I have a new best friend. This friend is helping to keep me on track on my weight loss journey. This friend lets me know how many calories I have consumed all day and also how many calories I have burned when I workout. This friend lets me communicate with others aspiring to lose weight too. So far, this friend has helped me lose 3 pounds in the last two weeks. Yay!
My new best friend is unfortunately not real, but a "friend", nonetheless. :) I am talking about My Fitness Pal, a super awesome app that I downloaded for my iPad. I'm probably a bit behind on this one, but at least I have now become acquainted with it! Another awesome feature is that the app syncs with an online version that can be accessed from any computer. This app makes it so easy to track your calories that there is really no excuse not to every day. When you first set up your account you enter your weight loss (or gain - um yeah, I wish I had that problem!) goals (total amount you want to lose and how much per week), current weight, normal daily activities (if you are sedentary or active), how often (days per week) and long (duration of each workout) you plan to exercise a week, and it will give you a suggested daily calorie count to aim for each day. So, if you exercise, you get to consume more calories for that day. As a nursing mom, I also add in an extra 200 calories (a conservative amount since he is only nursing 5x/day now) to allow for those calories that I am burning every day, even though it really isn't "exercise".
Now a glance at all of the app's features. Your home screen gives you a summary of your day. It shows you how many calories you have left to consume for the day and gives you a breakdown of nutrients (% of diet coming from carbs, fat and protein) you have already consumed. This is a nice feature to help me quickly see if I am getting enough protein, or limiting my fat intake enough. By clicking on the "See All Nutrients" button, it will give you an even more detailed analysis, including showing you things like how much sugar or sodium you have consumed and lets you know if you are meeting those daily goals as well. At the bottom is your "Recent News" section. This gives updates in a Facebook-like feed. It will post when you enter a workout, or complete your food diary for the day. It also posts when you log-in for a certain number of days in a row, or when you lose weight when updating your weight loss progress. If you add friends within the app (other app users), they can comment on these updates, which is encouraging. :) You can also see their daily updates in your feed too. Finally, on the left-side is your control panel, allowing you to access all of the various screens within the app.
This "Food" screen tracks your daily calorie intake. It breaks down the day by meals and also includes snacks. You enter everything you eat and it totals the nutritional content for each item, by meal, then also by day. It does the math for you, then also lets you know how much you have remaining for each category too! It really couldn't be more comprehensive than that!
When you want to add an food, you just click on the "Add" button at the top, or the "Add" button within each category. Here comes my favorite part. You can actually scan the UPC barcode of a food item with your iPad's (or iPhone's) camera to see if it is already in their database! I would say that about 90-95% of the items I eat are already in there! Awesome. When you find the item you are looking for, it will bring up the information for that item, including serving size and number of servings (you can change this number to reflect whether you are eating more or less than one serving). It will adjust the calories, fat, carbs, etc based on the number of servings you enter. Then you add the food and it shows up under the category you chose (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks). Sometimes an item may not be found by searching via UPC code, but if you type in a description (i.e., 1% milk), it will bring up a big list of items matching that description and you can oftentimes find what you need there.
Next up is the "Exercise" screen. Here you can add your workouts for the day, both cardiovascular and strength. It doesn't give you any credit as far as calories burned for a strength workout, but it does let you keep track of how many reps and sets you are doing and the weight you are using. It conveniently saves previous workouts for you, so when you are adding a workout in, you can often select it from your recent workouts and adjust settings as needed. For a cardiovascular workout, you search for your exercise in their database that most closely represents what you did (i.e., walking at 3.0 mph), and enter it with the time you spent doing the activity. It then calculates the amount of calories you burned doing said activity based on your current weight. If you can't find your activity in the database, you can also add one manually. This is where I added in the nursing. I just broke it down by session and based on 5 sessions a day, I give each one 40 calories to get the total of 200 calories/day. When you add your exercise, it updates your home screen and adjusts the amount of calories you can consume that day.
The "Progress" screen shows you in a happy little graph how your weight loss has progressed (ideally!). It gives you a total change figure, then also a % change figure too, a la The Biggest Loser. At the bottom it tracks each weigh-in in a list format. Aside from weight, you can also track measurements of your neck, waist and hips. This is helpful if you are seeing weight gains, which can happen as you build muscle. You can view your graph over various periods of time.
As I mentioned earlier, you can also add friends. This is a fun way of helping each other out by offering encouragement and advice with each others respective weight loss journeys. You can either add people you actually know in real life, you can search for people locally that are also using the app, or you can friend random people that may have similar weight loss goals or other similarities. Fun!
Best of all, this app is absolutely free! Woo hoo! I must admit that I am normally not cheap with most things, but I am when it comes to apps. I have lots of them on my iPad, but every single one of them is free. Oh yeah. This app is so awesome though, that I might actually be willing to pay for it if I had to do so. Yep, it's that good. And no, they aren't paying me to write this glowing review. I just love this app so much that I had to share in case there is anyone out there who hasn't heard of it yet! :) As you can now see on the right sidebar of my blog, I am displaying a badge tracking how much weight I lose. Feel free to cheer me on as I attempt to kick my sister's booty in our weight loss challenge! ;)