Thursday, February 02, 2012

Playing with My Fitness Pal

So, I've been using the MyFitnessPal website for three weeks now and it's rather interesting. I'm not going to give away any results as yet, but I have lost some weight and it's been interesting trying to track my food intake, especially when it comes to eating out! I've created some recipes and I hope to do some more. what is helpful is seeing what a portion actually looks like. I've talked before about how easy it is to get portion sizes wrong simply because we don't know what apportion really looks like.

When you first sign up with the application you can let it do the maths and set your goals for you depending upon your aims (weight loss or weight gain). It works to a standard spread of calories from carbs, proteins and fats, but you can change this in the custom set up section from the website where you can also reset your daily calorie goal. So, if you find that the calorie goal isn't helping you to achieve the progress you're looking for then you can change it. In the end the goal is a guide and the scales are the evidence! Just because it says you will lose 0.5Kg a week by eating 1900 calories doesn't guarantee it!

For example, when I first signed up the system calculated my BMR at around 2400, but using another website calculator I got a figure of around 1900. Those 500 calories equate to about 1lb of weight loss a week. If I put in my goal weight, then my BMR drops to around 1800 calories a day. So, as my weight goes down (and as my age goes up!), so does my BMR and that would suggest to me that if I want to maintain weight loss then I'll need to adjust my calorie target appropriately. The basic rule is experiment. See what works and keep reviewing. The more you learn about what works for you, the more control you will have. and the more control you have, the more freedom I think you will have when it comes to those treats we all like and the less guilt you will feel.

I've changed my goal slightly on the basis of this theory and I'll review the most successful weeks to see what was different about those weeks compared to other weeks. That's a bit of a job, and a way of maybe getting some reports out based on a few user chosen parameters would be helpful. I haven't found anything that will let me do that yet, but then I haven't really explored the reports that much. Maybe the printable version would give me the data I want.

I think the other comment I would make is that you shouldn't assume that when you put in your exercise that the figure calculated for calories used will be wholly accurate. If it says you've burned 1,000 calories just don't assume you can eat those calories back and still reach your goal if it's weight loss. I think you'll be disappointed if you do that too often.

Overall I think this is a great tool for tracking how your diet is working both nutritionally and in terms of weight management. Used well, it can help you plan menus to balance your diet. Simply fill out the daily diary with your expected meals and snacks for the day and then see how that sits alongside your goals and make any necessary adjustments. Yes it would be time consuming to do it that way, but over time you might learn more about your own nutritional requirements than any quick fix diet will give you and it might just help you develop long-term healthier habits. That's my hope for myself anyway!

It will only ever be as accurate as the data you supply and the algorithms it uses. If you cheat it can't tell. So don't cheat! I'm off for some breakfast.

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