Disclaimer: I am not a Registered Dietician or health professional. The advice in this article is not meant to be used in place of a consultation with a practicing health professional. You should always seek medical approval before beginning any weight loss or exercise regimen.
Believe it or not, you can use your phone to lose weight! No, I’m not going to reveal some study that says texting burns calories, an hour of Candy Crush is equivalent to a 30 minute run, or anything like that (although I wish this was true!) There are some apps, though, that you can use to track the amount of calories that you take in to help you lose weight (or gain weight, if that’s what you want.) Tracking my daily caloric intake using my phone is one of my secret weapons in the fight to stay trim.
Why should I track my calories? How is that going to help me?
One of the very basic principles of weight loss is what we call “calories in vs. calories out.” In order to drop weight, we have to burn more calories than we consume each day. Many people don’t know how many calories they consume each day, while others may think they have a good idea how much they’re eating. The only way to tell for certain is to keep a food diary, which means tracking everything you eat and drink each day. It can be an eye-opening experience for sure, as many people don’t really know how much they actually eat during the course of the day. Tracking your calorie intake is extremely helpful for weight loss, because knowing how much you’re consuming each day is one of the first steps in determining how much you may need to cut back.
Sounds like a lot of work, right? Well, it doesn’t have to be. Your phone can be a big help for you here! Hands-down, my favorite fitness/nutrition app is MyFitnessPal. I discovered this FREE application about 3 years ago, and I recommend it to anyone and everyone looking to lose weight.
**Note** I’ll be going more in-depth on how to use the app and maximize your weight loss with it in a future post. For now, this is a basic overview.
Available on iPhone, Android and Blackberry, MyFitnessPal allows you to track your daily calories, exercise, and fitness progress. You start off by setting your own weight loss goals, to a maximum pace of 2.5 lbs per week. Once you complete your initial profile (height, weight, age, activity level, etc.) MyFitnessPal calculates the amount of calories you should take in each day. After maybe a total of 5 minutes time, you’re ready to start truly watching what you eat!
One of the things that make MyFitnessPal really convenient is its huge database of foods. Simply type in the name of the food/product that you’re about to eat, and chances are it’s in the database. If it is, all you have to do is find the food/product that matches or most closely resembles what you’re eating, click add, and voila – The food is added to your diary AND the amount of calories from it are deducted from your daily total, giving you the number of calories that you have left to consume for the day. The Android and iPhone versions offer a label scanner option as well – simply scan the label of whatever food you’re eating and it is inputted to your diary automatically (as long as it’s in the database.)
If you exercise (and you should!), MyFitnessPal can help you keep track of your workouts and even give you an estimate on how many calories you burned. What’s better is that it adds the number of calories burned to your daily total, to make sure you’re getting adequate nutrition and energy.
Finally, the app also helps you keep track of your total weight loss by allowing you to “check-in” as frequently (or infrequently) as you want. Simply input how much you weigh on a given day and MyFitnessPal keeps track of it for you. You can even go back and look at the reports it generates to show you how much weight you have lost over a given period of time.
Here’s my personal MyFitnessPal badge to show off a part of the weight tracking feature:
MyFitnessPal – Free Calorie Counter
While there are many good fitness apps out there, for the purposes of tracking calories and progress I think MyFitnessPal “takes the cake” (and tells you how many calories are in it too!) The user interface is simple, straightforward and very easy to use – even for those who aren’t very tech-savvy. Whether you integrate it into your daily life, like I do, or use it briefly just to get a clearer picture of your eating habits, it is well worth keeping a food diary. MyFitnessPal just makes the process a lot easier, and you can’t beat the price! Funny how our phones can almost do anything now, huh?
Do you use any fitness apps that you would like to recommend as well? Would you like me to check one out that you’ve heard of, but aren’t sure how to best utilize? Hit the comments section below. Any and all feedback is welcome and greatly appreciated!
Chicago Tribune: Baltimore Health Experts Share Their Picks for Best Fitness Apps