I have logged in to MyFitnessPal for 50 days straight. For 50 days, I have diligently entered every morsel of food that has entered my mouth, including my 10-calorie, submarine-sized Omega 3 pill—a regrettable 500 calories of fish oil that I have consumed over the course of this MyFitnessPal journey instead of a giant, fluffy blueberry muffin or a large container of golden, crispy Chick Fil A waffle fries or—oh, the humanity!—two AND TWO-THIRDS Krispy Kreme doughnuts. All of which would probably have reaped about the same scientifically-proven health benefits as the fish oil.
MyFitnessPal works. I have used it before, about four years ago, and lost 40 pounds. “It’s just calories in versus calories out.” That’s what the doctor told me back then, not without the teensiest bit of sanctimony, since she herself had clearly never seen a pants size in the double digits. Her medical resident sidekick, a plumpish Robin to the doctor’s bony Batman, suggested the app, probably under duress at having to work for a boss with two-percent body fat.
The idea is that you need to burn 3,500 calories to lose one pound of fat. Conveniently, that works out to 500 fewer calories a day over a seven-day week. (How can anyone doubt the existence of God with that kind of math, eh?) You enter your current and target weights in the app and MyFitnessPal calculates how many calories you should consume each day. Then you, the trusty loser—er, user—debits calories from that daily total by searching a vast database of foods and entering them into your log. Have I mentioned that it is Every. Single. Food? And drink. That creamer in your coffee? Yup. That squeeze of lime juice in your seltzer? Uh huh. That tiny splash of salad dressing that is the only thing that makes eating that salad worth the energy of lifting your fork to your mouth? That too.
In the seven weeks and one day I have been using MyFitnessPal, I have lost…wait for it…7 pounds. And that’s great. I should be happy about it. But here’s the rub: In that same amount of time, my husband has lost thirty. 3-0. OK, maybe he started a week or two ahead of me, but those seven extra days should not a fourfold difference make.
At first, dieting with my husband was fun. We’d shop for healthy foods together, compare our respective lunches at home after work, both stare longingly at the vanilla ice cream dripping off our kids’ chins (2 kids, 2 chins, lots of drips at which to stare longingly). When we’d crawl into bed at night, one or the other would groan, “I’m so hungry,” and then we’d chuckle together at our poor, pathetic selves.
Having previously lost a significant amount of weight, I had lots of fun tips and tidbits to share.
“Did you know that the primary organ for losing fat is the lungs?” I informed him one night in what is surely the worst example of pillow talk ever recorded. I went on to explain my understanding of the scientific process through which fat is broken down and excreted from the body, mostly as carbon dioxide when we exhale.
“Maybe that’s why our morning breath has been especially bad lately.” I posed, keeping the romance alive.
“Mmm. Fat breath,” he grunted in response. And then we both commenced some heavy breathing, though not for the coital reasons one might expect from such sexy talk.
Over time, however, the we’re-in-this-together feeling has started to fade. It might be more correct to say it has flamed out like a supernova. I spend hours researching low-calorie recipes, running to the store on my lunch break to pick up a crucial component (kale, almost always), carefully measuring each ingredient—4 ounces of chicken, 68 grams of red pepper, 1 tablespoon of olive oil—and logging each one separately into MyFitnessPal, cross-referencing with the USDA database for accuracy and controlling for number of servings, of course. Then, with the discipline of a prisoner on a hunger strike, I chop, slice, bake and boil, never popping an errant bit of carrot or a stray shred of cheese into my mouth even though I live in a perpetual state of near starvation. My husband pulls up to the table and asks guilelessly, “So, how many calories are in this?”
“You’re like a Kardashian!” I informed him last night as I was entering my near-nightly allotment of 11 chocolate chips into MFP. “It’s like you have your own personal chef! You just cozy up to the table and eat your carefully apportioned, low-cal meal, giving it nary a second thought.” All of the glory, none of the work. I think there’s a saying: behind every svelte man is a woman who is a slave to MyFitnessPal.
This is made worse by the fact that I am regaled nightly with tales of the public response to my husband’s remarkable weight loss.
“Everyone is asking me how I’ve done it!” he proclaims proudly.
“Do you tell him that it’s simple: just have your wife do all the work for you?” I grumble as I halve fourteen cherry tomatoes for the salad.
It’s not his fault, of course. I should be happier for him, for both of us. We are both living more healthfully. At least on the surface. But I fear those seven missing pounds have been bought at too high a price. The measuring, the logging—the cross-checking!—it is getting too much for me. I am hungry and grumpy, snappish at my kids, an ogre to a husband who just bought a pair of jeans I could have worn in college.
So, this morning after entering my 183-calorie breakfast into MyFitnessPal, I decided it is time to take a break.
“It’s not you, it’s me,” I inform it gently. “This relationship is too demanding. I’m losing myself, but you know, only seven pounds of myself. It’s not enough.”
I will be back, I’m sure. But now, I will go find the man in the tiny jeans, give him a hug and congratulate him on his amazing progress. And eat a muffin.
**This story was originally posted on Sammiches and Psych Meds.