Those of you who follow Sane Momma know that I recently decided to make some lifestyle changes in regard to my health. When it comes to diet and exercise, I either obsess over the details or I fall off the wagon. I can never seem to find the middle ground, which is likely why I have always struggled to make any lasting changes. Luckily, I have finally mastered the art of counting calories without obsessing.
Why is counting calories important?
I used to think that counting calories was only for extreme athletes, supermodels and the morbidly obese. When I was younger, I would just take a break from my Funyuns and Dr. Pepper for a bit and the 5 pounds I needed to lose would be gone. Ah, to be young.
I finally started taking weight loss seriously when I realized that I was 20 pounds heavier than I wanted to be and I was getting married. Getting rid of the junk food only gotten me so far. I had grown accustom to large portions and honestly had no idea what I was consuming. The truth is, monitoring your calories, both the quantity and the quality, is the only way to know what you are putting in your body. As an added bonus, being more aware of what you consume is often a good motivator for positive change.
Want to follow me on my weight loss journey? Check out My 16 Week Weight Loss Plan
Counting Calories Without Obsessing: The Tool that Changed Everything.
When I started the process of losing weight for my wedding, I evaluated a few different options. I absolutely love journaling (and have more notebooks than I know what to do with) so writing things down seemed like a good option. This didn’t pan out well for me. While I was diligent about writing down every last detail, it was hard for me to really see what a day looked like when all was said and done, let alone a week or month.
I decided to go the electronic route. I downloaded and attempted to use a few different apps on my iPhone, most of which were not very intuitive and made the process of inputting data take even longer than writing. Everything changed when I found…
My Fitness Pal
My Fitness Pal prides itself on being the fastest, easiest to use calorie counter app. Not only do I agree with that statement, but I just have to add that there is so much more than calorie counting available within this app. My Fitness Pal is the number one tool for weight loss in my book and my diet and exercise plan (Read More) would be a disaster without it. (Note: I am not being paid by My Fitness Pal to write this post – this is purely my opinion about a great product)
What can you do with My Fitness Pal?
Keep a Food Diary
Counting Calories is a breeze with My Fitness Pal. Why? First off, entering calories is incredibly fast thanks to three things.
The Food Database
The My Fitness Pal Food Database never ceases to amaze me. Just when I think I’ve found something that it won’t already have, it pops right up! Rather than having to enter each tiny detail about your food, you can simply search for the item (usually by the brand and item name), select the quantity, and viola! If there is something that doesn’t come up in your search (or you want to customize the serving size, etc.) you do still have the option of manually entering an item as well.
The Barcode Scanner
Coolest invention ever. When my husband and I started our weight loss venture, we were both working. We bought a lot of pre-made healthy meals. All we had to do when were done was scan the barcode on the package. Whenever I am cooking a meal at home, I can use this for most of the ingredients. The standard data for meat and produce in the My Fitness Pal Database is pretty easy to find in the search since those usually don’t have a barcode. Not only does it speed things up but you know you’re definitely entering the right item.
Meals and Recipes
This might be my favorite thing about the My Fitness Pal app these days. Now that I am a Stay at home mom, I cook most of our meals from scratch. We also eat a lot of the same meals, as I am new to the world of cooking. Whenever I make a new recipe, I can go into My Fitness Pal and create it. If I found the recipe online (I usually do) I can import it and it will try to find the ingredients in the database for me. One or two items usually have to be tweaked a bit but for the most part it gets it right. I can also select my own serving size based on my husband and I’s eating habits. Now, when we eat that recipe, I can easily add it to my food diary without having to enter each ingredient.
The Meals feature is similar to Recipes. I like to use Meals for things like a salad. I often make salad for dinner and it has about 100 different ingredients, some of which vary from night to night. Once I’ve entered all the items into my food diary, I can save that particular meal. Next time we have salad, I can copy that meal to my diary. The nice thing about this feature is that I can easily remove and ingredient if we changed things up – something that you can’t do with a recipe.
Maybe it’s the obsessive side of me, but I just think this section is so cool. At the bottom of your daily food diary in My Fitness Pal, there is an option to view the nutrition for that day. In this section you can view your calorie breakdown by meal, the detailed nutrition for your day (like a nutrition label) and, my absolute favorite section, macros! For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, macros refers to macronutrients. This is essentially the percentage breakdown of your protein, fat and carbohydrate ratio for the day.
Now that I am on the keteogenic diet (low carb, high fat) this is huge for me! If I look at my macros at lunch time and see that I am a little higher on carbs than I want to be, I will try to add a little protein or fat to my dinner. The Macros section also provides some relief when I go over on my allotted calories for the day. If I went over by 100 calories, but my carbohydrates are on the low side, I try not to obsess over the exact calorie count.
Not only has My Fitness Pal mastered the art of counting calories, it even accounts for your daily exercise. Within your My Fitness Pal diary, you can enter your exercise information. This could be cardio or strength training; however, My Fitness Pal will only account for calories burned if it is a cardio activity. My personal trick: Within the cardio section, you can select strength training as an option. This allows you to reduce your calories by an estimated amount of calories burned in a strength training workout; however, if you want to use My Fitness Pal to track exact exercises that you did (sets and reps included) you can do so in the strength category. I do both!
What’s the best part about losing weight?? Seeing your progress! This can come in the form of looking in the mirror or stepping on the scale, but the most satisfying for me is to literally see a chart mapping my progress over time. The Progress tab on My Fitness Pal has options for viewing your progress in regard to weight, steps, body measurements, body fat percentage and more. For me, weight is the most productive chart, especially now that they have added photos! I can see my before and after at each stage. It is simply fantastic. When I am having an off day, I simply look to my progress tab for motivation.
My Fitness Pal partners with dozens of other apps, allowing you to even further customize your experience. My personal favorites have been Fit Bit (daily steps added to my exercise), Ovia Fertility and Ovia Pregnancy. Others really enjoy the multiple options available for running and cycling. My Fitness Pal even works with the Apple Health App for those of you with an iPhone.
So I know you’re probably eager to jump in and get started, but if there is one thing I recommend the most before you actually start using My Fitness Pal for Counting Calories, it is to set up your goals. Make sure you have entered your current stats, along with your weight and exercise goals. You can also customize your calorie and macronutrient goals, as well as specific nutrient goals.
My Fitness Pal is a free app, and the free version can do everything I have already touched on. But for those looking to take things a step further, the My Fitness Pal Premium Version is amazing. My Fitness Pal states that Premium Users are 36% more likely to reach their weight loss goals, and I believe it. With the Premium version you can really hone in on your eating habits.
You can set calorie goals and view macronutrients by meal, instead of for the entire day. Or determine different goals for different days of the week. You can see exactly which foods are contributing to the positive or negative factors in your diet. If you want to track your cardio without affecting your calorie goal for the day, you can do that too. Not to mention, you get access to a wealth of exclusive content, only available to premium subscribers. If you are big into the exercise side of things, the premium version even has food timestamps that help you see how when you eat impacts your energy levels and your workouts.
Regardless of your current fitness level, My Fitness Pal is by far the most effective and enjoyable tool for counting calories. Whether you need to lose a few pounds, put on some muscle, or gain weight for health reasons, you can monitor and track every detail within My Fitness Pal. I even used it when I was pregnant even though weight loss was clearly not my goal at that time. In a time when health awareness is a growing concern, My Fitness Pal brings light to our eating habits, and motivates us to make the changes necessary to live a healthy lifestyle.
Join me on My 16 Week Weight Loss Plan!
Want to download the My Fitness Pal App?
Have YOU used My Fitness Pal? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
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