I Lost 10 Pounds By Taking Pictures of Everything I Ate And Sending It To a Stranger

There are two types of people in this world: Those who have eaten food out of the trash just because it tastes good and those who have not.
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Publish date:
October 8, 2014
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weight loss, tech, apps, nutrition

Did you know you don't have to physically HAVE your baby to gain 40 pounds of baby weight? It's pretty easy, actually. I mean, it's super easy to gain weight anyway -- that's why they (assholes) call getting fat "letting yourself go" and not like, "pushing a rock up a hill." Gaining weight is so easy and really fun!

But kids for some reason completely loathe what in my estimation are the two greatest activities in the world: sleeping and eating. And because they hate to eat and also are fueling relatively small bodies, little kids leave half of their food behind at every meal. It's super delicious little kid food too -- pancakes, macaroni and cheese, DINOSAUR SHAPED CHICKEN NUGGETS. Naturally, you end up eating their half-eaten meal in addition to your own meal. A year on the meal-and-a-half plan and voila! 40 pounds of baby weight.

There are probably people who don't eat off their kids' plates, but they are probably also the kind of people who have never thrown donuts in the trash and then dug them out later and eaten them. People with clean purses with no half-unwrapped tampons floating around.

Sidenote: I just realized that there truly are two types of people in this world: Those who have eaten food out of the trash just because it tastes good and those who have not. Or maybe those who eat half a pint of Ben and Jerry's and then put it away and those who have no fucking idea how you do that.

Anyway, I am obviously a trash-eating garbage purse person and I gained a bunch of weight in mommyhood. But somewhere around year 2 or 3, when your kid starts to be able to manage his own survival for 5-minute increments, a lot of moms kind of look up and shake the sleep out of our eyes and start like, scheduling hair appointments and shit. A minimum of self-care returns.

Manicures and super-high heels are gone forever, but I try to get a trim every now and again and I even just made an appointment for a fall facial like a wanton childless woman. Recently I've even been starting to pay attention to what I put in my mouth again. Apparently healthy food isn't really supposed to be shaped like a brontosaurus?

Anyway, when I got the opportunity to try this app called "Rise," it seemed like a good way to kickstart some new habits. It's basically an app that connects you directly to a nutritionist who will act as your daily coach. You photograph your meals and snacks and then the expert weighs in with tips and advice and recipes and encouragement/disapproval. It's somewhere between total genius and complete nightmare, right?

When you first log in, you're given a chance to describe your goals (choices include "I want to feel healthier," " I want to look better," I'm training for a race," etc.) and lifestyle. Based on that information, the app matches you with 5 coaches to choose from. I selected Sonya, mostly because she was described as a "Busy Mom." Me, too! I'M a busy mom!

We began chatting in the "messages" section of the app. Sonya asked about my goals and past experiences with nutrition and weight management, as well as what kind of foods I like and for descriptions of my current lifestyle and eating habits. I described my lifelong struggle with weight and yo-yo dieting, as well as my recent weight gain and my desire to be healthier and stronger as well as to feel better about my body. I said my biggest challenges were eating off my son's plate and ordering takeout constantly. (Not mentioned: The gaping void in my soul I fill with carbohydrates.)

Feeling fresh and motivated, I started to track my meals the next day. And that's when that bitch Sonya started to systematically take everything I love from me.

First up: granola.

OK, fine. I can accept that granola is one of those "fake healthy" foods that actually isn't healthy at all.

Cheerios.

Sigh.

Coconut water.

It may seem an unlikely breaking point, but this is when I really started to get pissed off. I mean, the boilerplate in the Rise app instructed me to have an afternoon snack totaling 150-200 calories. What did it really matter if 60 of those calories was a coconut water? I wasn't asking for a Snickers bar. Although the one time I did eat a candy bar, Sonya congratulated me for choosing the smallest size of the lowest calorie option so who even knows what's allowed anymore.

Croutons.

Yes, I know they're just white bread fried in oil, Sonya, that's what makes them TASTE GOOD. I mean, let's be honest, the croutons are 90 percent of the reason to eat the salad. I was beginning to feel that Sonya's eating plan left no room for joy.

I'll be the first to admit that I don't know how the fuck to eat. I've been on so many restrictive diets with conflicting rules in my life that I no longer know whether I'm suppose to avoid fat, or carbs, or count calories or eat only fresh produce or foods that start with the letter "w" or what. I once had to take the question of which yogurt to buy to therapy. Do I get full fat ala the Atkins diet, non-fat ala Weight Watchers, or 2 percent in the middle? I seriously had to work through this with a professional.

But at least those plans had clear rules to follow. Working with Sonya felt like I was totally in the dark -- I'd post something expecting praise and get shot down, then post something expecting to be reprimanded and be told it was a good choice. She also seemed unwilling to accept the non-negotiable existence of pizza in my life. I started to go on mini-tirades every time Sonya commented on one of my meals. I was TERRIFIED to send her a photo of what I eat at a typical Friday night girls' night. At one point, I typed, then deleted, "I NEED TO LIVE MY LIFE SONYA."

But I kept going, because there were definitely positive benefits to using Rise. For one, Sonya got me on a way better eating schedule. I had been getting up around 6 or 7 am and not eating breakfast until 10 or so when I got to work. Then, of course, I wasn't really hungry for lunch and so I often skipped it or forgot to eat, then was starving for dinner. Which ended up being takeout most of the time because I was too busy handling my son to cook anything. Also, I don't know how to cook anything.

Under Sonya's guidance, I started eating a breakfast within an hour of waking up -- plain oatmeal with fruit, a vegetable and fruit smoothie with nonfat Greek yogurt, or scrambled eggs with assorted veggies. Then I had a snack when I got to work -- a piece of fruit and a string cheese or a handful of nuts. Lunch became a salad or sushi or a sandwich brought from home. Afternoon snack was more produce and a small protein. In the evening, I was able to collect my son from daycare, get him fed, and order my own dinner before I was ravenous. I even sent the links for my takeout menus to Sonya and she gave me some good ordering options.

She also linked me to some simple, healthy recipe sites and I started to experiment with cooking at home every once in awhile. We set new goals each week -- one might be to include vegetables at every meal, or to cook at home 4 evenings out of 7.

I should disclose that I totally lied to Sonya. I didn't always track when I grabbed a handful of something or ordered dessert. Once I removed all the french fries from my plate, took a picture of my sandwich, then put the french fries back and ate them. Sometimes I just couldn't face her disapproval. Sometimes I dreaded getting her feedback on what I knew wasn't the healthiest choice. Like the time I posted my 2-slices-of-pepperoni-pizza dinner and she, infuriatingly, responded "Grease City!" Yes, Sonya, I AM A PROUD RESIDENT OF GREASE CITY. IT IS DELICIOUS HERE, YOU SHOULD COME TO VISIT.

Even though my coach is sometimes infuriating, in the two months I've been using the app, I've also learned a ton about nutrition, completely changed my eating schedule, added tons more fruit and vegetables to my diet, and started cooking at home more than I order out. And I've lost 10 pounds. All of that without following a "diet" or depriving myself of the occasional slice of greasy pizza.

And, of course, a lot depends on the coach you work with. At one point Sonya took a vacation and another woman with a completely different coaching style subbed in for a week. You can switch coaches if things aren't working out, and frequent prompts ask you how things are going with your coach and if you'd like them to change anything about their approach.

I still do think Sonya's way of eating is a little too restrictive and unrealistic for who I am deep down inside, but I just follow her guidelines when I can and don't beat myself up when I decide to do things the garbage purse way. Or we meet in the middle: I will never stop eating pizza for dinner on a near-weekly basis, but I did start adding a serving or two of vegetables.

The app has been my guide through the forest of nutritional confusion I was barely navigating before. I AM NO LONGER BAFFLED BY YOGURT. I also like that I'm not really dieting -- I've just shifted the way I eat in a healthier direction. It feels pretty awesome to be losing weight by implementing small changes that are pretty sustainable rather than submitting myself to another diet-with-a-capital-D.

At this point, I have the building blocks of a healthy diet and I'm mostly continuing to use Rise for the accountability and support. Because I was planning to write about the app, I haven't been paying for it, but I'm actually willing to going forward since I'm seeing such good results. (The best deal is $120 for 3 months of use, or $10 a week.) That is, IF SONYA WILL HAVE ME now that I've vented my frustrations in such a public forum.

Either way, we'll always have Grease City.

Anyway, what time do you eat breakfast? What "unhealthy" food will you never give up, no matter how much it disgusts Sonya? Why is eating SO HARD?