As I write this, I’m sitting on my finely upholstered bottom, eating a Choco Leibniz biscuit (134 calories). Later on, I will lie to my “friend” and deny that I ever ate it. “No,” I will say. “I went for a walk and I burned 150 calories ( three miles an hour, moderate pace). Which means I’ve got loads of room for dinner (KFC eight-piece variety bucket, 1832 cals).”
Welcome to my tumultuous on-off relationship with My Fitness Pal, the free app that manages to take all the joy out of eating, activity and life in general.
Like many women, I’m in constant flux about my body and what I put in it, so every other month I idly download my digital frenemy while I’m lying on the sofa eating Kettle Chips, (one serving, 150 cals). A week later, I triumphantly delete the judgemental fucker, vowing never to be controlled by it ever again.
Actually, installing and re-installing MyFitnessPal has become a bit of a hobby. When we get together, it’s all hearts and flowers. This guy – let’s call him Pål, like that guy from A-ha – LOVES me. He really wants the best for me! He wants me to be leaner and fitter, to live longer and look great in jeans. What a dude! And he’s got the calorific content of two million foods programmed into him, so I don’t have to drunkenly look at the nutritional information on a Rustler’s burger through one eye at 3am. How helpful is that?
At the beginning, Pål makes me feel virtuous. The nerdy thrill of documenting every single boring thing that passes my lips lasts for a short while. I even allow myself the occasional delusion of grandeur. “If I stick to this,” I think, “I’ll have the body of a nubile young gazelle, not a slightly overweight 42-year-old who passes out while doing downward dog.”
Also, it can be quite funny, in a heartbreaking way. When you input what you’ve had, you realise you’re not the only person in the world who eats like an atrociously behaved seagull.
MyFitnessPal is my evil school friend Penny, who carried a little yellow calorie-counter book in her bag
Pål’s international calorie database is full of misspelled entries from tormented people who have just devoured a Burger King Triple Whopper and an Oreo Bailey’s Jägermeister milkshake from Yates’s Wine Lodge. Nando’s features, as does curry, white wine and Blue WKD. How do I know? Er, I have checked.
But then the resentment creeps in. I realise that Pål isn’t a hot Scandinavian guitarist/woodsman in a pair of leather trousers at all. He is, in fact, my evil school friend Penny, who carried a little yellow calorie-counter book in her bag all the way through first year seniors. Whenever I raised a Lion bar to my lips, she would thoughtfully say “205 calories” and I would put it down, shamed and defeated and peckish, staring down at my chunky thighs in their brown regulation school skirt.
So I start lying. I mean, Pål/Penny won’t know if I occasionally “forget” to put in the odd bag of crisps and all-you-can-eat carvery buffet. Serves ’em right for setting me tedious goals, tracking my every move and forcing me to consider how many calories there are in a teaspoon of ketchup.
Finally, my finger hovers over the little wobbling “x” button at the top. Screw you, Pål! A real friend wouldn’t give a toss about what I eat and accept me as I am! They’d talk about books and art and music, not how many calories there are in a cucumber (11, in case you were wondering).
And I hit delete – until the next time.