MyFitnessPal – Quick Website Review

MyFitnessPal

As I reported in my post My Fitfness Pal back in February(darn it, I didn’t catch the typo in that post title until just now), I am using the service with the same name. As an aside, I reported it as My Fitness Pal when it is actually MyFitnessPal.  Apparently they are into losing the dead weight in typeface as well as physical space. To save time and a bit of my sanity I will refer to the service as MFP going forward.

Anyway, I have been using the service for a while now and feel confident in putting my thoughts into this review. Just as an advanced warning, there is a possibility that this post is going to be a bit long. So kick back, grab your favorite beverage, and don’t say I didn’t warn you. (its not as long as I thought it would be)

MyFitnessPal

MFP is a comprehensive service that can appear daunting on the surface. Full of trackers, social help, 3rd party integrations, and multiple portals; there is not much this service does not provide. It is easy to get lost in all the tabs, pages, and options. In all honesty, I’ve been using it daily for over a month now and I’m just starting to really feel confident in what I’m doing.  In six months time I may look back and laugh at that statement, but it is true for now.

Website

MFP Splash Page

If you take a walk over to MyFitnessPal.com you’ll be greeted by a familiar splash page for today’s modern internet. There is a member login/sign up section complete with email sign up or Facebook sign up. It’s nice that they give you an option other than Facebook, but it would have been a good to have other options such as Google or Twitter as log in options as well. Beneath the login section you can find the usual testimonials and health facts such as “Medical studies show that keeping a food journal DOUBLES your weight loss!”. I would like to see a link to those studies, but I digress.

Further down the page is a set of links to the mobile apps available for MFP. They have the big two, Apple and Android, but surprisingly also have apps for Blackberry and Windows Phone. It is good to see that they want to reach as many people as possible. Back to the top of the page there are links for Food, Exercise, Apps, Blog, Community, and Log In.

  • Food gives you a search box to input food. You can get free information on calories, carbs, fat, etc for most common food items both homemade and restaurant. The search also pulls in fast food for those who are brave enough to find out what’s in their burger.
  • Exercise give you  the ability to see what calories are burned during activities.
  • Apps houses a listing of 3rd party apps and services that can be fed into MFP to supplement your data
  • The Blog page has a rotating and constantly updating list of health related article. I like to find interesting recipe ideas here.
  • Community is MFPs baked in social aspect. It is forum based for the most part and is the area I have spent the least amount of time exploring. This is something I hope to change as the months go by.
  • Besides the Community section, the other sections listed above are great resources even if you don’t sign up for the service itself.

Membership

Exploring the MFP website you can find out about the various benefits of signing up for the service.  Instead of going over all of them, here are the benefits I’ve found useful. In the future I will put out some posts that go into more detail on these benefits.

Diet Tracking

MFP Food Tracker

This is the main use I have for MFP. Most of my tracking is done via the android app installed on my phone. I’m able to go into the app and within a minute or two add my entire meal or snack and see what damage I’ve done. It is also handy for trying to figure out if something you want to eat will fit into today’s plan.

You can get more granular by selecting any of the items in your list to get its individual nutritional value. I find this helpful as I’m trying to keep my carb intake under 200g. I can also see the benefit of knowing how much protein I’m taking in as I begin weight lifting.

Adding items to the tracker can be a pain at first until you get used to it. You can add entire recipes, meals, custom foods, or search their exhaustive database. I suggest using the website to add your own recipes and meals ahead of time. Then its just a matter of selecting them from a list to add to your daily tracker.

This tool will also keep track of your calories burned versus calories ingested. It is very helpful to see whether you are calorie positive or negative as you try to lose, gain, or maintain your weight. I’ll explain how this is accomplished in the next benefit section. Before that, one other feature that I dig in regards to the dietary tracker is the ability to keep tabs on my water consumption every day. As I stated in my post Water you going to do about it?, wait a minute. Did I really name a post something like that. Wow. Just, wow. I’m going to need a minute to let that sink in.

Okay, I’ll be fine. Now back to the water tracker. According to my Water post back on the 5th of March, my goal is to drink 124oz of water a day. Using the MFP app helps me do that. Every time I empty my water bottle I pull out my phone and add the three cups I drank.

Exercise Tracking

Pacer A close second to the dietary portion, I find this very useful. When you sign up for the service you can set your fitness and nutritional goals.  By inputting your exercise into the system you can see your progress for those goals. I manually add in my weigh lifting activity, but my walking and running get added automatically via a 3rd party app.  I have connected my Pacer app to MFP and now my steps get imported daily.  My calories burned are checked against my input and I can see how I’ve done for the day.

The steps are taken care of for me now, I would like to get better integration with heart rate input as well by using a fitness band like Fitbit or Microsoft Band. But one step at a time. Until then Pacer works for me. What also works is adding my weight lifting. Once I added them my profile on the website(easier to do it there than on the phone) it is easy to add an update anytime I work out on the phone app. For now it acts as a central hub to keep this information. Sadly there are no reports tied to strength exercise here. I will be digging further for a viable option for that.

Blog

The MFP blog is a helpful tool on the website. There are often exercise and dietary articles posted. The latest post I saw and enjoyed is Eight 200-Calorie Snacks to Grab on the Go. The articles/posts are usually quick reads and often lead to other bloggers or authors to read.

Final Thoughts

Out of a possible 10 points for usefulness, I’d say MFP the website gets a 6.5 which is not great but not bad either.  I don’t check it every day, more like once a week. Even so, I do find it good for adding new recipes or activities since those are easier to do at a laptop or desktop instead of on a small phone screen. As one of a group of portals to the overall service, it service its purpose very well.  I’ll write a review of the mobile app sometime in the near future. Sneak peak, I find it more useful on a day to day basis.

Stream Of Consciousness

I signed up for a prompt event this month. This is the first post of 20 that I will being doing as part of this event.  I will try to tailor the prompts given to me towards the purpose of this blog.  Today’s prompt is to do a 20 minute free writing exercise and post to my blog.  20 minutes feels daunting now nearly as much as it appears when I’m beginning 20 minutes on an elliptical machine.

So how do I do this successfully and try to make it interesting to read?  Talk about that all fun issue, starting over.  After this weekends holiday, I need to start over for the week. I ate way too much, didn’t have any physical activity, and only the fact that I didn’t drink any soda keeps it from feeling like a losing effort on my part.

Of course, like everyone else, I need to not beat myself up too much when this happens. Holidays are notorious diet/exercise killers.  How do you get back on the right side of the ledger afterwards? One small step. Decide you are going to start over whatever came before has no bearing on what you do going forwards.

I made that commitment to myself this morning. I will eat properly, go to the gym, and not look at the scale for a few days.  Looking at the scale gives credence to any weight I put on over two days of family feasts.  Instead I’ll do what I’m supposed to do and let my diet and exercise get me on the right track.

So what’s the plan for today? Decent breakfast, still didn’t quite nail it on a higher caloric/protein breakfast but it will have to do. solid lunch, a planned dinner with meat, fruits, and vegetables. 1 to 1.5 hours at the gym tonight. Weights, weights, weights. Sandwiched in-between a mile walking on the track and a mile plus on an elliptical machine.  Hopefully I can get it done before the Badgers’ NCAA championship game tonight. Go Bucky!

All throughout I need to get back on track with my water intake. I had 12 cups of water total over Saturday and Sunday this weekend. I’ve already gotten my morning 3 cups and 1 cup of coffee out of the way. Only 8 more cups to hit my goal for the day. I’m focusing on the water because I noticied a difference after not drinking what I needed to the past two days. I had inklings of headaches, was tired, was hungry consistently, and really craved sweets.

(Looking at the clock I’ve got 3 minutes left on my timer, and I’m freaking out about finishing)

After making the commitment this morning I felt eager to hit the gym.  I’m still new to weightlifting but I can’t wait to push myself to steady and stable improvements.

The biggest thing I hope to learn and the biggest accomplishment of this week will be that holidays are only a temporary setback if I let them be. With summer barbeques and family reunions and birthdays on the horizon, that will be valuable for my mindset.

Whew, 20 minutes down. Ugly post but I did it.

The Event

 


Quick edit note, this was my 10th post on this blog. Woo-hoo, its a good start.

10th Post