My new favourite pal

Saturday, 27 November 2010 | Tags: , , , , , ,

Over the past few months I started noticing that the numbers on the bathroom scale were beginning to creep up to never-before-seen levels. And this, before the holiday season? Yikes. I was getting worried that by the New Year, none of my pants would fit.

 My new favourite gadget – the iPad – has provided the unlikely benefit of helping me drop those few stubborn pounds.

We have all heard that keeping track of what you eat can help you lose weight. I decided to test that theory by downloading “My Fitness Pal” a free mobile app. (It’s also available as an online tool too. Just register on the website and go.) I figured a free app was a lot better investment than a new wardrobe.

How My Fitness Pal Works

First you enter your current weight, then the weight you would like to be and how many pounds you want to lose. Gaining weight or maintaining your current weight are also options.

Then you enter how active your daily routine is: are you a CFO at a desk all day, or a ballet dancer? All of this helps determine your recommended daily caloric intake needed to reach your goals. I decided to take the cautiously optimistic road and selected “lightly active” with the aim of losing a pound a week.

Now, the time-consuming part: I had to log everything that passed my lips every day. The app makes this very easy. Type in “bread” and the database gives you multiple suggestions on types and brands. A key part of the process is determining serving size. My electronic scale and measuring spoons have become permanent fixtures on my kitchen counter top. I’m now well-versed (and slightly disappointed) on what an ounce of cheese actually looks like!

The Calorie Countdown

The app calculates the caloric count and adds it to your day’s consumption, while also counting down how many daily calories you have left according to your goal. I particularly liked this features as it helped me make important judgment calls at 9 pm at night: I have 100 calories left, do I want an apple, a glass of wine or a hunk of chocolate?

The good news is you also plug in any physical activity you did that day. What you expend in calories is added back onto your total daily allowance. The more you work out, the more you can eat, obviously. Talk about an incentive to get to the gym.

But it is not just about counting calories. My Fitness Pal’s vast database determines sodium, carbohydrates, vitamins, fat intake and the like. It’s been rare that I haven’t been able to find a food or close facsimile. And if you can’t find it, you can create it. My favourite feature is “my recipes” – you can enter all the ingredients in a recipe and it will calculate the calories for you.

The Lessons are Multi-fold

Of course, just entering your daily meals doesn’t make you stop eating Cheesies and Hohos. As with many things in life, you still have to do the hard work yourself. 

My Fitness Pal has helped me:

  • Learn the caloric value of my favourite foods

  • Acknowledge the number of “hidden” calories I was consuming (the old, “I just had a salad, though it was swimming in dressing and dollops of cheddar cheese, avocado and bacon” routine.)

  • Appreciate that eating out, something I do a lot, is a dieter’s nightmare. It’s so hard to judge what’s in each dish you order.

  • Make smarter choices based on what I had already eaten that day

  • Get off my butt more, even if it’s just a short walk or extending my dog walk a few extra blocks.

Goal Set, and Met!

To date, I’ve dropped those niggly few pounds and my pants are feeling a lot more comfortable. Just in time for those holiday cocktail parties!

If you’ve got a favourite app, I want to hear about it! 


(Left iPad photo courtesy of Apple Inc.)


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