Time for some tech talk (followed by a DELICIOUS dessert recipe). I get the “What have you been doing?” and “What have you changed?” questions on a daily basis — 3x at work yesterday afternoon alone — and I’m trying to pay more attention to the little habits that I’ve built in the last few months so that I can give a legit answer. I’d never noticed it before, but technology has played a huge part in keeping me on track to getting healthier.
I love my iPhone, apps, and data. I’m kind of a geek. There are TONS of tools created with health and fitness in mind; four of which I’ve found to be particularly useful. Some are free; others are more pricey. I use all of these on a daily basis, which might seem like overkill, but I’m a nerd and love being “plugged in.” Plus, it gives me something more productive to look at than my Facebook news feed, and they all really help me stay committed to eating right and working out.
1. MyFitnessPal (Free App)
Can’t stress this enough! If you’re struggling with your weight and/or diet, the best first step that you can take is TRACKING YOUR FOOD with this app. All of it. Even that glass of wine you had with dinner. Seriously. I only saw real progress once I started logging what I ate because it forced me to pay attention to what I was putting into my body. Don’t listen to MFP’s calorie totals, though. Mine defaulted to 1200cal/day which is bullshit. My RMR (resting metabolic rate) is 1872cal, so I customized my daily total based on that number. Don’t eat less than your RMR (calculate yours here), even if the app tells you to. I’ll post more on the why behind this at a later date.
Another important feature in MFP is watching your macronutrient distribution through the “Nutrition” chart view. (It’s a pie chart, which I think is a little cruel, but whatever.) I aim for a 40/40/20 split: 40% protein, 40% carbs, and 20% fat. The chart view makes this SUPER easy to monitor. Macros are important — once I started caring about the type of calories I was consuming more than the total number, the inches started falling off. Helloooo, muscle definition. BONUS: I have my food diary publicly viewable to friends on MFP, and I’m as detailed as possible in my logging… Even when I have “cheat” meals. Add me if you want to see what/when I eat: http://www.myfitnesspal.com/mackenzie8907
2. GymPact (Pseudo-Free App)
GymPact is sort of free, but not really. You pay for it if you miss workouts, but other users PAY YOU if you don’t! The concept: money is obviously a motivator. You make a pact with yourself to get your ass to the gym X days/week (for a duration of at least 30min.), and you commit to $Y/day missed. For every pact you successfully complete, you make money. If you don’t complete your weekly pact, you pay for days missed.
I have my pact set to 3 days/week, and I pay $5 for each missed day. I have to get 3 workouts in from Monday-Sunday. If I only log 2 of the 3 days, GymPact takes $5 out of my PayPal account and gives it to someone who was less lazy. It uses GPS to monitor your location, so if you’re working out at a gym, you have to check in/out in the same area. Or, take your phone with you when you go for a jog/run, and GymPact tracks your activity level to count toward a workout. You can sync this with other apps (RunKeeper, FitBit, etc.) so that you don’t have to log workouts in multiple systems, and their support team ROCKS if you have technical issues. You can also freeze/end your pact whenever you want. I’ve been using it for a couple of months, and I’ve made $10. No, it’s not a lot of money, but hey — it’s $10 I wouldn’t have made if I didn’t use the app. $2 more and I’ll have enough reward cash to buy myself another pair of UnderArmour seamless underwear, which are my new apparel addiction. TMI? Sorry. I love them.
3. Polar Heart Rate Monitors (Paid Wristband)
Ever wonder how many calories you REALLY burned off in your sweat sesh? Polar HRMs are the most accurate way to track how many calories you expend while working out. You can see how your HR fluctuates during different exercises on the watch, and once your workout is done, it tells you the duration and total calories burned. Ryan got one as a reward for being Camper of the Week at boot camp; very well-deserved, considering he kicked some serious tail in his first 6 weeks; and I was jealous. I really wanted to buy one ASAP. Being the wonderful, thoughtful boyfriend that he is, he surprised me with a Polar FT7 this week before I had the chance to get it for myself. (Yes, I’m spoiled.) I’ve only used it for 2 workouts, and I’m already obsessed.
These puppies come with a chest strap to measure your HR, which I thought would be totally uncomfortable. WRONG! I never notice it. If you drop below your target HR zone during a workout, it tells you to step it up with a little “beep” sound. (Not too loud/embarrassing, so don’t worry about pissing off the person working out next to you.) They cost around $100 depending on the model, and are only meant to track calories burned when REALLY active — meaning you probably shouldn’t use it when doing everyday stuff. That’s the job of #4 on the list! BOOM. Seamless transition.
4. FitBit Flex (Paid Wristband)
You can find these everywhere. Dick’s, Brookstone, Best Buy — they all carry FitBit products. They’re similar to the Jawbone Up, except the Flex has a wireless syncing functionality that sends data to the app without having to plug anything in. It monitors steps/distance, total calories burned, active minutes, and sleep. Also, you can sync it up to MFP to pull in your calorie/water intake (if you have an iPhone 4S or newer).
What I LOVE: The sleep tracking has really prompted me to get to bed earlier, and the steps/distance tracking means Bailey gets MUCH longer (and more frequent) walks. :) Lucky dog. Also, FitBit sends weekly progress emails to show you all of your data in one quick view. I find myself comparing stats week-over-week, and I try to be more active with each update just to watch the numbers change. The benefits are all psychological, and I don’t really care whether or not the numbers are 100% accurate because it simply makes me want to get up and move more. In reality, it’s just a glorified pedometer that you wear on your wrist with a really great app/website connected to it. In my opinion, it was worth the $100. The only thing that sucks: they released a badass hot pink version 2 months after I got my boring black one. Bummer.
None of these are 100% necessary for getting in shape, but they really made a difference in my journey. If you only opt for one, definitely go with MyFitnessPal (and ask for the Polar and/or FitBit for Christmas). I completely believe that I wouldn’t have seen results if I hadn’t started using MFP religiously. Plus, if you try any of my recipes, I’ve stored them in the MFP database to help make tracking easier.
My mini muffin tin is getting some serious use these days. I over-bought Nonfat Plain Greek Yogurt the last few weeks, so I needed to use it up. Lunches and snacks were already made, and I usually don’t eat yogurt for breakfast. Clearly, I needed to make dessert. Frozen yogurt is a personal favorite. We have a little shop within walking distance of our apartment (and we even get discounts for being residents of The Domain), but I totally overdo it when it comes to the toppings. Better to just avoid the entire situation, save a little cash, and make something at home.
Adorable, no? These are so simple to make, way less messy than the dark chocolate cookie-faux cups, and they’re guiltless:
Nutritional Overview (1 mini-cup):
I had a fun-sized PB snickers a few minutes ago (DELICIOUS) and looked at the ingredients/nutrition facts online out of curiosity. I fully support indulging when it’s appropriate — everything in moderation, right? — but I compared the details these FroYo bites, and my jaw dropped:
PB Snickers (one square): 130cal, 7g fat, 15g carbs, 2g protein
Reese’s FroYo Bites (TWO bites): 139cal, 6.6g fat, 14.1 carbs, 7.3g protein
I must say, I felt pretty damn good about this comparison. (WOO!) Instead of gorging yourself on Halloween candy for the next 2 weeks, do your body a favor and make some froyo bites. Have some candy to celebrate the holiday, make a stash of the froyo bites tonight/this weekend, and chunk the rest of your Halloween stash. Nobody wants to gain 15lbs before the new year, amiright?
Cook time: 10min. hands-on + 1hr. freezing
Bottom layer (fudge)
– 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
– 1.5 tbsp. all-natural honey
– 2 tbsp. natural peanut butter (I used 1tbsp. Better’n Peanut Butter + 1tbsp. Smart Balance)
– 1.5 tbsp. PB2
– 1 tbsp. coconut oil (melted)
– 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Top layer (yogurt)
– 2/3c. plain nonfat Greek yogurt
– 2 tbsp. PB2
– 1 scoop protein powder (I used BioTrust vanilla — nutritional value will vary if you use a different type)
– Liquid Stevia, to taste (I used a couple drops each of buttered toffee and dark chocolate flavors; powdered works, too)
– 1/4c. fat free whipped topping
– PB and/or dark chocolate chips
- Line mini-muffin tin with liners or cooking spray (liners probably work best)
- Combine all of the Fudge layer liquid ingredients in a bowl — honey, regular PB, coconut oil, vanilla extract — and mix well
- Add PB2 and cocoa powder; stir until smoothly combined (no clumps!)
- Spoon about 1tsp of the fudge into your liners (they should end up about 50% full) and flatten out the layers with a spoon or mini-spatula
- Freeze fudge for 20-25min.
- While fudge is freezing, mix together all of the Yogurt layer ingredients except for PB/chocolate chips until thoroughly combined
- Test the yogurt batter and make sure it’s sweet enough for you; change the PB2/Stevia/Greek yogurt amounts to your liking!
- Take your tin out of the freezer and fill the remainder of the mini-muffin liners with yogurt mixture
- Top each with a few PB/dark chocolate chips (I used ~3 of each kind per FroYo Bite)
- Freeze for about 45min.
This is quite possibly my new #1 favorite dessert. Word of advice: let them warm up a bit if they’ve been left in the freezer overnight. I made my first batch late Tuesday night, froze them until Wednesday evening, and they were almost too cold to eat when I took them out. The first bite kind of hurt my teeth, but they were so good that I didn’t want to stop eating. (I just did my best to ignore the discomfort and went for another bite… Then had seconds. No shame.) Ryan says they taste like cheesecake, and even though he claims to “hate” Greek yogurt, he threatened to eat the entire batch. MAKE THESE! You won’t be disappointed.