Every so often, I'll look in a full length mirror which kick starts a phase of wanting to lose a few pounds, eating healthily and doing exercise. This happened again recently and I had also gotten an iPhone so I went on a search of an app that could aid me in trying to lose some weight which is how I found 'MyFitnessPal'.
MyFitnessPal is a tool used to keep track of how many calories you consume during the day as well as how many you burn off to help users lose or gain weight. I have used something like this before, but it wasn't as easy to use as this app has been.
How To Use It
To start off, you make your profile. It prompts you to fill in details about your gender, height, weight, what kind of lifestyle your lead (if you're on your feet a lot or not) and what your weight loss or weight gain goal is as well as how many pounds you would like to lose/gain a week. This is very easy to complete and doesn't ask too many questions about measurements so you can get started on keeping track of your calories straight away.
You are then taken to your diary where you can add what you've eaten or what exercise you've done each day. To add an item to your day, you tap 'add' at the top right hand corner and this takes you to another screen where you can add what you've eaten (split up into breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks), what exercise you've done (cardiovascular or strength), how much water you've drank and you can also add notes on your food and exercise. It's fairly easy to add something to your day as you can search for foods as well as use the barcode scanner to scan an item.
Along the top of your diary, there are 5 different numbers in relation to your calories; goal, food, exercise, net and remaining. Your goal is how much calories you wish to take in each day, 'food' is how many calories you've eaten, 'exercise' is how many calories have been burned, 'net' is how many calories you've taken in minus how many you've burned and 'remaining' is how many calories you have left - this will either be green or red depending on where you're under or over your goal for the day.
When you've completed your day, you click 'complete this entry' at the bottom of the screen and this will take you to a screen which tells you your project weight loss or gain as well as a little note if you're not taking in enough calories.
What I Like About It
I think this is a great tool for me to lose a bit of weight, as I often feel I eat too much. It's made me realise how much I eat as well as what I eat. I was a bit shocked to find that almost half my calorie intake for the day was due to snacks like chocolate, juice and crisps. It also made me realise how many calories are in my favourite fizzy juices which I'd always assumed were calorie free. I enjoy seeing what I've eaten that day and it's made me change what I eat as well as instead of having a bar of chocolate, I can have multiple pieces of fruit instead.
I also like that it tells you how many calories you have (or haven't) got left. So far, I've not been able to keep this green or even at zero as I'm still trying to adjust my eating so I'm not hungry. I feel that it's a great motivator though and if it does turn red, you can do a little exercise to make it go green again. I have to admit though, that this is something I've just realised as before when it went red, I would just feel I've failed for the day but now I see that it's not the end as I can always turn it back through exercise.
I also like that it takes exercise into account too as I always feel diets focus a lot on lowering the amount of calories you eat rather than being able to eat a healthy amount as well as exercising to burn off a few calories. So, if you do want to have a cheeky doughnut - you can, as long as you go out a run or do an exercise DVD to burn it off.
I've found that there are so many foods already listed on this app, that I rarely ever have to add my own which is great if you're on the go. Even then, if I do have to add it in, it's really easy and straight forward to do and takes a matter of seconds. You can also easily add recipes and it will calculate the nutritional values for you. These are then saved, so if you have a favourite recipe (or a low-calorie-go-to recipe when you've had to many Wispas) you can access them easily. Recent foods are also there so if you eat a lot of bananas or whatever, they are saved there so you just tap on them to add them to your day instead of searching for them.
Lastly, it is extremely easy to use. It's so quick and simple to search for your food, add it to your day and even add your own food to the database. This makes me more likely to use it as I've found in the past with weight loss aids, I've grown bored quickly of trying to work out how to use it especially if it's too complicated.
What I Don't Like About It
One of the things I've found that I don't like about this app is that I can't really tell how much exercise I've done as I tend to alternate between running and exercise DVDs. The exercise DVDs that I do have a mix of strength and cardio, so that makes it difficult to put in the right amount of calories I've done. I've also found that 'strength' exercises don't tend to burn any calories according to this which I don't really believe as you'd still burn calories if you sat doing nothing all day.
I also think it'd be good if you could look at how many vitamins, protein, fat or carbohydrates you'd taken each day but there doesn't seem to be the option to do this. Inclusion of this would turn this app from just a weight loss/gain app to a healthy lifestyle app as you could focus on trying to get more vitamins or reduce your fat intake. As I don't eat meat, it would be extremely beneficial for me to be able to see how much protein I could take in and change my eating habits to make this a healthy amount.
Although being able to search for food is extremely easy, I've found that the scanning barcodes option doesn't really work too well. I've only ever managed to scan a barcode once and even then, it thought a loaf of bread was a box of Cocopops.
How To Get The App
The app is free to download from the App Store which you can access from your iPhone. If you don't have an iPhone, visit the website to find out other ways you can access it which include from the website, on BlackBerry and other phones; http://www.myfitnesspal.com/
I really enjoy using this app and adding my food for the day and feeling proud of myself when I have 500 calories left to eat even though I've just finished my dinner, then not feeling so proud when I get into a tub of Ben & Jerrys because I'm so hungry. I am still getting used to changing how I eat, but I think this app is really helping me do this as I do realise how many calories I'm wasting on snacks. I am currently at a healthy weight, but just feel a bit unhappy with my body so have been using this app to lose a small amount of weight. So far, I've lost 1lb, which I'm happy with, but even after I've lost my desired weight, I will continue to use this as a tool to keep track of what I eat to ensure I don't eat too much crap! The app does have a few minor issues, so I am going to take one star off for them. Overall, it's a great app which I would really recommend using if you do want to lose or gain some weight.