When my friend Alison lost 7 lbs in one month using My Fitness Pal, I decided to try it.
Right away I saw the utility.
I realized I had no clue how many calories I was actually eating per day…OR how often I “forgot” I ate something. Logging my intake and learning caloric values also helped me make better choices.
For example, seeing ¼-cup of almonds has the same calories as 2 CUPS of blueberries? WOW.
All good things. I NEEDED to learn portion sizes. I NEEDED to get honest and hold myself accountable.
But then this practice took a less helpful turn, I started checking My Fitness Pal to see how many calories I had left. In order to justify eating, typically junk not on my meal plan, and often when I wasn’t even hungry.
“Oh I have 50 calories left? Better go eat something!”
“I have 200 calories left? I can eat a vegan COOKIE!”
I started reintroducing foods I’d sworn off, and fell back into poor habits and varying degrees of self-sabotage. ALL because My Fitness Pal gave me a false sense of security, and the “justification” or “excuse” I was seeking.
Eventually, I stopped losing weight (and then I started to GAIN it back). This was INCREDIBLY FRUSTRATING to me because what had been working so well now suddenly wasn't.
AND according to My Fitness Pal, I wasn't “going over my calories”
So why the heck wasn't I losing?
I then obsessively counted until I couldn't stand it any longer. I decided to stop tracking and just follow the meal plans. My weight loss resumed and I felt less like a crazy person.
My Fitness Pal definitely illuminated some bad habits (AND it was a great teaching tool), but I started using My Fitness Pal in an unhealthy way which ultimately led to some backtracking.
It’s a fine line and you can accidentally cross it without knowing it.
(I know I did.)
Looking back I'm glad I stopped...
Not just for my sanity but also because I don't want to count for life. You can't “count” calories with any sort of exactness anyway. Not only is it hard to really know how many calories are in an apple, but food labels can be off by as much as 10%. Some foods even use fewer calories to “digest”, leaving savings or expenditures on the backend that throw the whole “counting” thing off. Like those rats whose calories stayed exactly the same but gained weight when researchers puffed their kibble making them less chewy. (See episode 2 of the Shortcut to Slim podcast for more info here.)
I needed to stop the math game I was playing with My Fitness Pal. The meal plans taught me about portions in a REAL way. They showed me what a satisfying meal looks like—what kind of foods must be balanced.
HOW TO EAT PROPERLY.
Health and weight loss is so much more than a numbers game.
My Fitness Pal can help in the same way training wheels can help you ride a bike, but at some point you have to take the next step.
Maybe My Fitness Pal was the training wheels and you're ready for the next step. (I still think it’s a good way to start).