Monica Heisey Tried It: I Hate/Love Counting Calories

All summer, the Canadian comedian and author will be trying the latest workouts, health food fads and self-improvement schemes. This week: diet and fitness tracking

Me in my kitchen, before I knew the caloric value of everything in it

Me in my kitchen, before I knew the caloric value of everything in it

“This food has 33 grams of sugar. Your sugar goal is to stay under 28 grams.”

And that is how My Fitness Pal ruined iced tea forever. Since downloading the diet- and exercise-tracking app, it has destroyed a number of things for me, including but not limited to: sweet drinks, full-fat dairy, the ability to consider going for a walk around the block “exercise,” and basically all desserts. I hate it.

monica heisey


But I also love it? It’s complicated. On the one hand, it’s like that passive-aggressive relative who sees you eating a doughnut and is all “are you sure you want to eat that, your calorie goal is 1,400, and you had a burrito for lunch.” On the other, it’s a very powerful reminder that neither diet nor exercise alone amounts to a healthy lifestyle. They have to work in combination. Watching the amount of calories you can eat for dinner magically reset to 700 after a long run or a yoga class feels really, really good.

Maybe too good. After a few days of using it, I found myself not putting my usual soy milk in my morning coffee: I wanted to show My Fitness Pal that I could live without the extra 12 calories. Faced with a tray of brownies at a work event, the idea of what that walnut-y, icing-y treat would do to my day’s fat and sugar allotments stayed my hand. I started plotting out ways to get enough protein in my diet, scarfing two plain hard-boiled eggs with my morning smoothie. I recorded any and every instance of physical activity, however minute: “burned 26 calories via 7 minutes of walking, leisurely pace,” “31 calories via 10 minutes light stretching,” etc. When the app didn’t have an option for sex, I put in 30 minutes of “general dancing,” and high-fived my husband about the 168 calories we’d each burned. A friend of mine reported getting so into her FitBit’s daily updates that she tried to hide it from herself in the closet, but kept finding it in different places in her home, like a horrifying pop up ad that lingers long after you’ve closed Red Tube.

Ultimately, I’m not sure how to feel. Fitness tracking apps are annoying, but so is staying in shape. It’s annoying to have a salad instead of fries. It’s annoying to go to the gym. It’s even more annoying to talk about going to the gym. But it’s also satisfying, energizing and helps you look and feel better naked. So you see, my hands are tied.

I very much welcome the opinions of wiser FLARE readers than I: is this a nightmare of my own making? Am I trapped in a calorie-conscious prison of my own design? Or is it a helpful, simple way to keep tabs on my choices and hold myself accountable for how active I am and what I choose to put in my body? Do you have one of these? Do you use it? Have you found a better euphemism for sex?? Help me. Then add “three minutes stretching” to your Fitness Pal… those fingers are getting a real workout.

More Monica:
Monica Heisey Tried It: Beyography-dance-class
Monica Heisey Tried It: Sweat Your Ass Off Fitness Class
Monica Heisey Tried It: Tight, Bright Workout Gear
Read an Excerpt From Monica’s First Book,
I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better
Meet Monica Heisey, the Author Who Makes Lena Dunham LOL

More Health & Fitness:
5 Smoothie Ingredients That Sound Weird, But Taste Great
“Who Did Your Body?” Try These Five Celebrity Trainers
What Healthy People Really Eat for Lunch
5 Online Workouts for When You Just Can’t Face the Gym