The Lose It app has been sitting unused on my iPhone since I got the phone in February. My husband had downloaded it when he got his phone and probably never used it either. Though I did use a modified Weight Watchers approach to lose 20 pounds worth of cafeteria food and “fourth meals” during my senior year of college, I’m a little sketched out by anything resembling a diet. From my experience, diets are things that teenage girls obsess about and adult people use to torture and reprimand themselves. But after a solid week of eating lots of junk (including a trip to the dreaded KFC–we were camping…it’s a long story…I promise to never go back), I thought I’d try the app just as a way to regulate.
The app’s primary focus is on counting calories. You create a profile and log your start weight and goal weight; then you decide if you want to lose 0.5, 1, 1.5, or 2 pounds per week. It spits out a calorie maximum and you’re off. Exercising subtracts calories from your day’s total, so if I want a cookie, I just stay on the elliptical a little longer. Make sense? It’s simple to follow and almost even fun. It’s especially fun when you go off the rails and split a $31 platter of barbecue your husband and attempt to tally the calories of ribs, pulled pork, barbecue chicken, fried catfish, creamed spinach, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, and cheese muffins (thank you, Jim ‘N Nick’s).
The problem with the app, and with any diet I’ve seen really, is that it can’t encompass the way people really eat and, more importanly, the way people should eat. You see, it’s easiest to stay on track when you’re eating food with a label. And food with a label is usually processed food. So tearing open a packet of instant oatmeal (160 calories) and adding 2/3 cup skim milk (60 calories) is no biggie. A fiber bar for a snack? 120 calories–it says so right there on the box. Asian Slaw with Peanut Dressing for dinner? Hold the phone. I chopped up a mountain of vegetables for that dish and none had a label. The dressing ingredients were labeled, mostly. I could’ve figured that part out. But the dish as a whole? I’m sure there’s a dietician’s website somewhere with a feature that would have calculated things for me. But that takes a lot of time; and my hands were tired from chopping cabbage. So for my really very healthy and colorful dinner of vegetables I just had to guess on the calories. I thought to myself, “Self–this would be easier if it came from a box.”
And that’s just another reason why diet culture is bad. It makes us want to eat processed foods–foods that are safely measured and labeled and will always taste the same no matter where you buy them. The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if the makers of Alli (the weight loss pill that makes you “live happier” and shit your pants) and Slim Fast might also own stock in Frito-Lay and Nabisco. One more reason why I’m sticking with the veggies. I might not be able to quantify their fiber, calorie, protein, and carbohydrate content, but they look beautiful and make my belly happy–and they never make me poo myself.