Thursday, June 9, 2011

My Savior, My Fitness Pal

I kept seeing posts on Twitter about "such and such lost 2 lbs since her last weigh in, she's lost 10 lbs so far" with the hash tag myfitnesspal. What was this magical website that had people losing weight every week? If this person could do it surely I could! So I went to my trusty Google and found what website they were on.

This website was about to save my life. I am not even joking. I didn't know it at the time but joining this FREE site is what changed my life and helped me to lose the weight. I didn't know at the time that it was going to be HARD work. But at this point, I had nothing to lose but the 40 lbs.

For those of you who don't know, My Fitness Pal is a website which allows you to track your food and your exercise. Using tools built in on the website it asks you what your lifestyle is, what your fitness goals are and what you would like to lose each week. Based on that information it will figure out for you the NET CALORIES you need to consume each day in order for you to lose the desired weight per week. I will explain net calories in a minute. Let's talk about setting up your account first. This is the basis which MFP will use to set up your dietary goals.

When you join you will be be asked to set up your goals. It will ask you for your height, current weight, goal weight and what kind of lifestyle you lead. If you sit on your ass all day, no matter HOW ACTIVE you are outside of work, put sedentary. That is what you are ... I will suggest however, if you have a lot of weight to lose (over 50 lbs) that you set your initial goal weight HIGHER then what you ultimately want to lose (the explanation of why will be in another blog... but trust me just do it). It will ask you how many days a week you plan on exercising and how long each day you plan on doing it. DO NOT LIE HERE YOU ARE ONLY CHEATING YOURSELF. Be honest. If you only plan on exercising 1 day a week for 15 minutes a day put that down. Why? Because this information is going to be calculated in to figure out your net calorie goals for the day.

After you have entered all the information and saved it you will be taken back to the news feed page. On the top of that page there is a table that shows the following:

Goal - This is the calorie goal for the day
Food - This is how many calories of food you have consumed on the day
Exercise - This is the number of calories you have burned doing exercise
Net - This is the amount of calories you have consumed OVERALL minus exercise.

Just a fast note here, I will get into this in a future blog. IT'S REALLY IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND THIS.

MFP works on a "calorie deficit" principle. The GOAL CALORIES given ALREADY TAKES INTO ACCOUNT that you are going to exercise therefore YOU HAVE TO EAT YOUR EXERCISE CALORIES BACK. I will write about this in great detail in another blog but if you don't feed your body you may actually GAIN weight.

Your NET (last number) on that table MUST BE as close to the GOAL (first number) every day in order for you to lose X amount of pounds per week effectively.

If you have not already done so, leave this blog and go to and set up an account. Add me as a friend by using my user name (karenborter) or my email address ( Please put a message in there when you add me saying "Ditch Your Diet" and I will know this is how you found me.

Next blog: The Food and Exercise Diaries

Hopefully by now whomever is reading this has signed up for My Fitness Pal and set up their account. If not, then this blog entry won't make much sense to you however you are still welcome to read on. It may encourage you to sign up for the FREE site.

It should be noted that I DO NOT WORK for NOR BENEFIT PROCEEDS from the site. I just love it and have found it to be an effective tool for weight loss.

One of the most important things you are going to do is realize that we are not DIETING we are changing out mindset toward food, eating and exercising. This is a LIFESTYLE CHANGE first and foremost. Once you "get your mind right" (as Tony Horton says) your weight loss journey can begin.

Your food diary is one of the most important tools you can use in order to lose the weight you want. Once you have all your preliminary information in it will automatically set up values for your nutritional needs. THE THING IT DOES NOT DEFAULT TRACK IS SODIUM. You can do this in your settings via drop down menu when you are on your food page. I can do an entire essay on the importance of watching your sodium input and how it affects weight loss (and gain). From your settings tab you can monitor just about every nutrient you need, but you only get to monitor 5 items. You can see your overall tracking via drop down menu on your Reports tab from your news feed page. The items I personally track are Calories (required), Fat, Carbs, Sodium, Protein and Fiber.

The MFP database is fairly extensive but I encourage people to double check the nutrition information on the foods before you enter them (if at all possible). Some people LIE so their diaries look better. This only defeats the purpose of the site. IT'S TIME TO GET HONEST PEOPLE and really take a look at what you are doing. The food diary is the KEY to your weight loss or gain story. 

In your food diary you must not only enter the foods you eat but the seasonings you use, the oils/butters etc you use to cook your food in. EVERYTHING adds up to calories and every calorie counts. Everything you eat must be entered in this diary in order for this site to help you. If you are snacking and not noting it then gain a pound ... I am telling you right now, those little tidbits add up to real calories and you are only going to frustrate yourself and quit.

When I started this journey I made the decision to log ALL MY FOOD for the day in my diary. At first I would freak out because my calories would be in the red. This tool helped me to realize how much exercise I needed to do in order to be able to eat dinner for the night. On any given day I would be approximately 300 calories "in the red" so I knew in order to eat I had to burn at least 300 calories during exercise (more on this in the next blog).

Now for the tools. When you enter foods it will ask you weights or measurements. DO NOT EYEBALL your food. You will be surprised what your perception of a 4 oz piece of meat is versus what it actually measures out to be.

Get a GOOD digital food scale. You can purchase them for around $ 30.00. You want to make sure it zeros out the container you use to measure your food and, if possible, you can zero it out so you can measure multiple items in the same bowl (for recipes and the like). If you think that you are a good guesser, you aren't. You will fail. You will not lose the weight, you will become frustrated and quit. The purpose of this blog is to help you so you DON'T quit. Your new digital food scale should be able to measure pounds, ounces and milligrams. I use a Salt Digital food scale and, for those of you in So. Cal, I purchased it at Ralphs Grocery store for $ 29.99.

Get measuring cups and spoons and make sure you measure everything. A note on veggies; when a veggie portion says (on frozen vegetables) 1/2 cup (85 grams) (for instance) MEASURE THE GRAMS NOT THE CUP. Always use the weighted measurement for the most accurate entry. When you are measuring cooked rice, you measure twice the dry portion (so 1/4 dry = 1/2 cup cooked).

The other REALLY IMPORTANT entry on your diary is Water. Most people don't drink enough of it. Eight 8 oz glasses isn't even enough if you are overweight. I will do a blog on water but suffice to say the formula is as follows: your weight, divide by 1/2 then divide that number by 8. That is the number of 8 oz MEASURED glasses of water MINIMUM per day you should be drinking. Make sure you track your water on the site as well.

*~*~*obligatory disclaimer*~*~*
I am not a doctor. Any change in lifestyle, activity, eating should be cleared with your primary physician before attempting. Doing so you do at your own risk. I am not a nutritionist nor am I equipped to give information on special dietary needs such as diabetes, gluten free or the like. I am not a personal trainer. Please make sure you take the necessary precautions prior to starting this or any program.

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