My Fitness Pal – The Ins and Outs

Just over a year ago I decided to try My Fitness Pal, for the second time.  The first time I only stuck with it for a month or so because I found it to be too time consuming. Yes, this takes time, but you are worth it!! I gave it the ‘ol round two and have stuck with it ever since. They say it takes about 21 days to form a new habit, well this is now like brushing my teeth; I do it every day a few times a day! They key is to find something that works for you, something you will commit to and stick with. It may be Weight Watchers or the Paleo Diet, but for me it just happened to be MFP.

To get started, you need to sign up for MFP and create a free account. You can access this via their website www.myfitnesspal.com or download the app from your app store onto your smartphone or iPhone.  I actually use both and they sync from one another without having to do anything, very seamless! Once you’ve set up your account you can start recording your food.  The advantage to having the app on your phone is that you can scan items using the barcode scanner. It has millions of foods in their database. You can also just type in the food in the search bar and it will come up.

The one struggle you may find is if you eat out a lot. We hardly ever go to a restaurant; I much prefer to cook all my meals at home because I know what goes in it.  I always cook extra and take it as my lunch the next day.  This makes tracking my food so much easier and you don’t have to play the guessing game.  That being said, it’s not like I NEVER go out to eat, I just limit it. If you go to a popular chain restaurant MFP does have many of those foods in their database.   MFP allows you to create and save your own recipes and will also save meals if you eat the same thing every day/week or have multiple items that you would like to use again on a later date.  Once you start making entries you will see it saves your most recent items, so again, if you are using the same foods over and over they will always be right there in your list making it quicker and easier for you!  MFP will track all your calories and let you know if you have a deficit or have extra calories left over.  Of course, if you are trying to lose weight you really don’t want to eat back the extra calories you earned from working out, otherwise you will just maintain the same weight. Yes, in the beginning it will take some time to get used to.  Today, it literally takes me seconds to enter in my food. Since I pack my lunch and snacks the night before I will even start entering my food for the next day, it really is that simple!  It also keeps track of not only your calories, but your carbs, fat, sugar, protein, sodium and all your vitamins too.

You can also track your exercise. It has quite a large database for all kinds of exercises. The only thing it does not really calculate your strength training and their reasoning is: “Estimating the calories burned from strength training is very difficult because it depends on a variety of factors: how much weight you lifted per repetition, how vigorously you performed that exercise, how much rest you took between sets, etc. Because of this, we do not automatically calculate how many calories you burned from strength training exercises.  However, if you’d like, you can add “Strength training” as a cardio exercise to get a rough estimate of how many calories you burned. Please be aware though that this is definitely a rough estimate and can be fairly inaccurate.”

MFP will also generate reports with your weight loss progress, or a weekly breakdown of your calorie intake.  It shows you a pie chart or graph if you are into the visual thing.

It is much like other social media websites where you can add friends and there is a news feed so you can update your status or comment on someone else’s progress, be a cheerleader for them! You also have the option of making your food diary public or private to your friends. Having it public helps as it makes you feel even more accountable for what you’re eating!  (Believe me, the thought of knowing that everyone knows you ate that entire box of Pot of Gold or extra large bag of chips actually makes you think twice about doing it!)  There are also forums and message boards. It really is its own community.

So there it is! It definitely helped me in my weight loss and has since helped me maintain my current weight. There is really no way of knowing what you are putting in your body until you start tracking it and becoming accountable for what you are eating.  Remember, food is the fuel your body needs to keep going, treat it well and you’ll be around a lot longer!

Have you used MFP or any other wight loss tools? What do you think about it?

iphone-app-myfitnesspal

Sample of the phone app

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