My Fitness Pal Review and Tips How To Lose Weight Diet Exercise Calorie Counting

My back story and my experience with MFP

On a whim about 13 months ago, I decided I should weigh myself. What I saw was staggering. I knew I was out of shape, but thought that I was maybe 250, 260 pounds, somewhere close to my previous worst of around 255. When I stepped onto the scale, reality hit me like a freight train - I was damn close to 300 pounds! Shock. Disgust. Embarrassment. Shame. All of these emotions ran through me.

People gain weight for a lot of reasons - surgery, hormonal imbalances, eating disorders, etc. But I had no excuse. In my case, it was the result of nothing more than being completely sedentary and eating like crap and drinking like a fish. I was a suburban slug!

I clearly needed to do something. While I wanted to be in shape for myself and my own self-image, I also have 3 children. How dare I put them at risk of losing their father at a young age because I wasn't even trying to take care of myself?

I started slow. I quit drinking altogether (this is a huge advantage for losing weight that most people won't be willing to do, and for many it isn't a big issue anyway). I started doing the elliptical a few times a week, and felt like garbage doing it, even on the lowest setting. My eating habits didn't change much at first. However, because I was so badly overweight, and because I was no longer consuming all those extra calories from drinking, I was able to lose about 15 pounds over a period of about a month and a half (the first pounds always seem to be the easiest for me - I've been on a weight roller coaster my entire life). That was nice, but I was still in horrible shape after subtracting 15 pounds from 300. But this was progress nonetheless.

Around this time, my wife had convinced me to join her as a member of a gym (LA Fitness). Boy oh boy, were those first few times on the treadmill awful! Within about 30 seconds of starting, I'd feel like I was going to drop dead. I was barely able to do a mile with a mixture of jogging and walking. That was humbling. I'd been using the elliptical a lot by then, so I figured that that would translate somewhat into making me able to at least jog one mile.

No more than a month or so after joining the gym, I was still eating pretty poorly, but had shaved off another 10 or so pounds, and was tipping the scales at about 275. I had gotten to a point where I was able to suffer through about 2 miles of jogging by then, and was doing that maybe 2-3 times per week and doing the elliptical in my home another 2-3 times per week. So I was no longer sedentary and my overall level of fitness was improving.

But I still weighed 275 pounds! And I could tell I had reached one of those dreaded "plateaus" where continuing to do what I was doing wasn't going to result in much more weight being lost. Enter my office assistant, who I often discussed my fitness progress with when we would be shooting the breeze. He told me that he once used this app called My Fitness Pal and said I should give it a try.

I did. I've lost about 60 pounds in about 9 months since I started using it. I don't want to imply that My Fitness Pal was the reason I lost the weight, but here's how it was of massive utility for me: it made me think about what I was eating! At that time, I was still gorging on food somewhat regularly. I'd devour a bag of chips without thinking much about it. When I'd go to the bagel place and get everyone breakfast, I'd grab myself an extra egg sandwich and eat it on the way home.

MFP and Under Armour - A Match Made in Heaven

Using My Fitness Pal

My Fitness Pal is very easy to use. When you use it for the first time, you'll be asked to enter in certain data about yourself and your overall fitness goals. In my case, I entered in about 275 pounds (my starting weight at the time I began using MFP) and my goal, and My Fitness Pal then gives you a goal for "net" calories consumed for each day. Since I selected an aggressive weight loss goal over a shorter period of time, My Fitness Pal set my goal at 1,740 "net" calories per day.

Once you've begun using MFP, the display at the top of your entry for each day will be as follows: your "net" calorie goal - the total calories in your entries for that day + exercise = ___ calories. The number for your net calories consumed at the end will either be green (when you are under your "net" calorie goal) or red (when you've gone over your "net" calorie goal).

Your entries for each day are made in one of 4 food categories (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack) and there is a section where you enter in your exercises performed that day.

Food items can be entered in by scanning the bar code of an item where applicable (pretzels, potato chips, protein bars, etc.), or by entering a food item in manually. When you create an entry for an item that is not factory produced and packaged with nutritional information, it searches the MFP database to find a match (in the search results for a ham sandwich you'd find entries that you can click on such as "Arby's ham sandwich" or "home made ham sandwich on rye bread").

Using My Fitness Pal is about as easy as it gets. The hard part is holding yourself to a high standard and being diligent about entering everything into the app whenever you consume food or drink. My advice for you is to enter everything in, even when you overindulge or are having a real bad day. This is a means of holding yourself accountable and allows you to look back over time at what you've done right and what you've done wrong in your weight loss journey.

The most important thing using MFP has done for me is that it makes me think about everything I consume. Whereas I used to open up a big bag of pretzels and gorge myself without any regard to serving size and calories consumed, now I just count out 20 pretzels (the serving size of my favorite pretzels) or however many I'm going to consume, before I do so. This has cut down my consumption drastically. People tend to consume way more calories when not paying attention to serving size.

I hope that others are able to benefit from using this app as I have. I will update this article with additional information about how to use MFP in the near future.

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