The inspiration for this blog actually came to me when I was reading my husband a review I had written to call into the Balanced Living Weekly podcast. I had been using the iPhone application Lose It! for quite some time after a short and disappointing go with ShapeUp Club. I had nothing to really complain about with Lose It!–I loved the interface, ease of use, constant positive updates and addition of an online community for extra support, but I heard a passing mention of the MyFitnessPal app on Fat2Fit Radio and decided to search for it in the iTunes store.
When I saw that it was free, I knew I had nothing to lose by downloading it and poking around to get a comparison to Lose It!. I was going to search for the flaws to make me feel better about my choice to use Lose It! to track my calories and exercise, and when I first opened it up on my iPhone, I have to admit I was a bit overwhelmed by the busy interface and endless tabs and options. I put it aside and continued to use Lose It! when I received an email from my dad with the subject line of “MyFitnessPal” the very next day. My eyes were perked. He wrote to tell me how he had just seen a nutritionist and was going to get serious about tracking his food and taking charge of his health again. Since he knew I was very familiar with apps like this and tracking calories for weight loss, he wanted to ask if I had heard of it and if I could check it out to let him know what I thought about it.
Hmm, a challenge on my “expertise”… I had to jump at it! I immediately looked into every minute detail of MyFitnessPal and was more than pleasantly surprised with what I saw. The more I investigated and experimented, the more I was convinced that I had struck gold! While it does have its flaws and imperfections, I can’t see myself ever going back to another app.
So in my humble review, here’s what I think of MyFitnessPal (mainly, the iPhone app) and how it stacks up to Lose It!…
First off, MyFitnessPal is available on both the iPhone and Android, while Lose It! is only on the iPhone. Similar to Lose It!, MyFitnessPal also has an online component where you can add and edit food and exercise even if you don’t have access to your phone or haven’t stepped up into the age of smart phones quite yet.
It also has the community aspect that Lose It! has, which helps you keep track of your friends and their progress, including the ability to leave status updates like facebook, which I see that Lose It! has also just recently incorporated. An added feature that’s currently only on the Android but still has to make it’s way to the iPhone is the ability to scan the bar code of food products to automatically upload nutrition information. Since my dad owns an Android, I’m quite jealous that he’s able to utilize this now, but I have faith that MyFitnessPal will step up its game, and I’ll be able to enjoy it soon enough!
MyFitnessPal bases your daily calorie budget on gender, height, weight, as well as daily activity level, and it gives the option to input your goal of days/amount of time you wish to work out per week to keep you on track. It also lets you simply plug in your own daily calorie allowance, unlike Lose It! where you can only add or subtract from the number it calculates for you in 25 calorie increments. With MyFitnessPal, in addition to being able to set it up to help you lose weight in ½ lb. per week increments and maintain current weight, it also has options to gain up to a pound per week (not that I’d ever utilize this, but I’m sure it’s a great feature for bodybuilders or the like). Plus, there’s a feature to “complete the entry” for the day and it will display what you would weigh in 5 weeks if you had that same exact calorie intake/output every day. Not like it would be accurate, but it’s still a fun to see.
Some added functions that I love about MyFitnessPal is that there’s a tab for recently added foods, and in that you can sort alphabetically, or in the order that you last ate.
You can also create meals easily for a combination of foods that you eat often:
…and there’s a tab that will keep track of foods that you input frequently so it’s much easier to add. There’s even a “multi-add” function, where you can add numerous foods to a meal in one simple screen:
What it’s missing, though, is a favorites tab, or at least the ability to search within one of the provided tabs instead of always being a generalized search. While I love that it keeps track of things I eat often, I often eat a whole lot of different foods…so I find myself sometimes having to re-search for a food I had just eaten the previous day because it’s difficult to find in the recently or frequently eaten tabs.
Another feature I really like is that if you know how many calories you ate but you don’t want to add a whole new item to the database, there’s an option to “quick add” that number of calories:
My absolute favorite feature of MyFitnessPal is the ability to calculate the calories in a recipe. I had been searching for months for a website or iPhone app with the ability to do this with such ease. I’ve tried sparkspeople.com, which takes way too long and is far too complicated, and caloriecount.com, which is often very inaccurate unless your food descriptions are precisely the way they want them to be. Unlike Lose It!, where you can add a recipe just based on a single serving (what’s the point in that? Might as well just create a new “meal”!), with MyFitnessPal you can add the name of the recipe and number of servings, and then add each ingredient:
I absolutely love that when I search for an ingredient (like salsa), there’s an option to add a whole can instead of having to calculate the math on my own for how many servings are in a can.
This is due to the extra box to fill in when entering a new food item into the database, asking how many servings are in an entire container.
One thing I learned, though, is that in order to edit a recipe on the iPhone, you have to go to a different screen (more–>edit foods and exercises), but I can certainly live with that if it means I can easily calculate the calories in my favorite recipes!
Users have the ability to submit foods into the public database when logged in on the computer, and other users can then verify whether or not the information added is accurate. My assumption is that if enough people clicked that it was not valid, it would probably be removed, but that’s just my guess. The other day, I bought a brand new cereal that I was certain would not already be in the database, but I was shocked to see that it was–and even 100% correct! I am incredibly impressed with the extent of the foods found on MyFitnessPal! As I just recently became a new Pampered Chef consultant, I decided to search the words “Pampered Chef” and found hundreds of recipes already added, which will make it so much easier for me to keep track of my meals! I have hardly had to enter a food on my own yet. I am constantly amazed at how many foods users have already submitted to the database to make my job a whole lot easier!
There’s also a spot to add notes about food or exercise each day, and it tracks daily nutrients, giving you a chart with how many calories, fat grams, carbs, protein, fiber, etc., that you should aim for and whether you are above or below that number for the day:
You can track more than just your weight on the iPhone app such as neck, waist, and hip measurements, but there’s also the ability to log in online and add more measurements of your choice, and then it will automatically sync with your phone. You can even track your water intake for the day, but it could use a fruit and veggie tracker to make it more complete.
MyFitnessPal also has a huge exercise database, allowing you to even keep track of your weights and repetitions for individual weight-bearing exercises exercises (no more pen and paper in the gym, or random note tracked somewhere on your phone!), and seemingly about a billion more specific exercises to chose from than LoseIt!
Just a helpful little thing I really like about MyFitnessPal is that it does utilize auto-correct on the iPhone, unlike LoseIt where you have to type the food exactly correct or it won’t find the item (which happened often to me as I attempt to type way too fast, expecting auto-correct to do its job!) You can also change the meal names (up to 6 meals) online and sync to your phone (like if you wanted to do breakfast, morning snack, afternoon snack, etc.,), and you have the ability to share your diary with just friends or allow it to be viewed publicly.
But if I want to be nit-picky, there are a few things I would change (please take note, MyFitnessPal creators!) I really don’t like that it does not show the nutrition information immediately on the screen when you’re adding a food and adjusting the quantity. You must “accept” that change before you’re able to see what changing the serving size will do to the calories. The calories are also not displayed on the website next to the food items under your tabs or when doing a general search, so if you’re choosing from a recently added food, you can’t see the calorie count until you add the item. Also, while it does have the ability to copy a meal from 1 day to the next, it will only copy it to the same meal of the day. So when I have leftovers from last night’s dinner for lunch, I have to re-enter each item into the lunch category because it would only copy to dinner .
A few other improvements I feel need to be made to at least the iPhone app is that while I do love the “friends” and community aspect, there are no notifications if someone comments on your status. The only way I know to look is from the email that is sent to me. Also, 1 little thing I kind of like about LoseIt (probably because I’m nosy), is that the news feed will display whether you were over or under your budget by the exact number of calories at the end of the day. So I could see if someone is under budget because they obviously didn’t track at all that day, or over budget just by a few calories. MyFitnessPal only states that you ended the day over or under your calorie budget, so that leaves way too much up to the imagination!
Also, I noticed a flaw the other day when I had entered one type of exercise, but deleted it and added a new one I then received a comment from my dad on how awesome it was that I had burned so many calories doing both exercises, so it apparently didn’t take into account that I had deleted an entry and replaced it with a correct one, giving me more credit than I deserved. Well, come to think of it.. I probably shouldn’t have fessed up to him on MyFitnesPal’s mistake!
But probably the most convincing testimony of all was an email from my dad:
Honestly, it’s only because of the ease of this application that I’m willing to go through this effort. I am so incredibly busy, that doing one more thing is the last thing I want to do. But with minimal effort, MyFitnessPal tells me SOOO much…. not only calories, but also carb info, keeping track of all of this stuff, and telling me how much I have left in a day.. all for the simple cost of entering info that is so very easy to enter. So right now, there’s a lot of value for a little effort, and I’m starting to do what I’m know I need to do. It’s wonderful having you on the other side as my MyFitnessPal friend. You will be an encouragement and an incentive. Hopefully, this will be the start of something serious for me, including eating a little better, exercising, losing weight, and getting my blood sugar to a safer level.
I am so excited that MyFitnessPal is going to give me the opportunity to walk this journey with my dad from hundreds of miles away, and give us the chance to help and encourage each other in our weight loss journeys.
So there you have it. In my humble review, MyFitnessPal is by far the best calorie counting app I have found on the iPhone and online, and I’m so glad I took the chance to actually look into it and try it out.