Weight loss/food log app with NO calorie counts?
June 11, 2019 1:52 PM   Subscribe

About two years ago, I started taking a low dose of sertralene for anxiety. It works great! The ball of dread in the pit of my stomach every morning is gone! Problem is, my appetite has come back now that I’m not anxious all the time and I’ve gained around 30 lbs in the last year or so and I want them gone. I was much happier at the lower weight, so I’d like to go back there. But I’ve never really lost weight in a healthy way and I need help.

I talked to my doctor yesterday and she recommended one of the meal logging apps, like myfitnesspal or the like. I’ve used them in the past, and calorie counting makes me obsessive about the numbers and leads to some very disordered eating patterns so I told her that. She understood that and said in that case that I shouldn’t count calories, but look to just log the foods I eat.

I’d seen ads for Noom, which seems to have science and psychology behind it, and there’s a 2 week free trial, so I signed up. It seemed like it was what I wanted, as it logged the foods you ate, as well as providing actual counseling from real people to support you. Foods were categorized as a percentage of red/yellow/green according to their caloric density and nutritional usefulness. But today, when I went to log my first meal, there was a calorie counter at the top of the meal log! I can NOT have a calorie counter. Does anyone know of an app that logs meals, and ideally shows me some sort of summary of how “good”/“bad” my eating is doing (like the red/yellow/green of Noom) with no numbers?
posted by Weeping_angel to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
(Alternatively, if anyone uses Noom and knows if there’s a way to hide the calorie counter, that would work, too.)

posted by Weeping_angel at 1:54 PM on June 11, 2019

Can you log the foods you eat as free text in a notes or calendar app?
posted by mskyle at 1:57 PM on June 11, 2019

Weight Watchers, or I guess now WW, does not track calories. Foods have points - though lots of foods are free.
posted by MillyMath at 2:10 PM on June 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

I have not been to Weight Watchers in many years (long before the big recent redesign) but I believe this is one of the goals of their “points system” - that you are tallying up some sort of count that’s based on things behind calorie count. The way I remember the points measure is that it factors in calories, fat, and fiber, and there’s a whole category of things like vegetables that count 0 points (meaning you can eat as many as you want). I would think the app automates this process in an effective way and tries to replicate the in-person meeting aspect (which was always the most useful part to me—listening to people talk about their struggles).
posted by sallybrown at 2:10 PM on June 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

The points system of Weight Watchers concerns me because it’s still numbers and I worry I’ll still be obsessive about them. When I count calories, something in my head flips and I’m trying to get the smallest number of calories possible. Like, 600-800 calories a day, even though the app clearly tells me to eat more. And I have to look up calorie counts on everything I eat and am contstantly running a total in my head, all day. It’s miserable. Has anyone with similar issues used WW? Can you tell me if counting the points feels similar to counting calories?
posted by Weeping_angel at 2:17 PM on June 11, 2019 [5 favorites]

I think that counting points is going to feel exactly like counting calories to you. (Like, I suspect you will try to eat as few points a day as possible, the way you did w. calories, and you will be obsessing about how many points things have. I used WW w great success but I DEFINITELY think it's easy to get obsessive about it. It's VERY numerically focused.)
posted by Countess Sandwich at 2:21 PM on June 11, 2019 [4 favorites]

I have done Weight Watchers and currently count calories. It feels exactly the same. In fact, I obsessed way more about points because I was forever entering foods into a points calculator or looking them up, when at least calories are usually right there on the package and easier to estimate. Because you have so few points compared to calories every point counts a lot more making choices more agonising.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 2:26 PM on June 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

I haven’t tried it myself, but I was intrigued by the question and googling led me to ate, which is a meal tracking app that is designed to ‘track emotions not calories’. i.e. it’s designed to make you keep a visual record of what you eat and be mindful about how you eat. Don’t know if that’s closer to what you would want.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 2:27 PM on June 11, 2019 [5 favorites]

I had a friend who took pictures of everything she ate for a month and posted them online, that gives you some accountability and easy logging / sharing with a dietician if you decide you need outside advice.

I'm not really clear what your nutritional goals are, and it might be worth getting clearer on that yourself. Balanced macronutrients? Enough iron? Reduce processed carbs?

Also - you say that you were happier at the lower weight, but it sounds like you were anxious and pretty unhappy. It might be worth exploring what your priorities are healthwise - it's possible that you can't be that whole 30# lighter, not-anxious, and not practicing disordered eating.
posted by momus_window at 2:46 PM on June 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

You may be better off with a plan you don’t have to track, like whole 30, paleo, or keto. I would research non-calorie counting plans and go from there.
posted by katypickle at 3:17 PM on June 11, 2019 [4 favorites]

Hmm. I like Wholesome, but it sounds similar in that there IS a calorie count visible. But there are so many other numbers visible -- any chance you'd start trying to game your diet to get all the folate, fiber, vitamins, etc. that you need? I find myself primarily trying to eat various things that will get my numbers up for nutrients I'm lacking.
posted by salvia at 3:18 PM on June 11, 2019

This is not a food logging app, but it might be helpful. I have not personally used it, but I recently read about a scale called 'My Shapa'. It was partly designed with behavioural scientist, Dan Riely. It doesn't show your actual weight, just the trends over time and whether you are on track or your goals. The downside is that it's quite expensive ($99 USD for the device then at least $7.95/month)
posted by emsuro at 3:22 PM on June 11, 2019

I'm overweight at a size I can deal with, but my weight tends to creep up. So every couple of years I decide to lose 10-15 pounds. I know that's less than you're working toward, but I can't deal with numbers, either.

One thing that really helps me is staying off the scale for 2 weeks at a time. That way, my daily goal isn't weight loss; it's doing what I need to do to eat according to my plan. (If you want to know the plan you can send private message.) During the day and at the end of the day, I praise myself for doing "right things" like walking, drinking water, eating smaller portions, good food choices, etc. This sounds hokey but it keeps me from thinking times I slipped or got lazy.

Also, I eat small meals/snacks, and eat more times during the day. I tell myself, "I can have more in a couple of hours," and it eases the feeling of deprivation. A dose of food might be a yogurt or a handful of nuts, maybe cheese with whole-grain crackers...convenient things.

Also, each meal is a new opportunity, so if I feel sad and eat a pint of ice cream, I put it behind me and get back on track.
posted by wryly at 3:33 PM on June 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

I use ate, which Bloxworth Snout mentioned above. I sought it out for exactly this reason, after I found that MFP, macro counters, etc., were driving me nuts and not leaving my psychological well-being in a good place. It's the only app I've found that meets these criteria and doesn't have some metric or another that activates that sense of restriction. You set up your own goal and then pick which criteria you apply, from a pretty long list. All you do with your food intake is log your meal, classify it as "on path" (per whatever definition you want to use) or "off path," along with some optional logging of why you ate, where you ate, how you were feeling, etc.

It has felt to me like an app very gently designed for cases like ours. I've been using the paid version for two weeks now and have been very happy with it.
posted by Kosh at 3:38 PM on June 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

I recommend Symple. It's got photo logging and also tracks symptoms and factors, which could help you make connections across your food intake and other factors in your life. It's well designed, responsibly funded, and I think for your use case, the free version would work fine.
posted by 10ch at 4:17 PM on June 11, 2019

Can't go wrong with a good old fashioned excel spreadsheet. You're the one making it so you can log whatever you're comfortable with.
posted by ToddBurson at 4:50 PM on June 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm just getting started with it but I think Cara doesn't track calories. It's aimed at people with IBS and IBD, so it's really focused on "what did you eat and how did you feel afterwards?"

I'm using it to track results as I reintroduce foods after an elimination diet.
posted by workerant at 7:36 PM on June 11, 2019

Sounds a little out there, but look at apps geared toward people recovering from eating disorders. They often focus on how you feel when you’re eating or on eating from specific categories (ie track that you’re eating a protein and a vegetable at each meal or whatever) and definitely don’t include calorie counts. I know Rise Up + Recover has been recommended to me in the space but I haven’t used it.
posted by itsamermaid at 7:43 PM on June 11, 2019

After I went on a medicine and gained significant wieght in a relatively short time, I trudged myself to a nutritionist for a bit of accountability . (I ended up changing meds which stopped the gain and I've slowly lost since then) I also worked first on just maintaining then losing a little then upping to maintaining for awhile because I can't lose for long periods without my brain deciding that restricting is a good idea. I'd wiegh occasionally to check progress.

It didn't bother tracking or using apps at all, just focused more on well being and used professional support.
posted by AlexiaSky at 9:48 PM on June 11, 2019

I have not found good apps that don’t count calories or box you in on the kind of information they track.

Are you interested in a customizable, DIY solution? If you have a Google account, create a Google form with the types of information that you’d like to track (e.g. carb, meals, snacks, exercise), with checkboxes or text fields, etc. Then, set alerts on your calendar or phone to remind you to enter data into the form.

Then, review the spreadsheet associated with the form once per week to determine how on track you are. Also, only weigh yourself once per week the same time. You can do it when you do your weekly data review.

Feel free to MeMail me if you’d like.
posted by skye.dancer at 6:06 AM on June 12, 2019

The app See How You Eat lets you take photos of each meal and snacks and make notes.
posted by geegollygosh at 7:48 AM on June 12, 2019

Ate seems to be exactly what I’m looking for!
posted by Weeping_angel at 12:06 PM on June 12, 2019

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