My first fortnight with MyFitnessPal
Can the MyFitnessPal smartphone app help to extend a New Year’s Resolution beyond March? We put it to the test…
14 Feb 2017
Did you wake on January 1st knowing you want to eat better, exercise more and lose weight? To ‘exercise more’ and ‘lose weight’ topped a poll of the most common New Year’s resolutions
But keeping that momentum beyond the first few weeks can be tough – I’ve started (and given up on) everything from 5:2 to the cereal diet. So this year I thought I’d try calorie counting with MyFitnessPal on my phone. Here’s how I got on…
I found it relatively easy to get set up. First I downloaded the MyFitnessPal app on my smartphone, then I set up an account. It asked me things like…
- Vital statistics – my weight, height and gender
- Exercise – how much or little I do each week
- Aims – what’s my target weight?
You then select how much weight you’d like to lose per week from the options it recommends. The NHS promotes safe weight loss as being between 0.5kg to 1kg (1lb to 2lb) each week – I stuck within those parameters and we’d recommend you do the same.
Sounds boring and a daily inconvenience. But with the MyFitnessPal app it’s pretty straightforward. Each day has its own diary, easily found from the main menu on the left-hand side of the app.
The diary is split into breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. And as you add items to it, the calories are taken from your total for the day (shown at the top) so you can easily see what’s left.
Really useful features…
- Barcode scanner recognises most foods – tap the barcode icon and your phone’s camera does the rest
- Foods you eat often are saved as ‘frequent’ for easy logging
Once you’ve completed the diary for the day, you simply tap the ‘Complete Diary’ button and a little message pops up telling you how much you would weigh if you ate like that every day.
This dangled carrot has kept me motivated, helping me follow one good day with another before inevitably falling off the wagon on day 3.
Did you know? If you’ve not logged enough calories it’ll warn you that you’re likely not eating enough.
Get smart about nutrition
Calorie counting isn’t the be-all and end-all. Understanding what your food is made up of – protein, fat, carbs – is also important.
MyFitnessPal helps you to see how much of each you are eating. This has been useful for me because I’m trying to eat fewer carbs (pasta and bread) and more protein (oily fish and chicken).
Find this information by selecting Nutrition from the left-hand menu and then Macros. Your daily intake of carbs, protein and fat is broken down into a pie chart graph – with your total shown side-by-side with your goal.
When you log a food that is particularly high in something you’ll get an alert – for instance if you eat mackerel it’ll tell how much of your daily protein intake is left.
What about exercise?
There’s nothing that motivates you to exercise more than seeing a fast-food chicken burger’s worth of calories being added back into your daily total.
That’s what I was rewarded with for running 2 and a half miles at the weekend. Your exercise can be factored into your daily diary, and doing so is easy.
- Tap ‘Add Exercise’ on the Exercise tab on your daily diary
- Select ‘Cardiovascular’ or ‘Strength’
- Search for your exercise – for me it was running
- Tap ‘Exercise at correct pace’ (i.e. jogging at 10.7kph)
- Type how long you ran for into ‘Minutes performed’
The app then works out how many calories you have burned and adds it to your daily diary. You’ll see that the number has been added onto your total to burn for the day.
Along top of the diary it says… Goal – Food + Exercise = remaining
Adding a Fitbit
Fitbit fitness trackers work with MyFitnessPal. You can sync the two apps so your fitness and nutrition data can be shared between them. Which Fitbit is right for me?
Monitoring your weight
You can easily monitor your weight and see how it changes over time with MyFitnessPal. The ‘Progress’ tab on the left-hand menu shows your weight in really simple line graph.
Your starting weight is on the far left-hand side, with each new entry you make working towards the right – where the line dips, you’ve lost weight.
Making an entry is easy: just tap the + in the top right, add your new weight into the Weight (kg) box and hit the big ü
Remember: The NHS promotes safe weight loss as being between 0.5kg to 1kg (1lb to 2lb) each week
Has it worked?
On the days that I can stick to my goals, then yes. On the days I don’t – not so much. I lost 1kg, then put a tiny bit back on.
But what I will say is that I am much more in-tune with my body and my diet. Counting calories is helping me to be much more disciplined in my eating habits, and also to explore new types of food. My lunches now are made up of protein (salmon, mackerel) and salad or quinoa. Previously it was sandwiches, crisps and crumpets.
With the app so easy to use, this for me is a long-term lifestyle choice rather than a flash diet.
What about you?
Just because MyFitnessPal worked for me, it won’t necessarily be the one for you. There are all manner of fitness apps available.