Those of you that know me, know I’ve been fat most of my life. I’ve also been opinionated about most things, and for the most part, my opinions are right. But on the rare occasions that I find myself to be wrong, I try to be the first to say so and correct my error.
I’ve always thought the idea of keeping a food log to lose weight was just a load of crap thought up by doctors to give you something to do besides eat. After discovering the free calorie counter website, MyFitnessPal.com by Mike Lee I am rethinking my first thought.
The site is an original creation that combines a very extensive food database with tools for logging and tracking your meals with calories and nutritional data. The learning curve is short considering the powerful tools you have to work with.
You start by recording your present weight, desired goal weight, height, age, etc. You set your weight loss goal (1 lbs per week recommended but you can increase it) and then the program calculates what you need to eat per day and breaks it down by calories, fat, carbs, proteins, etc. In fact, there are a couple of dozen different nutrients and you can track up to five of them. In addition to fat, carbohydrates, and protein, I’m watching my fiber and sodium, but if you have other medical issues, you might want to track sugar and cholesterol.
Meals are entered by searching the database for your food item, and entering the amount you eat. It fills in the calories and nutritional data. If the item is not in the database, you can add it, either as a private item or share it with the rest of the users. Also, if you have some favorite meals, you can add all the ingredients just once, and then save it as a group, or ‘meal’. So if you add 2 pieces of rye bread, a slice of ham, slice of cheese, mustard, pickles, and onion, and then save it as “Ham & Cheese Sandwich”, next time you have that meal you don’t have to build it again. This last feature is a great time saver.
By default there are 3 meals per day plus a snack, but you can have up to 6 meals if you want. I lump all my snacks under the one listing, but some may find it easier to separate them into morning snack and afternoon. You really have a lot of flexibility with the site.
In addition to food, you can also track your exercises, and like food, if you can’t find your particular exercise method listed, you can add a personal exercise. MyFitnessPal even accounts for your exercise in your daily calorie allotment and ‘adds in’ your exercise calories. While some find this confusing or even ‘cheating’, it really makes sense. If you are working out 30 minutes a day you are using more calories just to live than I am, sitting on my ass all day.
I suppose what makes the site actually work for me, is how I can plan out my whole day, and see where trouble spots might be and make changes to bring it in line, before I actually eat anything. Also, and Joannie agrees with this one, it helps you avoid snacking because you know later you’ll have to record it.
Along with the database is a user forum where users can exchange diet tips, recipes, general encouragement, and ask questions. The forum is VERY active and a post will receive answers and comments in brief minutes if not seconds most times during the day. I just checked the “Recent Posts” and in the last 37 minutes there have been 39 posts. That’s an active forum.
Similar to Facebook, there is an optional ‘friending’ feature, and once you are friends with another user, you see how they are progressing on your home page, and they see updates about you.Cindy Lou Who lost 1 pound since her last weigh in! She’s lost 6 pounds so far.
And of course her friends will post comments, way to go Cindy!! We can all use a friendly pat on the back now and then. Users can send private messages to each other with a built in email system.
There is also a simple blog system for the users who wish to use that method to talk about their successes and failures rather than, or in addition to, the forum.
The one area I’d like to see improved a bit is the reports. There are reports on calories, and fat, and proteins, and all that, but only one per report. I’d love to have a single chart showing at least the five nutrients I’m tracking. [Note: Mike Lee, the creator of MyFitnessPal.com assures me better reports are on their to do list]
Like all diet aids, this one comes with the standard disclaimers about talking to your physician before starting a diet or exercise program. I’m not really a doctor, but I play one in my mind, and my advice is to check out MyFitnessPal.com and you can thank me later.