If you read my previous post, “Portion Control, Marathons and a Stick of Gum,” you’ll remember how I was using myfitnesspal to track calories in order to find out if my post-marathon eating was catching up to me. Was I so used to eating larger, marathon-training portions that I had a tendency to do so months after racing, even though I wasn’t training anymore?
I’ve never had to count calories before. After the birth of my second child, I lost nearly 40 pounds by eating clean and exercising almost every day. I controlled portions by listening to my body’s signals. Could my marathon racing have distorted my ability to still listen accurately?
I’d have to say yes. Deep down I already knew, but myfitnesspal confirmed it for me. Math doesn’t lie. I’ve recommended this app to clients, so I figured, why not? I religiously punched in my calories consumed and burned, every single day for 4 weeks. I tried my best to stay within my allotted calorie count. And guess what? I lost the few pounds that I had slowly added from racing.
Myfitnesspal is a great way to learn about portion control. It can also be a wake-up call. Here’s why:
1. It reminds us how many calories are in the foods we love to eat, even some foods that are considered healthy. Athough some foods may be great for us, they can also be very calorie dense, and should be eaten in moderation. For example, peanut butter and avocados. Both excellent sources of fat, but if you’re trying to lose weight, measure your portions. Two tablespoons of natural peanut butter has 200 calories!
2. It is very easy to erase the calories burned through a good workout by eating badly. Sad, but true. You quickly find out what types of workouts burn the most calories. But you also are reminded that it all adds up. Ten minutes of brisk walking? That counts. Ten minutes on the stationary bike? That counts too.
3. If you mess up one day, it’s not the end of the world. You can still stay within your calorie count for the week! Like I always say, it’s all about balance.
4. You can find out if you have any nutritional deficiencies. I really like that the app lets you track your daily nutrition intake. Yes, maintaining/losing weight is all about the simple math of calories in/calories out, but the quality of those calories is just as important. It plays a huge role in how you feel, look, and how you metabolize your food. Not to mention, your health, in general.
All that said, there are a couple of cons to using the app. For instance, it can be tedious scanning food labels and entering every single food you’ve eaten every single day, especially if you make a lot of recipes, like I do. Also, calorie counting day after day can become a bit neurotic after awhile. If you get to a point where you’re saying, “I just ate a cupcake, I’ve got to go run 2 miles now!” it may be time to step back and re-evaluate the situation.
Overall, myfitnesspal can be a great tool to help people figure out proper portions, and to learn about what’s in the food they’re consuming. Everything I’ve listed above, I already knew. I just had to be reminded. And now my marathon-sized portions are gone. Hopefully for good.