My Fitness Pal... 500 Days and Counting...
Okay Pam, its been 500 days of food logging on Myfitness pal. Can you tell us how it all started?
I was introduced to myfitnesspal.com by Caryn during fit camp. I had never heard of the site nor had I ever really counted calories. I’ve tried pretty much every diet out there but oddly enough I never tried counting calories and moving more. I think I was always searching for a quicker easier way. When educating us about this app Caryn said “if you bite it you write it”. Well that little phrase stuck with me and really has helped me stay accountable.
Your first goal was to log for 365 days. How hard was it to make it to that goal?
Initially, I found logging everything to be quite cumbersome. But the more I did it the more it became a habit and I began to have a growing awareness about/appreciation of how many calories I was ingesting in a day. When you commit to honestly logging everything you eat it can be shocking as to what your “normal” food intake consisted of. Those who know me well know that I am a bit …o.k. a lot…type A. They also know that I am a rule follower and that I am goal oriented. These traits have been quite helpful when it comes to logging. I remember friending a person on MFP and I saw that he had logged for a year. I thought, “that is awesome…I can do that! So, I set the goal of logging every day for 1 year. I announced my goal to those around me as I thought that would help keep me accountable and it did. Those who knew about my goal really became my cheerleaders and I so appreciate their support. I also committed to following Caryn’s rule of “if you bite it you write it”. I have the MFP app on my phone and I committed to logging my food and workouts as soon as possible after I ate or completed an activity. I think this has helped me with accuracy. So, in summary, initially it was hard to get into the habit of logging each day but now it is second nature to me and it’s just what I do J
Some people struggle with making myfitnesspal work for them. Is there anything you learned along the way that helped make it work better for you?
· Set a goal for yourself and announce it to the world.
· When you find yourself not wanting to log or maybe feeling embarrassed about what you ate, really evaluate what that is about. Don’t let shame drive your behavior. Log the food anyway and tell yourself tomorrow is a new day. One meal doesn’t have to change the course of your journey. Progress not perfection.
· Remind yourself that “your body keeps an accurate journal regardless of what you write down” (saw this quote early on and it stuck with me); therefore, be honest. The logging is for you and it’s not about anyone else. You will get out of it what you put into it.
· Remember that the more you use the app the easier it becomes. I love that the app remembers your most frequently used items so eventually entering your food takes no time at all.
· MFP is an excellent resource for building a healthy support network of like-minded people. It is also a great resource for educating yourself about the new life you are creating. Spend time reading people’s blogs and posts. I have learned so much from other people on the site. Facebook also has some great pages that are oriented to fitness and nutrition. I think all of this becomes much easier when you spend time educating yourself about the choices you are making.
How do you feel about the concept of eating your exercise calories back or not eating your exercise calories back?
I didn’t really understand the concept of eating back exercise calories in the beginning…I was worried that I was wasting the efforts made with exercise. I now find it necessary to eat back my exercise calories. Food=fuel. Sure, I still eat out of enjoyment too but I know that to maximize my potential in the gym I need to provide fuel for my body. It has been exciting to see my metabolism repair itself after years of unhealthy dieting. I have been at this for about 1 ½ years and I went from 1200 calories/day to now eating anywhere from 1800-2300 calories a day, depending on activity level. I am better able to gauge true hunger from emotional eating. This one is still a work in progress and my sweet tooth can get the better of me at times. The great thing is that I no longer have to deprive myself…if I want a treat I have it…I just have to earn it and account for it. To be honest…there are many days when food is my main motivator J.
Was there a time when you could tell how accurate you were being? Did you see better results as you got more accurate with your logging?
I remember going to Caryn early on and saying “will you look at my food log because I feel like I’m eating healthier but the scale is stuck. I mean, I’m eating salads and that doesn’t really seem to be helping.” Caryn encouraged me to really take a look at what was in the typical salad I was ordering from a restaurant on a regular basis. She said she estimated the salad I was describing might have 800-900 calories. I was SHOCKED! After all, in the beginning I was only allotted 1200 calories. I remember saying “you mean I might as well be eating a cheeseburger?!” to which she replied “yep!” So…that was a turning point for me. I really started paying attention to what I was eating and focused on being more accurate with my logging. Be honest, be accurate (yes measuring your food really helps), and be consistent. The results will come! One more thing…a friend instructed me early on to watch out for BLT’s. I thought “I like BLT’s”. She, however, was warning me about something other than a sandwich. She said to be mindful of bites, licks and tastes as they add up quickly. Great advice and oh so true! Remember…if you bite it you write it.
Can you say anything to them about having a light at the end of the tunnel when they are no longer at "deficit", the feeling of being able to be at maintenance and how worth it, it is to make your time on mfp work for you and not just be "something you do"?
I would encourage people to abandon the diet concept and instead focus on creating a new lifestyle. For me it helped to avoid expecations like losing pounds by a certain date and instead use MFP as a tool to learn and experiment with the numbers to figure out what works for them. Once I started gradually increasing calories, I really felt I had more energy, felt more emotionally stable and my metabolism started responding. I feel like I can eat this way forever, it took patience to get there though.
So now 500 days later, what are some of things that you are most proud of?
· I have a healthy metabolism
· I set a goal and accomplished it
· I am setting an example for my children
· I feel so much healthier
· I like what I see in the mirror
· I am finally practicing what I have preached to my clients for years…” work on being healthy in mind, body and spirit and life will begin to take care of itself”.
Can you let us in on anything you are thinking of checking out in the future? Any goals you are setting to continue your journey?
Great question… I plan to continue using MFP as it is a helpful tool for me. I started lifting about 6 months ago and I plan to keep pursuing this as I enjoy it and see positive results from it. A big goal for me is to become less focused on the scale. My weight has remained the same since this summer but I have dropped another pant size and my body fat has continued to decrease. The scale doesn’t tell the whole story, especially as you near your goal weight. I no longer want the scale to dictate my mood or determine success for me. In my professional life, I find it very rewarding to work with clients on issues such as addiction, emotional eating, finding balance, developing healthy coping skills and increasing self-confidence. I’ve been encouraged to consider starting therapeutic and psychoeducational groups in this regard. Keep your eyes open for this as I’m evaluating my schedule to get something started.