Though you might not know it from looking at me now, I’ve always struggled with weight. In the summer between high school and college, I topped out at 225 pounds, which with a 6’0″ frame put me square in the “Morbidly Obese” category. I justified my increasing weight and waistline by my athletic physique; after all, I played a multitude of sports in high school, but I was more of a David Ortiz than a Jose Bautista (a chubby guy who could hit home runs instead of a lean, mean, fighting machine).
My transition started that fall. I had chosen a college close to home, mostly due to the fact that my mother was seriously ill and I wanted to be close to her in case she needed extra care. She ended up passing away over the summer, leaving me at a school I didn’t really want to attend, with classes so easy I had significant amounts of free time. Sure, I partied a lot–San Diego State is a party school, after all–but I also hit the gym. 6 days per week. 2 hours per day. Over about 12 months and with no small amount of sweat, blood, and pain, I had dropped to a lean 165, and fell in love with my body.
Of course, the working world has a way of letting the pounds add up. In the fall of 2011, I was back up at 195-200, a full 30-35 pounds heavier than at my ideal weight. Problems were adding up; asthma made a reappearance, allergy issues I hadn’t faced in years reared their ugly heads once more, and I felt like a lug. I knew something had to give, and I made the decision then and there to get my life back on track. I purchased a treadmill, my wife got us a small weight set, and like our-own Clark Wimberly before me, I turned to smartphone apps to help me through.
Now, I didn’t find Lose It! until about three months back. It came recommended to me (or, I read it in a magazine, I don’t really remember) earlier this year, and I figured I’d give it a shot. I’d already been exercising fairly religiously for a few months, and was down to about 190 pounds. I knew that one of the biggest issues I had was eating well; I was always first in line every Thursday when I or a co-worker of mine brought sugary treats into our office, and would work out extra hard to (hopefully) make up for it. Then I started using Lose It!, an application which gives you all the tools you need to manage your eating habits according to your current weight and weight-loss goals.
Lose It! suggests a goal at a body mass index (BMI) of around 22.0%, which would put me squarely back at around 165. I agreed to the goal, and selected the option whereby I would drop 1.5 pounds per week en route to my goal. Using its built-in database, I would be allowed around 1,900 calories per day, which sounds like a lot until one realizes just how many calories are in the foods we eat.
At its core, Lose It! is a meal-tracking application. Every time you put that fork in your mouth, you have to log what you’re eating, right down to the number of sultry potato chips, york peppermint patties, or whatever else. If the food you’re eating isn’t in the Lose It! database, and has a barcode, you can simply scan the code and the nutritional information automagically appears. Adding exercises you’ve completed reduces the number of calories used for the day, and the goal is to have your food minus exercise calories add up to your daily goal (or less).
You’ll also be entering your weight in on a regular basis (daily, every other day, really whatever you want), and Lose It! will chart out your progress.
Functionality: The Lose It! application is a breeze to use, and has a fairly pleasant UI. Once you’ve logged a food or an exercise into your daily activity, Lose It! saves it into your “My foods/exercises” and “Previous Meals” shortcuts so you can easily and quickly add pieces of your meal, or the entire meal altogether, especially helpful for leftovers.
Simplicity: The biggest hiccup to using applications like LoseIt! is when it takes so long to use the application that you stop using it out of frustration. Fortunately, it takes a relatively short amount of time to log your daily activities and weight, making the barrier to entry minimal if any. Once you use it for a week, you’ll have likely built the habit and be hooked for the duration of your weight loss challenge (and, hopefully, beyond).
Web-Based Interface: Sometimes, I don’t always have my phone chained to my hip (I know, I know). Applications that are only applications are good to a degree, but become infinitely more useful when there’s a web-based interface for either those times where you don’t have your phone with you, or when you want to manage your progress on a bigger display. Fortunately, the Lose It! application does have a web front, which is as well designed and feature-rich as the Android app. Graphs and reports give you a look at your daily, weekly, and monthly progress, and forums connect you to others with similar goals.
Social Features: Anyone who has lost weight in the past knows that a tight support network is ideal for success. Lose It! allows you to connect with friends who can provide the encouragement you need to plow through it. Your meals, activities, and badges earned appear on your homepage, so friends can easily track what you’ve been up to and see when you either aren’t using the application or aren’t making the best decisions to meet your goals. Of course, there’s a creepiness feature; after all, who really needs to know all the details of your daily life, even the mundane diet and exercise decisions? Still, having the ability to hold yourself and your friends accountable is a powerful motivator, and puts Lose It! one step ahead of much of the competition.
The Not so Good
Reliance on BMI: Of course, anyone knows that BMI isn’t exactly the best measure of health. Other indicators such as body fat percentage are better, though not everyone has access to a body fat analysis machine. Body fat percentage is a much better indicator of how healthy an individual is, though in this case BMI serves as a viable proxy.
It’s too easy to NOT use Lose It!: There are very few applications I want accessing my notifications bar, but Lose It! would easily be at the top of that list. Sadly, while Lose It! does sometimes access your notifications, I experimented for the last 5 days or so by not tracking any of my activity, and have received nary a snarky notification from Lose It! When it comes to something that users should be using on a daily basis, I think Lose It! should notify me when I haven’t logged my activities and meals for a few days. Not every day of course, as sometimes you just want to check out of all screen-based activities, but reminders every other day or so should suffice and encourage people to keep using it.
While it certainly isn’t going to tell my lazy ass to get off the couch and go for a run, Lose It! has provided me a powerful encouragement I’ve needed to make healthier decisions. I play a weekly tennis game, exercise at least 4 days per week (2 more than I used to), and often stay away from the treat desk at work. My daily caloric activity might not always be 100% accurate, as I sometimes miss a meal or an activity or two, but it has very noticeably and importantly changed my behaviors in a positive way.
In short, since using Lose It!, I feel better. I’m down to about 178 pounds, the lightest I’ve been in a few years. I can now run 4 miles without really thinking about it, and my energy has noticeably improved. If you’re looking for a solution that could help you lose the weight you’re looking to shed, you certainly ought to give Lose It! a whirl.