Weight Loss? There’s an app for that! Pt 2

All this week I’m reviewing different iPhone apps for calories counting.  For an introduction and review of Lose It!, check out yesterday’s post. Today, I’ll take a look at the Calorie Counter and Diet Tracker provided by My Fitness Pal. The My Fitness Pal app is a companion to their web site. It allows for tracking both food intake and calories expended in physical activity. After you first download the app, you need to agree to the end user license agreement and then set up your profile, including weight, height, gender, age, and activity level. All of this information is used to determine your recommended caloric intake. Additionally, it is synced with the My Fitness Pal web site. This means that your information is backed up there, and you have the option of entering data either from your phone, or from your computer.

It was easy to begin using the app right away. Screens are clearly labeled and a FAQ section provides help on how to use the app if you need it, though I was able to get started without needing the instructions. I found some of the buttons and text a bit on the small side. To edit a single food, while the touch interface spanned the entire width of the phone screen, it is quite narrow. To delete an entry, the app follows the iPhone convention of swiping which causes a “delete” button to appear. Back tracking if you’ve made an error was also easy, with a button to return to the previous screen provided in the top left side of each page.

As with Lose It!, when you start the app, it defaults to the current date, allowing you to begin food or activity entry. Tapping the “add” button on the “my diary screen” takes you to a screen where you select the meal (or activity). From here you can search for a new food, or use the tabs to help you find foods you’ve entered previously. As soon as you start typing, suggestions from your previous food entries appear, allowing you to select them if appropriate.  Overall, the data entry for My Fitness Pal is a bit more streamlined compared to Lose It!. There’s a separate section for keeping tab on water intake – meaning that you don’t have to search for it separately, again, helping to simplify the tracking process.

The app keeps track of your calorie budget – informing you of your daily goal, how many calories you’ve eaten, how many you’ve expended, the net balance, and how many calories are remaining. You can view a bar graph which plots your net energy balance for a week at a time. The app also provides a nutrient summary for total fat, saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, monounsaturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, potassium, carbohydrates, fiber, sugars, protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium, and iron. There is also an option to enter your weight daily, weekly, or according to whatever schedule suits you; again, your changes in weight can also be viewed as a graph over time.

In addition to being able to enter and track your weight, the apps allows for tracking waist, hip and neck circumference too. These can then be viewed as a plot to track your progress over time. Another benefit of the app is the social support available through the web site and the “friends” tab on the app. You can invite your own friends to join, find friends online, or use the message boards to seek advice and support. A “news feed” tracks all of your log entries, but by default this is set to private, so you don’t need to worry about it being shared with others unless you choose to do so. You can also set up sharing with Facebook and Twitter if you wish.

Do you use My Fitness Pal?  If so, what features do you find most helpful? What makes this app work for you? I look forward to hearing from you.

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This entry was posted in Behaviour Change, Complexity, Feedback, iPhone apps and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Weight Loss? There’s an app for that! Pt 2

  1. TazeMazey says:

    I use My Fitness Pal and I really like it. I’ve recommended it to others. I haven’t used other apps, though, so I can’t say whether it’s any better or worse than other apps. I like that you can add foods to the main database; I’m in Canada and there seem to be quite a few other Canadians using it as some of the foods in the database specifically say “Cdn” so you know it’s the Canadian version of the product (which may be slightly different from versions in other countries). I like that I can enter my food/exercise from either the iPhone app or from my computer. In an ideal world I would change a few things about it (e.g. I wish I could customize the list of my most frequent foods), but overall it’s a good app and easy to use.

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