There is this terrible picture of my family and I from our vacation the summer before I started high school; whenever I feel particularly distressed, I just look at that and am reminded how far we’ve come and how much we’ve improved our health.
In reality, I’ve been doing this weight loss, exercising, “get fit” journey for years now – and it all started back in high school. I want to share with you all some of the resources I found back then, and those that I use to this day, when it comes to tracking progress.
But first, some back-story!
When I made varsity tennis my freshman year of high school, the level of activity was more than any I had experienced in the past. At the end of the year, I had lost a fair amount of weight without changing my eating habits at all. However, at the start of summer, the father of a friend said to me casually, “Ariel, at the end of the season you were getting in shape, and now you’ve let yourself go.”
Why a grown man would say something like that to a 15-year-old girl, especially given the sensitive nature of body confidence at that age, I will never know. (And the fact that I still remember it today is a testament to how much the little things can resonate. Pro tip: NEVER SAY ANYTHING LIKE THAT TO A GIRL. SHE WILL NOT FORGET.)
Everything else aside, that comment was the motivation I needed to start focusing on weight loss – which leads me to my first discovery: SparkPeople.com.
There’s SparkPeople.com, and another derivative, SparkTeens.com. At the time, I joined the latter, but the principles are the same. Some pros of the site are:
- Food/Calorie Tracker, with an option for generated/manually entered meal plans
- Exercise Tracker, with an option for generated/manually entered strength-training plans and cardio
- Personalized webpage and blog
- Access to articles on nutrition, exercise, body image, and TONS of other items – all of them usually specific and easy-to-read
- Calorie/Exercise Tracker phone app
- Entirely free!!!
Just by tracking my food, I lost about 5 pounds that summer on my own. I continued to track on and off throughout high school, but as I grew more actively involved in tennis, I didn’t need it as much. I didn’t consistently start using it again until college started. The community aspect of the site is probably my favorite part – between message boards, blogs, private messaging, groups, and challenges, it’s hard to not interact.
But midway through freshman year of college, I started to get tired of the tracking system – particularly on the phone app. I found that adding foods took too many steps (and on my lousy phone network, that was a problem when I wanted to do something quickly).
So I searched the app store and found my next resource: LoseIt.Com.
Some of the big pluses with LoseIt! are:
- Food/Calorie Tracker integrated with Exercise Tracker
- Visual graphs/meters that display weekly and daily net caloric-intake
- Easy to set new goals based on weight and a weekly amount you want to lose
- Can display recent meals, exercise activity, weight loss/gain, and “statuses” on profile page
LoseIt! has a phone app, which is what I initially used, and also an online website, which I recently joined. In terms of pure tracking, the app is the easiest to understand and follow. The site leaves some things to be desired when it comes to the level of interaction. It also lacks the ability to track anything besides weight, unless you upgrade to a premium account. However, the site is reminiscent of Facebook in a sense, and that is good for accountability: when you track your meals or exercise, it will pop up on your “feed” for all your buddies to see and comment on.
The ticker showing net-intake was both my best friend and worst enemy when I started to use the app. It really does help you get a feel for how much you’re taking in, but I took it too far when I set my goal low (as in, 1000 calories per day low) on top of wanting to burn a lot exercising (at least 400 calories a day). My ticker was super low, my weekly calorie deficit high, and my weight loss rapid…but that also triggered various binges from time to time. Better to set realistic goals with this app!
Finally, the last major resource I use is TeamBeachbody.com.
Again, the benefits of this site are:
- Workout Schedule/Tracker
- Access to fitness/health articles
- Online forums/support groups and personal “coaches”
I only use the basic free account, and to be honest – it doesn’t do too much. The whole idea of the site is this “coaching” aspect, where you find a “coach”, buy products through them, and get personal assistance, advice, and support. More than anything, I use the site as a place to research different exercise programs – like INSANITY, P90X, Hip Hop Abs, etc. – and supplements – such as Shakeology. It is also a good place to see success stories, and those always get me motivated.
My experience has been less personal, but there is definitely an avenue to make it personalized if you wish. I’m just a poor, frugal college student – I’ll spend my money on the occasional supplement or invest in a workout, but I can’t bring myself to pay for a monthly membership quite yet!
So let me summarize how I use these sites nowadays:
- SparkPeople – daily (and personal) blogging, specific articles and recipes, and networking with others for support
- LoseIt! – daily food and exercise tracking, public accountability, and networking with others
- TeamBeachbody – researching programs and supplements, buying programs and supplements, and networking with others doing similar workouts offline (particularly via Facebook)
These are just the sites and systems I stumbled upon. Used correctly, these tools can be helpful – just be sure to be realistic in your goals, and STAY SAFE! Maybe they’ll be useful to you, and maybe they won’t. A lot of it comes down to personal preferences, and there are a variety of places you can find information on besides these sites.
Some people only need to track briefly until they figure out what they need, others (myself included) need to keep detailed logs lest we fall back into old habits (or develop new, unhealthy ones!), and some people don’t need it at all.
Let me know if you’ve tried any of these sites before, and how you liked them. Or if you’ve got your own tools and suggestions…I’m all ears!
More than anything, this goes back to finding a system of support and being consistent in our endeavors to live healthy. We can do it! 🙂