It’s easy to remember what you had for dinner yesterday, but what if I asked you what you ate last Friday? Most of us have difficulty keeping track of our food choices. When you don’t record what you’ve eaten, it’s easy to overeat.
Recalling what you had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner is one thing, but do you remembering snacks can be problematic. Did you take one of the doughnuts that your boss bought for the office? Would you remember the late-night ice-cream binge or the post-work-week snack attack? Even if you could recall all the things you’ve eaten, you’d have a hard time remembering the size of the portion that you consumed.
Being unaware of your caloric intake can make it difficult to lose weight. Instead of identifying constructive ways to shed pounds, lots of us resort to beating ourselves up or trying to stick to a boring or restrictive diet.
You can’t solve a problem until you identify its TRUE cause
If you want to get to the root of your unhealthy habits, collect some data on yourself. By looking at precisely what you eat, you’ll be able to home in on dieting missteps that are making you unhealthy.
Think about the last time you tried to solve a problem without knowing what caused it in the first place. It’s nearly impossible to come up with a solution unless you have a clear overview of the situation. Your health and wellness is no different. By writing down exactly what you eat and how much of it you consume, you can make healthy dietary adjustments.
MyFitnessPal helps you collect the information you need
If you find the idea of keeping a food journal cumbersome, there’s a streamlined electronic food journal that can help you make informed decisions about your eating habits. MyFitnessPal is an app that enables you to record data about your meals and snacks.
Using this app is superior to other food journals because it allows you to set goals for yourself and track your choices in real time. It can project the approximate number of calories you should take in based on the information you supply.
Besides having a quick and easy way to enter meals and snacks, you’ll be able to pull from a database of over 5 million foods to find the best estimate of how many calories you’ve consumed. If you eat at a restaurant or enjoy food without a nutrition label, you can search the database to figure out the nutritional value of those items.
You can also log exercise in MyFitnessPal in order to determine how that affects your necessary intake for the day. The app is also designed to interface with wearable fitness trackers and apps so that you can sync your data to get the clearest picture about your health. If you want to make a change but can’t hire a trainer or a dietitian, this app may give you the tools to get you started on your wellness journey.
How to use MyFitnessPal’s best features
Set your calorie intake target
After you’ve created a MyFitnessPal profile, you’ll have a chance to set your health and fitness goals. Note that you can set these goals in-app or on the desktop version of the service.
On the desktop version, go to the “Goals” tab and click on “View Guided Setup” to change your goals at any time. The link will take you to a page called “Update your diet profile.”
It will give you a chance to input your weight, height, and activity level. You’ll also select if you are trying lose, gain, or maintain your weight.
After you’ve recorded that information, the app will determine the number of calories that you should consume each day to reach your goals. You can find that number by clicking on the “My Home” tab, or going to the “Goals” tab (shown below).
You can make changes to customize and refine your goals as your needs change. Checking and updating your goals on the app is simple as well. Just click on the sidebar menu and go to “Goals” to have the information in the palm of your hand.
Scan barcodes to get all the information you need
While many of the features of MyFitnessPal are accessible on the website as well as through the app, the barcode scanner is only available through your phone. In future updates, the company would like to include a manual input option for barcodes numbers, but until then, we still have our phones.
On the top left, click on the sidebar menu to show your options. Scroll down to “Diary” and click on it. Select a meal. You’ll get a screen that looks like this:
On the top right-hand side, notice the symbol that looks like a bar code. Click that symbol, which will open a scanner. Scan the barcode for the item you ate. This will load the nutrition facts for that item, which will appear like the image below.
You can adjust the serving size and number of servings to get an accurate reflection of your intake. When all of your information is correct, hit the check mark in the top right-hand corner. This action not only enters the food into your food journal, but it also subtracts the number of calories from your caloric intake goal.
With such a simple process, it’s easy to monitor your consumption and determine whether you should indulge or eat a light meal.
Check your overall statistics to see your progress
You can see how you’re doing ever day under the “Diary” tab. If you want to examine long term trends, MyFitnessPal makes that easy to do too.
To see how you’re doing over an extended period of time, go to the sidebar menu on the app. Click on the “Progress” tab.
At the top, you have the option to view your weight and designate a period of time. You can also look at measurements such as your waist, neck, or hips, by clicking on the “Weight” tab. You can adjust the period of time from one week, to several months to get a graph or your progress.
Input exercise data
MyFitnessPal syncs with fitness wearables such as the FitBit and the UA Band, but you can also sync other exercise apps to upload your data directly into MyFitnessPal.
If you don’t have wearables or fitness apps, you can also enter your exercise by hand. Input your fitness data by going to the “My Home” page on the desktop version of the site. Click on “Add Exercise” in the “Your Daily Summary” box.
You can also go directly to the “Exercise” tab to manually input your physical activity.
You’ll easily be able to consider your training routine alongside your diet. MyFitnessPal even has a database that allows you to search for your exercise if you are uncertain about the number of calories you’ve burned.
Using the app enables you to input the same information by going to “Diary” and clicking on the plus sign under “Exercise.”
After you’ve selected an exercise, it will appear under your most recently used options so that you can quickly add it again without having to search the database.
If they don’t have barcodes, search for it
By returning to the “Diary” tab on the sidebar menu of the app, you can add food under the meal or snack heading of your choice. Your favorite meals and snacks will appear so that you can add those without looking up the information, but if you’re trying something new, you can enter the item in “Search for a Food.”
If you typed in “hummus,” the app would give you all the options for hummus in the database. You can select from different brands, and the adjust the serving size to get the most accurate information.
It also comes with supplementary articles too
The home page of the app not only shows you your progress for the day, but it also displays featured articles to keep you motivated and educated. The articles include everything from fitness and diet tips to blog posts about activities that get you out of your office and into the world.
If you want to search for articles on a particular fitness topic, go to “Blog” on the sidebar menu. You can type a search term and find a plethora of articles on your topic of choice. Read them on your phone to arm yourself with the knowledge that you need to succeed.
MyFitnessPal keeps you accountable and visualize your small progress
Many of us struggle with making good decisions about what to eat and whether we should exercise. Without motivation, it’s easy to fall into bad habits such as snacking too much or leading a sedentary lifestyle.
By committing to recording your meals, snacks, and exercise, you’ll notice a shift in how you perceive the small actions that make up your day. That chocolate chip cookie doesn’t look as appealing when you realize that it will put you over your caloric intake goal for the day. Binge-watching your favorite show when you can see that you haven’t exercised all week may not seem like such a good idea.
MyFitnessPal lets you see the big picture. It’s intuitive to use, and it streamlines the process of recording your health data. You can pay for the premium membership to get the most advanced features on the app, but everything I’ve shown to you today is available in the free version of the app. With so many tools at no cost, there’s no reason not to give it a shot.