Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tech Time::: My Fitness Pal

Now that I have been doing Medifast for a couple of months, I have had time to explore a few different apps to keep track of my weight and food intake.  I tried the Medifast and Take Shape for Life apps, both of which are put out by Medifast, but didn't really love either, nor did I feel either was particularly well made or well supported.  They would frequently crash, and not stay updated appropriately.  Medifast support is non-existent in dealing with those issues or any issues related to their site or program, so I abandoned both and went back to the paper trackers, which I had a hard time keeping up with on weekends and evenings, since I'd often forget them at work.

What I really wanted was a more flexible app that would combine the logging I remembered from Spark People and Weight Watchers, with what Medifast and Take Shape for Life offered, but maybe with more ability to connect to outside services besides just their own.  

Many friends have used My Fitness Pal, both the app and the website, for their weight loss and workout needs with great success, even if they were not on this same plan. I decided to give it a try, and when I found out it would link to the Fitbit (review coming soon), I thought that was a really great selling feature. Especially since I was hovering my trigger-finger over the ADD TO CART button on their website for easily a month.

In order to get started, you either go to their website, or download the app, and set up your account. I don't usually link my Facebook account to things like this, so I used an email address.  You'll have the option to set up a passcode in the settings, which is what I have shown here in the middle image below.  One thing I really liked about this app from the start was that passcode option. I am a little overly paranoid about things happening to my phone after the theft I experienced a year and a half ago which totally screwed up several of my accounts (and at least one for a year!), so that's a nice feature to me.  Probably unnecessary, but for me and my history, it's a good thing.

You'll run through a series of questions, including your height, weight and age, your activity level, and your goals, and the program will set up a calorie goal, etc., for you to reach.  They set mine significantly higher than 1,340. I actually went into the settings in the app (its in more, edit profile, net calories goal/weight loss goal -- I changed the weight loss goal first, then edited the calories) to change that because I know realistically what I eat on this plan in a day calorie-wise, and what I need to eat carb-wise, so I adjusted to a max on what those should be for this plan. I even was a bit generous on my calorie goal to allow for any weird cheats or if I ate out, mis-figured a recipe, overdid a condiment or four, or something along those lines.  I do wish I could edit the carbs down, because I have a specific range I am supposed to be in, and this seems to double it by default and it is sometimes hard to keep track of that on my own, or more accurately, when left to my own devices.

Photos: By me of my phone

Once you're in the app, you'll see a screen like the right, which is a summary of your day, showing your goal calories--which you can adjust from what the app/program sets for you--and your status within that goal for the day.  Also shown is a news feed, similar to Facebook, that shows your friends within the MFP site, and any of their activity, and comments related to that. 

Here's a screenshot of one of my better days from the website platform, look at the activity from the Fitbit!

Since signing up, I have been pretty pleased with the site and it's app in the almost 8 weeks I've been using it. I like that most, if not all, of my Medifast meals are in their system, and that it shows me all the carbs, fat, proteins and vitamins in each one.  I love that the site and app stay synced, and when my Fitbit syncs to its own site, the two sites are then also synced, so any activity I do in a day is then updated across the sites, and their respective apps.  I have a few friends active on the site, and they've "friended me" on it, so we can give each other little comments as there are weight updates, and status changes.

Every day, usually after each meal, I will go into the app or onto the site and add what I have eaten, either my Medifast meal or my lean/green meal, which is usually dinner.  If it's not something already in the site's database, I will search for a similar item and add it, then make notes down at the bottom in the notes section to identify what I really had for reference later. If I can find nothing similar, I will figure out the ingredients or recipe and add it myself.  I have, especially recently, added a few things. 

Photos: By me of my phone

Example::: Last week I stopped into Qdoba with a friend, so I added my Qdoba Mango Salad with steak exactly how I had it as a recipe because I found no variant just like mine in the database.  Many restaurants will give nutritional data on their items, and some like Qdoba and Noodles & Co will give even more specifics where you can breakdown the ingredients more to get a better picture if you eliminate various ingredients from your item.  Some of the recipes I've made, like the recipe for Chile Rellenos I made, I added into my recipe section so that when I have my leftovers for lunch here and there, I can just add a serving on the fly. Ignore the fact that it's saying "snacks" in the blurred area. I was trying to "add" so I could get to this screen and just clicked the snack section. 

Photos: By me of my phone

I know one of the biggest factors in a "diet" and it's success is writing it down so you can see your intake "on paper."  While I'd like to say that works for me most of the time, I am very good at just not putting down the "bad ones" and ignoring my failure to comply. I will write them in the notes, but I don't log them in the meal planner.  So, I need to work on that. Oh and that whole "cheating" part. 

But despite the "cheating", at least on my weight progress there's still a mostly downward trend, as shown in that lovely graphic which I left my weight visible on for posterity.

Overall I really like this app. It was built right and it looks very pleasing to the eye. It functions very well, and you would not have to use the website if you didn't need to.  The program itself syncing with items like Fitbit and other fitness related gadgets and apps makes getting to the end result much more convenient.

Sidenote that is generally unrelated but I need to get off my chest::: Due to some ridiculously obnoxious politics by Medifast in shutting down an awesome young college-student who while blogging about her experience on the program gave them an enormous amount of free, positive press for the last year as she lost over 100 pounds, I think this is probably going to be the last time I say their company names on my blog.  I may continue the program, but I don't think they will get the recognition if I am successful in doing so.

Are you a fan of My Fitness Pal? How has it helped your life? I'd love to hear about it!

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