Good afternoon! The weekend is almost here! One of my goals for 2018 was to force myself to get out of the gym one night a week. As in, go do something outside of the gym, plan something, meet a friend for coffee, or go do something I wouldn’t normally do. Today I’m totally lonering it up, but I came to Greenville to do some shopping at Trader Joe’s and Costco. But first, I stopped by the West End Coffee Shoppe – mostly just because there was a parking spot right out front, and its just the cutest. The barista made me the “Yeah That Chai” – with espresso, chai, REAL MILK, AND whipped cream – holler. And I even bought a small brownie to go with it. <<I’m just being real with y’all>>.I felt like today was the day to show myself some love with some extra carbs. Halfway though the 12 oz espresso and a third of the way into the brownie, I felt like my body was going in to shock though, so I stopped, bagged up the remaining brownie, and I’m taking it home to Daniel, who will then thank me for thinking of him. Everyone wins.
When I first got here, I made a couple of new friends who do CrossFit in Greenville. One of the guys asked me if I do CrossFit (it’s cool how people can pick up on that without even ever talking to you), and it sparked up a convo with him and his friend who actually tore his achilles tendon playing basketball, and had surgery two weeks ago. Small world.
Ok, so Monday I wrote a very basic post to give you some very doable tips and tricks to get you back on track and eating healthy.
I said there would be a part 2 with JUST My Fitness Pal. After you read this, you’ll be glad it was two posts because there is so much to talk about with tracking, measuring, and weighing your food. Feel free to skim, scroll, and skip down to the pros and cons of the app if that’s the only reason you’re here.
My Fitness Pal is a free app you can use to track your calories, macronutrients, micronutrients, water, and even exercise (if you’re into that kind of thing). It’s not for everyone, and it’s not the “end all, be all,” but it may be an option for you! Most people underestimate the amount of food and calories they are actually eating, so having an app like this to track may be beneficial!
I’ve been using My Fitness Pal consistently since October. I’ve said this before <<so fast forward to the next paragraph if you’ve already heard the story>> but I had just had surgery to get my right achilles tendon repaired…again. While I knew this surgeon would get me back and moving, lifting, running, and doing cool things again faster than the last one did, I still knew that I’d be out of commission for awhile. SO, I wanted to make sure that I was intaking enough food (especially protein) to maintain muscle mass, while not overdoing it either. I thought about doing Renaissance Periodization (RP) because Daniel had a template, and I have some other friends who are currently doing it, or did it at some point. However, although those RP people are waaayyyy smarter than me, and there is definitely some science behind it, I didn’t want anyone telling me when I had to eat. I wanted to just know numbers, and make it a goal to hit those numbers as best I could daily. I also thought about doing Zone again because it was so good for me a couple of years ago! I love the ratio of your calories being 40% from carbohydrates, 30% from proteins, and 30% from fats. However, I wanted to be a little more specific with it. As in, let’s say I was eating some chicken. I wanted to be able to count all 3 macronutrients for that, instead of just counting it in blocks of protein.
So, after a couple of weeks of enjoying myself, taking it easy, and enjoying all of the yummy food that sweet, generous people brought me, I stepped up my game and started weighing and measuring my food using the FREE app. I put my weight in, I selected that I wanted to “maintain” my weight, and I adjusted my percentages to that 40,30,30% I was talking about. Easy enough.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve played with my numbers some as I’ve been able to lift more weight in the gym, finally start squatting more, and be a little more active overall. I’ve manually bumped my numbers up. Yes! More food. I feel like I’m at a good place now, but there is still room for improvement. If anything, I may need to bump it up some more, and I’ve even thought about contacting some people who are smarter than me that can better help me. Overall though, it’s been a great learning experience, and it’s been fascinating to watch how my body responds:
- I feel like I didn’t lose any muscle during the past several months.
- I feel lean, but strong. <—I know it’s cliche to say that, but I don’t really know how else to describe it.
- I feel confident because I took a step to make my health better, and I’m proud of that.
- I have more freedom to eat what I want (treat foods) regularly. AKA the chai espresso with REAL MILK and WHIPPED CREAM and a third of that rich brownie. <—-I don’t do this a lot though. I generally have 2 meals throughout the week that I don’t even track. Usually this is Friday night and then either Saturday night or a meal on Sunday. I’m cool with that. Of course, there are other times that may arise randomly, but for me, I never want to turn someone down, or turn an event down because I’m terrified that the food won’t “fit my macros.” News flash: pretty much everything CAN be tracked, and if I decide to meet a friend, and I happen to eat something that sets me back, it’s not the end of the world because I’ve made good choices the other 90% of the time. Everyone is different though!
- And last, but not least, it has opened up some doors for me to help other people figure out what their numbers should be. I appreciate the people who have asked for help, because it’s helped me get better at this whole tracking macros thing. It’s a cool feeling to be able to equip others to set themselves up for success.
Just like any app or approach, there are pros and cons. If you’ve used the app, you can probably relate to these. Or maybe I’m about to rock your world with all kinds of info you didn’t even know.
But before we get into that, let’s talk about mindset with macros.
- Any change you make to better your health should come from a place of love for yourself- not out of dislike and/or frustration.
- This isn’t for everyone. Just like paleo, zone, keto, whole30, 21 day fix, or anything else out there isn’t for everyone. But if you’re not happy with where you are at currently, take action, and do something about it.
- Counting macros should never be done to deprive yourself of food. Many of us, if not all of us, have had an unhealthy relationship with food at some point in their life. Any change you make should be to strengthen that relationship, not hinder it.
- It’s not always about “losing weight.” Weighing, measuring, and using apps like My Fitness Pal can be helpful to just see what and how much we’re really eating.
- It doesn’t have to be forever. You don’t have to track or use an app forever! That sounds horrible, actually. To have to track your food forever.It’s more about doing it for a set amount of time, developing some good habits, and then hopefully not having to track once those habits are established. After that, you can still be cautious of what you are eating.
- Everyone is different! I think I already touched on this, but before you start using an app like My Fitness Pal, set some “negotiables” and “non-negotiables” for yourself.
PROs of using My Fitness Pal:
- IT’S FREE 🙂 MIGHT AS WELL TRY IT. I’m also pretty sure they will give you a month free of the premium version. (Premium version is $49.99/year, or you can pay $9.99/month.
- It’s user friendly and very easy to navigate. Try it. Download it for free. Check it out. I promise that if I can figure it out, you can too.
- Your account will save each and every food item that you input. For example, say you scan a bag or container of oats. The app will save it, so next time you eat it, you just start typing the name of the food item, and it pops up.
- You can literally scan anything and everything with a barcode. Sometimes people push back on this one though and say that they don’t eat packaged food with barcodes. I get it. But if you shop at a grocery store, even some of your produce may come in a package with a barcode (think, spinach or mixed peppers in a bag).
- The food database is huuuuuuuuggggeeee (Trump voice). For real. Say you are going to eat a green bell pepper you bought from the farmer’s market with no barcode! Just type it in, and several selections will pop up for you to choose. There will be a green check mark next to food items that the MFP app people think are legit.
- Many restaurants are included in the database. For those of you who like to eat out, you can search restaurants and select what you’re eating or drinking.
- You can use various types of measurements (aka grams, oz, cups, kg, liters, etc). A scale is helpful, but this makes it so you can use measuring cups, and even get away with eyeballing every now and then as you get more familiar with the foods and the amount you are eating.
- You can save home cooked, made from scratch recipes in your “quick add.” One of the pushbacks I get with MFP is that you aren’t able to input foods and/or recipes that you’ve personally made at your house. Well, good news is…you can! I do believe that you need the premium version to actually enter your macro and micro nutrients for this though. But once you enter that recipe once, it automatically saves it for you for future reference and tracking. You can’t beat that.
- You can track your overall progress, and now you can even include pictures.
- You can adjust your goals, activity level, macro numbers, and calories. Basically, if you don’t like the number they give you for cals, macros, or anything else, you can manually adjust it. Pretty neat-o. If you want to get really specific with this, try the premium version. You can also have different goals for different days of the week. Say you want to eat less on your rest day (for all of you over achievers out there) you can adjust that day’s numbers for your goals.
- OVERALL, it’s going to give you a better idea of what you are eating. Most people underestimate what they are actually eating, so this can help you get on the right track.
CONs of using My Fitness Pal:
- Can their database really be 100% accurate? I’m sure it’s not. Is anything 100% accurate? This is a start though, and it’s a good one. With that, I’ve never found anything in the data base that has thrown me off or given me a red flag.
- I personally feel like the calorie numbers it gives are way too low. Maybe this is just me though? I always tell people to go based on how they are feeling. For example, it told one of my friends that with her goals and activity level she listed, she needed to be eating around 1,600 calories a day. Nope. No way. I mean, maybe I guess? That doesn’t seem enough to me. But who am I to say that? I just tell people to bump it up manually if they need more food.
- The exercise part is a little tricky. I tell people to ignore it. Don’t rely on the “calories in, calories out.” You can turn off your steps through the “more” option.
Anyway, hope that’s helpful! As always, I’m learning through this myself, but if there is anything I can do to help you, let me know. Overall, I’m just passionate about helping people figure out what works best for them. I do believe that we all should feel confident in the body we have, while giving it our best with where we’re at in life.