My Fitness Pal [what I’ve learned so far]

At the end of January, I decided to cancel my WW membership. I was still logging my points ever day, but never went to any meetings – and couldn’t justify paying $40 a month to use the online software. My plan was to take a week off, re-evaluate, and then decide whether or not to enroll in WW online to use the Etools (which is cheaper than the membership that includes meetings). That same week, I was introduced to My Fitness Pal. I checked out the site and wasn’t impressed at first. I wasn’t sure if this was for me, or how easy it would be to use, but I gave it a shot. Now that I’ve used it for a little over a week, I’ve changed my mind- I’m a fan!

I’m still learning how to navigate everything on the page and really haven’t had much time to look into any message boards or recipes. I’ve really only used it to log food and exercise.

When you sign into your account, this is the welcome page you see:

Due to my height/weight/weight-loss goals, My Fitness Pal has determined that I should aim for 1500 calories a day. I’m trying to lose about a pound a week, which should be a realistic goal. You can add “friends” and view their progress as well (as much as they want to share through privacy settings) and post messages on the main page for each other to see.

For logging food, the page looks like this:

Hey- check out the ad on the right! My obsession!

Since I eat the same thing for lunch or breakfast several days throughout the week, I like the fact that you can just copy your meal from another day. When I was logging my food through WW Etools, I would save items as my favorites, which was also very easy, and just add them in. (I wish MFP had a ‘favorites’ option, but so far I haven’t found it.)

But, when you click to add a food, it will bring up all of the foods you have added so far, so that you can click and choose from items that you eat often.

It also gives you the option to add “quick calories” instead of inputting every single ingredient or looking up a food in the database. I use that sometimes, but really try to look up the foods as much as possible. It can be a little bit of a pain to look everything up (especially if you haveย  salad with 10 different types of vegetables!) but once you add something in to your food log, it really is easy to just click through your list and find it. You can also create your own recipes (and add in your own calories), which is what I did for my overnight oats and protein muffin. The food database is also REALLY impressive! There are a ton recipes and foods entered by users- like pretty much anything you can think of. The database also includes several of Mama Pea’s recipes that people have entered, including the Spicy African Peanut Stew that I made the other night (and have leftovers ofย  for lunch today!) There’s also pretty much every type of beer you can think of- which I had a lot of fun looking at last night. I was shocked at how many calories some of my favorite Dogfish beers had- yikes! (Good thing I don’t drink much!)

Here’ yesterday’s food logging:

The site defaults Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Snack categories and I added in “pre” and “post” workout foods.

The exercise part of the site is pretty similar, in that you search the database for common exercises and enter your time spent doing a particular activity. It also brings up your most common exercises that have been entered, so that you can choose from those.

You can create your own exercise and estimate the calorie burn, which is what I did for Bodypump. I know my exercise metabolic rate based on my heart rate (from testing I’ve had done) so I estimated my own calorie burn for Bodypump. I have various effort ranges for Stationary biking, based on when I’m teaching spin class (which is very vigorous) or just riding my spin bike at home (which can be anything from moderate to vigorous). For Bob’s yoga dvd, I really have no idea how many calories I burn. I sweat a lot and it does get my heart rate up, and I’m sure it probably burns more than the 200 calories I put down. But, I’d rather underestimate than overestimate (and really, I don’t see exercise as a pass to go nuts on my calorie consumption anyway).

A sample from Wednesday, when I did a little bit of cardio before Bodypump:

You can add in exercises for strength training, but I really haven’t used that yet. My strength training usually comes in the form of a class or DVD that combines it with cardio, so I just group it in that category.

One of the things that I find kind of entertaining is that at the end of the day, when you finish logging, it tells you “If every day were like today, you’d weigh ‘x amount’ in five weeks!” (That “x” amount is usually 10 lbs. lower than what I weigh now, which just makes me laugh.) I know that losing 10 lbs in 5 weeks is totally unreasonable for me- but hey, if it really happened I’d be very happy (and very close to my goal)!

Something I have become aware of by using this software as opposed to logging through WW is that I was eating a lot of calories before- more than I thought. Since WW counts fruits and vegetables as “free foods,” I really wasn’t counting those calories at all. But, even though those are all “good” calories, they still count. So, if you’re eating 500 calories worth of fruit each day on top of everything else, it isn’t really going to help you lose! I’m not bashing WW at all, because I think that it can be very helpful for a lot of people. Again, it just didn’t work for me.

Here’s the thing about logging onto any site like this: it only works if you’re honest with yourself. I found that when I’ve logged before, I’ve lied to myself to make myself believe that something I ate didn’t count (if I didn’t log it). And really- that is just dumb and completely not helpful to my progress at all. OF COURSE it counts if you eat it! So with this site and the addition ofย  snapping a photo of everything I eat- even if it’s just one cracker from the pantry – I am holding myself accountable. I’m always really good during the week and fall off the wagon a bit on weekends, but man, I am trying my darnedest to fully commit- on weekends too!

I know that some people have suggested to me before that maybe if I stop caring so much about what I eat and stop trying to focus so much on losing weight, maybe things would change for the better. I have to say, from much personal experience, that does not work for me. I lose weight when I hold myself accountable 100% and eat mindfully, plain and simple.

I’m hopeful that I see some good results with this program. ๐Ÿ™‚

**

One more thing: I just had to scan this photo of Marie Osmond that I saw in a NutriSystem ad yesterday. Does this looks ridiculous and air-brushed or what? And what’s going on with her boobs?!

They need to fire their Photo editor.

Have a great weekend, guys!

Have you used My Fitness Pal (or any similar program)? Do you track your calories/exercise when you’re trying to lose weight?

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28 Comments on “My Fitness Pal [what I’ve learned so far]”

  1. I’ve tracked calories before and honestly for me it drives me up the wall. It makes me obsessive and it just doesn’t work. Instead I really try hard to eat unprocessed, whole, healthy food. I don’t use a lot of packaged food and if i do it is simple. I try and focus on healthy, nutrient dense food and hope for the best.

    • Lauren says:

      Yeah, everything I eat is healthy and unprocessed- I just eat too much of it. I’m not a huge fan of calorie counting, but otherwise I can get way off course too easily.

  2. chimes says:

    I’m glad to see somebody else who’s fit and healthy is using WW. I signed up last month. My BF is trying to lose weight, so I signed up for the online version so I could figure out the point system and track along with him.

    I also liked the idea of thinking about things other than calories. I have battled an eating disorder for almost 15 years and WW is really helping. No more input/output battles (I don’t swap activity โ€”ย I work out now because I like it โ€” not because it’s become a chore because I ate a piece of cake or something).

    I used LiveStrong forever. I loved that site. But WW is giving me a different perspective that I think I needed.

    Good luck!

  3. I love love love MyFitnessPal. Even while on WW I use the MyFitnessPal database for reference.

  4. Corrie Anne says:

    I’ve used a few calorie counting sites/apps on & off. It’s hard because I cook a lot, and not extremely precisely. I would love that they have Mama Pea recipes right on there though! That’s nice!!!

  5. I think you should do what works for you. People ALWAYS have tons of advice, but weight loss is such an individual thing – you do you, girl!

    And her boobs are most definitely air brushed!

  6. Sara R. says:

    I’ll have to check that site out! I love databases that allow users to enter things too…it makes it so much easier! I’ve used fitday.com and sparkpeople.com before and liked both of those but fitness pal seems to have some neat features neither of those have.

  7. My Fitness Pal looks awesome! I used theDailyPlate when I was trying to track stuff–and now I use it once in awhile to check on carbs, fats, protein ratios on days when I need to (prob once per month-ish) and I LOVE online tools like that.

    SOunds like you’ve found a great plan for ya! Keep at it and you’ll be at your goal in NO time ๐Ÿ™‚

    I agree-they DEF need to fire their photo editor–horrible, horrible. SHe doesn’t even look like a human?!

  8. That picture of Marie Osmond is just WRONG. I’ve heard great things about My Fitness pal, look forward to hearing how it continues to work for you. Have a great weekend.

  9. I really like myfitnesspal! i swear it makes logging food so easy, there is a smartphone app too so I can do it while I travel. I’m trying something else right now so I can do a review and it’s a pain!

  10. Lili says:

    Hi Lauren – just found your blog recently via Beth’s Journey comment section – First of all, your 2 dogs are lovely!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I saw your post about trying to lose weight the other day. MyFitnessPal site really helped me to track my calories. I love it. (they also have an app for iPhone, not sure what phone you have)

    I was trying to lose weight, I have always eaten healthy healthy and also exercised, but it was hard to lose. I started tracking on this site and got a daily cal intake goal. I also realized I was eating more than what I was burning. I logged my cals for about 1 -2 months, and then, I just kept eating almost the same things daily (and didnt find the need of keep tracking anymore), but I still kept tracking my weight. I wanted to lose 15lbs, and I was able to achieve w/ this site help. it’s been 7 months already, and im just maintaining my weight now.

    anyway, just wanted to share my experience!

    xo

    • Lauren says:

      Thank you- I love my little monkies. ๐Ÿ™‚
      And thanks so much for sharing your experience- it really does help to hear things like that! I’m so glad it worked for you- that definitely gives me a little bit of hope. ๐Ÿ™‚
      And congrats on your loss!

  11. I use myfitnesspal.com!! I try to be consistant when I am tracking my meals, but I slip up a lot. How did you add the pre and post workout meals. I have been trying to figure out a way to separate my snacks because I usually have more than one throughout the day. I would love to know how you added the extra meal slots.

    • Lauren says:

      Go into your food and exercise diary settings- it will let you change the name of any of the 4 default meals and add two more. (I just happened to be playing around and figured it out.)

  12. Lee says:

    What is the difference between this site and a free one like The Daily Plate (or Livestrong.com as it’s called now) or Spark People?

    I sometimes count my calories during the day but always get too lazy at night. Perhaps this is why I can’t lose weight.

  13. artificiallybalanced says:

    Just started reading your blog recently, i love it! Myfitnesspal is what helped me lose about 65 of my 110 pounds ive lost! And now that im maintaining, its even more important for me to log every day! I think you’ll do well on it.. For me, upping my protein helped me lose the stubborn last 20ish which naturally had me eating less carbs without trying!

    • Lauren says:

      110 lbs!?!? Wow!! That is so awesome- congrats to you!
      I need to eat a lot of carbs (which are mostly in fruit and veggie form) to fuel my workouts and definitely stay away from processed things. I’m always on the lookout for more protein- but mostly in plant form.

  14. Tiffany says:

    Thanks for giving the scoop on My Fitness Pal, I’ve heard about it but never knew what it was. I’ve been using Sparkpeople.com but started with Livestrong. But then Livestrong added this little gidget saying how much you’ve lost or gained which in theory could be an AWESOME tool but not when you gained weight. So I would log in every day and see how much weight I gained in huge red letters, it was a big turn off.

    Marie is like the Mormon Joan Rivers–everything is fake (though I do love her dress!)

  15. lou says:

    Ive never commented before but wanted to say i’m a big fan of MFP – i just got serious about it in the last month and have already gotten results b/c i’m really tracking food and exercise carefully. It’s set up for success and so simple. I also found several of the SkinnyTaste recipes already in the database. I love that each day is a new day – no matter how good or how bad yesterday was!

  16. Brigid says:

    Helpful review, thanks! It’s especially informative to see the comparison with WW etools. I’ve never really logged calories before (always seems so burdensome), but this looks like it might be worth checking out.


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