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Apps - Feb 8, 2017

The App That Changed My Life: MyFitnessPal

How tracking calories and monitoring exercise helped one woman develop a healthier lifestyle

You’ve probably heard of the MyFitnessPal app. After all, it was launched back in 2005, and, unlike many apps, has stood the test of time.

MyFitnessPal, which began as a website and later became an app, helps you track your diet and exercise to determine the exact number of calories and nutrients you need to achieve your goals. As you go through your day, you tell the app exactly what you ate, using its massive database of foods or selecting from a list of your most frequently eaten foods. You also add in any exercise you do by manually inputting that information or linking your app to your FitBit (your workout will be automatically calculated). MyFitnessPal uses your exercise to help determine how many calories you should consume each day.

Simple, right? But it’s the app’s simplicity that makes it so effective. It has some additional features – plus some premium features for those willing to pay extra – but its tracking function is probably why more than 100 million people use it.

One of those happy people is Jill Winer. The 43-year-old Toronto mom of two says the app is directly responsible for her losing an impressive 50 lb. We asked her exactly how the app has changed her life.

When did you first start using MyFitnessPal?

I started in 2010, first online and eventually on my iPhone. I was going back to work after my second maternity leave weighing pretty well what I had weighed when I left at nine months pregnant. After many years of being overweight, sometimes obese, I decided it was time to get to a healthy weight.

Did it work for you immediately?

Using the app to track calories and my exercise, I noticed right away that I was eating more mindfully. It also encouraged me to be more active and exercise more, especially if I wanted to indulge in a special treat. I started losing weight almost right away.

Have you been using it faithfully since you started?

For the most part. I stopped using it a few times, and even if I thought I was eating as I always did, I quickly started to gain weight. I guess I need it to keep myself accountable. It’s important for me to stay at a healthy weight and have a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, and if using MyFitnessPal for the rest of my life helps me do that, so be it. I do tend to be a bit obsessive, so on the rare day when I want to indulge and not worry about it – for example, my birthday – I won’t log at all.

Which of the app’s functionalities do you use the most?

I track all my meals in it, and also my exercise. I went vegan about a year ago, so I also try to keep track of my nutrition and make sure I’m getting enough protein and nutrients. I used to have it connected to my Fitbit, but I stopped. I didn’t like that it was telling me to consume more calories for everyday walking, like to and from my car.

Overall, how much of an impact has this app had on your life?

It’s very responsible for me losing weight and becoming more fit. It’s probably the most significant thing I’ve done to assist me in this journey. When I make decisions about what I’m going to eat, I always think about the impact it’ll have on MyFitnessPal for the day, and I can clearly see if it’s going to mess up another meal or require me to work out for two hours, which I haven’t got time for!

Before, I used to have snacks all the time: I’d grab donuts if they were available at the office, chips from the vending machine, things like that. I don’t do that anymore, because I don’t have room for them in MyFitnessPal, and I’m fine with that, because it is better for my weight and my health.

Whenever I went for Asian food for lunch in the past, I’d usually get greasy noodles. Now I get a vegetable stir fry because I don’t want to have to log a big pile of noodles into MyFitnessPal! I’m eating more fruits and vegetables, too. The app also encourages me to exercise. I like to see that I have some kind of workout almost every day, and also I like being given a few more calories to eat.

Hard to believe something so useful is free, isn’t it?

Considering how much most weight-loss problems cost, definitely. With the help of MyFitnessPal, I’ve lost over 50 lb. – and kept it off.

MyFitnessPal is available as a free download for iOS and Android. It is also available as a website.