Monday, August 12, 2013

Game on now

Sometimes I feel bad when I receive an invite to play games on Facebook. But then I don't. When I joined the social network years ago I made a decision to never play the online games. It's been easier than you may think to stick to this. I  just don't want to lose precious time addictively slinging angry birds, mostly since I can anticipate how much time I could surrender competing for the next level.

Right from the start I saw online games for the time suck they were. It was all around me. A friend was clearly addicted to Mafia Wars. She compared it, I think, to cocaine. Not that she'd ever known what that was like, I'd guess. But she said she couldn't stop. If she was on Facebook and didn't play, her "life" would be in peril. She'd be a goner if she didn't actively play and take down others before they got to her.

Sheesh! What stress! I go online to relax, so I knew I'd never want to play a game where I'd need to be constantly on guard to defend my existence, even though it may only be virtual. That game was definitely not for me!

And then I have friends who play FarmVille. So-and-so needs you to watch her baby calf while she goes into town. And she also needs you to water her lettuce while she's gone to market. For real? If I had time to play FarmVille, then I'd be watering lettuce in a garden of my own. Certainly no online games for me.

But then I was invited to play Words with Friends. Now that would stimulate my intellect, I was sure. All my lovely nerdy-wordy friends were playing. Still I did not give in to temptation. If I have time to play with words, I thought, I'd rather read a book, write a blog post, or better yet, start doing something with the ideas for books that are aching to pour out of my head.

So I made a commitment that I'd never play games online or on Facebook. I resolved that the only game I was interested in was the art of conversation, since it gives me great pleasure to keep in touch with friends from my life now and then. is the game I now choose to play.
Then came It's been eight weeks now, and it seems I'm playing an online game. A game tracking my foodie life. I'm addicted and it's fun. I "play" on my phone app and on my laptop. I track my meals and snacks, taking great pleasure in seeing the good stuff I'm eating. There's even a payoff at the end of each day and week where I feel like a winner.

Let me back up. Work is always offering some healthy fitness challenge and I took one on recently. Lose to Win it's called. A corporate play on The Biggest Loser. Teams are formed to motivate each other to eat healthy and work out together. The team who loses the most wins. Not sure what could be won in addition to better health, but that's not the point here.

The point was I didn't think I could join since I don't need to lose big. I wondered whether I'd be eligible since I'm already a fan of healthy eating and exercise.

But the rules were that even if you only wanted to lose five pounds, it was all about learning and reinforcing good habits and such. I thought about how the eight-week program would take me through bathing suit season. So who wouldn't want to lose five pounds of wintery jiggle that's been hiding under looser clothing? And so I was game for the challenge, if I may say.

And that's where I was introduced to As a lifetime Weight Watchers (WW) member having lost 35 pounds of "baby/lack of exercise" weight over 24 years ago, I've always known that the key to weight loss and maintenance is the right combo of healthy eating and exercise. I've come to accept that it really isn't easy for me to maintain a comfortable weight doing one without the other.

Knowledge isn't everything though. You also need to walk the talk. I may know what I need to do to maintain, but sometimes it's easier said than done.

Weight Watchers has certainly taught me that keeping a food journal is a valuable tried-and-true technique to reach a weight loss goal. And with great intentions I've seriously kept many paper weekly food diaries on and off in my 24 years losing and maintaining the same five to ten pounds.

Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't. 

I always say frame of mind is the third key to weight loss, besides healthy eating and exercise. In my 24 years of staying near or at goal, I've slowly inched up time and again before I'd say enough is enough and snap myself back into losing mode to get back on track.

Whenever I'd reach that point, I'd pull out a WW journal to track my food intake and see where I was going off. Sometimes it all would just click for me and I'd easily adjust to get back in line.

But other times I just didn't care enough if I had to write "three handfuls of peanut M&Ms" as my protein and "potato chips" or "popcorn" as my vegetable.

So here I was again. Experiencing once again that healthy eating alone doesn't work if you're not burning the calories. I started skipping exercise here and there to work a few extra hours on a weeknight or snooze a bit later on the weekend.

And then a grandchild was born and I saw that skipping workouts could easily turn my body into a grandma.

No! I wouldn't let it happen, I resolved. Time to nip it all in the bud. I needed once again to course-correct. One thing I've learned all these years is to try hard to never let myself go five pounds over my WW goal.

Some vivid images painted indelibly in my mind from an exceptionally good, long-time-ago WW lecture are always great inspiration to get me back on track.

Gaining just a few pounds doesn't seem like a big deal until I imagine I have:
  1. A three-pound bag of potatoes hanging off my butt;
  2. A five-pound sack of flour plopped on my stomach; or
  3. A few one-pound canned goods bulging from my legs here and there.
Okay! I'm ready to get serious again.

So back to The app helps me see that calories are calories. Doesn't matter how healthy and good the food is. If you're taking in too many and not expending them, you add on the poundage. That's just plain ol' science.

Yes, I could still use pen and paper to keep my food diary. But this online experience is proving to be more fun and keeping me motivated.

It's easy to play the game and enter your food choices to keep yourself on track through the day.

With both the phone app and the desktop experience, to name just a few of the capabilities, you can:
  • Easily search for foods in the exhaustive database and enter new foods, if you like.
  • Scan bar codes for fun and convenient food entry.
  • Adjust serving sizes if you're not eating the exact amount that's listed.
  • Enter ingredients for recipes you like and create your own recipe box to use again and again.
  • Customize the columns in your view to track the nutritional info you care about. (I removed the carbohydrates column, since I "heart" carbs and would rather track fiber, along with calories, protein, fat, sodium, and sugar.)
  • Track your exercise to add calories to your allotment bank. You can choose to spend them on more food or you can use the deficit to lose pounds:
    *You've earned 371 extra calories from exercise today.
  • Fill up a virtual glass of water to help ensure you're drinking enough fluid.
  • Connect with all the major social networks and participate in community chats for ideas, motivation, and support.
At the end of the day, clicking on a button at the bottom of your food log completes your daily entry and gives you a clear indication of your potential for success in reaching your goal:

"If every day were like today... You'd weigh xxx lbs in 5 weeks." Nice motivation if you're playing the game to feel good and win! 

So yes, I'm addicted to this food diary game, but no biggie, since no one is attempting to snuff out my virtual life and I'm always the winner.

In the first two weeks using the app I was rewarded for my dedication and lost over six pounds. But most importantly I've dedicated myself again to my exercise program and toning up, losing inches as I burn fat and make muscle. Never a bad idea during swimsuit season.

So I'm playing a game, I'd say. This online food diary experience confirms, however, that I was right to make the decision not to play online games. I'd get seriously involved with the potential to spend too much time on them!

So no Bejeweled Blitz or Bubble Safari for me. Just

Game on.

Until next time, yours in healthy eating and playing well at the game of life... Therese

I'm not being compensated in any way by Numerous other food tracking websites and apps are available online and for mobile devices. I chose this experience based on a recommendation from a friend and I haven't been disappointed. Choosing one is a matter of personal preference and success depends on level of engagement. 


  1. Well written. I had to smile and giggle while reading. The perfect cocktail - Jazzercise and MFP! Yeah.

    1. Thanks, Jamar! Thanks for reading! Glad you liked.
      Love your pics. Keep 'em coming!