I downloaded MyFitnessPal again. I had it for all of two days years ago after someone recommended I try it. Were they telling me I was getting a bit chunky? Come to think of it, I don’t know, maybe. At the time I hated the idea of “tracking” my food and being a slave to a calorie limit. Even now it makes me feel kinda psychotic. In the past, when I tried to count calories I found myself obsessing over what my next meal would be. Where would I get it? What would it be? Would I like it? Would it be healthy? I also would get anxiety thinking about being in a food desert and starving (I’m a consultant remember and often find myself in said food deserts).
Flash forward to today. I’m a few (undisclosed) pounds above my comfort level, I’ve joined a fitness challenge with Jordan Kelly and I’ve decided to try out the whole macro counting thing. So, I downloaded MyFitnessPal again, started counting calories and oh.my.god a sandwich has HOW many calories. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I’ve been in serious calorie denial lately. I always try to eat healthy but like I said, the volume of food is a bit….disturbing. I’ve been logging my food for 5 days in a row and I’ve had a surprisingly ‘mentally healthy’ time doing it. I’m not feeling the same resentment towards the concept. I think the biggest difference between now and then is that I’m finding MyFitnessPal to be more of an educational resource vs. “a prison of eating” (that is the first thing that came to mind and I went with it).
One thing I started doing this week was checking nutritional guides on restaurant websites. I was traveling in a SUPER rural area so my options were mostly fast food and some random restaurants. So for example, I went to Qdoba and logged the calories for a naked burrito with pork. Back at the hotel the only thing was a Walmart, Qdoba and a Buffalo Wild Wings nearby. I had already eaten a protein bar and needed real food, so Walmart was out. I didn’t want to eat Qdoba again, so that was out. So what I did instead was head to the Buffalo Wild Wings nutrition guide and summed up what I would potentially eat. Surprisingly, their chart was way more detailed than I had expected. It showed each option with customized options. So I got a ‘cheeseburger’ but with grilled chicken and avocado instead. It was super helpful to see how easy it was to pick an item that was upwards of 1000+ calories. IT.IS.INSANE how quickly calories add up. Kind of sad, actually.
So here are my tips for using MyFitnessPal or any other calorie tracker
- Make sure you are mentally ready
- Make sure you have a clear goal in mind – mine was to see a visual of what my calories look like (I’m a visual person and it’s not real until I see it)
- Start with foods where the serving size is easy to calculate. Over or under estimating based on what you think ounces or grams look like start you off on a ‘less than accurate’ path
- Use the barcoding system – if you are at home or can grab something with a barcode it will make your life 10x easier! I’ve found that some entries from other users are inaccurate (wrong calories, wrong carbs etc.) so relying on pre-populated data will also set you on a wrong path. Barcoding will provide you with the accurate counts provided by the maker.
- Use it as an education tool and don’t go crazy – it really is a wonderful way to understand what that 250 calorie serving size looks like. Use it to understand the macro competition of all of your favorite foods. Just don’t go crazy! To the point above about barcodes, if you have them…great. If not, no sweat! I’ve been going over on my calories but instead of being mad at myself, I’m understanding why I went over. I’m learning from it and moving on.
So, that’s my story. Hopefully I’ll start falling right at the calories and not going over but ya know what, it’s a journey.