Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Scary Thing Happened on the Way to the Nutrition App

A week ago I started using the app My Fitness Pal to track my daily eating and exercise habits.  I mentioned that I've gained a bit of weight after indulging too much lately, and I thought the app would help keep me accountable and on track with my goals.  After a week of tracking my food and cardio (I didn't really bother to put in weight training), I definitely found myself paying closer attention to portion sizes and whether I really needed that late night snack.  After just a week I was already down a couple of pounds and feeling great. 
That is until I landed on the handy feature that lets you compare the amount of carbs, fat, and protein consumed to your "goals" for the day.  Discounting today, because I've only had breakfast so far, you can see that I've missed the protein goal more days than I've hit it. 
The pie chart feature on the app also tells me that my percentage of total calories for the week coming from protein is only 12%, compared to a goal of 20%.  How could this be?!?!  I feel like I really go out of my way to eat protein at every meal.  I add protein powder to my morning shakes and don't exactly eat a lot of packaged food like cookies, chips, and candy.  How could my nutrition be so ... off?! 
After first encountering the pie chart a few days ago I made an even more concerted effort to incorporate protein into my day, pairing peanut butter with apple slices and adding quinoa to everything.  But no matter what I did that green slice stayed just the same size.  I started reading about vegan protein sources online.  Surely I was missing some critical food item that would square everything away.  But everything I read were things I already knew, suggestions of foods I already ate. 
I started to really panic, thinking there was no way I could get enough protein in my day as a vegan.  Maybe I should add eggs back into my diet?  Just one egg a day would surely push me back in the right direction.  And I would get them from the farmer's market - the most humane eggs around.  Would that really be so bad?  But what does even the most humane farmer do with a male baby chick?  Or to a female that's passed her one or two years of egg-laying usefulness but could have several more years of life left to her?  I couldn't let myself pretend they were sent off to a happy and long retirement. 
Of course Josh tried to console me.  Was there really any reason I felt like I wasn't getting enough protein ... other than the fact that the app told me so?  No.  I'm not exactly a body builder, but I also have no issues at all with having enough muscle.  In fact, sometimes I wish I had a bit less in my legs ...  So why was I really worried?  Josh reminded me of what I really already knew, but had let myself forget ... too often we're told that we should get more protein in our diet than we really need.  As I read more online, I came across this great article on No Meat Athlete, which explains how much protein we really need in our diet.  And percentage-wise, the recommended figures come out to 10-15% of calories.  Suddenly that 12% doesn't look too shabby.  And all of my crazed concern over what one little app was telling me feels just a little silly. 
I'm definitely not trying to discount My Fitness Pal as a valuable tool in keeping track of your diet and exercise.  It's still a great (and FREE!) way to track calories in and calories out, which is what it all comes down to if you're trying to lose weight.  It keeps you accountable for your snacks and portion sizes, which is just what I need right now.  I just need to make sure I listen to my body before getting concerned about those other pesky details. 

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