Use these 9 tips that helped me to lose 100 pounds on my own weight loss journey using MyFitnessPal as a weight-loss tool.
Even though I’ve done the 30-Day Shred more times than I can count and I accumulated my fair share of kitchen accessories for weight loss (juicers, fancy blenders, etc), MyFitnessPal was probably my most-used tool on my 100-pound weight loss journey.
It was essential for me to get my calories under control.
(You can read more about my thoughts on calorie counting here).
I was overeating something awful back then (and my rising weight proved it).
Sometimes I knew exactly what I was doing (like when I downed an entire bag of Cheetos and a full box of Little Debbie Nutty Bars in one sitting).
Other times, I was clueless. I was eating massive bowls of Greek yogurt piled high with granola, drinking Vitamin Water instead of soda, and snacking on sugar-packed protein bars…and I was 100% convinced I was eating healthy.
And I was shocked that I wasn’t losing weight…until I started plugging things into MyFitnessPal.
Having the tool available is one thing, but learning to use it is another thing altogether.
(We encourage our women as a part of our Faithful Finish Lines 2.0 Christian Weight Loss Program to use either MyFitnessPal or Weight Watchers to make sure they are eating fewer calories than their body is burning).
Here are the 9 ways I got the most out of MyFitnessPal on my weight loss journey.
(P.S. I’m not an affiliate or anything for MyFitnessPal. Just wanted to share a tool that worked well for me on my own weight loss journey!)
Using MyFitnessPal For Weight Loss
1. Use It For What It Is – A Tool
If you do nothing else, make sure you do this one thing.
The biggest temptation when we are using a food tracker is to see the numbers as a voice of condemnation, telling us how guilty we should feel for our choices.
DO NOT DO THAT!
If you let those numbers heap guilt on you, you will not succeed. You will start, feel like a failure, give up, feel more like a failure, then never want to track again because it left you feeling so terrible about yourself.
Or at least that’s what used to happen to me.
Look at the numbers for what they are – information. Use the numbers to help you guide your future choices. Nothing more, nothing less.
They don’t define your worth.
2. Track Your Food Honestly
Now that you don’t have to worry about your identity being shaken by whatever numbers you track, the goal is to be honest.
It’s really tempting to deny our overeating.
I used to conveniently skip tracking certain things like my nighttime binges, big dinners on special occasions, and pretty much anything that made me uncomfortable by seeing the insane amount of calories I had actually eaten.
With overeating, we minimize it (it’s not hurting anyone else), rationalize it (calories don’t count on holidays), and point the finger of blame (I wouldn’t have eaten ice cream tonight if my husband hadn’t had a bowl in front of me).
As my friend Sara says, “Your body is counting your calories, even if you aren’t.”
The goal of tracking is to see what you are actually eating, not to fudge the numbers enough until you get them to read what you wish they were.
Be honest with yourself. It’s the only way the tool can actually help you.
3. Track Your Food Accurately
This is kind of an off-shoot of honestly, but I decided to make it its own thing because this was a huge area that held me back for a long time.
I wasted so much time trying to find the item I ate with the lowest number of calories possible every time I tracked.
For example, I’d eat a bowl of chili at a friend’s house and, instead of asking which recipe she used or looking for the average number of calories were in most bowls of chili listed in MyFitnessPal, I would find the “bowl of chili” with the least amount of calories and track it without hesitation.
Let’s just clarify that a massive bowl of chili made with bacon, 73%/23% ground beef, and molasses is going to have a whole lot more calories than an 8-oz bowl of chili made with lean ground turkey and packed with veggies.
You can’t be 100% accurate all the time and that’s fine. You will go to restaurants without nutrition facts, parties without ingredient lists, and potlucks without even knowing what you’re eating.
Just do the best you can.
Again, the goal is not to falsely calculate ideal numbers. The goal is seeing what you actually ate.
4. Work On One Number At A Time
If you’ve read a few posts around here, you know I’m a huge fan of losing weight one small change at a time.
Drastic changes don’t stick.
Temporary results aren’t worth it.
Put in the time to make small changes consistently that will last for a lifetime.
With MyFitnessPal, this meant me working on one number at a time. When I started using it, I was majorly overeating and most of my diet consisted of junk food.
If my goal had been to stay under the limits in every area (calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates, sugar, etc), I would have gotten overwhelmed and quit within two weeks.
Instead, start small.
There were times when I couldn’t stick within the allotted number of calories for me to lose 2 pounds a week, so I had to bump that number down to lose more slowly.
That sounds like a bummer except that those slow changes stopped the huge rollercoaster of binges and strict dieting and set me up for a lifetime of success.
Pick a realistic weekly goal for yourself. Start by looking at just overall calories. But slowly, steadily, keep moving forward.
Then work on eating more protein. Then more vegetables (for that fiber!). Then fewer carbohydrates and less sugar.
Don’t get stuck in the overwhelm.
You may not be able to do everything today, but you can do something.
You can read about how I moved from calorie counting to food freedom here.
5. Use The Recipes Feature
This was a game-changer for me. Having to piece together meals, guessing at how much ground beef was in my taco is necessary sometimes, but not when I cook at home and I can divide up the recipe.
I cook off of websites all. the. time. And the recipe feature saved me a ton of time.
It takes practicing a few times to get the hang of it, but it’s worth learning how to use it if you cook at home a lot and there are a few tricks that can help.
#1 – Check the servings. For some reason, right now, MyFitnessPal almost never imports the number of servings from the recipe and it’s always automatically set to 1.
#2 – If the recipe doesn’t import correctly (it can be hit or miss), just copy the list of ingredients from the recipe and paste them in the box.
#3 – Change the ingredients to the specific ones you used.
#4 – Double-check for errors. Overall, it does a really great job matching calories, but sometimes it’s just wacky. Every time I try to get “1 medium onion” calculated, they match it with 1 gram of onion at 0 calories.
6. Connect With Friends For Accountability
Connect with your friends and family members on MyFitnessPal.
They have a full community message board that I tried to use from time to time, but that wasn’t nearly as helpful as connecting there with people I knew in real life.
I have cousins, my best friend, online friends, church friends, and so many more people I’ve connected with.
Often, I’m surprised when I get requests from people in my life I never would have thought even use it, but I love connecting with them!
When I see that they burned calories in a workout or completed their food diary for the day, it motivates me to do more of that myself.
When they “like” my statuses there and cheer me on when I exercise or stick to my calorie goal, it motivates me to do it again and again.
7. Plug In Your Plan Ahead of Time
I wasn’t as successful when I sat down at the end of every day and tried to plug in all of the calories I’d already eaten.
If you start there, that’s fine and it’s helpful, but what was most helpful was when I planned ahead.
At first, it was just me plugging in food for the next day.
Then, it moved into me taking time on Sunday to plug my meals in for the entire week (at least my major meals and then filling in snacks the night before).
Try it. Planning ahead is powerful.
There is SO much more on this topic to make sure you are successful inside of the Faithful Finish Lines 2.0 Christian Weight Loss program I am releasing with Sara in September. Keep an eye out! You don’t want to miss it.
8. Scan When You Can
If you use MyFitnessPal on your phone, use the scanner for foods with bar codes.
For protein bars, snack mixes, and most packaged food, this tool saves you a ton of time!
No searching through the list trying to find the food that matches. Just instant info with a quick scan.
9. Don’t Eat Back Your Exercise Calories
When I first started using MyFitnessPal, I was thrilled to see all of the ways I could be burning calories there!
I mean, things like “light cleaning,” “cooking,” and “moving household items”? You better believe I was tracking those all the time!
Like I mentioned before, I was all about tweaking those numbers to show what I wanted them to show.
And you better believe that I ate back every calorie.
It’s not that those activities don’t burn calories. They do! Any movement burns calories. Heck, breathing alone burns calories.
But studies have shown that it is very likely you are underestimating the calories you are eating and overestimating the number of calories you are burning when you exercise.
Unless you are a heavy exerciser, chances are, you don’t need to eat back your exercise calories (but, obviously, pay attention to your own body and work with your doctor here).
If you can follow through on these 9 tips, MyFitnessPal will help you reach your weight loss goals.
Do you use MyFitnessPal? What has worked well for you there?