In 2017 I had a classic pear shaped body but overall my clothes fit comfortably and I felt healthy. However during the last 3 years I put on 10 lbs through a love for convenience food and a lack of enthusiasm to get active. As I’m only 5 foot it was an uncomfortable extra weight for me and my confidence nosedived as a result.
In April I decided that it was time to do something about it.
I began using MyFitnessPal to track my calories and macros, as well as committing to going out for a short run each day. It’s been slow progress and at times my weight has plateaued and fluctuated. However taking the slow, long term approach has begun to pay off. Two weeks ago I hit my initial goal weight and the week after I was amazed to see another couple of pounds disappear. My bloating has gone and I feel much more toned.
I know that tracking calories and macros won’t be suitable for everyone, but this is how using MyFitnessPal has helped me lose 10lbs so far.
In April 2020 the UK was in lockdown and I was working from home. It was an opportunity for a fresh start. I started cooking all of my meals from scratch. I was using lots of vegetables, snacking on nuts and seeds and trying to avoid carbs like pasta and rice. It felt like I was eating really well, but the scales told a different story. My weight was creeping up and I couldn’t work out what I was doing wrong.
This is why I decided to try tracking my food for a bit to see if it would help.
I logged into MyFitnessPal for the first time and entered my current weight and height and my goal weight. I set this at 8 stone which is more than I weighed 3 years ago. However losing half a stone felt like a mammoth task and I wanted an achievable first goal. MyFitnessPal calculated that to lose a pound a week, I should aim to eat 1,200 calories a day.
Now just to add a small disclaimer here: 1,200 is quite a low calorie intake. I need less calories overall because I’m so short. Height, current weight and activity levels will all play a part in your own recommended intake.
Here are some facts about weight loss that explain why MyFitnessPal set this goal for me:
With my goal calories set, I entered in what I’d eaten that day, convinced that I’d been very good. However the homecooked dinner that I’d thought was really healthy (curried tofu wraps in wholewheat tortillas) totalled 1,298 calories all on its own. This was a lightbulb moment. No wonder my weight was heading in the wrong direction; I was completely underestimating what I was actually consuming.
This is why using an app to accurately track and plan my calorie intake works for me. It replaces guesswork with clear facts and as a result I make well informed choices.
As I’m eating all meals at home currently and favour home cooking over ready meals, I have to input all of my recipes into the app from scratch, ingredient by ingredient.
This involves a considerable amount of weighing and also getting used to calculating fractions! In most cases I can just scan a barcode and someone else has already added that ingredient to the database, but often the measurements aren’t recorded in the same way as the recipe and so you have to convert them to fit.
It is most definitely time consuming at first. However I soon got into the swing of it and I’m now up to 50 recipes. This helps me to meal plan as on any given day I can see how many calories I have to play with and what meals will fit.
A good time saving tip is to batch cook your meals and then measure them out into individual portion sizes to freeze. This is a lifesaver for days when you don’t want to cook but still want to have some go to healthy meals that you know fit into your plan.
Another major benefit to inputting recipes into the app from scratch is that I can immediately see where there are unnecessary calories that I can cut out. I have adapted a lot of recipes that I used to eat before counting calories so that I can enjoy them still.
MyFitnessPal also splits what you’re eating into the percentage of Carbs, Protein and Fat, otherwise known as your macros. It recommends what percentage and amounts you should aim for each day.
Technically you could use all of your calories on McDonalds and beer and still lose a bit of weight if you’re in deficit. However I’ve learned that eating nutrient dense foods helps to keep me full and avoid cravings. On the other hand when I eat junk foods it takes up a huge chunk of my fat allowance for little nutritional benefit, decimates my calories and I’m hungry two hours later.
I should point out that when recording food and drink in the app, you can’t rely on these values as being 100% accurate. However they should be close enough for most people’s needs.
By aiming to hit my macro percentages I’ve seen really positive results. I realised early on that I wasn’t eating enough carbs which surprised me! A great deal of my calories were in fact being wasted on too much cooking oil (pure fat). Now that I’ve adjusted my meals to balance this out, I feel full for longer and have more energy to exercise.
Although the MyFitnessPal app recommended a 50% carb / 30% fat / 20% protein split for me, I’ve tweaked this after some research. I aim for 20% fat and 30% protein now as I’m exercising more. My new goal is to focus on toning up and building lean muscle.
I often plan out my meals a few days in advance and sometimes I’ll find that the combinations of food I plan to eat one day would work out to be particularly fat or carb heavy. If so, I might swop the dinners around on two days to balance it out better.
The nutrients in what you’re eating get broken down too. Again these values aren’t 100% accurate. However it’s still a good guide and by keeping an eye on them I noticed that my iron intake was consistently low. As a result I started taking a supplement. This has helped me stave off several migraines – an unexpected but welcome benefit.
I can’t put my weight loss 100% down to tracking what I’m eating. I have also been running too. However I’ve linked MyFitnessPal to my Garmin watch so that the activity pulls through and have found that this gives me extra incentive to carry on running! I can see the effect it’s having on my calorie input and output.
I was advised not to eat those extra calories though. If you have the premium version of the MyFitnessPal app you can actually switch off the setting that adjusts your daily allowance. I just use the free version so it’s a case of ignoring them!
One of the features I like is that you can submit your diary at the end of each day. It then tells you what you’ll likely weigh if ‘every day was like today’. What is equally good is that if you under-eat, you get a good telling off!
I hope you’ve found this bumper post on using MyFitnessPal helpful. In the coming months I’ll be sharing some of my 1,200 calories per day recipes and meal plans.
If you have any questions in the meantime, please let me know in the comments or tweet me @lovedbylaurac