Pros and cons of Livestrong (a weight loss post)


I don’t think I could be losing weight without this program, so why do I resent it so much?

I bought it because I was shamed into it. Not fat-shame. After John Scalzi said he’d used the program to track his calorie intake, I downloaded the free version (why pay when I could test it out?) to my wife’s iPad and gave it a try. I forget why I was disappointed in it, but I was and I didn’t want to bother getting the $3 pay version.

Then I saw a tweet in my timeline that said (paraphrasing):

“I want to get that but I don’t know if I should pay $3.” — Nobody ever except people considering a complicated piece of software.

Oops. I paid for the pay version and was immediately glad I did. It let me enter my weight and let me decide how much I wanted to lose each week: a pound, pound and a half, or two pounds. Then it told me how much I could eat.

Amazing! Here I was expecting about 1500 calories a day or whatever, but the program was telling me I could have over 2400! Thank you, program! You’re my new best friend!

It also calculates calorie expenditures based on weight. The more I weigh, the more calories I rack up in the negative column when I take long walks! The downside is that, as I lose weight, each minute of walking is worth fewer calories. Oh well.

So! Let’s talk about the plusses.

— It’s pretty intuitive: the iPad app lets you enter calories easily and cut down to a quarter, half, or three-quarters of a serving.

— It’s comprehensive: Okay, it doesn’t have everything, but it has a lottathings. What’s more, it will sometimes list the same thing several times, so I can pick the large tomato over the small one, or I can pick the serving measured in grams over the one in quarter cups.

— It’s just the right amount of fussy: I enter the food, mark when I ate it, select the serving size (which is done with a fun roller wheel graphic on the iPad) and that’s it. Easy and enjoyable

— It makes me pay attention: This isn’t Livestrong specific, but when I see a saltine sitting out on the table, I have to ask myself Is it worth opening up the program just to record those 12 calories? Usually the answer is no.

— It forces me to make informed choices: There are certain foods I eat less of now that I see how many calories they carry. I’ve developed an informal budget, and there are quite a few foods that just aren’t enjoyable enough to be worth eating (most of the time). What are they? Pasta, peanut butter, and any kind of flavored drink at all. I still like those things, esp peanut butter, but I just don’t eat them as much.

How about the minusses.

— Is it in the database? One thing I find is that it’s easier to open a can of soup than to make one from scratch, and it’s easier to eat at a chain restaurant than anywhere else.

With homemade food, I have to measure all the ingredients, then work out what portion of the whole I got. Soup for dinner? That honestly sucks to figure out. But canned soup has all the info right on the side, and how easy is that?

What’s more, we have a great sandwich shop nearby, but I have no idea what the calorie count of their food is. Not even an educated guess. But Subway? That’s in the database.

I still make homemade food and still eat local, but using a calorie counter program is a big disincentive.

— Have you seen that fucking website? Seriously, I didn’t even know they had a website (no link, nuh uh) until a week or two in, and it’s terrible. It puts a cookie in your browser so it knows whether to give the “Man” or the “Woman” tab, and each one looks so much like a supermarket checkout aisle magazine that I’m genuinely embarrassed by it.

It’s not as bad as it used to be. When they first switched to the Man/Woman tabs, the women’s side had a “laughing alone with salad” vibe and the men’s showed hardbody guys on the basketball court giving a “Bring your best game here” look to the camera.

They’ve cleaned up their act since then, showing more body types and focusing more on food than models, but it still looks like a magazine from the last century.

Anyway, on a personal note, I put on three pounds over the Turkey Day holiday (probably from food in my system more than metabolized fat) and have already lost it again. As the weather gets colder I find it harder to stay hydrated, and I’m leery of dehydrating myself and calling it progress on my belly. Anyway, as of yesterday morning, I’ve lost 27 pounds.

The last post I have planned is “Pain and Goals” and that’s upcoming sometime soon. (Honestly, I expected to be done with these posts by now.)