By Mary Kunz Goldman
News staff reporter
You know what they say about addictions: they start small.
Last fall, I was looking to lose 10 pounds. I had inherited my husband’s cast-off iPhone. And it crossed my mind: I wonder if I could find an online food diary.
I found Lose It!, a food diary you can access either from your iPhone or your computer.
Lose It! was right. I lost it. I loved its icon, a cute orange scale. It was fun to fill it out every day, entering in what I ate. It gave me something to do while I was stuck somewhere – on the bus, or in line at the supermarket. Other people played Angry Birds. I played this.
All of a sudden, I had an app-etite. I wanted more.
I was hooked on the world of diet and fitness apps. Technology is a wonderful thing. This little iPhone, I realized, could do what had, for centuries, been impossible. It had made losing 10 pounds fun.
Maybe the iPhone could help with exercise.
Why not scour YouTube for fitness videos? I like to do Zumba, but Zumba is better done in a gym with a group of people all looking as silly as you do. But Pilates seemed like a good bet for my private iPhone living room workout.
Before long I had found a series called Fit 30. I liked their Pilates instructors, a pair of Australians named Angela and Nina. It was a great way to sneak in a half-hour class, to prop up the iPhone on the mantel, or on the floor against a book, or on the coffee table, depending on whether I was sitting, standing or lying down.
Angela and Nina got like old friends. “Today we’re going to work on the abs,” Angela would say in her Australian accent, smiling. “So clear a place on the floor and let’s get started.” At the end, she says, “I hope you enjoyed that.”
I did! So much that I got a pedometer app while I was at it, called Footsteps. I even began carrying it around the office, trying to reach the suggested goal of 10,000 steps a day.
My iPhone had morphed into my exercise and diet buddy. My apps would ask how my day was going. I swapped them around to keep things interesting. I liked how they made life into a game. Plus, they were free.
I appreciated another weird angle, too: how they turned into a presence in my life.
Once, at M&T Plaza listening to Lance Diamond, I ate a hot dog. I knew I shouldn’t. I had just started up with Nutrimirror, a website that can be accessed from your iPhone. Nutrimirror is lean and mean. You enter what you eat for every meal onto a kind of spreadsheet. The numbers are green if you are on the right track, red if you are in trouble.
Nutrimirror tracks not only calories and carbs but other variables including fiber, Vitamins A and C, and my twin nemeses, iron and calcium. It gets like playing Sudoku, trying to get the right nutrients without going over your allotted calories. You can puzzle over it for hours.
Back at my desk I logged on and, bracing myself, confessed to eating the hot dog. Nutrimirror went crazy. It flashed red numbers at me, meaning there was no hope for the day now – I had blown it. Why, oh, why had I eaten that hot dog? Even the bun, if I had just skipped the bun … but it was too late.
“Am never eating another hot dog!” I vowed in the comment section. “NOT worth it!”
There is one thing about these apps: They trust you. Don’t fib to them.
When Angela, the online Australian Pilates instructor, tells me: “You should be feeling the burn,” I had better be feeling the burn, not lying there like a dead person.
And when my apps ask me what I ate, I should tell the truth. Which, I admit, I have not always done.
Once, one of my electronic diet detectives called me on it. I forget which one it was, I deleted the email so fast. Knowing Nutrimirror, that’s who it was.
The message was to the effect of: “Uh, Mary? If you have been eating the way you said you have been eating, you should be farther along in your weight loss.” Gulp.
Apps teach you to prioritize your treats. Is that hot dog worth it to you? Mine honestly wasn’t.
Finally, you learn the benefit of patience.
At the end of a trying week on Nutrimirror, I stepped on the scale, expecting great things. I had lost a pound. I felt disappointed – all that work, and only a pound – when I saw the humor of it. A pound had been what was promised. That was the deal. I had played by the rules, and this was my reward.
And if I had cheated and not lost the pound – well, the final lessons from App-land is not to give up. Take that app in hand and try, try again.