Does My Fitness Pal Work?
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 3 months and kept it off for a year.
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 2017: Over six 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, do the elliptical machines and weights. 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 which works for you.
I'd love it if you would share your weight loss journey with us in the comments. What are your best weight loss tips?
Which type of diet works best for you?
My Experience Using 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 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 40, 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 which lets you scan items you eat. We don't have a phone that does that, but I discovered that My Fitness Pal is available as a free online program.
Maggie 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 hub 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.
Why the Program Works
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 which are very sweet and full of fat.
Another Successful User Review
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.
Which type of exercise do you do most often?
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. If you don't have a good digital scale, you might want to invest in a new Eat Smart.
After reading a number of reviews, I ordered one for myself because it is reasonably priced, yet durable and accurate. I love this scale. Unlike other scales I've had in the past, this one actually measures my weight as well as my doctor's office scale. Moreover, it measures the same each time you step on it, so I can't cheat by moving my feet to a different position! The EatSmart keeps me on track and honest about my daily food choices. I know that once I reach my goal, I can be sure to keep my eating on track by checking my weight each week.
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.
My Favorite Dieting TipsClick thumbnail to view full-size
My Experience with My Fitness Pal
If you want a program which 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 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 for 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 have about 35 pounds more to go.
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 because 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 on another hub.
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 in better shape than I think I was 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 also lost weight. My husband and son are now at their goal weights. 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 in order 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 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. I actually wasn't even brave enough to look at the charts when I first started on My Fitness Pal because I was afraid I would be too discouraged. Here is one chart in case you want to try to figure out your goal weight:
It is from a medical center and also lets you calculate your BMI
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.