Some further insight into my experience of using the smartphone app MyFitnessPal for weight loss.
My little experiment has been going around 6 weeks now, and here are some more observations and thoughts about how to make a success of it.
There are so many rip-off schemes and scams out there that promise quick and painless ways to lose weight. I wouldn’t personally believe any of them. The golden rule is that if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. If you want real results, you have to be prepared to put some effort in.
If you missed the first two posts in this little weight loss experiment, you can check them out here:
There’s an old saying in performance management circles “what gets measured, gets done”. Let’s see if using an app to lose weight actually works.
Nearly two weeks ago I posted that I was beginning a little weight loss experiment using the MyFitnessPal app. Let’s see how it’s working out.
It helps to take a long view, and look at your data week to week.
Of course, every day contributes to your overall progress (or lack of), but the point here is to consider the general direction of travel.
Caving in to cravings.
In practice, what this means is that sometimes you’re going to slip up and cave in to cravings and “fail” the target for the day. That’s just life.
Rather than being completely defeatist and using this as an opportunity to reach for the donuts to drown your sorrows, you should see it as a little blip. Looking at the weekly view will hopefully help.
Here’s a personal example. I was working late one night and eventually started the drive home at about 8pm. I was starving, by which I mean I had mild hunger pangs (I’m sure 99.9% of people who’ve ever said they were starving have no idea whatsoever what it really feels like to literally be starving).
Anyhoo, being a mere human, I’m sometimes open to marketing suggestions and weak moments, and as I drove down the motorway I could see that familiar little yellow M glowing in the distance.
McBlowout. I know, I’m not proud.
Pulling into the drive-in felt like I was letting myself down, not only in terms of the calorie overdose but the whole nutritional quality thing too.
I notice too, a small blip on the Friday and cannot recall what caused it. Perhaps it was an end of the week treat. But the take home point is that the weekly average is under the threshold.
These blips were merely small islands in an ocean of calorific compliance.
When viewed over the whole week, I could see that the average was still well under the goal so despite my McBlowout, I was still doing well and on track.
Hard evidence – actual weight loss.
It’s all very well thinking you’re doing well because a chart shows you’re under the threshold for weekly calorie intake.
But so what? Have you actually lost any weight?
Without this firm evidence of a proper, real world outcome, what’s the point?
Weight loss – natural ups and downs
Our mass fluctuates all the time. We’re constantly gaining or losing weight based simply on the simple fact that we all eat and drink regularly, and excrete waste (and sweat). Then there are added little complications like the way your muscles will retain water after a long ride, to aid recovery, so you might appear heavier.
What all this means is that we have to take the long view, and we should expect to see little ups and (hopefully bigger) downs.
Other observations about how to use MyFitnessPal effectively
A big challenge is the tedious monotony of recording absolutely everything.
Sure, you can scan barcodes but the irony here is that if you’re eating healthily, you’ll be eating fresh produce that doesn’t have a simple bar code. It’s easy to get really anal and start thinking about weighing all your ingredients, but who’s really got time? So, there’s always an element of approximation.
1. It therefore pays to be a little bit mean and if you’re not sure how many calories it contains, overestimate rather than underestimate.
2. Bike days became “don’t bother to record food days”. My commute is almost 20 miles each way, so within reason, I don’t need to be so careful about what I eat on days when I bike to work.
3. As time goes on and you succeed in cutting out sugary snacks, you will not crave that kind of food so much. You will have ironed out the spikes in your blood sugar levels and won’t be subjecting yourself to those awful lows which cause you to give in and reach for a chocolate bar.
What does this mean? As you lose weight, it becomes easier to maintain your daily allowance. That’s great news, right?
That’s one powerful positive feedback loop!
Final update before publishing this post: I haven’t been using the app very much at all over the past two weeks but have continued to move towards my goal. My last weight measurement was 69.5kg, but the lowest so far has been 69.1kg..
For me, getting under 70kg is when I know it’s going to feel great on the bike and those hills feel much easier (or you can just go up them faster!).
Using MyFitnessPal to count calories in order to lose weight actually works – no doubt about it. And why wouldn’t it? It’s just physics. Ok, mixed with biology… ah, science
Here’s my final screenshot showing my history of weight loss data.
So, there you have it. You can lose weight just by tracking your calorie intake using a simple (and free) mobile phone app.
I did, and you can too.
But is losing weight really that simple?
You still need motivation, will power and all those things. In short, you need to WANT to lose weight. It’s all very well knowing that an app can help, but you’ve still got to have the strength of mind to actually make it happen and resist the chocolate cake.
Please drop a comment below – what sort of things do you struggle with, in terms of sticking to something like this, and what helps you keep it going?