Eating better: How social media and tech help me make healthier choices

Last week, I shared with you guys my plan to go on a weight loss journey. I received a very warm response from the community and I want to thank everyone for the positive words of encouragement and motivation!

I spent the week reflecting on my desires and to fine tune the exact plan going forward. We've already discussed what I aim to do at a physical level, which involves some variations of yoga which use dynamic resistance to offer low-impact workouts. I've already gotten started on DDP Yoga, and I'm not going to lie, it was rough. I had trouble keeping my balance and figuring out the safest way to do some of the poses.

The beauty of DDP, though, is that the instructor takes care to show you several options for modifying workouts to fit your level of comfort. His big deal is that you should make the workout your own. Whatever modifications you have to get it done, make the adjustments. If you can't do it without hurting yourself, then stop. And if you need to take a break, press pause and take all the time you need. Don't hurt yourself, because then you're really in trouble.

My first few workout sessions have consisted of me stumbling and fumbling as I try to get a hang of the poses and certain limb positioning and breathing techniques. I couldn't do everything, but that's OK because I know that as long I'm doing something, it's better than doing nothing at all. Plus, you can take those little breaks between poses to really listen to the man and understand what he's saying.

A big part of DDP Yoga is understanding what dynamic resistance is and what it does. He instructs you on how to properly engage your muscles in order to get your heart rate pumping. What I liked most is that he didn't stop at the choreography. DDP thoroughly explains how your muscles work and why a simple action like stretching your fingers as far as you can is enough to get your blood pumping.

It's a jarring, yet relieving detour from typical fitness programs where you're kind of just doing what you're told. That's going to be a big part of my success because it helps me buy into the idea that this is working in my favor, and I know exactly why. Long story short, I sweated enough to fill a small pond and I might have busted my butt on a printer, but I walked away feeling good and knowing that I was on the road to someplace better.

So with the first workouts out of the way, there is another very huge pile of unfinished business to take care of: food.

Before you preach to me about looking at this as less of some fad diet and more of a lifestyle change, let me just say that I hear you loud and clear. Through my exhaustive research into proper dieting principles, I've learned a great deal about the types of food I eat and the types of food I should be eating.

To be honest, I grew up in a household that hadn't a single clue about proper nutrition. We'd been told at each meal to eat until we couldn't eat anymore, and the food we were eating certainly shouldn't be stuffed repeatedly into a human being every day. And we treated our mom telling us we needed to go on a diet as if it were a form of punishment. It angers me that I didn't learn this sooner — how much weight could I have lost by now if I had the sense to disregard everything my parents taught me? My problem all along is that I've spent 30 years eating like crap because I thought the way I ate and what I ate was normal and fine.

But I digress. I know now. Thanks to my smartphone, I have a world of information at my fingertips at any given moment and there's no longer any excuse for ignorance. My interim diet plan calls for me to stay under 3,300 calories per day. I'm going to further that restriction down to 2,000, with attempts to stay within the 1,200 to 1,600 range as I make the adjustment. I should be losing 1-2 pounds per week at this rate, and with my continued practice of DDPY, maybe even more. It's not exactly what the doctor ordered, but I'm going to take a chance and do this the way I know I ought to.

For food, we (did I mention I got my whole household on board?) tossed all the boxed, processed, sugar-filled garbage out of the fridge and pantry and replaced everything with whole foods thanks to the wonders of Instacart. We now have all the fruits and veggies we can handle, lean meats, and other protein- and carb-filled niceties. We'll plan meals for the week on Sunday. I'm opting not to go hard on any particular mainstream diet and instead will focus on proper caloric intake, more balanced meals, and better quality food in general.

Part of the planning requires a scale to weigh portions, so I'll be picking up this ETEKCITY smart kitchen scale. It has all sorts of cool features like full nutrition facts for up to 8,000 different foods straight from the USDA database. What they don't have you can easily input via the smartphone app. I probably won't need to use the full extent of its feature set right away, as all I really want it for is an accurate estimate of how many calories any given portion is. I could probably opt for a more basic scale if I were on a really tight budget, but I don't want to deal with unit conversions or anything of the like.

I have started a daily routine of tracking everything I eat in MyFitnessPal. It's been a real eye-opener as I'd started doing it a bit before I really restricted my diet. I've had days where I went well over 4,000 calories, and the food that got me there certainly wasn't nutritious or filling. (Mind you, this was after I'd already made my initial portion size adjustments.) I highly encourage anyone looking to go on a similar path to find some way to track what you're eating, even if all you have are pen and paper. Seeing the actual numbers on paper will help keep me more focused and more in tune with what — and how much — I'm actually eating.

I've decided to incorporate Soylent into my diet for times when I just need something on the go or I don't have time to prepare anything. It's a fairly popular meal replacement shake that'll load you up with 400 calories' worth of basic nutrients humans need. You can head right here if you're interested in more specifics.

There are some people who actually live on nothing but Soylent and more power to them, but I'm not doing that. Not even the creator of this stuff wants you to do that. I treat it as a nicer alternative to a quick meal than having another greasy burger to tempt me back in the other direction. I'll tend to substitute it for either breakfast or lunch, sometimes both. I find three to be a nice maximum limit with a proper meal to cap the day off no matter what the rest of my day looked like. Many people take issue with Soylent and what it stands for. It's not natural. It's not proven healthy. And it's not even the most economical way to go on a liquid or partial-liquid diet. That's fine. I know what I'm getting myself into, and I've already decided that this is what's right for me.

I prefer to buy Soylent in bottle form as it has a much more smooth and consistent texture compared to the powdered formula, and also saves me the headache of having to deal with prep and cleanup.

The downside is that it's a bit pricier than the powdered formula at around $3 per meal as opposed to $1.50-$2.00. That's not a big enough difference for me to pass on the convenience, plus thanks to Amazon's Subscribe and Save program, I can save quite a bit of money on regular shipments. I prefer the Cacao flavor, if you care.

I've committed to this as a true lifelong change, and as with anything that I need to learn like the back of my hand, research and education will be key. I'll tap into the DDPY community for dieting advice, as well as the huge nutrition and fitness communities that have grown at places like YouTube and Reddit over the years. And I'll even keep my ear to the street for more nuanced advice emanating from the medical community.

By the way, for those of you who think eating healthy is bland or boring (or maybe even nasty), guess again. With culinary creativity and cooking skills — things I'm not fortunate enough to possess but my wonderful sister does — you can cook mind-blowing meals that fit well within your targets. Pinterest is the place to go for great healthy recipe ideas in case you need a place to start, but even if you can't manage anything crazy you can make nice with simple, effective dishes that taste just great.

As you can tell, my headspace has never been clearer. I know exactly what I need to do and how I need to do it. I finally have the right amount of motivation, willpower, and knowledge to make this change. When I feel the cravings and the hunger pangs from this transition, I'll just close my eyes and picture myself being at the weight I want to be and enjoying the things I've never gotten to do in life thanks to my size. Or perhaps I'll go watch more of those weight loss shows on TLC that do far too good a job of scaring me straight. Whatever I need to keep myself driven, let's go.

The next phase will be all about using the strength and mobility I've regained to enjoy the pleasures in my life — including some super fun tech and games — and make it easier to reach my goals. I'll also be upgrading certain parts of this operation when the time calls for it. More on that next week!

Quentyn Kennemer