There’s an app for just about everything out there and calorie trackers are super popular.
I have had experience with two different apps – MyFitnessPal and FitBit. While I found each useful in it’s on way, I do not currently use either one. I received a FitBit for Christmas two years ago and did not intend to use the app to log food. I mainly wanted to use the FitBit to track calorie burn but I downloaded the app anyway and started to log my food in because I was curious to see how my calorie intake measured against my calorie burn. I used it pretty consistently for about a year. I stopped when I started having trouble syncing my FitBit with the app on my phone and eventually I just lost interest.
I used MyFitnessPal several years ago and came back to it earlier this year because I liked that it laid out nutritional information visually in a nice pretty graph every day.
My main dislike of MyFitnessPal, and others like it is that it uses the FOOD INTAKE – EXERCISE = DAILY CALORIES. In my opinion, this formula is incorrect and is the reason why we’re all obsessed with calories and, more often than not, it’s not a good thing (more on that later).
So should you use one of these, or one of the countless calorie counting apps out there? Maybe.
Consider the pros and cons.
*Journaling your food intake, using an app or old fashioned pen and paper, makes you more aware of what you’re eating. If you’re someone who mindlessly picks at food all day long, this can be help you pay more attention and make better choices.
*Some apps also display daily recommended nutritional guidelines which is helpful because it goes beyond number of calories and shows you if you’re getting the nutrients your body needs.
*The calorie values of the various food choices can be confusing. I noticed this especially in MyFitness Pal. If you type in “brownie”, you have 10 different choices, all with different calorie values. Yes, some are named by brand but some are not. If I didn’t see the brand I just ate, I would guess. This made me doubt the accuracy.
*It takes some time to log every single thing. If I made a recipe from scratch, I didn’t always want to take the time to enter an entire recipe and figure out the calories per serving.
*Calorie burn measurements can be super confusing to figure out if you’re not also wearing something (FitBit or similar) that tracks everything you do. Manually entering exercise is not always accurate, so what is the point?
These are not necessarily reasons to not use an app, but these are the things that were the downside for me.
My main beef with the whole app thing is this…..we’re way too obsessed with calories. Yes, if you have NO IDEA what you’re eating and NO IDEA what you’re burning, it is a good thing to find out. If you’re living an active lifestyle and mindfully fueling your body with real, whole foods, it’s really not necessary. If you’re looking to lose weight, focus on the types of food you’re eating. Learn about serving sizes and how to make good choices that you will enjoy. Don’t tie emotion to food. There is no “good” and “bad”. You don’t “slip up”, you make choices because you’re a grown up.
Calorie burn is misunderstood. Calories are not the enemy, food is not the enemy and you shouldn’t be thinking in terms of burning off the food you’ve eaten as if it’s something you have to get rid of. Instead, consider the amount of energy that’s needed to carry you through your day, including any exercise you may do, think of the food as the fuel to make all that happen. The deficit between those two numbers is what can be manipulated for weight loss assuming that the minimum amount of calories are consumed. You are burning calories all the time. You burn calories in your sleep. Your food is your fuel.
Unless you are on a restricted diet and counting your calories is part of a doctor prescribed plan, you don’t HAVE to do it. If counting calories is stressing you out, stop!
Oh, I know this is a hard way to think! We’ve been taught that there is such thing as good and bad food and that we have to punish ourselves when we have too much of the latter. Sure, there are plenty of really healthy foods that are low in calories. Including these foods in your diet can lead to weight loss if that’s what you’re going for, and that can make you feel really really awesome. One thing that’s not going to make you feel awesome is obsessing about numbers.
As with everything else, try it if you want to. If you like it and it’s working for you, great! If you don’t and it’s not, be ok with that and move on.
(If you’re looking for a fitness and eating plan that doesn’t require calorie number crunching and will fit in with your current real life, check out my online personal training program by CLICKING HERE!)