Let’s be honest: counting calories is hard. Not only do you have to record every little thing you eat, but you also must find out how many calories are in each dish. Going out to eat becomes daunting! How will you figure out the calories of that delectable lasagna at your favorite restaurant? And forget going out for drinks and appetizers with friends! So, while everyone knows that counting calories is one of the most effective steps to losing weight, not everyone is able to stick with it.
MyFitnessPal can be your helping hand through the stress-inducing world of counting calories. This online community acts as a diet coach, a motivating friend, and a fitness and calorie record book. Plus, it’s easy to use and very accessible.
Getting started is simple. After creating a username, you enter your basic information into the system: current weight, goal weight, height, age, activity level, and workout goals. MyFitnessPal uses this data to create a suggested weight loss plan specifically for you that includes recommended daily caloric intake and exercise. You’re also told how much weight you will lose over a five-week period if you stick to their program; seeing your projected weight loss is a great motivator!
Keeping track of calories is incredibly simple. The database has over 1 million foods, ranging from a specific Giada de Laurentiis recipe to one slice of Hillshire Farms deli meat. The system also lets you enter your own recipes and calculates the entire dish’s caloric content ingredient by ingredient. When you type in a food, be as specific as possible (i.e. try “Lay’s baked potato chips” instead of “potato chips”) and you’ll find your food quicker. The system also remembers the foods you eat most and saves them for easy entry later.
Your daily food diary includes a nutrient summary. The summary lists all major nutrients from cholesterol to protein to Vitamin C and includes how much you should consume each day and how many you have left for the day.
Recording exercise is just as easy as food. Type in “running,” and you’re given a number of times and speeds to choose from. A downside of MyFitnessPal is that the database of fitness activities is not as large as the food database, but you’ll still be able to find most regular exercises. MyFitnessPal uses your recorded exercise to calculate how many calories you have burned; this number is subtracted from your total calories for the day. So the more you exercise, the more you can eat!
When you register, you’re given the option to invite your friends to join; simply enter their email addresses. As you probably know, dieting with friends is mutually beneficial. It’s a support system that keeps everyone involved in the dieting, encourages improved fitness, and celebrates your weight loss. Obviously, it’s a recommended step! However, MyFitnessPal also has forums, which are an excellent alternative to inviting your friends. Everyone posting is very excited to be part of the community and is ready to motivate others. You can browse through topics about nutrition, recipes, fitness tips, and more. If you have any questions, you’ll be able to find someone to answer it.
If you stop recording your food, MyFitnessPal steps in as a virtual trainer and emails you, reminding you to keep up with your weight loss program if you want to lose weight!
Bottom line: MyFitnessPal is incredibly easy to use, convenient, and an excellent tool to develop healthy dieting and weight loss habits. Plus, there’s a free iPhone and Android application, making it easy to take your weight loss habits on the road.
Liz Childers contributes to a number of blogs, including the official blog of Knife Depot.