Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My Fitness Pal

If you have an iPhone, or hang around people that are somewhat health-conscious, chances are you've heard of My Fitness Pal.

It's an app that allows you to track your calories and meals conveniently on your phone. You can also use it on a desktop (and see progress charts and graphs), but it's the app features that made me fall in love, and have me using it regularly.

First, it has you enter your height, weight, goal weight, age, and sex. You can also select how many pounds you want to lose per week, or if you want to just maintain your current weight. It will then calculate your daily calorie allowance based on this information. I'm assuming because I'm short and I want to lose 20 pounds at a rate of 2 pounds per week, my magic number is 1200 calories per day.

The first few days were miserable for me. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I've gained double digits since the wedding and gotten hooked on meals that are handed to me through a window or served in a little cardboard microwave tray. It was a hard adjustment to go from over 2,000 calories of junk to 1200 calories. But, I went shopping, I planned ahead, and I found my groove. I'm now able to meet my calorie goal, and satiate myself on healthy, filling, nutritious meals.

One of my absolute favorite parts about this app is the ability to scan your food labels. I actually have a tattered, worn copy of a calorie counting book my mom gave me that she used to use. It lists major food companies and their label contents. I tried this and lasted maybe a meal or two in a journal. I suck at math, so trying to read the labels or websites and calculate by the serving size didn't work either. With My Fitness Pal, you scan the bar code of the product, it lets you select the serving size or amount, and when you hit "Add" the math is done for you and it's magically added to your day! (Please note: candy used as just an example, I haven't eaten it ...yet!)

You can also add recipes the same way, then let the app know how many it serves, and just select the meal and your serving size and the information is magically added! All of these food entries are saved, so you only need to do it once. So those peanut butter Cheerios I ate for breakfast? I can just tap on them, entering them with one magic touch of my finger next time I eat them- be it tomorrow or next Thursday!

The other awesome thing about My Fitness Pal is tracking your exercise. Of course, the calories burned is an estimate most of the time, but it's still helpful to see. It records them as calories "earned" and they are added to your daily calorie allowance. You already know that my calorie number for the day is 1200. So, let's say I walk the dog at a moderate pace for 30 minutes, I've "earned" 107 calories- taking my daily allowance up to 1307 calories.

Seeing calories so simply displayed this way - as a "fuel" (essentially what they are, for your body) is really eye opening and helpful. My cousin and I are probably using the whole system backwards. We actually see what we can eat, based on how much we move our asses. Almost like bartering with calories, or earning extra sides with dinner. But hey- whatever way you can find motivation, right?

Which brings me to the last great part- it lets you add friends! I currently have 5 friends added (including Mara) and they're great at congratulating my good days and offering support for moments when I'm frustrated. With or without adding friends, you have the ability to keep all of your information private and viewable for only your eyes.

So, why all this talk about My Fitness Pal? Well, to be honest- I'm really enjoying it. It's something I've found that works for me, I've already seen results on the scale, and it's free. I hope to "check-in" here periodically to hold myself accountable. I'm going to add a progress badge on the side so you can follow along also!


Roz @ weightingfor50 said...

Hi Christina. This looks like a fantastic app. I really need to get an iphone. :) Hope you are having a great week.

Kim @ Coffee Pot Chronicles said...

With Weight Watchers tracking I do the same thing with "earning" extra grub that day that you do with moving your ass. If I did a hardcore workout, I might go ahead and have an extra bite of potato or nibble an ice cream bar (WW chocolate cookie bars...130 calories and so damn good!) But, I also keep in mind that just because I earned it doesn't mean I can destroy it with junk. It's there if I need it but not an excuse to turn around and go back to the same old crap.

Keep up the hard work. If you don't have a food scale to help with portions GET ONE. Let me tell you they are one hell of an eye opener and really help you moderate your portions.

If you ever need help with nutrition or just to bitch, you know who to bug. Okay, I am not a nutrition expert but I have learned a few things. =)

Stephen said...

I started with MFP a few months ago, and I couldn't agree more about the whole "eye opening" experience! To sit there and calculate what I've eaten and then see how little can be earned back with the meagre amount of exercise I might have been doing.. it's nuts! I'd think nothing of grabbing a quarter pounder combo because I had the munchies... yet 20 mins on the treadmill would do next to nothing to reverse any of that...

I've fallen off the bandwagon more times that I can count, but one thing about MFP is that there's a great community of people there to kick you in the ass if that's what you need (I give everyone a green light to kick mine)...

My biggest problem is that it still has not become part of my daily routine to track everything.. it still seems forced.. I can do it if I remember... or if I want to take the time to do it... I really have to get better at that.

Great job on the 5 lbs so far!

And yeah.. get yourself a decent food scale... and use it more than I've used mine! :-)