For about the past month, I had been tracking my intake of calories and macronutrients using the MyFitnessPal app on my iPhone. I decided to test the app out this past month to see if it could help me eat healthier and lose weight.

What Is MyFitnessPal?


MyFitnessPal is a very popular nutrition app that helps users keep track of things like their calories, nutrients, macronutrients, exercise, water intake, and more. They categorize themselves as a free calorie counter, diet, and exercise journal.

Features & Screenshots


MyFitnessPal has many features that allow users to keep track of their nutrition. Users can log their food intake in the "Diary” tab under the sections titled Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Snacks.


Users can also log their exercise, whether it is cardio or strength, to account for calories lost that day. Below the Exercise section is where users can keep track of how much water they are drinking as well.


Below that are two buttons called “Nutrition” and “Notes.” Under Nutrition, users have access to calorie details of their meals, as well as nutrient details such as protein, carbohydrates, fiber, sugar, fat, and more.

Users can also keep track of their macronutrients in this section. Under Notes, users can log notes about the food they ate and the exercise they have done.




At the top of the “Diary” tab, it displays your net calories consumed for the day and how many you have remaining. Showing how many calories you have left is done by showing your target calories subtracted by calories eaten plus the calories burned from exercise.

The “Home” tab also displays the “Calories Remaining” at the top, as well as health articles and tips.


There is also a “Progress” tab that helps you keep track of your weight and how you have progressed over time. Users can add a progress picture with the date and weight, allowing them to see if their body is making transformations.


Other features include being able to log food through scanning a barcode with your smartphone camera, adding food from official restaurant menus and nutrition labels, creating custom foods and recipes, access to Under Armour gear (since they own the app now), tracking your steps with a smartwatch like the Apple Watch or FitBit, and being able to link with other smartphone applications and devices.



With MyFitnessPal, users can also have their own community or sort of a health social network. Users create their profiles on the app and can add friends.

Friends can view how many pounds someone has lost and their achieved weight loss goals. Friends can even challenge and motivate each other to lose more weight and be healthy together.

So far, all these features I have listed are just the free ones. For $10 a month or $50 a year, there is a premium version of the app in which the company claims that users lose 6x more weight on average.

There are many more features, such as customizing your nutrient dashboard, seeing which foods rank highest in certain macros and other food analysis, exporting your food data and files into CSV or Excel files, getting weekly digest reports on your nutrition, food timestamps, customized goals by meal or day, exercise calorie settings, detailed look at your nutrient intake, customer support, ad-free, and access to exclusive content from the app.

App Goals



When I decided to use MyFitnessPal as my health monitoring application, it was to help with my weight loss goals. I wanted to start losing some weight or at least maintain.

Specifically, I wanted to be in a calorie deficit and have a good amount of protein intake. I also wanted to keep a good track of my carb intake.

Essentially, I used MyFitnessPal for calorie counting and macro intake. I had actually used MyFitnessPal before when I have dieted.

I had not used it in a while or at least consistently, though. Going back to school and looking to get into shape made me want to start using the app again.

What Worked



What worked was that was I was able to stay under or at my calorie limit most of the time when I was counting my calories and keeping close track of my food intake.

When I started logging the foods that I was eating, I was surprised by how easy it could be to go over my calorie limit. I was unaware of some of the foods I thought were eating could be higher in calories than it would be.

Along with that, some of the nutrient details, macros specifically, were surprising to me. I did not realize some foods were so high in carbs or other nutrients. When I was done logging my food diary for the day, I would take a look at the macronutrient report.

It jumped out to me in the first week or so that a good amount of my macros were coming from carbs. Thanks to this app’s feature, I was able to closely monitor my carb intake and cut it down.

Cutting out things like breaded items and more from my diet helped in lowering my carb intake and contributing towards my health goals.

What also worked with the app was helping me a ton in keeping up with my protein intake. With trying to lose weight, I did not want to lose muscle.

About two years ago, I went on a weight loss journey where I lost nearly 50 pounds. I could thank MyFitnessPal for that, as I used it for counting calories. I did a lot of cardio, however, I did not keep proper track of my macronutrients.

When using the app again, I looked back at some of my old entries and was surprised by how low my protein intake was on some days, and it was no wonder that I lost some muscle during that time I lost all that weight.

I did gain some weight since then, although I’m nowhere near where I was from a couple of years ago. It’s why I started using the app again, and being able to track my macros helped me make sure I would reach my protein intake goals.

Sometimes when I would plan what I would eat for the next day, I check the macronutrients and see that I would fall short of how many grams of protein I would need.

With that, it allowed me to adjust and plan accordingly of what I would eat so I can accurately and consistently reach my goals. The app also helped in my fitness goals as it inspired to start working out again after taking a hiatus when I first began this college semester.

What Didn't Work


What did not work for me with this app was sometimes logging food accurately. When I would eat out for a meal and log the entry into the app, sometimes it was difficult finding the most accurate information in regards to the calories and nutrients.

Sometimes there would be entries that were verified by the official restaurant I had the meal from, but it was outdated information. Or, there would be times when there would be multiple options for the food I want to log, but some of them are user-submitted and may not be accurate.

With this, some of them could have missing information in the nutrients, which would cause inaccuracies for my food diary that day in regards to my calories and macros intake.

Another problem would be that they might not even have the food you are trying to log. When I would eat homemade Indian food or any type of international food, it would be hard to find accurate nutritional information or even any at all.

The only way to get fully accurate information for these types of foods would be from scanning the barcode. However, sometimes even that would not work. There had been multiple times when I would not be able to scan the barcode item, and it would become frustrating.

Another issue would be occasional technical bugs with the app. Sometimes when I was planning on what I would eat for the next day or logging my food diary all at once for a day, the Calories Remaining section wouldn’t update the net calories when I would be adding entries.

I would have to close out of the app and open it back up to get the accurate numbers.

Improving MyFitnessPal



What I would change about the application to make it better and more pleasing user experience to me is addressing the various bugs that could be in the app.

A good fix would be the one I mentioned earlier where I would have to close and open the app just to see my calories and nutrients. That should be easily fixable. Some other bugs may just be design-related and could be fixed by the app getting update.

Overall, the UI is pretty solid.

MyFitnessPal could also recruit possibly some international people to add accurate data for foods from areas such as South Asia.

This can help in being able to accurately enter information whenever I have food from other cultures or of my own Indian culture, where it is difficult to search and find the foods I want to log into the app.

The app could also work more on the barcode scanner feature so it works more consistently. They could also add a code where it updates outdated information by pulling the updated info via a restaurant or company’s website or nutrition labels.

They should also try to weed out duplicate food entry data or inaccurate ones from their database, so it causes less confusion for their users.

Conclusion



With the pros and cons in mind, the app overall made me felt more committed and serious towards fitness and health again.

I had not exercised or ate well consistently in the past few months, and being able to see what I was eating by logging my food made me more motivated to do better and become more fit. Also, consistently logging my food made me more self-conscious about what I was eating.

It actually made me eat more clean and healthy so I could see better stats in the app when I would log my food entries.

Overall, it made me more aware of my body and what I put into it. After about every week of using the app, I tried to keep eating healthier and looking to incorporate exercise to further progress my weight loss goals.

My expectations initially for the app were to slowly ease into it as I relaunch my weight loss journey. I thought I would try to maybe be at maintenance for the first week or so, and then start trimming going under more.

The app did a solid job of doing that just that, and it helped force new behaviors in trying to live healthier. Now, I have a consistent routine set in how I want to eat and workout.

I plan to start using this app almost every day even after this one-month test of the app. It actually brought me back to that time in my life where I used a health app to track monitor my health, which was when I started my weight loss journey from a couple years ago.

However, this time, I have more experience and better knowledge of what to do. I hope to continue my weight loss journey and achieve my goals, thanks to some assistance and help from the MyFitnessPal app.

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