I've never been one to put a lot of stock in fad diets. I'm sure a lot of people have had a great deal of success with things like the Paleo or Atkins plans. Personally, I'd rather enjoy my meals. Using MyFitnessPal to monitor my intake, I was able to drop 20 pounds inside of two months without vastly altering my eating habits. Here is how I did it.
What is MyFitnessPal?
MyFitnessPal is an app you can use on most mobile devices. It also has a web portal for those who use their computers more than smartphones. The system is designed to help you watch what you eat as well as track physical activity. It's perhaps one of my most used health-related apps.
You can add your own recipes and share them with others on the system. You can also view personal nutritional statistics such as sugar and carb intake for the week. Personally, I use it to track calories and body measurements.
Losing 20 Pounds in Two Months
When I first started using MyFitnessPal, I was just under 288 pounds. At this point, I was a work-at-home father who sat at a desk for 16 hours a day. To be honest, I didn't think I was in that bad of shape. That is, until I went camping and had a hard time climbing a small hill.
That's when I decided to put more effort into losing weight. Looking back at some of those pictures now, I find it amazing by how large I actually was.
So, what did I do to shed the weight quickly?
1. Record Everything
One of the biggest reasons to use MyFitnessPal is to track your intake. By monitoring everything you consume, you'll see just how unhealthy you truly are. I was blown away when I recorded my normal eating habits of Taco Bell and Walmart cupcakes.
MyFitnessPal includes a barcode scanner for the mobile app. You can quickly scan a package and add your servings whether you're at home or walking through a convenience store. However, these scans are not entirely accurate. There are times when you'll need to choose a better alternative or input the nutritional information yourself.
Be honest when tracking your daily food. If you don't want to put something in because it will put you over your calorie limits, you'll only be cheating yourself. There is no gold medal for losing weight. The trade-off is living longer and perhaps having a heightened lifestyle and sense of pride.
2. Add Healthy Food
I don't believe in denying myself the good and tasty foods that are on the market. But I do realize the importance of adding healthier edibles throughout the day. I still enjoy pizza, Three Musketeers, and ice cream, but I also add in more vegetables and fruits than before.
For example, here is what my small shopping list looked like a couple of days ago:
- 5 cans of Progresso soup
- 4 4-pack snack-sized sugar-free Jello cups
- Large container of mixed fruit
- Medium bag of Three Musketeers
- Medium bag of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
This weekend, I'll pick up meats and veggies from Trader Joe's.
In the past, I would never have thought about picking up sugar-free anything or mixed fruits. And the bags of candy I bought usually last me quite a while because I stick to proper portion sizes.
If you're wondering, the Jello is for those times when I want to snack on something but want to keep the sugars, carbs, and calories down.
3. Eat Proper Portion Sizes
Like I've said in my Twitter feed, "a whole pizza does not a serving make." One of the biggest reasons why I've lost so much without diet plans or spending hours a week at the gym is because I've reduced my intake. I try to keep all of my meals and snacks within reason.
Portion control is one of the biggest problems we have in the United States. Restaurants and commercials push the concept of eating more for less money. We are grossly overfed as a society and reducing the intake would solve a lot of problems.
For example, a nice 12-ounce steak dinner is actually enough food for about four meals. It's all about eating within reason, especially if you want to appreciate some of the tastier things that are on the market.
When entering food into MyFitnessPal, I try to maintain the correct serving size for various things I eat. I lost more than five pounds the first week just from keeping with logical portion sizes. For instance, two slices of a medium pepperoni pizza from Dominos is all I should need in one meal.
4. Increase Physical Activity
Another important part of making MyFitnessPal work for you is increasing your physical activity. If you're like me, this is often a bit difficult to do most of the time. I work and play at my computer, and there are days when I have to struggle to get up and move. But it's vital if I want to lose weight.
I'm lucky in the sense that I have a Fitbit Charge 2 to help keep me motivated. I also played a lot of games on the Xbox Kinect, which easily burns through calories if you play it right. Anyway, you need to find things that will help you raise your heart rate.
I am a firm believer in "gamifying" fitness. This is when you turn exercise into entertainment and competition. I started out facing off against my brother with who can lose the most weight. Now, I use Fitbit to compete against others for steps and play as much Xbox Kinect as I can.
The point is you need to increase activity. Not only does it help you lose weight, but it makes the body stronger. One of my favorite stories is how I lifted a 50-pound bag of dog food at the grocery store and had to look because I thought the manufacturer reduced the weight.
The strength I have developed has helped in a variety of real-life situations.
5. Blogging About What I Learn
One of the coolest features of MyFitnessPal is the free blog that comes with the tool. I was using it to record everything I learn about losing weight and being more healthy. I've since moved the blog to my own platform, but it was helpful in the beginning.
Blogging about what you learn is greatly beneficial for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it helps you remember everything you read if you write about it. This is why teachers often have students write down everything...it improves memory retention.
Secondly, I love helping others. If just one person finds value in my writing, then I am satisfied with the effort. I want to help others get as much out of health and fitness as I have so far.
And third, there is a sense of being watched. Blogging gives me the sense of accountability. I don't want to look foolish in front of my readers, so I work that much harder to prove I know what I'm talking about.
6. Be More Social
Another aspect of MyFitnessPal that I like is the social element. You can find friends, join forums, and interact with others who are in the same boat. It's the idea of encouragement rather than trolling that I enjoy the most. You're not alone in the battle for weight loss and there is indeed strength in numbers.
The social element is also why I connect everything I can to MyFitnessPal. I enjoy giving compliments to complete strangers as much as I like receiving them. Then again, I am a supportive person who does not get some kind of sick pleasure from tearing someone down.
Being social helps you create a support structure that is motivational as well as inspirational. For some, this is often the difference between success and failure. Surround yourself with people who will help you reach your goals.
You Don't Need a Lot of Money to Lose Weight
Commercialism will have you believe that you need the latest and greatest workout machines or diet plans. In reality, it's more relevant to your mental state. If you don't have the motivation to succeed, you won't. MyFitnessPal may not be the best tool for you, but it works wonders for me. Find something that gets you moving and live a better lifestyle. You'll find yourself geeking out over various accomplishments...like lifting heavy bags of dog food.