Smartphones never leave our sides nowadays. We go to them when we have pressing questions and they usually provide us with answers. Since we HAVE TO eat every single day, why not engage our trusty companion to help us watch what we eat and shed a few pounds in the process?
In this article, you’ll discover:
The concept of weight gain and weight loss is commonly watered down to the term “calories in vs calories out”, which basically states that:
But what exactly is a calorie? A calorie is VERY simply a measure of energy.
You expend much of your energy by just being alive, and the more physical activity you engage in, the higher the number go. This number is your “calories out”.
On the other hand, your “calories in” come from the food and beverages that you consume; which provide us with the energy to stay alive and kick butt every day.
While the concept of “calories in vs calories out” is largely true and is also a great rule of thumb, your body is ultimately more dynamic and adaptable than simple arithmetic.
However when starting out, simply understanding and adhering to this concept can bring you amazing results.
The issue arises when folks try to lose weight without a clear and sound strategy to go about it. It may sound logical that skipping meals or simply eating less would allow an individual to be in a calorie deficit and lose weight as a result — unfortunately that wouldn’t be the case for long.
Your body starts to realize what you’re up to, and starts conserving energy to protect itself. Sometimes, things may even go south as some dieters find out at the end of their diet that they’re heavier than when they started.
So if you’re reading this article with the intention to lose weight, you need smart strategies (not just blindly skipping meals). To do that, you have two clear options:
If you raised your hand enthusiastically when we mentioned the second group, then you’re in luck! At Thoughtworthy we love free stuff as much as the next person, that’s why we’ll be sharing with you how you can use a free app called MyFitnessPal to help you watch how much you eat and shed some pounds in a healthy and effective way.
MyFitnessPal is a free calorie counting app that boasts the largest database of food. It has a free version that provides us with virtually every feature that we would need, and it also has a premium subscription service for those who need more features.
Plenty of folks have found great success in losing weight with the help of calorie counting apps like MyFitnessPal. Calorie counting used to be a tedious chore only reserved for the most dedicated of individuals. Now, you can scan a bar-code of the food product you’re consuming and have your smartphone do the heavy lifting for you. Technology is great!
DISCLAIMER: We at Thoughtworthy are not fans of long-term calorie counting. We love life (and food) a little too much to constantly fuss about the numbers around what we eat day in, day out. Also, counting calories doesn’t factor in a huge part of the equation: quality of food.
However, we have at one point in our lives counted calories primarily for educational purposes. We also encourage our coaching clients to count calories (using MyFitnessPal) for a short period of 3-7 days.
Our suggestion to you is the same as it is to them: do this for 3-7 days; whether you continue doing so after that period of time is entirely up to you. After counting calories for just a few days, you’ll find that:
Studies have found that we all tend to underestimate the number of calories we consume. Counting calories is a quick and simple way to prevent that pitfall and reap all the benefits stated above.
Furthermore, even after the calorie counting period is over, you’ll be able to better eyeball how much food equals to how much calories. That’ll make your further attempts at losing weight a lot easier.
Now that you’re convinced on the benefits of counting calories (even for a short period), how should you actually use MyFitnessPal to help you lose weight? Let’s find out.
But before we begin, your first task is to install the MyFitnessPal app on your phone. You can download them for your Android or iOS phones here:
We’ll be sharing with you what we personally find to be the MOST EFFECTIVE way to use the app for long term, sustainable weight loss (which is what we assume you’re looking for).
MyFitnessPal has a nice tutorial when you start the app for the first time, so you’ll be well covered in the instructional side of things. But there are a few settings in particular that we want to point out that will make your time with MyFitnessPal even more fruitful.
These extra tricks are what’s going to help you achieve maximum sustainable weight loss:
The Activity Level setting heavily influence how the app calculates your daily calorie goal. Your Activity Level is determined by how physically demanding your day to day tasks are, and intentional exercise shouldn’t be factored in.
For example, if you’re a construction worker then surely you have a case for selecting “Active” or “Very Active”.
But the truth is that if you have a regular desk job, chances are you fall into the “Not Very Active” or “Lightly Active” category. Even if you’re an office worker who participate in sports regularly, you should still select the “Not Very Active” or “Lightly Active” options.
When in doubt, simply pick one category lower. For example, if you feel that you are “Active”, pick “Lightly Active” instead. Studies have shown that people tend to overestimate their calories burned. So if your goal is to lose weight, we recommend that you err on the safe side.
If you look at the options for your weekly weight loss goal, you may wonder … “Why would I want to lose 0.25kg per week if I can lose 1kg per week?”
Now, believe us when we say that choosing the “Lose 0.25kg per week” option will help you lose the most weight IN THE LONG RUN. Long story short, think about it this way:
Your body actually prefers to retain weight. The goal is to remove excess weight from your body without it realizing that weight is being taken off. The more rapidly you lose weight, the more upset your body will be and the more alert it’ll be in trying to keep the weight on.
The series of options and tweaks that we present in this guide are designed to work together to help you lose weight as effectively and sustainably as possible. Choosing to lose 0.25kg per week is part of the strategic equation. If we get overzealous, we run the risk of the strategy backfiring.
While you don’t have to be accurate to the milligram, typically the more precise you are, the more effective calorie counting will be. Take special note to record the correct quantity.
Here are 3 ways to help you make more accurate food selections:
Some readers may be asking “If weight loss is about calories in vs calories out, what about tracking our calories out?”
There is a feature in MyFitnessPal that allows you to log your exercise and count it in the calorie equation. Our advice: DO NOT use the exercising logging feature. This applies universally, and not just to MyFitnessPal.
As mentioned earlier, we all tend to overestimate our calorie expenditure. Turns out, machines are not immune to that mistake as well. Exercise machines such as treadmills overestimate calories burned by an average of 19% while fitness trackers overestimate them by 10 to 25%.
This inaccuracy will play unfavourably into your “calories remaining” equation on MyFitnessPal, fooling you into thinking that you can still have your ice cream without exceeding your calorie goal for the day because you have earned it with that HIIT workout.
Plus the number of calories you burn from exercising is also less significant than you think anyway. While exercise is still VERY important for sustained weight loss and overall health, when it comes to weight loss, nutrition happens to play a larger role. Continue to exercise, but don’t bother logging it.
After setting up MyFitnessPal according to our suggestions, consider the daily calorie goal calculated by the app to be the IDEAL number of calories you should be eating per day.
This means that the further you deviate from that number, BOTH exceeding and falling behind, the further you are from maximum progress. As described earlier, your ultimate goal is to chip weight off your body without it realizing (it’s both a psychological and physiological thing), so make full use of the number presented to you.
In the screenshot example, per the app’s calculation, we can afford 1560 calories a day. Having 300+ calories remaining at the end of the day is a waste of 300 calories. Remember, if we get overzealous we run the risk of the strategy backfiring — 300 remaining calories is NOT better than 30 remaining calories.
That being said, you don’t have to worry about hitting that EXACT calorie count; don’t starve or stuff yourself unnecessarily. Numbers are just a guideline, just make sure you keep things enjoyable!
Over time, you’ll realize that to lose weight, often you don’t have to be making huge drastic changes. Those 300 calories can very often be the difference between falling off the wagon because of cravings, and satisfying yourself just enough to achieve your goals.
Here’s a recap of the strategies to put in place when using MyFitnessPal for weight loss:
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