hardly any wonder having 1-3 a day was hurting my waistline let alone my hip pocket. However setting some boundaries is quite easy. Choose a smaller size, reduce your sugar, stick with low fat or almond milk and opt for a green tea (2 calories) after your first coffee. Green Tea is great for focus and contains caffine so has a similar effect (read my previous article on the benefits of green tea). As for bread well I’m a self confessed breadalholic, but with 70 calories in each piece it was easy for me to consume 280 calories a day in bread alone.

I‘m obviously a FitBit convert and have since given my 10 yr old son one to help him learn about his own habits with exercise, activity and eating. While we don‘t count his calories we can share the health and fitness journey and use it as a learning experience to foster conversations about healthy foods and “sometimes foods”

If you are looking for a way of learning about your food and calorie intake I highly recommend using the FitBit and App. It’s been the best $100 I’ve ever spent!