Research shows that one of the best ways to stick to a diet and lose weight is to keep track of what you are eating and how active you are. In fact, this research found that people who tracked their diet lost double the amount of weight of people who kept no records at all.
My Fitness Pal is essentially an online calorie counter and food diary that allows you to keep track of what you have eaten, how much exercise you’ve done, and how many calories you’ve consumed. It’s main advantage is that it comes with a convenient and easy to use Smart Phone app that is available on Android and iPhone that means you can complete your diary on the go with full access to the calorie counting database. The app even includes a bar code scanner so that you can simply scan the back of your sandwich packet and see it instantly added to your diary.
The Plus Side
The site and app are free. There’s no one off fee, and no monthly subscription.
The smart phone app makes tracking your food and exercise easy and quick and means you won’t forget things you’ve eaten by the end of the day.
Graphs are available on the app which allow you to see the nutritional make up of your diet and the average number of calories consumed over the last week, which enables you to balance a “bad” day with a “good” day by keeping an eye on your average intake.
The calorie database is very extensive and has calorie values for major chains as well as basic foods. This means that you can normally easily find the calorie value for a food or it’s equivalent no matter where you might end up eating.
The site is community based, though it’s up to you if you participate in this side of it. You can allow others access to your food diary who might be able to give you nutritional advice if you’re having problems with your weightloss.
The Down Side
The food database is community maintained and any foods you add go into the database and are searchable by others. This can mean that calorie values of the foods you find aren’t always accurate and you need to be careful to pick the right one as there can be duplicates of the same food with different portion sizes and incorrect calorie values.
The site is merely a diet tracker, so while it gives recommendations on a daily calorie level it makes no judgement calls on the content of your diet. Although this isn’t really it’s job it does occasionally give you little motivational messages congratulating you on being under your calories, for instance, or warning you when you have eaten too few calories. This could mean the site would potentially be congratulating you on eating only chocolate today. Not really nutritionally sound.
There is also no guidance on appropriate nutritional balances given, so while you can see the percentage of your diet that is made of fat, you have no idea of what an ideal percentage should be.
The app gives you a guideline weight loss when you complete a daily diary. This often seems very low and could prompt some people to cut their calories even further in an attempt to speed up weight loss.
What Do I Think?
My Fitness Pal is convenient, and free. It’s easy to use and has a huge database of foods. I use it every day at the moment and I think as long as you’re sensible and don’t necessarily pay too much attention to it’s weight loss predictions it’s an excellent tool to track your calorie intake.