Wednesday, 24 July 2013

MyFitnessPal and Fitbit, my favourite tools for healthy eating

I'm no fan of diets. I've got some friends who've been on very succesful diets and kept the weight off, but on the whole they seem to be part of a seesaw process where I see people lose weight, put it back on (and more) and the process starts again.

I've had a Fitbit for almost a year, which I love. It tracks my daily activity levels and tells me if I'm not getting enough sleep (see my review here) but I was aware that it was only part of the story. Without monitoring what I put into my body, how could I be sure that I was active enough to maintain my weight, or indeed reduce it?

That was where MyFitnessPal came in. It's a free food diary app, and put simply, it's brilliant. You key in a few bits of profile information, whether you want to maintain your weight or lose a pound or two a week and it tells you how many calories you should be eating. You can either look up what you eat in the database or scan the barcode. You can even copy meals from day to day if you tend to eat the same things. Admittedly you have to weigh what you eat, but that's the only complication. Now for the really smart bit. I can also link my Fitbit to MyFitnessPal. My Fitbit reports now not only tell me how many calories I'm burning each day, but also how many I'm taking in. I've always been the sort of person that needs to know how things work in order to get my head around them. This is what's so brilliant about this combination. I can see exactly what I need to do to get the result I want. If you don't have a Fitbit, you can just input your daily activites straight into MyFitnessPal. Since linking up the two apps I've lost 12lbs and it's been painless. I don't see this as a diet, just a lifestyle choice to balance what energy I burn with the food I eat. I'm no gym bunny but I walk a fair bit at weekends, equally I've had a couple of blow outs, but I'm honest with myself, put the sad facts into MyFitnessPal and then at least I know what I'll see when I step onto the scales at the end of the week, as I have this information at my fingertips. It means that if I'm having a bad week foodwise, I make sure I go out for a long walk. Equally, if I'm stuck to my desk all week and not walking much, I just watch what I eat a bit more carefully.
Screenshot from Fitbit dashboard

MyFitnessPal circulated this infographic earlier in the week, it's clearly propaganda, but it still makes for interesting reading. Food diaries always seem to be highly ranked in methods people use to sucessfully lose weight. MyFitnessPal just makes that process a little easier. It's also interesting to see how other people are using the app and what they find works for them.

Facts and figures about MyFitnessPal
If you use MyFitnessPal or Fitbit, I'd love to hear what you think of them or if you have any tips or other recommendations.

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