Five Things "My Fitness Pal" Has Taught Me About Food & Fitness

1:11 PM

I began using My Fitness Pal last year when I started to exercise more - running, weightlifting and the such. It began as a way to monitor mostly my carb intake but U used it to keep track of all of the food I was eating, water I was drinking, as well as monitor my calorie intake and compare it to the approximate number of calories I was burning throughout the day. You never realize just how many calories are in certain foods, but, just as importantly, you never realize sometimes how little calories are in things as well. After a few months of posting I began to notice things about my body that were just feeling "off." I was having headaches and was going through periods of sleeplessness as well as feeling sluggish. I would have periods of off and on energy and sometimes my bowels would completely disagree with me. Coming from a family riddled with autoimmune issues, I know what the effects of food can have on a person. Luckily, keeping track of my food helped me to figure some things out and learn.


When I first started using the app, it told me that in order to achieve my goal I needed to have 1200 calories a day. I didn't quite understand what this was at the time, so I made sure that I only consumed 1200 calories. In addition, I would routinely lift weights for about half an hour, run for about the same amount of time, bike commute everywhere, and do all of the other things I would normally do. For about a week or two I felt great. I was loosing weight like crazy, but then I crashed. I wasn't understanding that 1200 calories meant NET calories!


Net calories are what you end up with at the end of the day after you exercise and burn calories from basal metabolic functions. Your basal metabolic rate is simply what your body would burn if you did absolutely nothing all day. For most women, it is roughly 1200 calories and it is recommended for women to intake at least that many calories a day in order to maintain healthy bodily functions (in particular your reproductive functions and hormones). My workouts were burning anywhere from 300 - 600 calories a day. My basal metabolic rate (BMR) at the time was about 1,280 calories. (There are formulas you can use to get a rough estimate of your but if you are concerned, consult your physician for a more accurate testing.) My metabolism was going bonkers at the time. I was working out more, doing more aerobic activity, but I wasn't putting enough into my body to balance out its basic needs. To put it simply: I was starving myself. Once I adjusted my caloric intake to ensure that I was getting the amount of calories I needed to function, as well as consume enough of the right nutrients to build muscle, I began becoming stronger and having more energy.

As my level of activity increased (running 5 miles a day instead of 3), I knew that I needed to add a few hundred calories into my diet to compensate otherwise my body would remain at a deficit below recommendation for too long, and this is not good.


As you start to enter your activity into any fitness program, you start to see a pattern. When you perform a continuous aerobic activity at a continuous pace you start to understand exactly how much energy you are outputting for each activity. For me, I noticed that whether I was running for ten minutes or cycling for ten minutes (at a decent speed), I was burning approximately 100 calories. Knowing this helped me to learn to help me decide when I needed to consume my calories and how many I needed to have in me to burn both before and after my workout. If I was going to have a longer run on a particular day, I knew that I would burn about 600 calories and I needed to adjust my nutrition to both prepare for the run and how much I could eat afterwards if I was worrying about remaining in a balanced caloric intake.
Of course, this will be difference for everyone depending on their height, weight and metabolism. For instance, my husband will burn about twice what I do (lucky him) at the same activity. Collecting the data as you go along will help you have a better understanding of what your body does and what you need to do in the future.


Ok, I'll admit it: I am a carb junkie. When I did the low-carb things I may have been loosing weight, but I was cranky as heck. I learned over time that I needed to have a decent carbohydrate intake to sustain me in an active lifestyle (since I was burning so much at a time), but I also knew that I needed to balance it with the rest of the needs my body had. When you start to log all of your food intake not only do you begin to notice what foods you eat more frequently, but you begins to instinctively remember all of the caloric and macronutrient (carbs, fats, and protein) information for all of these foods. In doing this you learn when your body needs certain nutrients and when you should consume them.

MFP screenshot

Whether you are on a diet or simply trying to find balance in your nutrition, it is important to pay attention to what you are eating and to learn a little more about the food you are putting into your body. Just because you are eating nothing but "healthy" foods doesn't mean that you are taking in the right amount of nutrients. For instance, when we try to eat healthy foods we immediately think of things like fruit and yogurt for snacks. Both of these things, however, have a lot of sugar in them and even though our intentions are good, we are not eating enough of a balance of nutrients to do our bodies good. Paying attention to the macro-nutrient section of the app helped me learn a lot about food that I previously did not.


Let's face it, when there's nothing in the fridge defrosted you really want to order a pizza. This was our life for a long time. Working long hours, having a small child, and a list of other things on the to do list usually ended up crossing "make dinner" off right from the top. Healthy eating, however, is not exactly a concern of take out restaurants and the ones with healthy options were (and still are) too costly to even consider. Meal planning, however, can help eliminate the want and need for last minute meals that often pack on the pounds.


Meal planning doesn't have to be as elaborate as those wives and moms you see on TV with laminated sheets, binders of coupons, and recipe books that are in rotation 365 days a year. It can be as easy as defrosting some meat every morning, keeping a big stash of greens in the fridge ready to use every day, and having some nice containers of dry goods in your pantry that are easily accessible and ready to mix and match into the perfect meal. Also, turn your leftovers at the end of the night into the perfect lunch the following day. Taking small steps every day will help ensure you and your family are getting enough of the healthy foods needed to thrive.


Keeping a record of your food to help develop healthier eating habits is a wonderful thing, especially when it works! But, unfortunately, for some people, counting calories and carbs and other nutrients can become obsessive to the point where it can turn into an eating disorder. Remember, it's ok to have a piece of candy once in a while, add a sugar packet to your coffee when you need it, or take that last bite of steak, even if it mean ten extra calories logged into your phone app. Don't let being human and enjoying life come to an end because you want to make sure every leaf and gram of protein are accounted for and don't miss your kids recital because you are worrying about not burning off that 500 calories at the gym.

Apps like My Fitness Pal are meant to be a guideline to help us make better decisions in our lives and become an overall healthier and happier person, but letting them control our every move and decision we make is hardly living at all.

REMEMBER! Your life is not a number and you are not a chart.

This blog was also published at MomBloggersClub and BlogLovin'.

This post contains affiliate links. I was neither paid nor received any other compensation to endorse the products contained in this post. All opinions expressed herein are my own and all photos and snap shots are of my own personal account. 

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