We live in an age of the quantified self.
That is – tracking devices and pedometers, fitness apps. We’re in a constant state of yearning to improve ourselves and to know as much as we can about what’s going on in our bodies.
My experience with the all-popular Fitbit is not a very lengthy one. I have had four fitbits. I have lost three Fitbits (and one broke).
Once in a club, once on a run and once again in a club. Anyway, I took it as a sign that the Fitbit and I were never meant to be. The Fitbit is a wearable device (clip on or wristband – see above) that essentially tracks all of your activity throughout the day, calories burnt and some devices will also track your sleep. In theory it’s a great idea but for not for someone like me. It may work for you though – I’ve also heard that the Jawbone Up is a good alternative although I haven’t used this one myself.
But this leads me to what I actually want to talk about and that is MyFitnessPal, “the world’s leading health and fitness platform” – a smartphone app that I used to sync with the Fitbit to include my exact steps and activity throughout the day.
MyFitnessPal is a simple concept – you log all the food you eat (you can even scan barcodes) and log your exercise.
Logging food is a scientifically proven way to successfully lose weight as a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found “the more participants recorded what they ate, the more weight they lost in the end. Participants who did not keep a food diary lost about 9 pounds over the course of the study, while those who recorded their food intake six or more days per week lost 18 pounds—twice as much as those who didn’t track any food!”
The MFP food database includes almost everything – I think I have only ever had to manually enter food once or twice. You can even scan barcodes and the app will automatically recognise the nutritional information.
When you begin, the app prompts you set your weight goals and activity levels and it will tailor a calorie plan for you to stick to on a daily basis. I successfully lost 13KG/28lbs using the app last year, and have kept it off so far.
I formed a really good gym/exercise relationship as I was using the app – I was really enjoying exercise because entering the calories I had burnt into MFP meant I still had some left for a dessert, or a snack. I still ate chocolate almost every day but we got into the habit of an evening walk that would blitz the extra calories on top of a morning workout 5-6 days per week. We’re planning to continue the evening walks now as it’s starting to get a bit warmer in Sydney 🙂
Losing weight is basic mathematics. You need an overall deficit of around 3500 calories for 1lb or .5KG and if you move more, you can eat more. My diet consisted of 1200 calories + exercise for 8 weeks to reach my goal. I think the essential ingredient is willpower (and a dash of patience!).
It also helped me to form some good habits, and I researched the food I eat and the nutrition content which allows me to make better choices now. I think it also helped me to get to know my body better and what works for me.
I still use MFP now, but more as a guide to see how much I’m eating and how much I’m moving each day – I never go without but if I eat badly one day I try and eat less and move more the following day.
MFP also has a message board for users to keep each other motivated and discuss everything food and exercise related. I also highly recommend following their fantastic blog called Hello Healthy full of healthy recipes and exercise related articles and insights – you can read that here.
There is no magic pill help you lose weight unfortunately, but with a bit of exercise and willpower you will get there!
MyFitnessPal is certainly a helping hand to get you started 🙂
You can download MyFitnessPal online for free here.