I Kept A Photo Food Journal For 5 Days—It Was A Hassle But It Worked
I’m a pro at using technology for tracking fitness. When it comes to tracking what I eat, not so much. I’ve used MyFitnessPal to count calories, but I always get bored after a month or so. And while counting calories is kind of my jam, I’m also the first to admit that it’s easy to get caught up in the numbers and stop focusing on what you’re eating (plus for some people who struggle with eating issues it can be downright unhealthy). Where those calories come from matters, too. So when I heard about Snap It, a new feature added to the weight-loss app Lose It that helps you keep a visual food journal AND count cals, I was intrigued.
Snap It gives you the option of photographing your food and uploading it to the daily log, and then it guesses the nutritional info. I’m a little skeptical, but I’ve been wanting to pre-tox for the holiday season and lose a few pounds, so I gave it a shot for five days. Here’s what happened.
I downloaded the free Lose It app and added in my info like height, weight, and personal goals. Mine? To lose 3 pounds (how Mean Girls). The app then gave me calorie goals based on these parameters. My first photo opp was breakfast—a meh-looking Ezekiel muffin with coconut oil spread. I “snapped it” and the suggestions for the photo rendered the following options: soup, cheesecake, donut, or pie (I wish). Uhhh, nope. I tried topping it with a sliced hard-boiled egg just for fun and it was a tiny bit more accurate: cupcake, cake, deviled eggs (sort of), and falafel. I decided to enter in the items manually in hopes that it might recognize them for my next meal. So far, it was more work than I’d hoped for, but also more fun than just tallying calories. (Side note: We need to eat more pie for breakfast.) For lunch, I had to manually add in every ingredient for a kale salad, and ditto for my dinner of quinoa and veggies. Despite the glitches, I consider today a success because I’m 27 calories under my daily allowance. (BRB, checking to see if a donut hole has approximately 27 cals.)
I forgot to add a breakfast photo, so I started the day by uploading a photo of my lunch: a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Snoozy. The photo app immediately recognized the bread, but couldn’t “see” what was inside, so I manually added that to my log. Dinner was a friend’s homemade jambalaya, which put me over my calorie count for the day, but because I was actually watching those numbers and knew that I had to snap a photo, I declined a glass of wine. I know.
I started my day with the same Ezekiel muffin (noticing a very dull pattern here) and it recognized it this time. One you program a previous food choice into the app, it’s easy to click “common choices.” Lunch was an omelet. One thing that I started noticing was that a lot of my food is very beige and very boring. Also, I eat a lot of carbs. They’re healthy carbs, but I’m lacking vibrant colors that make pretty pictures, which means I probably need more veggies in my diet. For dinner, I was inspired to make quinoa, topped with heaps of kale and mushrooms, which came in 32 cals under my goal. Victory!
I vowed to start my day with less brown and swap the muffin for a veggie-loaded omelet, which I added in manually. I took this time to also prep for dinner and chopped red, green, and yellow peppers for a chicken fajita soup that I then threw in the slow cooker. Lunch was a peanut butter banana smoothie, which admittedly was kind of boring to photograph. The app does recognize it as a smoothie (or milkshake—if only), but I still had to add in the ingredients I used. Come dinner, I was thrilled with my soup option, topped with Greek yogurt “sour cream” and avocado slices.
I barely remembered to snap a last-minute photo of my avocado toast (half-boring, but baby steps) because, frankly, it’s really easy to forget photographing every single morsel you put into your mouth. For lunch, I diligently took a pic of my homemade tuna melt, and the app prompted “sandwich,” then allowed me to enter tuna. The nutritional info was likely off as mine was made with Greek yogurt and grain mustard, but the result rendered a similar calorie count and I rolled with it. Dinner was a taco bowl, but it was election night and I was too busy profusely sweating at a Pantsuit Party to log the colorful salad. I did, however, choose healthy toppings for the lettuce, including black beans, and loads of veggies. I added my choices the next morning and found my stress-drinking put me over my calorie limit.
In the end, photographing every meal proved to be a chore, but examining my food made me realize my eating habits could use a little work.
Overall, the Lose It app is pretty awesome and I’ll continue to use it, but I’ll likely skip the Snap It portion as it adds another step that’s not necessary for my own health and fitness goals. In the five days that I used it, I spent too much time adding food from my “snaps” because it thought a muffin was a bowl of soup. (To be fair, it’s still in beta.) That said, it was a wakeup call to learn that most of my meals were beige and carb-y and hella boring—brown coffee, brown toast, and brown sandwiches do not photograph well. Beige meals aren’t just unappealing in photos—they’re also lacking in a variety of vitamins and minerals our bodies need. Eating the rainbow, aka including a range of colorful fruits and veggies in your diet, maximizes your nutrition (and ultimately aids weight loss). Snap It helped give me a visual reminder to up my green game, I diligently logged my calories, took photos of most meals, and I did lose two pounds. Regina George would be jealous.