The year 2021 has been difficult for my health. I had moved away from New York at the start of the pandemic to distance myself from the most populous city in the United States. day for lunch.
I moved to the suburbs of Houston, a city built around cars and freeways, where sidewalks suddenly end and grocery stores require a three-mile drive. Suddenly, my life was much more sedentary. Afternoon jogs morphed into weekly ambles, which then turned into monthly wheezing, guilt-ridden festivals. It didn’t help that Gov. Greg Abbott deliberately went out of his way to cancel local mask mandates, helping the coronavirus particles to spread all the more quickly in the community. He recently did the same for vaccination warrants also.
Local gyms removed mask mandates just as quickly. It seems Houston gym customers would rather listen to horse vaccine and dewormer Joe Rogan, rather than immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci. This meant going to the gym, even with a mask on, was risky as runners huffed and puffed on treadmills a few feet away.
In the nearly two years since leaving New York, I had packed twenty extra pounds. The t-shirts got tight and my pants didn’t need a belt to stay in place. After a decadent Friendsgiving filled with fried chicken, green bean casserole and pie, I knew something had to change.
Since getting the vaccine, I slowly started going back to the gym. I remained masked but chose to go late at night when the traffic was light. Even then the pounds were not losing as quickly as I would have liked. Clearly I was doing something wrong.
I remembered using the FatSecret calorie counting app in New York when I was on a major cut, but was hesitant to re-download it to my Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3. The app (available at ios, Apple watch and Android) wasn’t what scared me: it’s a good app, but deep down I knew that by following all of my dietary measurements I could visually see why I needed to completely change my diet. Like going to the dentist, there were some uncomfortable issues surrounding that prospect, so I postponed it.
At the end of November, I redownloaded FatSecret. I pulled out the digital food scale and started meticulously counting each calorie.
Unlike other fitness and calorie counting apps, such as MyFitnessPal or LoseIt, FatSecret is completely free. There is no monthly subscription fee and it still offers a solid overall feature set, although the app looks simpler in comparison. It tells me my daily and weekly calorie intake and also breaks down my macronutrient intake.
Personally, I aim to eat around 1,500 calories per day, which puts me in a calorie deficit as my body will naturally burn around 2,000.
What I love about FatSecret is its huge library. Like LoseIt, it allows community members to download calorie measurements of various foods. I downloaded some items myself, such as the Chicken Gyroscope (minus the white sauce), which can be found all over the various street carts in New York City. While most calorie counting apps will have the basics, such as grilled chicken or a litany of prepackaged food items, I’ve found FatSecret’s library to be the most robust. Being Pakistani, it’s harder to count calories from some of my family’s more traditional foods. But, more often than not, FatSecret offers items like chana masala or baingan bharta, giving me a break from the standard chicken and broccoli.
While some may argue that the nutritional information on home-cooked foods could never be entirely accurate, it does at least give some measure. It is better to follow an approximation on nothing at all.
While it’s impossible to fully know it, I think FatSecret’s great food library is related to the fact that the app is free. This probably attracts more users, as there is a lower barrier to entry. Moreover, it is not limited to its applications, as it is also possible to access FatSecret through a web browser.
Since I started in late November, I have lost seven pounds. A lot of it was with the weight loss diets, as the Omicron variant kept me away from the gym. Given my current trajectory, I estimate that by March or April, I should regain my pre-pandemic weight. Honestly, I wish I had started earlier.
For those who have New Year’s resolutions to lose weight in 2022, I think 80% of the battle is to have a controlled diet. Whether it’s FatSecret or the various other calorie counting apps, knowing exactly what and how much is being consumed makes a huge difference.
And if any FatSecret developers are reading this, a Wear OS app for my Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 would be greatly appreciated.