Want to track your health, fitness, and nutrition? There’s an app for that and Hillary Irwin is helping us figure out which apps are best.
- There are a lot of great apps out there for tracking your calories intake and output.
- Tracking can be a great motivator but also can become an obsession.
- Like journaling and lists, apps are a great accountability tool.
OUR GUEST – Hillary Irwin, Hillary Irwin Nutrition
Welcome to another episode of the exEXPERTS DIVORCE etc… Podcast where we give you all kinds of information and tips on everything divorce. Why? We’ve lived it, so we get it! We’re Jessica and T.H.
TH: Welcome everybody to today’s podcast. We are featuring Hillary Irwin, founder of Hillary Irwin Nutrition, and all things healthy, wellness, fitness, mind, and body. You name it Hillary’s got a wealth of knowledge. Welcome to our podcast today.
Hillary: Hi, thanks so much for having me. I am so excited to be here.
Jessica: Thanks for being here.
TH: We have been inundated with app opportunities to track every calorie that goes in my mouth, every step that I don’t take and do take, and hope that my calories and my steps reconcile so I feel productive every day. Tell us what kind of apps are you using right now?
Jessica: Also, I just want to say, I feel it’s such a great topic for exExperts because a lot of people let’s be honest when they get out of marriages, they are starting fresh and starting new relationships, their bodies and their health is really often a new priority to that. There are a lot of people who are going to be looking to lose weight, a lot of people who are wanting to refresh their eating habits and start focusing on healthier eating habits. This is just the perfect combination of information to get from you to really get everyone started on the right foot.
Hillary: Yes. What I’ll start off saying is I think there are a lot of great things and then also a lot of not-so-great things when you’re using these different trackers. The positives help keep you on track, it keeps you motivated, it keeps you accountable. I’m a numbers person, so I like to look at my apps and see I did this many steps, I burned this many calories, I stood for this many hours, whatever it is. But on the flip side, it can make you a little bit obsessive, so you do want to watch out for that. One of the trackers that I use is on my Apple Watch and just the fitness tracker that comes on there. The more you exercise, the greater your goals become. It’s great. It keeps pushing you, but then there are days where it’s like, okay, I’m supposed to be burning 500 calories every day, and then I’ll feel guilty if I don’t. You don’t want to fall into that trap, because it really is important to have this balance of mind and body and do this to feel good about yourself. Not to punish yourself, not to always be a focus of weight loss and eating fewer calories, or making sure that the number of calories you eat or the number of calories you burn, things like that, that can become obsessive and not so healthy.
Jessica: That’s such good advice because I feel that is such an easy path for people to go down and fall into that rabbit hole. Honestly, I feel you really can’t overemphasize that enough Hillary. For everyone listening, don’t become obsessive about it, because you really can when you’re still in a healthy space. It’s one of those things that really can take over. I just think that’s a really important message, so thank you for bringing it up.
TH: I actually stopped using my Fitbit, because I was getting pissed at myself if I didn’t get to my 10,000 steps. I would literally go out at 10 o’clock at night or run up and down the stairs or do jumping jacks. It’s just I’m so close, I need like 1000 steps, it can’t be that hard to get there. I literally had to put it away. I just allocate the amount of time I work out every day and my fitness routine within that timeframe, but I’m done with the steps. It just makes me a crazy person.
Hillary: I think it’s so important to notice what things get to you that way and be able to let them go. The calories on this app, it was driving me crazy. I didn’t really realize it until I joined a challenge. I joined every challenge that they put out there. I can’t help it. It was through SoulCycle, but it was through the Apple App as well. You’d get into teams and you get different points for how many calories you burn and minutes of exercise and standing minutes, etc. But there’s a max amount of points, and each person is supposed to burn, it was like 200 and something calories. It told me your calorie level is higher than it needs to be for this challenge, do you want us to drop it down? I was like, you know what? I do want you to drop it down. When the number was lower, I hit it every day, and I felt great. I was doing the same amount of exercise as I was before, but it’s just like with the scale. I tell a lot of people the scale can be great for checking in, a little reality check, but it can also make you crazy. You can wake up and feel amazing, you step on the scale and it says the wrong number, and then all of a sudden you’re fat. You’re like I wasn’t fat two minutes ago. You just want to be careful that the numbers are getting you motivated to do more or to be healthy but not to feel bad about yourself. Especially as Jessica mentioned in the beginning, if you are someone that’s going through a new change, a divorce, or something where maybe you’re already feeling a little bit bad, you don’t need to add on punishment. This should be added to something to make you feel really great. It’s definitely an important thing to think about.
Jessica: Love it. Okay, so take us through what you feel are some of the most worthwhile apps that you would recommend to people who are in this situation, whether it’s fitness apps specifically or nutrition tracking apps and that kind of stuff?
Hillary: Some of my favorite fitness apps are apps that let you come together as a community and do things together. I have the SoulCycle bike, it’s owned by Equinox and they have an app called Variis that has all different kinds of workouts you can do from all the companies that Variis owns. They put together different challenges too that you can do or there’s a Facebook group and an Instagram group and different ways that you can just support and motivate each other. It’s not about who can burn the most calories or do the most classes, but it’s just a way to help keep you together with the community, which I think is so nice.
Jessica: We’re all about community.
Hillary: Community, it’s so important with everything. I know Peloton has a similar app as well. I have friends that ride Peloton and they will do classes together and can high-five each other. That really motivates them to get on there and work together. I think apps like that, that are just encouraging you to exercise and encouraging you to do it together with a group are awesome.
TH: I actually when I started the Peloton app, someone high fived me. It was one of my first spins on the bike. Someone high fives you, you have a whole leader board of everybody who’s doing it, so I was like cool, we’re going to ride together, this is nice. And then she blew past me, and I was like, bitch! She just high-fived me so she could dust me now. So then I was like, I’m not high giving anyone, they’ve got an ulterior motive. I’ve got to get my numbers up, this is bullshit. The long and short, I don’t look at the leader board, because if I’m not moving up – but random people have started high fiving me in the last three weeks, and I’m like that’s because I’m at 75 rides. I’m going to take the high fives now. I’m in a different place. When I started, I was so intimidated by all the Kumbaya-ness, I can’t even do this, I can’t even keep up with the cadence. I would also recommend shutting all of it down, doing your absolute best, and don’t be a hater like me at the beginning. I came in very competitive, I’m in great shape, and then I felt like, I’m a loser. I can’t even get my numbers. I don’t even see her anymore.
Jessica: That’s so funny.
Hillary: Yes, and what you have to realize too with a lot of these things, like with the bikes, they can all be set differently too so that if your bike is slightly off in its adjustment, your numbers can read incorrectly. The SoulCycle bike isn’t the same, there’s no leader board, but you can see what your beat matches. I had that same feeling in the beginning and I was like I’m not getting 100%? And now I’m like, you know what, let it go. If I get a good workout, if I feel good, if I’m sweating, if I’m just happy that I’m on the bike, that’s what matters. That’s the stuff you want to look for.
TH: And just thinking of the instructors, because I’m sure all the instructors are the same. They’re so motivating, have great energy, great music, so just get lost in it. Wherever your numbers fall, they fall. You still did it for however many minutes you did. Okay, so onwards.
Hillary: Moving on. With the nutrition tracking apps, My Fitness Pal is a really popular one. I think a lot of people do that, and it’s great. I think probably most of them now you can scan different food and the calories will go in there right away.
I have a similar feeling with these nutrition apps as I do with the fitness apps that they can be helpful. I definitely have a lot of clients that come into my office who want to lose weight. They tell me what they’re eating, it sounds so amazing and perfect, and I’m like there’s nothing I could do to make this better. Most likely, it’s because we don’t realize all the little things that we’re eating throughout the day or how things add up. The app can be beneficial for that kind of thing to see, again, as a reality check, what am I really eating, and how many calories I really taking in. The few drawbacks,
I don’t want people to have to weigh and measure and count out every almond to put it in the app. If you do it for a week, fine, but if this becomes your new habit, too obsessive. I also don’t want people to become too obsessive with that number of calories. So again, I think it’s good in the beginning just to see where you are, but it can make you a little bit crazy just like the steps can.
Jessica: So other than My Fitness Pal, are there other nutrition-based apps that you would recommend that you feel can be really helpful for someone starting off on this journey of making sure that they’re eating healthy?
Hillary: There’s another app called Noom and that one offers a bit more nutritional support. I believe they do also have some community support as well and they offer menus.
Jessica: Is it N-O-O-M?
Jessica: I feel all of a sudden I’ve been seeing a lot of ads for it on Instagram?
Hillary: Yes. Yes, and it’s –
TH: I’ve been meaning to use it. Also, that app where you scan and stuff where you put in and it goes back to regular foods. Also, you can sync it with your workout, so the Peloton workout and stuff get logged into the Lose It! app. Then I get more calories I get to eat in the day because I burned that many calories.
Jessica: She’s not obsessive at all!
Hillary: Not at all. Not at all.
TH: I’m actually very good compared to where I used to be, but let’s talk about calories for a second.
TH: It says you burn this many calories when you work on the bikes or treadmills. Your Apple Watch tells you you burn so many calories. How accurate is that calorie count really?
Hillary: It’s such a good question. The more information that you put into the equipment, the better the calorie count is going to be. If you just get on a treadmill, and it doesn’t ask you for height, weight, age, sex, any of those things, the calorie count is not going to be accurate. I think it might be averaging for a 150 lb man and for me, that’s going to burn so many more calories than I would burn. Maybe it’s a 150 lb person, but it’s definitely the calories that will show up on that treadmill.
Jessica: Well, hold on, if it is on average for 150 lb, so you’re saying if you weigh less, you’re burning more calories or fewer calories?
Hillary: If you weigh less, you’re burning fewer calories, and if you weigh more, you’d burn more. Because if you think about it, if you’re walking around and you weigh 100 lb, it doesn’t take as much energy to carry around if you weighed 200 lb. You’d need more energy. The difference too is the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you’re going to burn. Muscle is that calorie-burning engine in your body. Someone who weighs 200lb and has a lot of fat and someone who weighs 200lb and a lot of muscle, they’re also going to burn different amounts of calories on a machine, even if you’re putting in your weight. It’s not going to be 100% accurate. The things you wear like the Apple Watch, where it’s also checking your heart rate and there are a few more things that are put into that, the calorie count definitely becomes more accurate. I think most of us are probably burning fewer calories than we think we are. I did a workout the other day with my husband and it was a really hard intense HIIT kind of workout. At the end of my workout, on my watch, it was under 300 calories that I burned. In his mind, and he probably burned more because he does way more than I do, but he felt that was a 1000 calorie workout kind of thing. It’s just we just don’t burn as many calories as we think we do. And so I usually tell people, if we’re thinking about weight loss, your food is 95% of the equation. Exercise definitely changes your muscle mass that can help you burn more calories, it changes the shape of your body, the way that you’re going to look, but the food in is really what’s going to make the biggest difference calorie-wise. Whether you’re trying to gain weight or lose weight, the calories really make the biggest difference. Exercise is important, I can’t emphasize that enough. It’s good for your heart, it’s good for your mind, it’s good for your body, your soul, everything. But the food that we eat really makes a bigger difference in how much we weigh.
Jessica: And so what about fat count? Is calorie count more important than how much fat content is in whatever it is that you’re eating?
Hillary: I mean there are definitely a lot of nuances in there. Certain fats are really healthy, and they’re really good. If you’re eating fat in your diet, fat actually takes longer to digest, so it keeps you full longer. You probably, if you’re really listening to your body, which I know is hard for people to do, will take in fewer calories if you allow yourself to eat a bit more fat. If you’re just eating carbohydrates, which burn really quickly, and they don’t really fill you up that much, you can end up eating a lot more calories because the carbohydrates aren’t that filling.
Jessica: Okay, moving on. You talked about the Variis app, the Peloton app, then Noom, and the –?
Hillary: My Fitness Pal and Lose It! There are probably a million more that I don’t even know about. I think that most of them do the same thing, where it’s just a place to input your food, often a place that will sync with your exercise and have that in there. It can be motivating to see that, but again, I just can’t emphasize enough how everyone’s body is also a bit different, and you just don’t want to get too obsessed with what the numbers are. You want to take some time. It’s just as important as doing all of this hardcore workout, and watching what you’re eating is also adding in time for rest, time for stretching, and time for meditation. There are a lot of apps that you can use for those things as well. I was just talking with a friend the other day who is an SLT instructor. She was saying that she does the Peloton, and she’s always just riding hard, hard, hard. She decided the other day to do a 10-minute stretch class and couldn’t believe how amazing she felt afterward. If you’re like me, I know TH is the same way, and you want to just go hard all the time, your body needs that. It needs to stretch, it needs to rest, it needs to regenerate, and all of that is so important. You don’t want to get injured, and you don’t want to burn out and then not want to do any of this. Getting that balance is really important.
Jessica: I just have one last question when it comes to the nutrition apps specifically, because as you said, a lot of them probably do very similar things. I don’t use them admittedly, but I feel when I’ve seen them, part of it is they try to make it sort of fun. There are a million categories that you can fill in the information, and it’s an activity and it gives you something to do. You feel like you’re really accountable because you’re filling in 85 different columns of information. For people who feel they want some amount of accountability, they want to be able to be mindful of what they’re eating to be able to accompany whatever their new exercise plan is or things like that, the answer may be no, but is there one area or maybe even two or three, that if you were going to do a nutrition app, and you’re not necessarily inclined to make it a full day affair by filling in all of the information, what are the areas that you’re like, look, you definitely have to fill in this, this and this, that can at least kind of get you started on that?
Hillary: I think if you start with picking one item on the app, I think there are three different categories on those apps that fit into that. Drinking water, most people don’t drink enough. You can start using that app to simply track how much water you’re drinking. By doing that, most people will realize we’re not drinking those eight 8-ounce glasses a day. That can get you started on that like a simple, simple thing. You could start with just tracking your food. Again, I would recommend only doing it for a short period of time. I have clients who keep food journals all the time and at some point, I’m like let’s stop journaling because I want this to become more intuitive. Maybe for a short period of time, just to check in and see where you are, or you can just track your fitness. Just start with one area. I think if you jump in and you’re like I’m going to track my steps and calories I burn, and what I’m eating, and all my water, it’s going to be overwhelming, so pick one category. And another thing you can also do is just even keeping a journal for yourself. I know there is that fun component of doing it on your phone or being able to see those numbers, but simply just writing down everything you put in your mouth for a day, a week, maybe three days, or whatever you want to do, that can make you more accountable. Often when people keep food journals, they eat better because they’re writing it down.
TH: I was going to say one other thing is I used to do that when I would feel I don’t even know what I ate today. I’d just been staring at the pantry all day long.
Jessica: That’s me every day.
TH: The door is open there and the door is open at the fridge all day long. So then I would just write it in a book, and the book would sit open at the counter with my pen. These apps that we’re talking about all have a cost associated with them. If you’re not inclined to be able to keep up with that monthly membership for any of these, because it does add up, get a book, get a pencil or a pen so you can’t erase it, track your stuff, and put your notes in there. All these apps are awesome, but they do cost money so if that’s a concern, you can cert– it’s not a way out.
Hillary: I agree, and grab a friend. Grab a friend to do this with you. Then you write your stuff down, you can compare notes, or you can just talk about it, even just to tell them I did this today. I think that makes all the difference in the world to just have someone by your side that’s your cheerleader that’s going to keep you going.
Jessica: Totally. I totally agree. Well, this is amazing information Hill. Thanks so much for bringing it to the exExperts community. For anyone out there who wants to reach out to you, ask you specific questions, what are the best ways for them to contact you?
Hillary: So either through my website which is www.hillaryirwin.com or on Instagram which is @hillaryirwinnutrition. Either of those places, I will get back to you and help you on your journey.
Jessica: Amazing. Well, thank you so much. We’re going to have you back again another time to talk about health myths, and food and exercise myths. We’ll see you next time.
Hillary: All right, it sounds great. Bye.