Can you lose weight using an App?

In the second part of our ‘real life’ health series, we take a look at whether or not it is possible to lose weight with the help of one of the many free fitness apps available out there.

Are they as good as they make themselves out to be?

Is logging your daily food intake really all it takes to lose weight?

Here we take a look at the weight loss journey of Pete Jolly, as he takes us through the ups and downs of his rollercoaster ride, sharing a few tips along the way and, in an interesting twist, we also hear the story from the point of view of his wife, Hannah:

PETE

“Until the age of 18 I was a skinny, lanky and very tall rake. I loved sport and could eat anything I wanted, but when I started University I discovered the wonders of kebabs, booze and fags, but stopped exercising.

When I returned for my first Christmas, people didn’t recognize me. I must have put on between 2 – 3 stone in weight since they had last seen me. And…with a few blips, both up and down, that is how I stayed until I was about 30. At my heaviest I was just over 19 stone; very heavy, even for a 6ft 6in tall man.

I then got back into fitness quite heavily. I would weigh myself weekly and through a combination of Wii Fit and an exercise bike, I rapidly lost the 2 or 3 stone I had originally put on. But, it was unsustainable, as I would have salad and rabbit food for lunch at work and then binge at the weekends.

Pete - before...The fitness was there, but the eating and snacking remained. If, for whatever reason, I couldn’t exercise for a week or two I would soon balloon again.

Wind forward to February 2015…

I made a visit to the doctors that I believe changed my life. It was a regular asthma check-up and I was asked to step on the scales. I hadn’t stepped on the scales, through both fear and dread, for over a year and when it flew over the 18.5 stone mark, I was understandably shocked.

That evening I got home to my lovely wife and three children and decided there and then that I wanted to change; I wanted to live a long life with my family. My two eldest children are 10 and 8 years old, but we also have a 1 year old. He was born when I was 35, which means when he is 20 I’ll be 55, when he is 30 I’ll be 65 etc.

I wanted to change my life for good!

I then took it upon myself to do some research on the Internet and found that the myfitnesspal app was a popular and reoccurring theme. The online fitness community were talking about counting calories, whilst still living a healthy, active and happy life.

I downloaded the app and in the first two weeks I could not believe what I had been doing to myself for the past 20 odd years. A bowl of the kids’ leftover pasta that I would never even think twice about leaving, added up to 600 calories, a McDonalds; 1,000 calories and a big bag of crisps; 750 calories. For me, the Holy Grail; that missing link all this time, was my lack of education about food.

From that point, I set my goal at 1,900 calories per day and stuck to this religiously by daily use of barcode scanning all food and the kitchen weighing scales. Now when I go to parties, I will look at a selection of cakes and snacks, but I will opt for some salad, a wholemeal sandwich and maybe some chicken or a sausage. My radar instinctively rules out crisps, chocolate and cake. Why? Because I now know that the magic 1,900 number will come and go very quickly and I really hate going to bed on 1,950 or 2,000!

The key is being 100% honest with yourself.

My main discoveries that have helped keep me on track have been cans of sugar-free ginger beer, black coffee and popcorn snacks as a treat.

Pete - afterI run 5k at least 3 times a week and if I do a 10k I log this on my app and give myself the extra calories.

With help from the myfitnesspal app, I fell to 15.5 stone in about 3 months. One year on, I am now a healthy weight and consistently within my BMI. Not only that, but I am confident and content, and I feel great!

I still allow myself ‘mad days’, for example only recently I went out with my pals in Hove and I calculated I’d had 5,000 calories in just one day; drink, pub grub, late kebab etc. In the run up to Hove I targeted myself at 1,600 calories per day for 5 days e.g. 300 x 5 = 1,500 ‘spare” calories’, and 2 x 10K runs, which I calculated as 2,000 calories. So, the Saturday was 1,900 regular calories plus 3,500 saved calories.

How do I do it?

With an app and Rainman-style maths equations!

I was recently given a Fitbit for Christmas and I now connect this to the myfitnesspal app. It calculates my calorie intake inline with my steps and gives me a guide to my true level of fitness. I now aim to have a 750 calories deficit every day; calories in v’s calories out. I believe calorie counting in relation to your accurate fitness level gives a more ‘total picture’ of what is going on and, is in turn, going to help me sustain this level of weight until I have reached a weight I am happy with.

The comments I have received from family, friends and work colleagues have been great and I feel the fittest I have for 20 years. One key moment for me was selling all my old suits on eBay.

So there you have it.

Fitness and sport were natural for me, but I wasn’t educated with food. I now look at a plate of food and, like a photocopier, can scan over the plate, quickly tot up the amount of calories and start to plan the rest of my day with those numbers in my head. I’ve learnt that if you lapse, you can repair it within a couple of days.

Thank you people at myfitnesspal – me and my family owe you one!”

 

HANNAH

“Pete had been a regular runner for a long time and in the past when he had lost weight it had been primarily down to exercise. When I saw him running at a Park Run I became worried about the strain he was putting on his body especially as he was carrying quite a bit of extra weight. Pete is very tall, so carrying that extra weight on a daily basis wasn’t always that obvious, but when he ran I was concerned about the strain it could potentially have on his heart.

HannahWhen Pete made the decision to lose weight, he used a completely free and amazingly easy to use app called myfitnesspal, which allowed him to scan in barcodes from food packaging and calculate the number of calories within them as well as giving him access to lots of free recipes from the BBC Good Food website. The myfitnesspal app helped him monitor his calorie count, which in turn also helped educate him about what to limit and what to avoid; mostly alcohol!

His attitude to eating has really changed. He now thinks of certain food as a waste of calories, although I am still trying to get him to eat healthier, rather than just counting those calories. I have encouraged him to not count some fruit and vegetables and to instead think of them as calorie free in order to get more vitamins into him.

Before losing the weight he wouldn’t think about what or when he was eating and would often not eat enough during the day, but then eat lots in the evenings and weekends. He did the classic of eating the kids leftovers and stopping off at the garage for a convenient, pre-prepared sandwich.

Initially, Pete lost the weight much quicker than he should have; about 5lbs a week at one point, which made him very moody and at times I Healthy and Happy - Pete and Hannah jollybecame quite annoyed with him. He would buy lots of Tesco ready meals so that he could really monitor what he was eating, but this meant he missed out on family meals and resulted in me having to always eat what the kids ate, which wasn’t always very interesting! I’m still trying to get him to think about the bigger picture; that being healthy is not just about losing weight.

He continues to run at least twice a week – going from 5k’s to now running 10k’s and averaging 5 minutes per kilometre; I’m extremely jealous of this! He now organises running into his week, sometimes dropping the kids off at school and then going for a run and he has found routes to do before starting work and during lunch times, as well as when he’s home during evenings and weekends.

In total he has lost about 4 stone and has now reached a weight he is happy with and, on the whole, has managed to maintain this weight now for a few months. Not only is he feeling great about himself, but he is also loving buying lots of slim fitted clothes. For Christmas I got him a Fitbit, which he loves and it has helped motivate him to slim a bit more as well as keep up the exercise.

For me, as I’d just had a baby when all of this started, I tried not to stress too much about my own weight. I was easily the heaviest I’ve ever been, but actually I listened to the advice from my GP and waited until the baby was 6 months old before getting back into exercise. In actual fact, I’d naturally got back to the weight I was before having the baby! I think Pete definitely inspired me, as I then started running myself, but I am definitely not a calorie counter! I try to follow the eat well plate and British Heart healthy guidelines, which are all about de-mything the headlines. I’ve also been given a swimming membership and new running trainers for Christmas, so I’ve got no excuse! I’ve managed to use them quite a bit already, which I hope to maintain by entering into a few events, or to just improve my times!”

So, there you have it.

Losing weight is always going to be hard work and although the use of an app, such as myfitnesspal, can certainly help, there is no question that the most important factors are sheer determination, exercise and willpower.

The Art of Healthy Living would like to thank Pete and Hannah Jolly for sharing their story with us. We hope it will help inspire others to start their own weight loss and fitness journeys.

If you have your own success story, we would love to hear from you, so please get in touch. Either send us an email: info@artofhealthyliving.com or send us a message through our Art of Healthy Living Facebook page.