Having lost 50 pounds and kept the weight off for over 10 years, VirginiaLynne seeks to help others reach and maintain a healthy weight.
My Fitness Pal Can Help You Lose Weight
If you are serious about wanting to lose those extra pounds, then get a good scale and start using My Fitness Pal. It isn't a miracle cure. It is a reality check which makes you realize how many calories you are putting in your mouth compared to how many calories you are burning. I started using My Fitness Pal in Sept. 2011, and by that December, I had lost 15 lbs. I lost another 5 lbs. in the next three months and kept it off for a year.
Actually, there are a lot of different programs like My Fitness Pal, which help you track what you eat, help you learn about the calories in food, and encourage you to exercise. I think that starting a weight loss program like this can help you have a foundation for a healthy lifestyle, which is the only way to keep a healthy weight. Whether you use My Fitness Pall or a similar app, this review can help you see how this type of program can help you.
Naturally Slim: In Sept 2012, I was ready to try to reach my final weight goal and lose another 20 pounds so that I would be in the healthiest weight range for my height. I was about ready to go back on My Fitness Pal when my work offered a program called Naturally Slim. I decided to give it a try. Eleven weeks later, I had lost 22 more pounds, reduced my arthritis medication, and came down two pants sizes.
Update 2021: Over ten years after my weight loss journey began and I'm maintaining my weight loss. I feel much better and healthier than I did in 2011, and I know now that I can keep the weight off for life even in the midst of difficult schedules and stressful circumstances. My health and mobility are much better. In 2011, I was able to do water aerobics. As I lost weight, I began to be able to do a stationary bike. Now I walk at least 4 miles every day in the hills of my neighborhood and paths of a nearby wooded area. I'm so happy to be able to do more with my family!
You can lose weight too. Both Naturally Slim (which is about when and how you eat) or My Fitness Pal (calorie counting and exercising) are terrific programs. Read my review of Naturally Slim, along with this review, and I'm sure you will find a program that works for you.
My Experience With My Fitness Pal
I don't think there has ever been a day of my life that I haven't thought about what I should and should not eat. Trying to keep my weight under control has been a life-long project for me. I know I'm not alone. Most of us who struggle with our weight have tried some of the most extreme diets in the hopes that there would be some magic in eating all meat, or all fruit, or avoiding chocolate. Although I firmly believe that the most important start to any weight loss program is to accept and love the body that you have, I also know the "weight" of having a body that feels like it is a trap because it prevents you from doing what you love.
Although I tried the Atkins diet and an extremely low-calorie diet for a while in high school, for the most part, my dieting has followed the simple rule that if I eat less and eat more plant material, I'll probably stay thinner and healthier. However, I do tend to eat during stress and ten years of raising five kids and taking care of two in-laws with Alzheimer's made it hard for me to pay attention to what I was eating. I've dieted and counted calories enough to have a pretty good idea of what I'm putting into my mouth. However, that didn't stop my weight from creeping up. Sound familiar?
In 2011, I began thinking I needed to make a change. I've seen those Biggest Loser shows. I don't have hundreds of pounds to lose, just about 50, but I know that I will take work and effort to get those off as a fifty-year-old woman. The motivation to really get started came when my daughter went to her regular check-up and our pediatrician suggested we try My Fitness Pal. The doctor is using it herself because it comes as an app that lets you scan items you eat. We didn't have a phone that does that, but I discovered that My Fitness Pal is available as a free online program.
My daughter and I decided to give it a try. In the few days that we've been using the program, I can already see how much we are going to learn about our eating habits. Plus, I can see that dieting using an online tracker is going to work for me because it keeps me accountable, gives me information to make good choices, and motivates me to both exercise and eat right.
I'm going to give an overview of the way My Fitness Pal works and what we've already learned about our eating habits. Hopefully, I'll be able to update this article later to tell of our progress.
Ideal Height and Weight Chart
Ideal Height and Weight Charts of 1979
It is actually very difficult to find a chart on height and weight. The Centers for Disease Control has gone to the BMI system of calculating body fat, which might be more accurate in trying to determine obesity, but it really just relies on the same height and weight formula as the older charts, and it becomes much more difficult to see how your weight compares to others. So I dug up this information, which is the old Metropolitan Life Insurance Company height and weight charts which were originally taken from the 1979 data from the Society of Actuaries and Association of Life Insurance Medical Doctors of America.
What were these charts for? To help life insurance companies determine if someone had a higher death risk. Although these charts are older, they do show Americans before the current obesity crisis. I think it is useful to use these in trying to determine our own best weight. (Note: because the people were measured with clothes on and shoes, the charts say to add 5 lbs of clothing for men, 3 lbs. of clothing for women and 1-inch heels to height).
How My Fitness Pal Works
After signing onto the program, you enter your weight, age and goal weight (the program helps you calculate that). The program asks you to judge the amount of daily activity you do (from several choices). You can then choose how much you plan to lose each week (one pound a week is the recommended goal). In addition, you set your exercise goal. Next, you are told the number of calories you should eat each day in order to lose that weight!
Each day, you will fill in two daily logs: what you eat, and what you do for exercise. My Fitness Pal stores thousands of different foods, including many brand name items. If you have the app, then you can just scan the barcode and enter how much you ate of that item. Otherwise, you can type in a search term and choose the closest matching item. Your food diary on My Fitness Pal will save foods that you commonly eat, so after entering that food once, all you need to do when you eat that again is just check the item and add it to that meal.
Along with entering your meals, you can enter your exercise for that day. Just like the food diary, the exercise diary section lets you type in the type of exercise you've done and tell how many minutes you did. It will calculate the number of calories you burned and add those additional calories to the total amount you can eat that day.
When you have finished entering your log for the day, you will get a note which tells you how you are doing and what your weight progress will be in five weeks. An additional helpful feature is that My Fitness Pal will tell you if you have not eaten enough that day for a healthy diet. It also calculates the number of carbohydrates, protein and fat in the foods you eat and lets you know if you are over or under the amount you should eat that day. Moreover, on the report section of the site, you can find out about how much calcium, sodium and vitamins you are eating.
Makes You Pay Attention to What You Eat
After using My Fitness Pal for one week and I could tell this was going to work for me because it reminds me not to put something in my mouth without paying attention to how many calories are in it. Moreover, because I do have to put those calories down in my diary, I am motivated to eat less and eat better.
There are some low-calorie foods that I do like and which fill me up, like squash and cereal. Rather than eating a cookie for dessert, I'm having some cheerios with a few marshmallows and raisins. The calories may be the same, but the food values are better and I feel full. Moreover, I think that part of the way that I discipline myself to eat better is to avoid getting used to regularly eating foods that are very sweet and full of fat.
Teaches Teens About Food Choices
I think my daughter has gotten even more than I have out of the program. She really didn't know as much as I did about how many calories were in different foods. It was really helpful for me to have her discover this for herself.
As a teenager, she doesn't want her mom nagging her about what she eats. Nor does she really want me to tell her how many calories are in her bowl of ice cream. With My Fitness Pal, I don't have to say anything. She discovers it for herself, and by knowing what she is eating, she can make better choices.
I feel that I've finally found a way to teach her the skills of managing her own eating so that she will be able to develop good habits. Perhaps most helpful for her is the exercise portion. She is in a team sport and frequently has heavy workouts. The exercise diary will help her to determine how many calories she can consume after those workouts and still maintain her weight.
There are no "forbidden foods" to crave, but I have to eat small portions. Another thing I've done is not deny myself any particular food. If there is something that I really want to eat, I take just a very small piece to get the taste of it. I had about three Cheetos at a party. Yesterday, I ate four honey roasted cashews. After I ate them, I felt satisfied and enjoyed the taste in my mouth.
I am learning to eat only when I'm really hungry. In particular, I'm trying to pay close attention to whether I actually feel hungry. If I do feel hungry, then I eat something, but I try to eat something like a vegetable or fruit first, to see if that satisfies me. In the Texas heat, I've also noticed that I need to drink a lot of liquids, especially water. Sometimes, I think that what I think is hunger comes from not having enough to drink. My Fitness Pal has you track the number of glasses of water you drink during the day, which is a good reminder.
Encourages Me to Exercise More
I've continued my regular exercise program and enjoyed being able to enter my workouts into the exercise portion of the program. However, I'm noticing that because I am keeping an exercise log, it encourages me to do more exercise during my daily routine. Besides working out at the gym, I'm looking for opportunities to walk the dog or lift my hand weights for a few minutes at home. I'm even doing some of those sit-up exercises that I keep on putting off!
In My Fitness Pal, after you burn calories through exercise you are given those calories to eat. However, I've decided that if I'm not hungry for more, I won't use up those calories. For the past week, I've basically just eaten the 1,800 calories the program says I should eat in order to lose one pound a week.
Today, I went to weigh myself after one week of following the program. I'd lost two pounds! That is exactly what the program predicted I should lose based on my diet and exercise. Now, I'm an old hand at dieting and know that you can't expect to lose a lot of weight consistently. In addition, I know that the first pounds are the easiest and fastest to lose. Nevertheless, I'm very motivated to continue this program because I can see how this can become a way for me to not only lose the weight but keep it off. If I continue to follow the food diary even after I reach my ideal weight, then I won't ever have one of those times when I suddenly weight ten pounds more than I'd realized.
Keeps You Accountable
My Fitness Pal lets you invite other people to hear about your progress. So far, my daughter, my husband and a friend of his have joined up. A friend you invite to join does not learn your weight or what you are eating each day, but they do hear when you have finished your exercise goals and recorded in your food diary. They also hear about when you lose weight. I like the fact that I can be accountable to other people but not have to share all of my daily ups and downs unless I want to do that.
Lots of weight loss programs are out there that cost a lot of money. This one doesn't cost anything if you use it online. If you want the phone app, that is quite inexpensive. The only other equipment you really need is a scale to weigh yourself and a measuring tape.
The only other thing you may want to purchase is a kitchen scale to help you measure your food. Although you can use just pre-packaged foods, you often can eat more when you make things yourself.
If you want a program that can help you with a lifestyle of good food and exercise choices, then My Fitness Pal might be the one for you. I'm grateful for a chance to reach my weight and health goals. Hopefully, I'll be back to update my progress!
One Month Update
After one month of using My Fitness Pal, I've lost 9 pounds! I've been exercising about an hour a day but not using all the calories I "earned" from exercise, so that is where the extra weight loss has come from. Actually, I haven't lost any weight for about one week, so I know that my body is stabilizing at this weight right now. Having dieted before, I know that I often will lose the first few pounds pretty quickly but then have to fight the rest of the weight off pound by pound. That's OK because I keep on reminding myself that I'm not "dieting" but changing my lifestyle of eating so that I will be at my chosen weight for the rest of my life.
I'm not sure how many pounds my daughter has lost, but what I've definitely noticed is that she is making much better choices in her foods. She has also voluntarily branched out to try foods she wouldn't touch before.
One interesting thing is that because I'm buying foods that are healthier and contain fewer calories, my younger daughter and son have also lost some weight without doing any particular diet. I'm realizing now how my own eating choices can help or hurt the family as a whole. So I'm encouraged to keep it up! I'll report again next month!
Two Month Update
I knew that I had lost a little too quickly in the first month, and so since it is my goal to do this as a lifestyle and not just a quick weightloss/regain program, I stopped my daily recording on My Fitness Pal and just kept track of my eating on my own. Basically, after recording my meals for a month, I now know how many calories I'm taking in on most meals. I was worried that I might gain weight but knew I could go back to the recording if I needed to do that. At the end of the month, I'd lost 3 more pounds, or a total of 12 so far. I'm really pleased with my progress and feel like I can keep it up. I've decided to chart my goals. I think over the holidays, I'll plan to keep to about 3 pounds a month goal. Then after that, I will probably go back to a daily record and shoot for losing 5 pounds a month. I'll let you know how it goes!
Three Month Update
I had a thyroid operation two years ago, and when I went to my regular annual check-up my weight was 14 pounds down from last year. I figured that my doctor would be pleased, but actually, she was mad at me and kept on asking if I really was trying to lose weight. She was wondering if I had developed diabetes or something. I had to assure her that I was actually working hard to lose weight! She told me that even 5 pounds can affect my thyroid medicine, so I need to keep on getting checked while I'm losing weight, so that was good to know. I really hadn't felt different, but she said my thyroid levels were up. So she adjusted my medicine and is having me go back to two-month check-ups. Over the holidays, I have kept to My Fitness Pal meals most of the time, but I do let myself have some desserts and favorite treats. When I have a treat, though, I try to not overindulge, but just have a small slice or a couple of bites. I've also adjusted some of our favorite dishes by changing them to lower fat, lower calorie taste-alike (like turkey sausage rather than regular).
Four Month Update
I was pretty nervous at doing a weigh-in. After all, I had missed some of my exercise days because my kids had various Christmas programs and activities. Moreover, I had been doing a lot of Christmas baking. So I was very excited to find that I had actually lost one more pound--for a total of 15 pounds lost so far! Best of all is that I had been able to keep up my weight loss without feeling that I was missing out on all the holiday foods. I've not really been hungry or deprived. I need to put some of my meal plans and food exchanges in another article.
Five Month Update
First major weight goal accomplished! I'm now at the lowest weight I've been in over 10 years! I'm really noticing when I exercise that my knees don't hurt as much. Furthermore, I'm finding that I'm able to exercise harder and longer, which feels great! I'm 51 but feel better than I did in my 40s. My doctor was very impressed that I'd lost two more pounds over the holidays. She says my thyroid level is great now. By the way, since starting on My Fitness Pal, I've been cooking better for the whole family and everyone is eating better and everyone that has wanted to has also lost weight. My husband and son are now at their goal weight. My daughter and I are still working toward ours.
Six Month Update
I've now lost half of the total weight I need to lose to enter the "normal" range in the weight category! So, I'm half-way to my goal. I've decided to give myself another full year to reach that final goal. I know the last half of losing is the hardest. I'd love to get there sooner, but I want to make sure I can stay there too. My daughter now has an iTouch, so she is enjoying using the app, which makes My Fitness Pal go faster.
Seven Month Update
So far I've lost 18 pounds. I haven't lost anything this month and even went up a few pounds again, which was discouraging. I hadn't really been eating a lot more, but I had not always paid attention to the number of calories in what I was eating--to make sure I was really on track. So I went back to the basics and got those pounds back off. I have 20 more to go from here and am going to give myself a full year to do that. My daughter has lost 10 pounds. My husband is at his goal weight, and the lowest weight he has been at since our marriage 19 years ago.
One Year Update
I am so grateful to My Fitness Pal for helping me start my weight loss journey. Even though I found that I was not able to get down to my goal weight during the year, I know that I have a foundation for better eating habits and realized that maintaining a weight loss over a period of time is also an important goal and My Fitness Pal has helped me do that.
Reginald Thomas on September 27, 2017:
Great article. Nicely put together and good info that I appreciate. Cudos!
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on September 20, 2017:
Larry--good for you! Keep up the good work. Thanks for sharing your story.
Larry Fish on September 20, 2017:
What works best for me is determination. Quite a few years ago I ate at fast food places often and I drank around 6 or 7 cans of soda a day. I had balooned up to 248 pounds and bending over to tie my shoes was impossible. I quit eating at fast food places and changed from drinking soda to drinking water. In 6 months I lost 45 pounds.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on June 24, 2017:
Oscarlites--I have relatives who have struggled for many years with more serious weight problems than I have ever faced. They have been part of my motivation to be as healthy as I can myself, and to try to help other people know they can do it too!
Oscar Jones from Monroeville, Alabama on June 24, 2017:
-with a smile like that, you are a winner already. If you were paid for your smiles, you would be rich. I like good food, and probably don't eat as well as I should, but I am glad there is an app for people to use. my sister who is passed already really struggled and I wish something had been there for her. good hub!
Sonia Sylart from UK on May 15, 2017:
Well done you - with attaining and maintaining a healthy weight over all this time and for sharing what worked for you.
Kelly A Burnett from United States on December 08, 2014:
Hitting middle age is horrible for my waistline. Wonderful hub with detailed insights. I am so proud of you and your dedication. Way to go girl! Congrats! Dedication I can handle, it is the brownies that keep calling me!
My latest fitness goal is to recognize that sugar (even the sugar in those gorgeous brownies) is an inflammatory that causes my joints to ache.
It is funny how everything is so connected in our bodies. The sensitivity of the thyroid shouldn't surprise me but it affirms the mantra that we are what we eat.
Great hub and very motivational. Thank you so much for sharing!
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on October 06, 2014:
Sara--so glad to hear about your progress! I think that there are a lot of very good apps that can help a person to manage their exercise and eating. I have now been down to where I need to be for 3 years, and having some sort of accountability like MyFitnessPal or another app helps a lot. I also use a watch that counts my steps and keeps me active.
Sara on October 06, 2014:
Your experience sounds awesome. I didn’t hear about „my fitness pal“ yet but it seems to be pretty similar to Yazio.
Until now I have used this app (https://www.yazio.com) to get to a healthier life and it worked out. I lost 20 pounds within two month, changed my eating habits and I feel great now.
At first I was really sceptical but am finally convinced, because it is so easy to use and really makes fun.
It would be exciting to hear more from your experiences and progresses.
Candy on April 21, 2013:
I love my fitness pal I used it to lose my baby weight after my daughter was born and I lost 17 pounds in 2 months and only have 3 more pounds to go! Awesome app.
Kirkbug10 on March 28, 2013:
This DEFINITELY works! I'm 13 and I've lost 45 pounds!!!
theslimdude on March 18, 2013:
I would say that My Fitness Pal is awesome, it helps me count calories in food I eat and this way I manage to keep myself slim!!!
kasey on February 08, 2013:
this will help im trying it out thanks for ur help
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on January 18, 2013:
Thanks Jada for your information. I have not used the social aspect of this app myself. I just tracked my own fitness, weight and food goals. Since using MyFitnessPal, I have realized there are a lot of other apps out there which do similar things, and I also used a program called Naturally Slim (see my review) which has a monitored social support system. To get those last pounds off, I found that I did need help and more nutritional instruction, so Naturally Slim was great for me. I got it free from my company but you can join yourself. Unlike MyFitnessPal, it isn't free, but for me the $300 or so cost would have been well worth it. I'd love to hear of other programs people have used. I'd like to review some of them.
jada on January 18, 2013:
I would not advise using this app if you are looking for community support. People are rude and would rather argue and become stalkers than to give support. I would definitely not tell a young person to use it people have enough issues with bullies in life. If you just use it to track your food and weigh in for your own personal accountability then that's good. This is my experience as well as hundreds of others on fitness pal. I deleted my acct. there and found other places more user and community friendly.
John on December 05, 2012:
Myfitnesspal works! I used it to lose 80lbs and am still losing weight. It's a great tool to know exactly what is going in your body and to know your limits. The first two days will be rough but after that it's a breeze.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on October 30, 2012:
Amber--Thanks for your comment. I'm so glad MyFitnessPal has helped you to lose the weight over the last year! I've kept my 20 lbs. off for over a year and recently have lost another 19 (still working on it) pounds using another weight loss program through my work, Naturally Slim. Even though my hub was written last year, I still get at least 50 people viewing it every day, so I encourage other people to tell their stories.
I was not aware that MFP was not allowed for teens and I can certainly understand why based on your information. I actually think that MFP sets very reasonable weight loss goals and does a good job in telling a person reasonable body weight information. Thanks for letting us know about Sparkteens--I will certainly check that out.
Amber on October 30, 2012:
I know this is old but just in case someone else stumbles across it:
I've been using MFP for just over a year and have lost 30 lbs. It's very easy and I highly recommend it. However teens are not allowed to use it until they turn 18. The reasoning is that adolescent bodies can't necessarily be treated the same as adults. Also teens have so many sources telling them they need to diet and be thin it can lead to serious body image issues and eating disorders. Most of the time when we do get a teen on the site she'll be eating about 800 calories. I have heard that Sparkteens is a good place for teenagers to go if they want a similar program.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on August 02, 2012:
Wow Kayscharping! That is such terrific news. I really think that MyFitnessPal gives us power over what we eat. Thanks so much for sharing this!
Kayscharping on August 02, 2012:
I have been using myfitnesspal religiously seven days a week since February and have lost 70 pounds. I believe tracking food intake is the way to go!
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on July 24, 2012:
Gilbert, that's wonderful! Congratulations! Thanks for stopping by to encourage us!
Gilbert on July 24, 2012:
I've lost 80 lbs on this app!!! It really works.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on July 09, 2012:
Great Lisa! I think knowledge is power!
lisa lee on July 09, 2012:
I just added my fitness to my phone and really am able to see where my calories are coming from. It makes eating sensibly a little easier!
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on June 10, 2012:
Miyoshi--Thanks so much for stopping by to tell us. That is a lot of pounds to lose in a short amount of time. In general, I think MyFitnessPal recommends just 1 to 1 1/2 pounds a week weightloss. What I think is really helpful about the program is that it puts you in control of things and helps educate each person about how many calories they are putting in and (through exercise!) taking off! Congratulations!
Miyoshi on June 09, 2012:
It absolutely works!!! I loss 23lbs in a month and a half. Following the set calories along with light exercise will give you amazing results.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on February 04, 2012:
I certainly hope this works for you! One thing that you can't get away from is the fact that we have control over every thing that goes into our mouths! I think that My Fitness Pal makes us have to take ownership of that, and that is why it can work if we also make a decision to eat the right things!
gluten-free-page from U.S on February 03, 2012:
I'M definaltely adding it to my list of apps..I have so many useless one..lets see if this works for me.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on February 02, 2012:
So good to hear from someone else who has used it. You are absolutely right--any weight loss program requires that we actually use it!
Reddtif on February 01, 2012:
I have been using my fitness pal on and off for about 9 months and when it's done consistently, it really does work. Great article!
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on January 30, 2012:
I wish you all the best jabez3!
jabez3 on January 29, 2012:
"Sometimes, I think that what I think is hunger comes from not having enough to drink." I have wondered this myself. Great hub. Keep up the good work in losing weight. I am also on this same mission.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on January 24, 2012:
Thanks Egrind! Good luck on your own wellness goals!
Egrind from washington dc on January 24, 2012:
This Hub is an incredible wealth of information for fitness and weightloss thanks
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on January 22, 2012:
I am glad to hear this helped you. Ultimately, we can only lose weight one day at a time and the choice is ours. But I have been very encouraged by this site. What I've done is find some foods that I really like which are lower calorie substitutes. For instance, I found a bread that is just 50 calories a slice but lookes just like a regular slice (not one of those too skinny ones!). I found that 2 eggs, 2 pieces turkey bacon and two slices of toast (with no fat butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar) are a great breakfast. I don't feel deprived at all, and it gives me a break from cereal. I think I need to write some hubs on diet foods!
Liebe Das Leben from Buckeye, AZ on January 22, 2012:
Fantastic! You know I checked this site out once before, but didn't give too much thought into it( I was already bombarded by so many other sites); however, after reading your article I think I will take a closer look and give it a try. Thank you for sharing your story, hopefully I will be back to share mine as well.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on January 19, 2012:
You can check out the online version (which is free) to see if it supports the foods you eat. I was actually surprised that many of the local foods I buy were on it. Thanks so much for providing the link to one in the UK. Actually, I think that the main thing in losing weight is getting into some sort of system where we pay attention to what we put into our mouths!
naturalsolutions on September 18, 2011:
I think each of us has their own appropriate way in losing weight. It depends on their body'd metabolism and really needs a strong admiration to get a slim body.
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on August 25, 2011:
Thanks Jeff! I especially appreciate your comments about using it as an app. I'm realizing that I've finally found something that I'd like to be able to use on an app! I like that I don't have to put in all my own items also, but I'm thinking now that I may use that section which does let you put in some of your own meals, so that I can save time. I do tend to eat some of the same things all the time.
Jeff on August 25, 2011:
I like their mobile apps - I have an Android phone and an iPad, and I can update my diary from an app on either device. The beauty of "the cloud" is that all my changes follow me from my desktop to my phone to my iPad. I also love that the user community has already uploaded a lot of food items and exercise activities. If I'm in a hurry, I just choose a predefined item. If I'm feeling picky, I sit down and define my own. Very flexible! Great write-up, Virginia! From now on, I'm going to introduce folks to MyFitnessPal by forwarding them this article.