I’ve been using the MyPlate app by Livestrong to log my daily meals and exercise for two months now, and not only have I lost weight (almost 13 pounds to be exact) and fit into my high school jeans, but I’ve hardly increased my exercise habits because of what I’ve remedied regarding my daily food intake.
I wrote a piece called “10 ways to enjoy losing weight” when I was just starting to use the MyPlate app, and the folks at Livestrong were kind enough to grant me access to the “locked” exercises that come with a paid membership. I haven’t used any of them yet and still managed to cut an inch off my waist and lose 13 pounds. This only affirms my hypothesis that nutrition is more important than exercise when it comes to losing weight, and most of us aren’t consuming what we should and would be surprised by what’s in the foods we eat.
There are plenty of ways the MyPlate app can help you lose weight, but here are the five things that helped me and opened my eyes the widest.
Having a specific weight and timeline in mind is the only way you’ll achieve your weight loss goal. You can’t reach a goal without having one. Simply wanting to lose weight isn’t enough. You have to want to lose a certain amount of weight by a certain date and then want to keep it off.
The first thing MyPlate does when you begin to use the app is ask you your height, weight, age, gender and weight loss goal. That’s how MyPlate determines the number of calories you should consume each day.
I’m a 31-year-old, five-foot, 11-inch male that weighed 185 pounds, and I wanted to lose 1.5 pounds per week and get back down to my college weight of 170 pounds. MyPlate recommended a diet of 1,645 calories per day, and while that’s less than the 1,800-calorie-diet recommended for a man, I assure you it’s plenty, especially if you eat the right foods. I managed to average just 1,469 calories per day and never felt hungry once in the last two months. I would guess my actual intake was higher because I think we subconsciously think are portions are smaller because we want them to be. I wouldn’t be surprised if my daily average is actually more than to the lowest recommended diet for men of 1,500 calories per day.
How active you are during the day also plays a big role in your daily calorie recommendation. Since I sit in front of a computer for a living, I don’t burn a lot of calories naturally throughout the day, which is why my calorie recommendation is low. I do, however, bicycle often and do a lot of walking when I take public transit downtown for a ballgame, so more often than not I met my goal of 250 calories burned per day. And when I didn’t, I still generally burned 100 calories. I averaged 272 calories burned per day over the first two months of using MyPlate.
I managed to do a pretty good job of meeting my net calorie goals, so, naturally, I lost weight. To maintain my weight, I can start consuming the 1,800 calories recommended for a man per day as long as I continue my exercise habits, which shouldn’t be too difficult since I hardly changed any of my exercise habits.
As I stated in my previous piece about nutrition, I knew cutting carbohydrates would be the key to reaching my weight loss goal. I’ve been known to enjoy an IPA or two and have a childlike love for Stauffer’s Animal Crackers. I love sourdough and garlic bread. I’m a snacker, too, so a lot of the crap I was putting in my body came between meals. MyPlate helped me manage my snacking by logging my carbohydrates and scaring the hell out of me.
While I’m still struggling to cut carbs due to a limited budget and the affordability of breads, I wouldn’t have come in under my goal as often as I did had I not known what my problem was. I managed to nearly cut microbrews out of my diet entirely. I think I’ve had six in the last two months, and two of them I drank yesterday, which accounted for almost 500 calories and 36 grams of carbs.
The debate over “cheat days” has not been settled and likely won’t, but I can tell you that I feel best when I go slightly over my daily calorie limit once per week. You can see those days pretty easily on my calorie intake graph, and it’s something that happened naturally. My body wanted to consume more, so I abided.
Restricting calories limits the body’s leptin production, which is the hormone responsible for maintaining our energy levels and weight loss. So while cheat days only raise your metabolism slightly the following day, the way I feel the next day makes it worth the extra calories regardless of the limited effect on my metabolism.
Yesterday was a cheat day for me, and today I woke up rejuvenated and ready to work. I’ll probably go work on my scooter engine after this, which wouldn’t have been the case yesterday, when I wanted to do as little as possible and fell asleep watching baseball at eight o’clock.
Cheating doesn’t mean you get to eat whatever you want for a day, though. It generally means you can splurge during one meal, but you still shouldn’t eat more than your body needs at any time. I made that mistake yesterday at lunch despite finishing just half of a Red Cow blended burger and barely touching some fries covered in gravy. I felt pretty terrible the rest of the day. So while you can eat foods with a bit more fat and sugar on cheat days, it’s not a reason to eat until you feel sick.
I managed to cut my fat intake after the first few weeks of using the MyPlate app thanks to a Ninja 900-watt blender. I realized the fatty foods I was eating were generally snacks and fatty meats. Replacing the fatty hamburger and pork with turkey, chicken and fish was easy, and while I still eat both pork and hamburger, I do so in much smaller portions.
The one thing I knew I had to do was eat more fruits and vegetables. Even when I tried to eat more fruits and vegetables during those first few weeks, I’d generally only do it for one meal per day (generally breakfast). Then I invested in a blender, and now I consume more than the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables.
I’m also replacing less-healthy snacks with healthy ones. I have up to two blended smoothies per day, usually containing three servings of fruits and vegetables each. Plus, I add two tablespoons of hemp protein powder in an attempt to reach my seemingly unattainable goal of 123 grams of protein per day.
I managed to cut into my sodium intake substantially, and I never put salt on anything! I was against salt more so than sugar going into this little experiment. I know where that salt has gone, too. It’s been replaced by sugar.
My substitution of fruit smoothies for crackers and other snacks has been a key to cutting my daily sodium intake. I’m a sucker for Dot’s pretzels (360 mg, 17% sodium daily value), Frito’s Honey BBQ Flavor Twists (180 mg, 7% sodium daily value), and Roasted Garlic Triscuits (135 mg, 6% sodium daily value). Those numbers are all per serving -- not per box -- and I can eat half a box, and in the case of Dot’s pretzels, half a bag. I used to be able to eat a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos -- and not one of those small bags. I don’t do that anymore thanks to my blender.
I have not been able to cut my sugar intake substantially, though. I’ve managed to come in under my recommended daily sugar intake of 33 grams a dozen times in roughly 60 days. I gave up ketchup and mostly cut out barbecue sauce in an attempt to cut down on sugar consumption, and nothing’s changed. I still go over my recommended sugar intake almost everyday.
The foods highest in sugar that I’ve eaten the last two months are sodas and juices I’ve used to mix with my smoothies and the fruits also in those smoothies. And if I cut out the three or four ounces of soda or juice I use in my smoothies, I’m still going over the daily recommendation for sugars. The only way I see a way around sugars is to eat nothing but vegetables and nuts and drink nothing but water, which I’m not ready to do. I focused on salt.
Just because I can fit into my high school jeans doesn’t mean I’m done with the MyPlate app. I’ll probably never stop using it. It’s a part of my life now, and that doesn’t bother me. People use their phones for worse things than logging meals and exercise.
I’m still only using the free workouts, of which I’ve done five or so times over two months, and they really work. I did the 7-minute Cardio Sculpting Workout yesterday because it was my “cheat day” to eat, and my butt and legs are sore. I’m looking forward to really getting into the locked “Gold” exercises, which I’ll review in another two months. The 10-minute Abs Workout doesn’t require any gym equipment, so I’ll start with that one.
MyPlate even counts my steps, so if I walk or run a few miles or climb steps, the app automatically subtracts those calories burned from my net intake for the day. The amount of time you’ll spend logging your meals everyday amounts to a few minutes per day. If you can’t take a few minutes out of your day to learn about what you’re putting in your body, you’re not dedicated enough to your weight loss goals.
You can’t just get down to your weight and stop logging your meals and exercise, but the beauty of MyPlate is that it’s too easy not to use. Regardless of where I am I can log my meals and exercise. It might be harder to do when eating out, but that’s because restaurants that don’t have more than 20 locations aren’t required to post nutrition facts on their menus, or anywhere. You can still find a similar recipe for a restaurant menu item and add the ingredients one by one, though. Since using the MyPlate app I’ve been less inclined to eat out because I know those foods are less healthy by design. The foods from fast food chains and restaurants are designed to be addictive, and that’s just more sugars and salt I don’t need.
Livestrong’s MyPlate app is a perfectly reasonable way to start losing weight. It’s doesn’t cost anything but the few minutes per day before or after each meal (I recommend before). I also recommend subscribing to the Livestrong blog. You’ll notice they have valuable information. Try MyPlate for two weeks without changing a thing like I did, and you’ll see what’s going into your body and want to change for your body’s sake.
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Doesn’t it always seem like your smartphone battery starts dying when you’re due for an upgrade? Same with your car, right? Once the warranty is up something goes wrong. Well, fear not. There’s a way to make your smartphone last longer than you will. A little website called iFixit.com that started as a mine for DIY tech tutorials has grown into the DIY tech preservation tool and parts shop. It’s the first shopping experience that’s nearly brought me tears of joy.
I’ve long been a user of iFixit but seldom had reason to pay them. All I needed was information. I once revived a long dead Apple iBook and managed to do some of my favorite writing on it thanks to the tutorials at iFixit. I used iFixit again to repair my dad’s theater projector. It just needed a good cleaning, and iFixit told me exactly what I needed to remove and in what order to thoroughly clean it.
Now iFixit is not only supplying DIY tech tutorials online but the tools necessary to preserve your technology. I have an Apple iPhone 6 and just blew off Verizon after a dozen years as a customer. I got a month’s worth of Straight Talk and figured I’d deal with it on a month-to-month basis for the first time. Verizon did its best to retain my loyalty by lowering my bill to $55 per month for 5 GB of 4G LTE data and unlimited talk and text. Straight Talk is $45 per month for 5 GB of 4G LTE data and includes unlimited talk, text, and data, albeit at slower speeds after 5 GB. Straight Talk also doesn’t allow tethering, which means you can’t get on the web with your laptop using your phone as a wifi hotspot. I did that a lot with Verizon, and apparently it does a number on your battery’s life. Now there’s no reason to worry.
I simply started by checking prices for iPhone 6 batteries on Ebay. Everything was under $10, so I was immediately excited. But then I Googled “does iFixit have tutorials for replacing an iPhone 6 battery,” and then I was nearly moved to tears and raised a fist in the air – just like the iFixit logo, minus the wrench.
It was the most beautiful catalog photo and product I had ever seen. Sears has nothing on iFixit. And the transaction was most enjoyable because the order form uses Doc Brown’s address in Back to the Future as an example. The only thing that could have been better about the transaction is if the billing address example was Marty McFly’s address in Hill Valley.
This little box with the big fist is delivered to your door and includes everything you need to replace your iPhone battery for $45 after shipping. You might remember I told you the cost of a replacement iPhone 6 battery was under $10, but the tools necessary to replace the battery are invaluable and most certainly worth $35. Then, when your battery goes bad again in two years, you can replace it for less than $10 rather than spend $750 for the trendiest phone that’s exactly like the last one, and the one before that.
iFixit is changing the game with this product offering. I suggest you take advantage of it. You can find parts, tools and tutorials for Android devices, Apple computers, iPads, iPods, Amazon Kindle, GoPro cameras and game consoles. Don’t let a corporation control your pocketbook. In fact, grab the nearest tool and put a fist in the air to let them know your dollars will be awarded to those who allow DIYers like us to take advantage of our willingness to do the work. Take back your right to repair.
Editor's Note: This article has not been sponsored by iFixit. An update follows.
My iPhone 6 battery replacement kit arrived in a reasonably-sized box with all the necessary tools to complete the battery replacement, but some scary information was also included. A card inside the box said my state (Minnesota) is considering "Right to Repair" legislation. I was scared because at first I figured corporate lobbyists had convinced crooked politicians to make sure we can't repair our devices. Then I wondered why we as consumers would need to pass legislation to protect our right to repair. We paid for the product. What we do with it after paying for it is our prerogative and ours alone. But, of course, corporations would love to force us consumers to buy one of their new devices every two years or so. I can understand a corporation voiding a warranty for opening a device. Apple is famous for this. There was a warning on my old Mac Pro about opening the case. I proceeded to open it anyways and add a 1 TB hard drive.
"STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHT TO REPAIR," the card reads, asking me to visit repair.org/stand-up. Doing so disturbed me further, as eight states were listed as considering Right to Repair legislation, which again, I feel should be unnecessary. Nebraska, New York, Minnesota, Kansas, Massachusetts, Wyoming, Illinois and Tennessee were all listed as considering Right to Repair legislation. Some Right to Repair legislation has already passed in Massachusetts, and some legislation has had strong opposition from corporate lobbyists in New York. I urge you to visit this site regularly to easily tell your state's representatives why you support the right to repair your own stuff.
Now, back to the task at hand, which is replacing my iPhone 6 battery. I had to let my battery's charge get below 25 percent in order to start working on it because a fully charged battery is more likely to catch fire when punctured. The folks at iFixit made this very clear, and since there was no tutorial included in the box and I only had access to the iFixit website through my iPhone, I took screenshots of each step of the iPhone 6 battery replacement tutorial and uploaded them to my offline laptop.
Once the battery's charge was below 25 percent, I removed the two screws at the bottom of the iPhone near the Lightning power input. In no time at all I had access to the guts of my iPhone, and with the removal of just a few screws, which I was sure to keep in separate plastic bags labeled with their correct location. The whole task would have taken less than an hour if not for one of the adhesive strips under the battery ripping. I had to buy a $10 hair dryer at Walmart and heat the back side of the iPhone directly under the battery because I didn't have an iFixit iOpener. It worked wonderfully, and the battery gave way after just a few seconds of heating.
The hardest part was applying the new adhesive strips to the knew battery, but I managed to install the replacement battery with no trouble. I followed iFixit's instructions to calibrate my new battery by using it to lower its charge below 30 percent. I then plugged my iPhone in and let it charge uninterrupted until it was fully charged. Then I did a little research into how to preserve the life of my new battery.
Business Insider provided a great guide for battery preservation, revealing that leaving your battery plugged in after it's fully charged is really bad for your battery. I and most of you probably charge your battery at night and unplug it in the morning. Don't.
The story also warns of letting your battery's charge get too low because charging from 0 percent to 100 percent puts a lot of stress on the battery. In fact, you should never charge your phone's battery to 100 percent, with the initial charge being the exception.
The revelation that rocked my world the most was that it's not bad for your phone's battery to receive partial charges throughout the day. I was under the impression that lithium-ion batteries had a lifespan consisting of a certain number of charges. That is not the case. It's actually recommended that "charging your phone when it loses 10 percent of its charge would be the best-case scenario," according to Battery University.
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