“Walking to New Orleans?”

Chad and I had a pretty healthy 2013, and we both want to be sure that trend continues. In order to focus and set some goals, we looked ahead to races and events we wanted to accomplish, from our first obstacle course race to our “main event” the Susan Komen 3-day. (More on that later.) You may have seen my Chad’s posts this January about his goals for 2014, and many of them are mine, too.

But because we often do a variety of things, walking, biking, etc., for training, we were interested in finding a way to tie it all together as we work on all of our “smaller” tasks. Since we track our workouts on myfitnesspal and/or mapmyfitness, it just made sense to see what our total distance covered would be, and see how far those miles might take us. The data geek in me that likes any bit of motivation and reward I can find thought, “Cool, but how do we really get a concept of have far we have traveled with these miles?” That made me think of places I wanted to go that also might actually possible to “get to” during this little tracking project, and the answer popped into my head…New Orleans! Just for fun, I choose one of our favorite French Quarter bars, the Old Absinthe House. So this is the question: How long would it take to travel on foot the 961.5 miles from our house in Waterloo, Wisconsin to 240 Bourbon Street, New Orleans, LA?

Walking to NO main map

Map courtesy of mapmyfitness.com

Now for all the disclaimers and data.

  1. While we will be as accurate and consistent as possible on our end, this is a goofy project that is not at all precise and certified in any way, and Chad and I acknowledge this is all just a huge estimation. Basically, our margin of error is +/- 50%, but, it will be fun!
  2. Looking at different mapping tools, the distance can vary over 30 miles, due to route differences, measuring errors and even rounding differences, I suppose. So to make it a bit easier on ourselves, we are choosing mapmyfitness, since we are already set up with that website. (Also, word has it that they now sync with myfitnesspal, so when we start actually working out outside and covering actual distances, things will be that much easier to track.)
  3. We have another small glitch to overcome; unlike runners who run all their miles, how do we equate a bike ride with a run with a swim when it comes to miles covered? Again this is a huge “grain of salt” issue; depending on hills and intensity of the workout, actual mileage will vary, so we had to decide on some rules. After a bit of online “research” we have decided to follow these guidelines:
    1. Walking and running are counted as 1:1 straight-up miles.
    2. Biking to on-foot is 3.5:1
    3. Swimming to on-foot is 1:4
    4. The elliptical was a harder call, since it is lower impact, but I can vary the incline and resistance. Since my slow and easy miles are 12 minutes, I will count every 12 minutes as a mile.
    5. Extras: we went snowshoeing this January, where we just had to estimate the distance, and other activities will have to be judged as they come up, an others, like kayaking, may not even be added to the total.

I didn’t post this in January because I wanted to test things out a bit, and after the first month, here is my status:

walking Jan total

Looking at a map view, you can see that I’m on my way:

The blue-ish point is how far I've gone.

The blue-ish point is how far I’ve gone.

Looking forward to a healthy and happy 2014…Join us!

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Dietitian Check-in: Living La Vida Loca

We all have times in our lives when things are just CRAZY busy. Think of the couple weeks before the holidays, the start of a new school year, final exam weeks, the start of a new job or a big move. At those times, we just keep our heads down and take things day by day. We limit distractions and put all non-essential projects on hold. But when you are working on a lifestyle change, that option is no longer there, since putting things like exercising and eating right on hold would conflict with the whole concept of a lifestyle change. [Click on any chart to enlarge it.]

Weight Over the Past YearAs Chad’s wife, RD and cook, I pay a lot of attention to what he does and what he eats, even when we are not together. For the past school year, I have packed lunches and snacks for him, and he has eaten (mostly) only food that I have cooked and/or packed for him. When he does prepare his own breakfasts and eats “on his own,” he records those things on myfitnesspal.com, which he shares with me. This isn’t to say he doesn’t have a lot of work to do on his end. He spends hours and hours working out, and has had to change his eating habits regarding portion sizes, drive-thrus and countless treats brought to the office. Chad met his weight loss goal early, but has reset his goal BMI for his birthday and has a 60 mile walk (over three days) coming up at the end of the summer.

But right now we are in one of those crazy times. As Chad has mentioned, he is always busy at the end of the school year, with a different party or banquet or cookout almost every night, which can make it difficult to not overeat on a daily basis. Even for lunches, he has eaten maybe 2 out of five days from our kitchen, having more lunch meetings, banquets or other unusual things on his schedule. To make matters more interesting, we are also getting ready to move across the state, prepare to put a house on the market and start new jobs.

Each one of these may have been enough for him to go running to a drive-thru for a “jumbo everything plus dessert,” but his weight had been consistent over the last month, telling me that he is working his plan pretty well! However, as I was writing this, we did have a setback; Chad’s weekly weigh-in showed a gain of 5#.

Last 30 days with TODAY’S Weigh-In

Looking at this graph of just the last 30 days makes this gain seem quite dramatic, but be sure to compare it to the first graph, which shows the past year.

It seems that the parties, busy schedule and reduction in exercise minutes finally did take its toll.

But here comes the “glass half-full.” It may be hard for him to see, but I have just enough perspective to remember his 5000+ calorie days, where his goal is now about 2000 calories per day.
cal burned and consumedAs you can see by the above graph, while there are days he is over his calorie limit, he NEVER has 3500+ calorie days anymore, and in addition to that he continues to burn thousands of calories through exercise. But the graph also shows that his daily workouts have suffered due to his busy weekday schedule.

As in any plan or project, its important that you take a realistic look at the project and assess and reassess as things change. We have done that a few times already this year, and this seems to be another good time for that. Chad has already adapted a bit to the new situation; even though his workout frequency has changed, he has been able to add variety by adding swimming, outdoor basketball, canoeing and biking to his repertoire. Also, because his weekends are busy, we try to fit in some brick workouts when the weather permits, such as biking and canoeing in the same afternoon. And when it comes to food, he will have a brat at the cookout instead of two, or even munch on veggies and go home to eat a healthy dinner if the potluck food doesn’t fit in his daily plan (i.e. no workout that day.)

So even though life is a bit wild right now, the lifestyle change has to continue to be part of that wild life. Chad is going a great job of keeping his lifestyle changes while adding lots of others to the mix!

“Its the hard that makes it great.”–Jimmy Dugan

As always, the wonderful graphs are courtesy of myfitnesspal.com.

Week #27 Weigh-in…and mental illness never goes away!!!

So, I’ve mentioned before that extreme obesity really ought to have its own place in the DSM-V. And I’ve got a case study for you to consider.

On Thursday, after a week of stress worrying about budgets and staff, but also a week of crazy, over the top exercise, I stepped on the scale at 323.8#, a gain of 2.8#…in a week in which I exercised for 587 minutes and burned over 10,000 calories. My thought as I stood on the scale was, “Are you flipping kidding me?”

So I came back up to my office, and saw a box of donuts. I walked past it and on to my desk, where I turned around and went back and had a unfrosted cake do-nut. I ate a do-nut because in my head I was saying “I can starve myself and spend hours exercising and still gain 2.8#? Why am I working this hard? Might as well have a do-nut ” But I ate an un-frosted one, because I wasn’t ready to totally give up.

An hour later, I walked past the break-room and stopped to pick up another do-nut; this time a chocolate frosted one, but I broke it half. Again, because I wasn’t totally giving up. Fifteen minutes later, I stopped back and ate the other half the chocolate frosted do-nut. Fifteen minutes after that, I had a serving of pecan coffee cake. And fifteen minutes after that, I had a second serving of pecan coffee cake. Then, an hour after that, I ate a chocolate fudge brownie to end my binge.

The thing that brought me out of it was that I entered every one of those things in myfitnesspal.com and I saw that I had consumed 1,290 calories of sweets in a little over 165 minutes. The shame I felt for the next couple of hours at my obvious craziness was high, but then my lively wife/life coach sent me this picture:

Japan June '12

That’s me in a picture taken in June when we were in Japan. You can see the Japanese Judo athletes shaking my hand. I’m the classed-up sumo looking dude. And so you can see what dropped me out of my funk, here’s a picture I had taken today to put on our school’s website:

RLHS2 130222

 

Seems to me, like maybe I shouldn’t worry so much about 2.8#. Thanks to Michelle, my mom and my sister for the support as they saw me spiral out of control yesterday. I worked out like a madman after work, so I still finished the day with a calorie surplus. Good time, good times. But at the end of the day, whether it’s as stress relief or because I somehow equate happiness with food, there’s somethings going on in my squash that certainly seem to rate a diagnoses to me. But what do I know?

I know that I’m down 57.2# in 27 weeks. I know I have 15.2# to lose in the next 25 weeks. I know that my BMI is 41.9 and it started at 49.4 27 weeks ago. I know that I have raised over $1,000 for breast cancer and that I have 24 weeks before I will walk 60 miles in 3 days with some other amazing people. I know that I am healthy. I know that many people have worse problems than I do and that I can succeed despite my obvious issues. I know that my all-time record binge lasted 7 months and that I gained 42 pounds in it. I know that a 3-hour binge seems like a hiccup in comparison. I know that I look a hell of a lot better than I did in June and I know that I’ll look even better come next June. I know that lots of people love me, no matter what size I am, and that they’ll get to love me longer if I stay smaller.

That seems like a lot of knowledge. Thanks everyone. Be careful out there.

 

Keeping a Food Journal…to the Nth Degree!

Since everyone is doing their end-of-year reporting and Best of 2012 lists, I thought I’d do a report of my own about Chad’s progress. This is only possible because Chad has been keeping his diet records on myfitnesspal.com for 135 days in a row…ever since the 40 by 40 project began! (Actually, we had already been using the website for over a year on and off previously.) His consistency has been amazing, and it is useful and interesting to look back and see the progress, what the trouble spots have been and the choices we have made when it comes to food and drink.

Chad may be extreme in his compliance, but I believe that’s why he is having such extreme success! Further, he has been honest enough to track his off days, holidays, weekends, etc., even when he is over his limit. This is also an import factor to his success. He keeps up his routine of journaling, so he never has to start the habit over, and he can see the differences in his good and not-so-good days in black and white when he looks at the calorie totals at the end of the day.

To recap, we have an upper calorie limit set for him at 3300 calories per day, a sort of “weekend limit,” and his “hard limit” had been 2100 cal, but is now 2400. Taking a look at the 135 days of 40 by 40 so far:Net Calories per Day

As you can see, Chad had only a small percentage of days when he was over the upper limit, and those days have been mostly weekends and holidays–and there are many more of those days than 9, so he’s been good even on the weekends. The majority of his days, over 70%, are below his “everyday limit.” Also, it is important to remember these are net calories, meaning the calories for exercise have been subtracted from his calories. For example, if he ate 3500 calories and burned 1000 in exercise, his net total would be 2500. (The fact he can burn so many calories during exercise makes it much easier…this table would look MUCH different if it was just calories eaten!) We both feel very good about this data, and I was surprised how many days he actually netted less than 2100! Those days often had over a thousand calories burned in exercise, and was when he was losing the most. As you may know, one of my jobs has become keeping him from losing too fast, so I will have to make sure he doesn’t get too severe!

As is the case with most people, the holiday season from Thanksgiving through New Years, have a not-so-normal eating pattern. The same is the case with us, and you can read an example of that by reading Chad’s description of our Christmas Eve dinner. Once the year starts to settle in a bit, I’m sure Chad will see his journal starting to look more like it did before Thanksgiving, and he will be a bit more consistent with his weight loss than he has been the last month. The great news for him is that he has wonderful healthy habits of eating well, keeping a journal and exercising that he has carried through the toughest part of the year, so he’ll have an easier January than he has in the past. I’m excited to see what comes next!

[There have been many studies indicating that keeping a food and/or exercise journal increases weight loss and compliance to whatever program or lifestyle change you are working on. There are even studies that show that when people write down what they eat for a “pre-test” they often consciously or subconsciously change what they eat, presumably because they can’t stand writing down what they would have eaten if it wasn’t for the journal! Also, it doesn’t matter in what form a journal takes–an old notebook, a pre-made food diary form (you can find many online for free) or a digital or online program–just find what fits the best with your lifestyle and use it!]

Week 19 Weigh-in…and my favorite day of the year!!

In December 1992, following the death of my Grandma Cudney, we gathered for our first post-Evie Christmas Eve at my Uncle Chuck’s and Aunt Carolyn’s house in Chippewa Fall’s, Wisconsin. In attendance that evening were, Me, Micki, Ellen, Mary, Gene, Carolyn, Chuck, Brian and Scott. We ate grilled prime rib, king crab, jumbo shrimp cocktail, twice baked potatoes, drank wine and old fashioneds, at cookies and other deserts.

Prior to 1992, Christmas Eve was already my favorite holiday of the year. It was the time we all gathered at Grandma Evie’s house and shared the wonder of being a family. After 1992, when the two sister’s, Carolyn and Mary, committed to keeping as much of the tradition of their childhood Christmas Eve’s as possible in the wake of their mother’s passing, and to allowing others of us to add to the fun without changing the root of it, Christmas Eve built to an event unparalleled in the rest of the calendar. Really, all the other 354 days of the year are either recovery or anticipation for 12/24.

Over the years, some of the original cast members have been unable to attend and new family members have been added. The location has changed, but the menu has remained shockingly constant. This Monday, for the 21st consecutive year, I celebrated Christmas Eve in the only way I will ever care to do so, with my wife Michelle, my parents Mary and Gene, my grandmother Dorothy, my aunt Diane, my aunt Carolyn and uncle Chuck, my sister Micki, my sister Ellen and brother-in-law Ron, my nephews Ethan, Emerson, and Jonah, my nieces Raiah and Anna, my cousin Scott and his wife Amanda, and their children Evan and Nora. And before the clock struck mid-night, Micki’s boyfriend Dave joined the fun.

I had promised myself that I would have an unregulated night for Christmas Eve. I didn’t want to be that buzz kill at the party constantly checking for calorie totals while people where handing out plates of goodies. And because, it is my favorite night of the year; I wasn’t going to ruin it for myself either. However, for the purposes of this blog, I did write everything I put into my mouth down on paper, and added it into myfitnesspal the next day.

Screenshot_2012-12-26-13-32-02

That doesn’t show the whole meal, as it didn’t fit onto one screen of my phone. Also, as you can tell, I started to get a bit tipsy be the end of the night, and it is pretty likely that I actually ate and drank more than the 4,907 calories it shows here. You can also see there that I dropped 2200 calories of exercise on Monday in preparation for the evening: Snowshoeing and wood splitting. Alas, it was insufficient.

Lastly, my weekend started with a wedding in Madison on Friday and also had Christmas day meals and drinks as well. So my calorie tracking over the weekend has been a bit off.

In any case, I stepped on the scale this morning at 338.8# a gain of 6.6 pounds. And guess what? I am not a bit concerned about that. 21 years of Christmas Eve is a tradition that needs to be maintained, even by skinny Chad. As my Uncle Chuck would say, “If I can’t put loads of butter on my sirloin steak, I might as well be dead.” (He never actually said that, but given the opportunity, I think we can all agree, he definitely would.)

Back on the horse the weekend. (Heading to the gym as soon as I am done writing this.) Look for another drop this weeks, and if things go as planned, and end to this yo-yo-ing.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!!!

Week #13 Weigh-in…and I don’t even know who I am anymore!!

So I stepped on the scale at 339.8 today.

Pretty amazing really. The last time I can say for sure that I was in the 330s was early in 2001-02 sometime. So, after a decade at over 340, most of that over 360, I am back to a weight that would likely show up on an NFL roster. (I talked about that last week; just so you are all aware, NFL rosters are like football rosters at every level…they have absolutely nothing to do with reality. When I played high school football, I was routinely listed 20 pounds heavier than I actually was. When I played college, initially I was listed at about 30 pounds more than I actually weighed. Then when I finally got to be as big as the coaches told me they wanted me, they listed me a 15 pounds less than I weighed. If anyone believes that BJ Raji actually weighs less than 340, I can happily tell you, “No F-ing way.”)

This means that I lost another 3.7 pounds this week. My BMI is 44.1. I have lost 41.2 pounds and 11% of my body weight in 13 weeks. I have reduced my BMI from 49.4 and am 56% of the way to my goal of a 40 BMI. All of that is super exciting and I am so grateful for all of the help from my beautiful wife, awesome family, and dedicated readers/commenters. I owe all of you my life…at least a portion of it.:)

However, and this is the don’t know who am I part, my dietitian and I are concerned with the increased speed of my weight loss. On a weekly basis, I have lost 3.8, 2.8, 4, 4, 4.5 and 3.7 pounds in each of the last 6 weigh-ins. Since my weight-loss goal is 2 pounds a week, I am NOT meeting my goal. Many people will be thinking, yes you are. You are exceeding the goal.

However, this isn’t like other attempts I have made. My goal isn’t just to lose weight. It is to get healthy, trim off as much excess weight as I can, and sustain the changes for the rest of my life. I am worried that I am taking off too much too fast and that I will not be able to sustain it over the long haul. So we, my dietitian and I, have made what I would previously consider to be a radical decision…that now seems completely rational to me.

We are revising my daily calorie goal UPWARDS! Because of the weight loss, my daily calorie goal had crept down to 2160. That was supposed to have me lose 2 pounds per week, just ahead of the 1.5#/week I needed to meet my “40 by 40” goal. Since I am exceeding that by quite a bit, losing 16.2 pounds in just the last 4 weeks, we have moved my goal up to 2410 calories/day. The formulas myfitnesspal.com uses suggest this should have me losing 1.5#/week. (Michelle thinks it will likely reduce my weekly loss from the 4#/week I’ve been experiencing to about 3#/week.) We’ll see what happens.

Thanks again for the follow, and it should be an interesting week. For those of you not from Wisconsin, we have deer hunting approaching this weekend. 600,000 hunters with large rifles will stalk the woods, and I will not eat well and drink too much. We’ll see if the woodsy activity will counteract the impact.

Be careful out there!!

Healthy, Fast and Satisfying Breakfast Sandwiches.

Despite breakfast being dubbed “the most important meal of the day,” I still run  into many people, both young and old, who skip breakfast. [As a review, breakfast has been proven to help students succeed in class with better performance and fewer behavioral problems, and breakfast eaters are usually thinner and/or lose weight more effectively the breakfast skipper. Also, let it be known that we are not talking a labor intensive, Sunday brunch style meal; it can be a simple breakfast eaten at some point in the first few hours of your day. Even a smoothie on your way to work can fit the bill.]

I have developed the fortunate habit of eating breakfast, so the act of eating it isn’t a challenge for me, but in my adult years, I have focused mainly on fine-tuning my breakfast choices. After my primary education days of cereal and toaster pastries, (yikes!) I turned to frozen bagels with peanut butter in college, and had a few years where I ate a toasted PB & J on whole wheat bread every day. My new love, other than the leftover and sometimes funky breakfasts I have, is the home made English muffin sandwich.

I have been looking for something hot and satisfying to have for breakfast, but anything even partially ready-made is full of fat, cholesterol and/or sugar. So, I started playing around with my breakfast. I went through a few drafts, none of which are bad by any means, but here is my favorite: A 100% Whole Wheat Thomas English Muffin, a fried egg, plus a second egg white, with a tablespoon of flavored hummus. (The hummus adds lots of flavor, which helps make the sandwich satisfying, and there are many varieties to choose from!) This is a winner nutritionally, but it is also shockingly less expensive and even saves time compared to going through a drive thru.

1. Nutrition:

My Sandwich wins all the categories except protein, though that’s still a good amount of protein per meal. I get more fiber with less sodium and saturated fat when I make my own sandwich, and being a bit lower in calories, if I want fruit or another item with my sandwich, I have calories to spare, especially without the greasy hash-brown (which would be another 150 calories, 80 of which are from fat.)

2. Cost:
An Egg McMuffin costs $2.89 where I live, and factoring in the servings of my English muffins, hummus and 2 eggs per sandwich, the cost of My Sandwich is $0.87 per sandwich! (These are Wal-Mart prices, other than my Trader Joe’s hummus.) I figured there would be a difference, but was shocked when I saw the numbers! (The $4.79 for the fast-food meal REALLY seems out of line, now! A hash-brown and coffee probably costs them a few cents!) For all of us who are either on a tight budget or concerned about the rising food costs due to this years’ drought, here is a way to get great nutrition for a steal!

3. Time: Depending where your drive-thru breakfast comes from, the time it takes you to buy your breakfast will vary. For me, the short trip still takes at least 10 minutes, at which point I am on my way out of the parking lot. At home, it takes me 7 minutes to make. Here is a quick “recipe:”

  • Spray a small skillet with non-stick spray and pre-heat on med-low.
  • Get out your ingredients. Gently open the English muffin with fork or fingers (I like doing this more than using a knife,) and toast the muffin.

    This is when I flip the egg. After flipping, turn off the burner, and in just a few moments, the egg is cooked perfectly!

  • When pan is hot, crack eggs in the pan, washing you hands afterward! If you want to use fewer yolks than whites, you can learn how to separate them with simple directions and even a video. Salt and pepper the eggs if desired.
  • While eggs are cooking, remove the English muffin and smear with 1 tablespoon of hummus.
  • The sandwich is less messy with the egg over-hard, but any done-ness you prefer would work, or you could always scramble them!
  • I fold the egg over to fit it on the sandwich, and then I eat!

    I sometimes add tomato, onion or even spinach or arugula to really glam it up!

Loving variety like I do, I still have a weakness for “everything bagels” and sometimes I use cheese instead of the hummus, so there are a few varieties of My Sandwich.

All of these breakfasts (usually with fruit) have a good combination of carbs, protein, fats and fiber to help me recover if I have already worked out, and to keep me full until lunch! Why, oh why, would you rely on expensive, less healthy and slower choices when you can make a breakfast that’s better in every way?

Two Month RD “visit”

Chad mentioned in his recent post, “What the HELL Was I Thinking,” that he was basically stunned by the high calorie fast food meals he would eat in his car, in a hurry, and with no real enjoyment. Though that is a very extreme example, I have been seeing changes in Chad’s behavior that show he’s committed to better eating choices and making exercise a part of his regular day.

I have seen him, in restaurants and bars, look up nutrition information on his phone through his myfitnesspal app to help decide what to order. Even more impressive, he actually uses that information to choose his foods, and even his drinks! (I often give nutrition education classes and talks to adults and teens, and even if they gasp at what they are learning, they usually say they will still choose those same foods.) He has also mentioned that he is internalizing the concept of “calories in, calories out” by being sure to exercise, as it gives him more calories; he feels the “work” of exercising and eating a bit more is better than not working out and having even fewer calories for the day.

As his wife and RD, I am able to see these subtle choices and changes on a daily basis, and in a much more personal and real-time way than if I was speaking to my client occasionally. It is true we have struggled with making changes in the past, and as both his wife and RD, I could not be happier and prouder about today:

Now that’s a pretty graph! (The flat line at the beginning was before we started 40 by 40.)

Chad has been eying the <360# ever since he went below 370#, so he went pretty hard this week. As his “Booyah!” blog reports, he made his goal, demolished it, actually, by weighing in at 358.8. It’s a loss of 3.8# in a week, which is the most he’s lost in one week since his very first week. (And I was worried he’d be disappointed by a plateau this week!)

Speaking of plateau, Chad and I know there is going to be one soon, so we are trying to prepare for that, and is partly the reason I am not concerned the weight loss was over 2# this week.

He has lost over 22#…go find something that weighs 22# and carry it around for awhile…this is a BIG DEAL! I can from watching him the last 8 weeks that he has accomplished it due a lot of focus, commitment, and by putting his healthy changes higher on his priority list; as I am typing this he is walking to and from and evening meeting (in the 40-degree dusk) in order to get his workout in for the day! I am VERY proud of my husband today!

My Favorite Food Apps

If you have an Android device, you have over 450,000 apps to choose from, and even more for iOS/Apple users! Some apps, like Angry Birds, find their way into your life by the sheer popularity and addictiveness of the game, but where do you turn if you are looking for something a little more practical? After several years of installing, trying, and often deleting food-related apps, there are a few that have found a permanent place on my home screens. Here are my top 5. (Note: These are all Android apps, as I am an Android-er, and they are all free. I am oddly cheap about paying for apps, and I like my favorites enough that I don’t see how a paid-for app could be any better.)

For Tracking Diet and Exercise–Myfitnesspal: This is great food and exercise tracker that I have used for years. It is easy to use, and works well both on a smartphone and on a computer. It can give you some guidelines on your calorie needs, and can track your weight, and even things like arm circumference. The food tracker seems to always have the items I am looking for, but a word of caution: other people can enter foods for you to choose. While this is convenient, you are trusting that the information is complete and accurate. I try to choose myfitnesspal’s own entries when possible, or confirm that the nutritional information is at least in the ballpark.  You can also set up your personal database to focus on what your specific desires are. Watching your sodium or carbs? Need more calcium? You can choose the information to be displayed. You can also set categories of meals or snacks. For example, if your drink a lot of high-calorie beverages, you can create a beverage section, to keep a close eye on those items. You can also keep track of fitness, which then “pays you back” some of your calories; its a little extra incentive to exercise when you see your calorie allowance go up! Other great tools are all the reports you can run to see your data over time, and you can share your diary with others, have myfitnesspal friends that you can contact, or just read the message boards for inspiration and support. It even has a bar-code reader to check on the nutrition of your foods!

Chad and I have used this several times in the past, sometimes just to reign in portion sizes or be sure we are exercising regularly. Because this has so many great tools, this is what Chad is using to track his 40 By 40 progress…we love it that much!

For Recipes–Big Oven: Despite my growing mountain of cookbooks, I am often looking for a recipe that will fill an immediate need, such as when I am overrun with basil or eggplants! Big Oven is a easy way to focus on what you are looking for. It allows you to search for what ingredients you want to include (basil and eggplant,) and omit any with ingredients you definitely DON’T want! (Around here, that’s mayo and ketchup!) You can read others’ reviews and see posted pics of the recipes. You can also search for categories to narrow your search, use its recipe planner for your weekly menu or even help make your shopping list. If you save your recipes on your phone, you can always pull them up at the store to make sure you don’t forget a crucial ingredient! You can search for recipes under other categories such as diabetes, but remember that these recipes are often shared by the public, and the listed nutritional information may have errors. (Also, all recipe websites are sure to tell you they are not able to “cure” your disease by using these recipes…so use at your own risk, and always use your best judgement when choosing healthy recipes!) I am a member of several recipe sites (read: food nerd) but Big Oven has a great blend of easy, comfort, fancy and ethnic recipes, so I always get a lot of variety.

For Label-reading–Fooducate: This is my newest toy! It’s main purpose is to scan bar-codes in the store, and condense all the information on the nutrition label and ingredient list into a letter grade. It will tell you some good and bad aspects of that food, and if your food gets a poor grade, it will give you some alternate ideas that score better. For me, this is just fun, but for others who don’t want to spend time comparing 5 different types of cereal and weighing the pros and cons of each, this gives you one overall piece of information to base your decision on. Beware that using this app can ALSO take some time, so if you don’t read labels at all, this will make your trip longer. But for those bogged down by the many choices in the aisles these days, it could be a time-saver to them. One other note: It is pretty tough to get a grade above a C+ or B-, and part of that is the preservatives and salt used in processed foods–which is what allows them to be packaged and given a bar-code in the first place! Even if you only use it once, either at the store or looking into your own cupboards, you may think twice about some of the items you buy!

For Kitchen Math–Recipe Converter: Since I am always trying new recipe ideas, and I am a science nerd, I always like to have an actual recipe to follow. I follow that recipe exactly, unless I have made it a couple times and feel comfortable enough to tweak it to our personal taste, which usually means twice the herbs and spices! And there is always the doubling or halving of recipes, whether you are going to a potluck or just making dinner for two. Because it’s part of my knowledge base, I can convert grams to ounces or teaspoons into cups, but not always in my head! Recipe Converter helps me with kitchen-type math quick enough that I don’t have to stop my actual cooking. It takes a second to get used to it, but it converts both weight and volume measurements to almost any unit and can even give you the needed amount if you change the yield (how many the recipe serves.) Kinda geeky, but handy if you spend lots of time cooking or baking.

For Workouts–Map My Run: Though this isn’t a food-related app, it is part of overall health. I use it on my phone to track the distance of my runs, bike rides and even kayak trips by GPS. I have tried several others, but this app seems to be the most accurate and consistent. I can share my workouts on Facebook, and make the routes public, so others can benefit from your routes, too. This also has a general fitness tracking system where you can enter workouts, and you can map out a trip on the computer before you leave, so you know the distance you will travel. This app was fabulous when I was training and needed runs of a specific number of miles. (They do have memberships that have a fee and come with more features, but I haven’t felt anything was lacking in the free version.)

Who knows what app I’ll find next, but it makes me feel a little better knowing that it MIGHT be something to help live a healthier or better life…but it also might be just for fun. Hey, there’s always Fruit Ninja!

Please note that I do NOT receive any compensation for endorsing any product. These are my personal opinions.