The Pros and Cons of My Fitness Pal

My number one piece of advice to somebody trying to drop weight is to start logging food. This means, start writing down your meals or start using a tracking method that holds you accountable and is easy to stick with. 

Most clients gravitate towards My Fitness Pal, a popular and easy to use tracker that has an extensive food catalog, relevant blog posts + community support, custom journal settings (for a fee) and easy connectivity to fitness tracking devices. 

As a coach and business owner there are a few things I love about MFP and a few things I don't love about MFP. Here's my list and reasoning:

#1 PRO: It's easy to use. I love that it takes a few clicks to get my to my diary so I can quickly log and get on with my day. That makes me WANT to log - not dread it by feeling like it's another task I have to add to my to-do list. 

#2 CON: From a coaches standpoint, MFP throws the numbers game in users face making it very easy to become numbers obsessed. When you sign up for you MFP account, it asks you to fill out your current stats and how much you want to weigh. Danger zone. Tracking is about food awareness to increase the quality of your intake, not about counting every calorie. That's how people start off on the wrong foot - when they are introduced to their weight loss journey from a "the scale is everything" implication. All calories are not created equal so I'd advise that new users work with a nutritionist or coach to fully understand this concept and that macro counting really is what should be tracked along with small, non-weight related successes. 

#3 CON: To add on to the point above, MFP is weird about how they highlight your success. If you are under your calories for the day (after you have completed your journal for the day) it pops up in your newsfeed as, "Cary finished her journal and was under her calorie goal" as if to say, "Yay! Cary didn't eat enough today!" I think it should say, "Cary finished her journal and stayed accountable to her goals. Congratulate her!" Another bad implication that weight loss = success. What about avoiding junky foods, not having that lunchtime soda, or dropping an inch in your waist? Celebrate other success guys. Theres more to this picture. 

#3B CON: When you're done logging a giant number pops up that says, "If everyday were like today, you'd weigh >insert skinny weight< in 5 weeks!!" Yikes guys. This may be another post but let's just say you ate very little one day and finished your journal and it read, "If everyday were like today you'd weigh >10 pounds down< in 5 weeks" - imagine the mind game you could get twisted in there. What a negative message to send! Eating less does NOT equal weight loss for most people. Often times, eating more results in a weight loss. So again - work with somebody who can help you focus on the larger picture. 

#4 PRO: Custom add ons. It pays to have the customization. I paid something like $9.99 to have access to customizing my macros and goals. Do it and review your settings with a professional coach at your local studio or gym. You will be able to use the rely on MFP better. 

#5 CON: If you log exercise, it prompts you to eat back your calories. Ahh. Again a numbers game. If you workout, that should be factored in to your macro count. If you run for 60 minutes, you're going to burn a ton of calories, MFP will automatically boost your carbohydrates goal up 20-30g which really could stunt your weight loss and performance. Again, these are specific numbers you should be reviewing with a professional. Not an auto generated app. 

#6 CON: The verified foods: NOT always verified! You have to look very closely at the food you're logging. I've logged beans literally 1,000 times and each time I have to cross check. There are SO many incorrect foods in their catalogue it could really mess your tracking up. Know your foods and their serving sizes along with the ingredients. It's a learning process. 

At the end of the day, you have to know what you're getting when it comes to MFP.

You have to set your macros up correctly so they match to your level of activity. You can use an online calculator for this, or work with your trainer on compiling these numbers.

Tracking is super important, you just have to be sure it's accurate across the board. I like MFP as a coach because I'm an expert on these topics and I know what most foods contain, what serving sizes look like and what macros are. But this is also my job that I've been doing for ten years. If you're new to your weight loss journey or want to start holding yourself more accountable, I highly suggest working with a professional at least for a month to invest in yourself and your long term success. This is a huge learning experience and it's worth your time to slow down and understand it all.