So have I told you how I've rounded the corner on this food-tracking madness and begun tracking what I eat using three separate apps? Let's take a brief tour into insanity here:
First stop: LoseIt! I've been tracking with this site and app for all of 2014, and I like it in how easy it is to use across multiple platforms. I also like it because it seems more realistic about calories burned during exercise, and more realistic about how many calories one should be eating during the day. (More on both points below.) I can't say I'm nuts for the badges and/or the social aspect or any of that, but whatever. I'm not here to make friends, is what I believe the kids on the reality TV say these days.
Second stop: MyFitnessPal, or as those in the know call it, MFP. This app and I got off the wrong foot the minute I put in my numbers and it immediately clutched its pearls and told me not to eat more than 1200 calories a day, i.e. the number hovering on the knife's edge between "Wow, you sure keep an eye on what you eat" and "Hello! This is your body. I'm going to start burning muscle for fuel."
So why did I try MFP? A few reasons: I wanted multiple tracking and datasets to keep me honest in terms of what I was puting in my body and what the likely effects were; I wanted to take advantage of MFP's infinitely superior food database; my friends who are already living like showrunners cite it as an invaluable tool.
Third stop: Pact, which I turned to because I wanted to see if I really could make money off the things I'm already doing (i.e. exercising five to six days a week, logging every bite that goes in my mouth, eating five to seven servings of produce daily).
The deal is that you promise to hit certain benchmarks every week (i.e. log your food for seven days, or exercise three times, or eat 21 servings of vegetables), and every time you fall short in some capacity, you're fined $5 per miss. So you miss the gym for all three days you're supposed to go? That's $15 to the people who make Pact, pal. But if you meet all your goals, you earn money.
Please note that you do not earn $5 for every benchmark achieved. I've been doing Pact for three weeks and have made a princely $12 for 21 days of food logging, 47 separate vegetable instances and 14 recorded trips to the gym. Or, as I think of it, three percent of what I'd have paid the company if I had blown everything off.
(I am fascinated by the compensation system and want to know how Pact calculates its rewards.)
ANYWAY. I now have two separate food-tracking apps plus an app which requires me to photograph any fruits and vegetables I'm eating. But you know what? This level of accountability is what keeps me ordering salads when I'm on the road.
I find the differences between LoseIt! and MFP to be riveting. LoseIt! is a lot more generous about calorie allotments as you work toward a goal, especially when compared to MFP's "Technically, you're not starving" approach.
Conversely, the two are wildly disparate on calories expended during exercise. As an example: LoseIt! estimated that my swim workout from this morning burned 658 calories, while MFP thinks I burned 674 calories. Snicker over my fixation on 16 calories' difference if you want, but over time, what this means is that LoseIt! thinks I have a huge deficit of leftover calories every day, while MFP thinks I'm cutting it close.
I find the two disparate datasets to be very comforting; it reminds me that the pursuit of health is a subtle science, and the results are best viewed through a prism of general trends and not highly specific actions within one very small tool.
The one area where I do remain a slave to the data is the fault of MFP. The site/app gives one targets for sodium, sugar, fat and protein consumption for the day, and over the first month I used it, I noticed that I tended to blow past my recommended sugar and fat limits for the day.
Cutting back sugar and fat is not too hard. For me, the challenge has been trying to amp up the protein without amping up fat. The first try to blow my protein intake out of the water entailed a disaster of a tofu, spinach and pineapple smoothie. Lately, I've been eating a lot of hard-boiled eggs. For lunch, I'll have some sardines on a bed of greens (23 grams of protein per container of Trader Joe's skinless and boneless sardines in olive oil, friends).
In the dim recesses of my mind, I recalled how all my vegetarian friends from college and beyond used to contend that they got all their protein from beans. Who doesn't love beans? They're cheap, they're colorful, they can double as art supplies if you've got a bottle of glue and a raging case of 1970s nostagia.
Who doesn't love beans? I don't love beans. It's a texture thing: I can't stand the sour squeak against my teeth as I bite into the skin of a bean, followed immediately by the mealy mouthfeel of bean innards. There are a few exceptions -- I like a good hummus and I will happily have a half-cup of baked beans with barbecue. But nothing makes me shudder like my mother's nine bean and ham soup, because that's nine times the nightmare food in one bowl.
(At left: On the one hand, it's orderly and I love order. On the other, it's a variety of beans, and I despise them all.)
So I'm throwing the question over to all of you. When you're trying to boost the protein in your daily meals, what do you do? I'm trying to eat about 95 grams of protein per day, if that helps.