fitness

I Tried Noom Coach so You Don't Have To

I Tried Noom Coach So You Don't Have To | Writing Between Pauses

In the efforts to be fully transparent, and as body positive as I can be while also working on my physical weight for health reasons, I tried Noom for a variety of reasons, some of them weight-related and some of them not. I’m really excited to tell you how it went. However, I understand reviews like these can be really triggering, especially for those struggling with negative body image. As always, if you feel something like this will be hard for you to read, don’t hesitate to close the window.

I started using Noom, an app that divided food into Green, Yellow, and Red groups, at least 5 years ago. I remember signing up and having the app on my phone. I didn’t like the Red, Yellow, and Green designations; I totally “got” it, but it didn’t really help my issues with seeing foods as “bad” versus “good.”

And while Noom does subscribe to the idea that making foods taboo is bad, using Red, Yellow, and Green ascribes them to “Stop,” “Caution”, and “Go”, which still arranges them on a spectrum of Good to Bad. For all their dedication to terminology at Noom, I don’t know why they kept this designation system! They could have at least chosen different colors.

Either way, I stopped using the app and promptly forgot about it until I heard an ad for that very same app on one of the many podcasts I listen to. “Huh?” I thought. “Noom costs MONEY now?!” I needed to know what the difference was.

Noom Coach is a program like the app I used way back when—that same structure of assigning food to categories and you eat a percentage of the category each day—with the added addition of a Goal Specialist, a Group function, and more. Basically, it became a support program to help you navigate both the physical aspects of weight loss and the emotional and psychological aspects as well. As someone who has struggled with my weight for a long time, I found this focus a little refreshing; there is a lot of psychology around the foods we eat and why (as well as the foods we don’t eat and why) and I’ve always been very interested in it.

As well, since one of my goals in 2019, is to have a second baby, I knew I needed to get to a starting point that would be less damaging to my body than last time. (Again, that disclaimer at the beginning of this post comes in). This is something I need to do for my long-term health, since having preeclampsia during a pregnancy massively increases my risk of heart disease. I thought Noom would be a great option for that, since it seems a little more gentle than, say, Weight Watchers.

What is Noom?

Ok, so first things first: what is Noom? Noom is, like a said, a weightloss app. But it’s design is not just like MyFitnessPal or Weight Watchers. It targets the psychological aspects of weight gain and loss as well. Like I said, they divide foods into Green, Yellow, and Red. Basically, Green foods are foods that are nutrient dense, but not calorie dense. Everything in Noom is based on caloric density. Green foods are things like fruits and vegetables, whole wheat bread, leafy greens. Yellow foods are things like avocado and peanut butter; nutrient dense, but also kind of calorically dense. And Red foods, despite Noom’s insistence that no that’s not the case are the foods you expect: butter, oil, fast food, coffees.

But it’s more than just tracking food. I only signed up for a 2 week free trial (and spoiler alert, I did not spend the money for the first 3 months), but I still had access to the Goal Specialist you are assigned immediately. After a while, you’ll also be assigned a Group Coach, as well as a Support Team. That means within the app you have daily articles to read, quizzes to take, and more, as well as daily weigh ins, tracking your intake, and more. Plus, you’ll have support throughout the entire time.

In theory, this sounds like a great program. They set you up for success right from the beginning and just ask you to be more conscious of choosing nutrient dense foods. For me, that worked really well.

My Experience Using Noom

I’m an emotional eater. I know this. I know it! I also know that I love, love, love certain foods and viscerally hate others. I am a very picky eater. I don’t like most condiments. I don’t like anything mushy. I struggle with leafy greens because I find the texture really unpleasant in my mouth. In general, I’m just a picky eater. I am also extremely busy and very stressed. I have a 3-year-old, a full time job, and a lot going on in my life right now. When I originally started this review, my brother was about to get married—and if you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know that this was a huge stressful event in my life. Well, a lot happened both before and after the wedding; so much so that I had to put this review aside to deal with it and not use this review as a place to unload.

I’ll just say: my experience with Noom did not help my stress levels.

Like I said, I think Noom’s setup is absolutely great; the app is lovely and easy to use. I loved the daily articles about psychology. I loved the quizzes. The separating of food into color groups made sense, but I still found it a little triggering to see that Red column. There was one thing I had a huge problem with. It was my Goal Specialist.

I want to preface this, again, with this: I know 100% that my experience is based entirely on the fact that one person messed up and it ruined the entire app for me. I know that. And I know that if I had gotten any other Goal Specialist, who was more of a match to me, i probably would have spent the money on Noom Coach to keep going for 3 months. I know those things.

Ok, so, it’s time to talk about what happened.

The purpose of the Goal Specialist is to walk you through the goals you set up in Noom. My goal was to have a baby in 2019 and to get to a happier, healthier point, both physically and mentally. I won’t say the name of the Goal Specialist I was assigned; we’ll call her S. The thing about the Goal Specialist was that she only really sent me one message per day—and in fact, for the first 4 days of the program, I only got 1 message from her asking me to think about things I wanted to work on, then message her on Wednesday after I signed up. That was easy enough.

Here’s roughly what I sent:

“Hi S! I’ve been thinking about things I want to work on and I definitely think preparing ahead is going to be a big one. I feel like I’m busy all the time and end up grabbing whatever is easiest to eat once I get to work. I have a toddler and getting him out the door is my number one priority in the morning, alongside making sure my husband gets to work on time. I feel like I don’t really have the time or energy to really food prep, so ideas for grab-and-go items I can have ready would be amazing!”

I got a reply from S nearly 24 hours after I sent that. Almost always, if she messaged me in the morning and I replied immediately, it would be 24 hours before she replied again. I don’t know if this was part of the program, but it made communicating really difficult. I unfortunately didn’t save her response when I deleted and unsubscribed from the program and app, but this is roughly what she said:

Michelle, it sounds to me like you’re making a lot of excuses. We all have the same time in the day.”

Firstly, categorically, no, we don’t all have the same time in the day. I work 65+ hours a week adding up all my various jobs and responsibilities, on top of having a toddler, cooking and cleaning, caring for a large dog, and taking time for myself. I work out 4 days a week already. The subtle implication that I’m lazy made me see absolute red. This reply was not helpful and did not answer my question or request whatsoever; it didn’t help me get to my goals. It was demotivating and damaging.

My reply was absolute shock that she would say something like that to me. It was not a supportive comment to make to someone who was asking for very specific suggestions. I replied and told her that absolutely was not something I was ok with her saying and I would be requesting a new Goal Specialist. Which I did.

It took 4-5 days for them to assign me a new Goal Specialist.

In that time, S messaged me again and apologized, then again implied that I don’t grocery shop! So great, another snide comment about being lazy. Nice!

When I was assigned my new Goal Specialist, I was close to the end of my free trial. I tried having a conversation with my Goal Specialist about how I was struggling to remain motivated to use the app after S’s messages and, again, it always took nearly 24 hours to receive a reply. When I expressed concern about the program when it took so damn long for anyone to reply to me, the new Goal Specialist (we’ll call her A) simply apologized. Finally, I realized I was done; it wasn’t working for me, despite the fact that it had everything I really wanted in a weight loss app. I told A I wanted to cancel my subscription before the end of my free trial so that I would not be charged for 3 months.

It took two days for that to happen, but I wasn’t surprised by that.

Final Thoughts

I know that’s a lot to read. And trust me, it took me an embarrassing amount of hours to write it in a way that wasn’t just emotional.

As someone who is incredibly Type A and fears being seen as lazy, being called lazy was a huge trigger for me. (And again, I realize this is the action of one person, but it is one person who represents Noom.) It made me immediately not want to even open the app, let alone follow what it told me. If the representative thought I was just lazy and making excuses, then what did it matter? The things I struggle with—taking time for myself, taking a break from working, not having to be perfect all the time—are very real, and yet, I felt like my Goal Specialist had completely devalued the things I struggle with. She acted like they weren’t real and that hurt a lot.

I think part of this issue is this: i was assigned a Goal Specialist that was 1) much younger than me and 2) not a parent. I don’t mean this as a way to talk down to young people (she was maybe 22 or 23) or people who aren’t parents. But fundamentally, the life experience between a fresh-out-of-college Gen Z and a 30-year-old millennial is monumental. The same as between a non-parent and a parent. I definitely feel sometimes that young people and non-parents look at parents and think we are just being lazy in regards to what we eat and our activity levels. But it’s not true. We know it’s not true, but it’s impossible to fight a stereotype, ultimately.

And beyond just that life experience level, what does a Goal Specialist who has never been overweight, never had to rush a toddler into the car to get to drop off on top, never had to walk around with the evidence of pregnancy on their body forever, know about my life? About my experience in this body? About the invisible sacrifices I make both at home and at work daily? The ways in which I have to choose between my health and the health of my family? How can they help me when they think I’m just making excuses? If you read even a single article about working mothers, you know that we perform massive amounts of emotional labor and make sacrifices every day. (And when I say working mothers, I mean mothers who stay home too. Taking care of a home and raising children full time is work, they just aren’t being compensated.) What can a Goal Specialist expect to motivate me when they only see my inability to remember breakfast as being lazy? When they don’t see that in the time I forgot to grab a healthy breakfast, I dropped off a toddler who cried and wanted to stay with me, made sure my husband had breakfast and lunch for work, cleaned up the living room, got to work, arranged my schedule for the day, started working, and made sure coffee was made for the office?

We all have things we struggle with, of course. This isn’t unique to parenthood or motherhood. But I definitely felt that Noom was missing that crucial element of assigning Goal Specialists based on experience. It felt incredibly random and S just wasn’t a good fit for me. In fact, she set me back in terms of my mental health and it took a long time for me to be able to talk about it. I haven’t even told Danny about my experience on Noom.

So, to summarize, here are my thoughts:

  • Noom is, in theory, a great program.

  • There are still some major issues with the way Noom assigns Goal Specialists, as well as their system for tracking.

I found the entire experience really disappointing and, frankly, disconcerting. It’s the New Year and Noom advertisements are everywhere. if you see one and it sparks in you to try it, I hope this review helps you better weigh whether the cost is worth it.

When Did Everyone Start Caring about Thigh Gaps?

I wrote this post in June 2013. While the thigh gap craze has definitely died down, it's still really relevant: there's always a new desirable trait (big butt and tiny waist, thigh gap, "hip bridge") and all of them are just as problematic as thigh gaps. There are hundreds of ways to feel bad about your body. It amazes me that we still find new and interesting ways to make women feel bad. 

A few weeks ago, I read a really interesting article that posed a really fascinating question: When did we all start caring about thigh gaps so much? And where did the obsession come from? 

If you use Tumblr, or Instagram, or Twitter, or any social media site actually, you've probably noticed an obsession with thigh gaps. The impressive Casey of PopPilates has several "get a thigh gap" videos. Pinterest is flooded with simple work out routines promising thigh gaps and thin thighs, as well as a reduction of love handles, an increase in the size of your butt, and to flatten your stomach so much it's like you've traded your internal organs for pure nothing. Tumblr is overrun with pictures of girls and their thigh gaps.

It's become an internet obsession. Let's be real, it's totally kind of creepy. I mean, do women really need another thing to nitpick our bodies about!? I'm already obsessed with the size and shape of my nose, my stomach, my chest, my arms, and my ankles. Please don't make me paranoid about the fact that my thighs touch, world. 

The article I read actually mentioned that it's confusing as to where the thigh gap obsession originated: obviously, there are roots in the pro-ana Tumblr community. Somehow, it spread to mainstream, to every day not-that-eating-disordered women thinking that having thighs that don't touch is the ultimate measure of a perfect body and perfect health. And then, of course, it spread into pornographic images, which makes its origins in pro-ana communities super weird. 

I've always followed a ton of fitness accounts on Instagram, another community that I would use the word "weird" for. The other day, though, I noticed most of these accounts frequently tagged photos with #thighgap. Um, excuse me? Aren't you supposed to be "healthy living bloggers"--and don't most humans know that a thigh gap is ultimately a measure of your body type (aka how wide your hips are, how your femurs are positions) and not your health? 

As a reminder, there are a few things we all should know. They are: 

  1. Having a thigh gap is not a measure of health. You can have a thigh gap and be overweight (yep!) -- it just depends on your body composition. You can have a thigh gap and be healthy. You can have a thigh gap and be very unhealthy. You can be very thin and not have a thigh gap. You can be not very thin at all and have a thigh gap. A thigh gap is primarily a measure in the width of your hips and your muscular structure. Seriously. 
  2. Losing weight to get a thigh gap is terrifying and if you're trying to lose weight to get a thigh gap, you need to look and the mirror and ask yourself what you're really doing. Time to confront some truths.  
  3. No amount of exercise is going to widen your hips. Coming from a wide-hipped lady, trust me, you don't want that to happen. 

The thing is, some human bodies just aren't meant to look a certain way. I'm never going to look like Giselle Bundchen in a bikini: I'm not that tall, that tan, or that slim-hipped. It's just a fact. Some bodies aren't every going to have thighs that don't touch. And that's totally okay

Is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be? Is ‘fat’ worse than ‘vindictive’, ‘jealous’, ‘shallow’, ‘vain’, ‘boring’ or ‘cruel’? Not to me.
— J.K. Rowling

There are more important things in life than having a thigh gap. It's okay to want a body that is healthy and strong. It's not okay to try to manipulate your body into behaving a way that it just might not be able to. It's like a lactose intolerant person eating milk and cheese every day, even when it makes them sick, because they feel like "to be healthy" they need to eat milk and cheese!

Being healthy is about how you feel, throughout your day and about yourself. I've struggled for a long time with body image issues and I've spent my fair share of time in front of a mirror wondering why my belly isn't perfectly flat and why my butt is so dimpled. The fact is: that's just how my organs are arranged inside my body; that's just how my (female) body decides to store fat. There are things I can change and things that I can't. 

I've come to accept though that my body is a certain shape and I just have to work with it, not against it. It's easier to say that, of course; in reality, there are many days where I just want to hide away because I don't have a thigh gap, I haven't lost the weight I want. But when we start letting things like this--like thigh gaps and work outs and weighing our food--we start ignoring the things that really make us who we are. 

We're all more than bodies. We are bodies that create, and write, and love, and work. We can make pumpkin spice lattes and we can write novels. These bodies can hug a friend. 

What's more impressive? Dedicating yourself to passion, whether it's fitness, hiking, writing, scrapbooking, or whatever, or having a thigh gap? 

That's what I thought. 

Committing to Whole30

I have a few things I don't want to admit to, but I should. Firstly, as I write this, I just finished eating a mug cookie. It's my last one, I swear to you all. Secondly, Danny and I ate an entire bag of Pirate's Booty from Costco in three days. It's the last one we'll ever buy, I swear. Thirdly, while I write about this Whole30 thing, I have a headache from not drinking a soda--which suggests to me, at least, that 30 days without sugar, carbs, or anything processed might be the thing that does me in. 

I'm a carb lover. If I had my way, I would eat entire meals of carbs: toast and pizza and noodles and potatoes and plain bread, honestly. It's actually a little embarrassing how high my carb percentage is on MyFitnessPal at the end of the day. At this point, I have to acknowledge that it's kind of an addiction. I don't need this many carbs, I think as I eat another peanut butter sandwich, and then promptly start imagining making some pasta. 

When I mentioned starting Whole30, one of my friends (shout out to you, Charlotte!) mentioned not becoming one of those "Whole30 people." You know, the annoying ones. 

Whole30 is kind of cultish. If I do it (and it's a big if--I'm sure the minute my first carb craving hits, I'll be scream crying on my office floor), I refuse to pay for it. I don't need to pay money to get emails to tell me not to eat carbs or dairy today. I might try to conveniently "forget", but I'm sure I'll remember eventually. I also don't plan to give up sweeteners like stevia and honey; if I'm going to be giving up my coffee creamer, I deserve to have some freaking stevia to sweeten it. 

If you've never learned about Whole30, here are the basic rules: 

  • For 30 days, you cut all foods that are not whole fruits and vegetables, plant-based fats, and proteins. 
  • Random foods that aren't allowed include "imitation foods" (like banana pancakes), legumes and beans, and sugar of any kind. 
  • Dairy products are also not allowed, including any "imitation" dairy products like homemade creamer or that banana ice cream you see floating around on Pinterest and Instagram. 

A lot of the rules are kind of arbitrary. I will admit the creators sound distinctly Not Very Fun, but who am I to judge? They also admit that the original rules, as presented, are based on their personal beliefs and decisions--and so yeah, it's arbitrary. But in their defense, they're only suggesting you do this for 30 days--not the rest of your life. To me, I just need something to cut the cord between me and delicious, delicious carbs; I just need a hard reset. 

Here are my rules for Whole30: 

  • For 30 days, I will cut all foods that are not whole fruits & vegetables, plant-based fats, and proteins. 
  • I will be allowed to eat imitation foods like banana pancakes as long as they don't include processed ingredients. (In your face, original Whole30 creators!) 
  • I will let myself have stevia and milk for coffee because I have a 10-month-old. 

My official start date is August 1. 

I'm really excited to see how well I do at this--and how I feel after a few days. I'm best at sticking to "diets" (although I'm not thinking of this as a diet--more of as a reset for my life) if I have very strict rules to follow. I'll probably just come up with a menu and eat the same thing each and every day because I'm boring and I like a plan. 

If you'd like to follow my Whole30 journey, you can follow my fitness Instagram @fitforforrest. (And you can always follow my main instagram @michellelocke6!)

Get It, Girl: 6 iPhone Backgrounds to Motivate You

I'm someone who only stays motivated if I see reminders day after day for my goals. Because, here's the thing, I will straight up forget to take steps towards my goal if I'm not continually reminded. I always use my iPhone backgrounds to remind myself to do things (taking screenshots of my Notes and setting it as my background is life), and I especially love downloading new wallpapers to get myself motivated to work out or eat healthy. Here are a few of my favorites right now:  


Have iPhone backgrounds you love? Share a link with me on Twitter!

I'm Ready to Talk about Postpartum Weight Loss

While going through a journal recently, I discovered a plan I had written for losing weight after I had Forrest. The date on the page in my journal says July 26, so it's been almost a full year since I wrote down possibly the funniest, stupidest plan ever. I listed times I would go walking, workout plans, meal plans to follow. 

You know what happened? None of it. 

I had neither the time nor the confidence to take Forrest on stroller walks three weeks postpartum, let alone three months postpartum. For the first three months, I survived entirely on lactation cookies, grilled cheese sandwiches, and whatever I could cook for a few minutes while Danny held Forrest. After 3 months, I was so tired of paying attention to what I ate that I just gave up. I canceled my gym membership. I never went walking. 

I could have lost the weight by now. It's true. And actually, I am at my pre-pregnancy weight right now (but my pre-pregnancy weight was not exactly where I want to be either). I could have lost all kinds of weight by now, but sometimes, we just aren't ready. 

And we aren't ready to talk about it either. 

I read an article recently about having your picture taken when you're not exactly your ideal weight. This is a fact: I don't have any pictures of Forrest and me together that aren't selfies. I don't let people take my picture. I just don't. I also don't take my picture without carefully posing and even then, I'll probably cry about how it looks if I see it. Another fact: I know I'll regret not having pictures, good ones, with him when he's older and when I'm older. 

Not having my picture taken is my attempt to deny that I've gained weight. I always have this idea that if I can put it off just a little bit longer, give myself more time, I'll avoid having to confront the idea that I am bigger than I've ever been. I have a fear of people I knew in high school looking at pictures and saying, "Wow, Michelle got big." I was self-conscious in high school and I'm still self-conscious now. I went through a phase where I finally felt pretty... and now I've lost it. I'm back to high school me, nervous and embarrassed about how I look, and it's not fun. 

One more fact: I am bigger. I have gained weight. Yes, I've gotten "big." But I like to think that, in reality, when people see pictures of me they won't think, "Wow, Michelle got big." Instead, they'll think: Michelle had a baby, or Michelle got married, or Michelle looks so happy.

I like to think that as a society we can move past the expectation that we will all stay at our ideal, pre-adult bodies forever; I like to think that we can move past the expectation that the minute you have a baby, you should start restricting calories. I like to think we've moved past the discussion of women's bodies as assets. I want to believe that we can move past the idea that women should only take up a tiny amount of space. 

The truth is: I'm bigger now than I ever have been. But my life is bigger now too. 

It doesn't mean I will stay like this forever. I eat healthier than most people I know: I eat banana pancakes and boiled eggs; I snack on cheese sticks and carrots; I cook chicken and broccoli for dinner more often than not. I won't pretend to see my errors: last week, I ate an entire box of Cheez-its in a day because they were there and if Danny even suggests Taco Bell, I have no willpower to refuse. This is my body, though. This is the size I am. I can't deny it anymore. 

It doesn't mean that I got here through laziness. I worked out every day for two years. Then I had a baby. Then I fed a baby with my body (via an electrical pump) for 6 months. 

I'm ready to talk about postpartum weight loss. I'm ready to say I'm just starting, that I'm working on it every day, and that I know I will succeed and move past my food issues right now. I'm ready to admit that I struggle every day, that I wish I could eat pizza as nonchalantly as most of the population. I'm ready to say that I'm tired of my clothes not fitting. 

I wasn't ready before, but I am now. 

Follow my weight loss journey on my new fitness Instagram, @fitforforrest

What I Talk About When I Talk About the Kayla Guides

The first draft I wrote of this blog post, I let sit as a such (a draft) for three whole days. When I came back to it, I realized that the entire time I danced around my true opinion about the Kayla Itsines Beach Body Guides. I was also really negative, which made it harder to express my opinion. So I'm going to start from the beginning and that beginning includes a major, major point that I need to communicate. 

A few months ago, Kayla posted something akin to "if you want a beach body, you can never drink alcohol." Which, ok, whatever. I'm not a huge drinker. I'm really not. But that kind of statement rubs me in such a wrong way that I can barely explain it. The extreme restriction of your food, even if you end up with a "healthy" body like Kayla's, is not healthy. This leads me to a secondary point: Kayla's entire bit is about having a body that looks a very particular way. If you want a body that looks just like Kayla's, then these are the workouts for you. If you want your body but better, then maybe hold off. 

Saying you will never eat this or never eat that because it's "bad" for you is incredibly disordered, but is masked by the guise of being "healthy." There are many, many fitness "gurus" with extremely severe eating disorders -- one I used to follow stir fried her vegetables plain in WATER and said it was "tasty and flavorful" with no sauce. Excuse me, but that's boiling a bunch of veggies and calling it a stir fry; not only does it sound frankly gross, it's extremely disordered. It's like the watermelon Greek yogurt "cake" or apples sprinkled with cinnamon and called a "pie." All I'm saying is, thinspo has morphed into fitspo and there are a lot of girls with bad, bad eating disorders hiding it behind "Paleo" diets and weight lifting. Being obsessed with restricting your food and your body is not healthy, no matter how you express it, and denying yourself things you want, from stir fry and cake to a glass of wine, is not only life sucking, but pretty bad for you emotionally. It is possible to live a well-rounded like where you enjoy alcohol and cake as well as kale and chia seeds.  

The fixation on one type of healthy body is not only ridiculous, but damaging, and undermines Kayla's entire message of being healthy. I definitely fall prey to the "bikini body" idea -- I mean, I'd kill for a body like Kayla's -- but the fact is, I'm about 5 inches shorter than her with a completely different body type. It's just not going to happen. There is a way to be healthy, fit, and happy without looking just like Kayla or super thin. The only "fit, healthy" bodies we see are bodies that are thin, and that is wrong. You can be in shape and not that shape at the same time, but you wouldn't know that browsing through Kayla's instagram feed. All the girls end up looking the same (and just like Kayla) and to me, there is something inherently sad about that. 

Beyond those issues, I have issues with the guides themselves as well. Mainly, they cost about $60 a piece (there are two guides, so $120 total) and are about 100 pages long. But way, the workouts only consist of about 15 pages in each guide. So, the bulk of the guide is not workouts: it's Kayla's writing, which hovers somewhere around "big sister telling you how to live your life" and "omg what". For a $60 guide, that kind of grinds my gears. I like to get my money's worth and personally, a 100-page digital file that contains only about 15-20 pages of workouts is kind of a bust. If it was a physical book, it'd be different -- but c'mon, that's just a rip off! 

The guide suggests that alongside the circuits you do 3-4 sessions of HIIT workouts (high-intensity intervals, basically) and then 2-3 sessions of light cardio (like walking). That's a lot of working out. I work out a lot, but I simply do not have time to dedicate nearly 10 hours a week to it. I just don't. I could use that 10 hours to work, write, hang out with Danny, cook delicious dinners, grocery shop, play with my dog, or whatever. 

So what are the workouts themselves like? Most of the workouts are intense and tiring; I find myself sweating, red-faced and exhausted at the end. That being said, Kayla workouts have a reputation as being intensely hard and yes, some moves are challenging (I personally HATE sit ups with a twist and commandos, because I think those moves could easily be replaced by simpler exercises with the same result), but the workouts themselves are not exactly I'm-gonna-die hard. 

It's a difficult concept to express but: most workouts are hard. These workouts are also hard. But I would not rate them the hardest workouts I have ever done. (I think that title will always be held by conditioning weeks in Track when I was in high school.) 

I can see why they get results -- it's nice to follow a simple plan. However, are these workouts worth the $60 Kayla charges? Absolutely not. You could put together these plans on an app like PumpUp or find similar workouts on Pinterest. 

I also want to talk about Kayla's "H-E-L-P" guide, which is about healthy eating and lifestyle planning. It includes a week's sample meal plan and let me tell you, that meal plan is sad. Here are my issues with it: 

  • It is not vegetarian. There isn't a vegetarian option. I hope you like eating meat two times a day (and therefore, have the money to do that). 
  • It is dry

The suggested meal plans are painfully lame. One lunch is literally: flax seed wrap, two cups of lettuce, 1/2 can of tuna. THAT'S IT. I think I would just find the nearest bridge and jump off of it if that's what I decided I needed to eat for lunch everyday to have my ~ideal body~. Way to suck all the joy out of life.  

There are totally ways to eat healthy food that is also fun and flavorful. You don't have to eat plain, dry lettuce with plain, dry tuna on a flax seed wrap, I promise. 

I'm not saying that Kayla sounds like a total bummer to hang out with. Except that I totally am. She advises girls to order "cereal or muesli" when eating out "or just plain fruit." Honestly, get out. That's ridiculous. Have some fun, child, and some restricting your eating so much! Living life miserable and eating cereal while your friends enjoy pizza or pasta or whatever is absolutely not worth it. 

I'm not trying to say that healthy food can't be fun. There are lots of healthy foods that are delicious and fun. But Kayla's guide seems to suck all the fun out of food. She even refuses to call "treat days" treat days. She says you should get one treat meal and that's it, not a day to just enjoy yourself and not stress about how you're going to eat as much dry protein as possible.

Healthy food can be delicious and fun and you don't have to obsess about it like a total weirdo. But that's just me and I guess I don't have Kayla's "beach body" so maybe I'm totally wrong and my life will change when I start eating everything dry and protein-filled. But I also suspect I'd be deeply miserable if I did that too -- and sometimes, you have to make a choice. 

The Verdict

I have a lot of issues with self-styled "fitness gurus", obviously. The fixation on healthy bodies all looking the same way (that is, like Kayla's body) is extremely unhealthy. As well, while I know I need to make choices to eat better, restricting until I'm miserable and forcing myself to never eat certain foods again (like ice cream or full fat cheese) is a concept I don't really want to be involved with. Kayla doesn't seem to have mastered the concept that food can be healthy and delicious, nor does she seem to embrace the idea that there are more examples of healthy bodies than just generally "thin."

Do I like the Kayla guides? Yes, I enjoy them as a workout to supplement my usual cardio and running. Do I think they are the greatest workout ever? Absolutely not. Do I think they are worth the money? No, definitely not. Do I think Kayla needs to think long and hard about the advice she gives to people, especially young girls? Uh-huh, you bet I do.  

The Only Fitness App You Need: PumpUp

I'm pretty sure I've downloaded every work out and fitness app available. It's an ongoing saga. Some weeks, I'm using Fitocracy and that's fine (except it doesn't list calorie counts, just arbitrary points). Some weeks, I just track my cardio work outs on LoseIt. I've downloaded all kinds of apps that claim to build awesome work outs (pro tip: none of them do). 

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A few weeks ago, someone recommended I download PumpUp. They recommended it mostly for the community, but briefly mentioned that you can build work outs on it too. I was intrigued. I downloaded the app and forgot about it for a few days. 

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Cut to a few days later. At work, I opened the app and selected the plus button which brought up the basic menu. I could Start a Workout, Log an Activity, Track my Weight, or Share a Photo. 

Before this point, I'd been randomly browsing the "community" that was recommended to me as "awesome." The community is sort of like Instagram -- a lot of rail thin girls posting pictures of their tiny salads and flat stomachs or people posting thinspo photos masquerading as inspirational, both of which I can do without. (This doesn't include the multitude of men posting their intensely muscled backs with phrases like get it and never surrender added in MSPaint, which I can also do without.) 

I hadn't been impressed until I discovered I could create work outs. 

My frustration with other workout generating apps centered around the fact that the workouts just weren't good. I can do 20 lunges on my own. I don't need an app to do that. I needed an app that could create workouts for a specific amount of time for a specific goal. 

PumpUp does that. It's great. 

All the workouts I've created, including what I've scheduled for the day. 

All the workouts I've created, including what I've scheduled for the day. 

When you select a workout, you can browse through all the exercises. 

When you select a workout, you can browse through all the exercises. 

After you select start now, it times you and tracks your calories. If you need to do 2 minutes of stretching, it times it.

After you select start now, it times you and tracks your calories. If you need to do 2 minutes of stretching, it times it.

The workouts are so nice. I like that it demonstrates how to do each exercise and allows you to swap out exercises. If you did dumbbell squats yesterday and your legs are still hurting, you can swap for lunges or a similar exercise. It's like a workout video, but without an annoying instructor. Just you and the app. 

Each section is colorcoded. Yellow is warmup; orange is strength; green is circuits (if you've chosen to add conditioning to your workout); dark blue is cardio; and purple is your cool down time. Each strength section, rep, and circuit are separated by timed breaks, so you're forced to give your muscles a rest. (I'm really bad at taking breaks.) It always times your cardio. The interesting thing is that cardio is set after your strength-training; the app explains they do this because research shows you burn more fat that way. That sounds good to me!

Mostly, I love the variety. When you create a work out, you can select what you want to achieve: to tone up, to lose weight, to get healthy, whatever. Then, you can select if you're at home, in a hotel, or in a gym. Then, you can select what equipment and machines you have access to: dumbbells, bands, cardio machines, etc. It then takes everything you've told it and spits out a workout in the time frame you requested targeting the muscle groups you indicated. 

It's basically magic. 

Already I've noticed a change in my workouts and my body. I feel more satisfied when I leave the gym and I've noticed an increase in my strength. I'm up to using 10-pound weights (instead of 6-pound or 8-pound) and I can now do 12 real pushups. I've never been able to do a push up in my life. 

I've always toyed around with buying fancy videos or programs, but when you can create effective workouts on a free app, really, what's the point? It's so much more convenient, especially if you already pay for a gym membership. 

PumpUp combines everything I wanted in an app. I'm disappointed it took me so long to find it. As long as I ignore the community aspect, I can get everything I want in my workout from a single, free app on my phone. What's more perfect than that?