MyFitnessPal: Weight Loss Is Now Fun And Easier

There was once a time when losing weight was quite a struggle. There’s the gym but it requires membership. There’s your friendly liposuction clinic but obviously it’s invasive not to mention expensive. There are also self-help books on counting calories but these have limited recipes and rarely include nutritional info while some of it have ingredients that aren’t available locally. Where do you get kale, collard, cottage cheese, or quinoa? Go figure.

Fast forward to the era when almost everyone has mobile phones and almost everything starts to have its own app. Modern technology now makes losing weight interesting and fun. Weight watchers nowadays have more control, timely feedback, and could take actions fast like passing off on a slice of shortcake because calorie goal has been reached. Freeze it and tomorrow’s another day.

Seven months ago I was looking for a solution to my weight loss plateau. It’s the dreaded point of anyone trying to lose (or even gain) weight. Common knowledge dictates eat less, exercise more but it is easier said than done. Often times this hit or miss leads to under nourishment, sickness, and eventually, failure. I’ve seen people going back to square one and never attempting to cut weight ever again due to disappointment and/or lack of motivation.

This is where the apps come in. There are several apps that help count calories but I use Under Armor’s MyFitnessPal which is among the popular ones, if not the most, under its category. Since I started using it in August I have never turned back, never skipped a day without entry of my meals. The results gradually followed and goal finally reached. Thanks to data-driven weight loss.

MyFitnessPal allows its users to customize their own weight loss plan. Goal could be as aggressive as a 2-lb loss per week or just take it easy at .5 lb per week.

Personalized diet plan.

The app’s weight goal factors in the user’s activity level from Not Very Active to Very Active. Mine should be the former but since I have the leisure to take short breaks when my Garmin says Move! I set mine on Lightly Active. I normally achieve 10 stairs level (up) and 5,000 steps daily.

Activity level menu.

Of course, counting calories means food consumed versus daily calorie goal. This is where MyFitnessPal’s huge food database becomes an advantage. You may now start throwing away those diet self-help books you bought from the thrift shop. If you’re Filipino or Asian or anyone but American most likely those paper books do not include local dishes. So far everything I ate are on MyFitnessPal: sinigang, tulingan, sisig, tuna pasta, pizza, adobo, kamoteng kahoy, kangkong, balut, bulalo, sweet potatoes, bananas, eggs, etc. Whether it’s English or Tagalog food name, this app would have a match for it.

Use the app’s barcode reader if food label has a barcode. Trust me you’ll love this feature.
App shows calorie per food based on servings and it totals everything per meal. Here’s my 600-calorie breakfast.

After all meal entries are in, the app predicts possible weight result. When I started months ago I smirked when it said I would be 145 lbs. Well, it happened, breached it even further and I never doubted the app since then.

The number always motivates.

Interestingly, sooner or later calories wouldn’t be the only thing that matters. Anyone who gets more serious about diet and nutrition would be asking about nutrient details like sodium, cholesterol, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and trans. Then there’s also the question if where the calories are coming from. Does it come mainly from carbs, fats, or protein? MyFitnessPal got these covered.

Macro shows our diet needs to include fat. Keto guys rejoice!
Want more details, MyFitnessPal has this Nutrients tab for you.

There’s a big caveat to all this. MyFitnessPal computes based on accuracy of the user’s entry so honesty is a big factor here. User details like height, initial weight, activity levels must be all correct. Needless to say, if it’s two slices of apple pie you ate it must be two apple slices that should be entered or else weight predictions would remain a number and not a reality. And your bathroom scale would surely know.

There are also basic tools I use to complement the app. I have a cheap digital kitchen scale my wife got online and on most days I wear a Garmin Vivoactive HR watch that records calories consumed based on my physical activities such as running, walking, intervals, stairs climbed, etc.

The Garmin smart watch pairs with MyFitnessPal app and calorie goals are adjusted accordingly. I found some discrepancies though on how MyFitnessPal adjusts so I would ignore the big numbers whenever I see them.

Garmin Connect app shows a more accurate ‘calorie left’ number.
Better ignore the adjusted 1000 calories unless you workout like Dwayne Johnson.

MyFitnessPal is free but it has a premium package if you want to be more detailed about your diet. Free works for me for now.

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Revision: I won’t sleep tight if I don’t include the barcode reader screenshot and change the boring title.

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Mood: 1/10 Honks! (Cold uphill run to Makiling.)

Cut Down

The bathroom weighing scale finally shows the magic numbers: one, three, zero. Months after I started counting calories seriously I have reached my ultimate goal. It was a test of will, patience, and discipline and I did it breaking stereotypes about genes, age, and being endomorph. I have never been this light and fit. Take note: Never been in my entire life.

Measure and control play a big part in all this. Again, “whatever is measurable is controllable” proves itself true. A concept that I first read in school textbook, often heard at work, and now put to good use in achieving weight loss. It started with just wanting to shed off Christmas weight. Then getting out of the dreaded weight loss plateau. Then entertaining the thought of hitting the ideal BMI. Before I know it I was staring down at a scale that says I am already 30 lbs lighter seven months later.

The MyFitnessPal app made it happen.

It’s not really a big number but I am now following a new lifestyle–not cliche New Year’s resolution–which I would continue to embrace. Achieving a 130-lb weight is just the start. My current regimen could result to increased muscle mass so whether I maintain my new weight or not is no longer important. For now, I see lighter runs ahead and probably new PRs.

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There is so much discussion about coffee. Some days a villain, some days a hero. Whatever, it’s fuel for me. But it’s expensive regardless if it’s Starbucks or home-brewed which is why I will start using a coffee press instead of a drip coffee machine that runs on electricity. I had my first brew last Friday and I like it.

Got this for 795 pesos from Starbucks.

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Mood: 1/10 Honks! (Ah, yes coffee is diuretic. Reason I’m up for a very early morning snack and a Ghost Wars episode.)

First 16K

Can I run farther? I asked myself immediately after I crossed the finish line of the Run 7-11 10K category a month ago. I wasn’t all spent while slowing down towards the staging area so I think I could. Since then I set my mind to try 16K.

Next weekends, however, I was grasping for motivation. Why should I? What for? I seem unable to justify why I would torment myself running farther when 10K seems to be good enough for regular runs. And the funny thing is, in the past weeks I didn’t even do 10K anymore. I also did 5Ks just because my workout plan that’s stuck on our refrigerator says I need to. Telltale signs of boredom.

My Garmin capturing the spike of elation?

Thanks to running and fitness pages I follow on Facebook, I got back on track. Surround yourself with like minded people they say. People who had the same challenges, same people who despite challenges have beaten the odds. So this morning I pulled myself out of Netflix’s Ghost Wars. I ran while it’s still dark.

The plan was to cover 12 kilometers only. It’s the distance set based on my newly discovered pre-run meal: .5 multiplied by bodyweight multiplied by number of hours left before run. I read it yesterday, not the whole article but I was eager to give it a try. It says it should be good for an hour’s run.

Experts say that pace is key to avoid early burnout on long runs. I tried slowing down but every time I check my Garmin it shows my 5K pace which is a bad sign if running economy is considered. I was planning my turnaround point at the 6K mark but my legs still seem up for two more kilometers.

An hour and a half later I was on my home stretch. Sun’s already up, school kids already being dropped off, and the Monday chaos starts to set in. Before my watch hits the second hour I finished my run. Not fast but I did it. My 16K baseline has been set.

Sweet potatoes for recovery.

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Mood: 2/10 Honks! (God is good.)

Alcohol-Free, Almost

Me according to Marcus.

As parents, we play different roles. At some point we are either any or a combination of being a superhero, a soldier, a doctor, a nurse, a driver, a bank teller, a teacher, a preacher, a clown, and a friend. Our children expect us to be as flexible as Mr. Fantastic and our children keep a keen eye on us day in day out. What we do is what they would become.

It is imperative that we pay attention to our actions. The sooner we realize that we have greater responsibilities the moment a child becomes part of our lives, the better. Parenting is complicated, I know, and it is normally easy on theory but a whole lot different when everything happens right in front of your face. Kid cries, kid wants food, kid poops, kid pees, kid makes a mess. And kid gets sick. And some kid, later on, would have special needs.

There is no turning back. Hard truth. It takes someone strong, wherever that strength may come from, to say “I can do this.” A good parent commits, a good parent loves…without condition. Child first, everything else takes a backseat.

It took some time to get my acts straight when it comes to alcohol. Several times I was behind the wheel under influence with Marcus inside the car, I had days I missed getting him to bed because I can barely hold my own, and there was one day I missed him blowing his birthday cake because I’ve passed out. Been that bad father.

This was a sign.

Honestly, I somehow miss drinking with friends. Those days when cheeks would get warm and tight. Those days when eyes drop halfway, then the world starts turning. Those days when inhibitions are lost and words come out freely and without care. All for the heck of doing it. In vino veritas. But perspectives and priorities changed.

I haven’t stopped drinking entirely but since the red wheelchair came the drinking became less and lesser. Occasional isn’t even a close definition. I could count with my fingers the number of times I went drinking especially last year. Running and working out helped me avoid the urges. (FYI, six bottles of low-calorie beer is equivalent to one meal or a third of a day’s calorie allowance. That’s excluding finger foods!)

I am alcohol-free, almost. I’ve made myself 24/7 for Marcus as much as possible. I’m his fireman who would jump the pole and would be there for him in no time. I would only drink if Marcus is not around or if I know Marcus’ needs are all taken care of. I think I could now qualify as best parent yet not. Others have far challenging stories. So to all of you out there who continue to make sacrifices and continue to love their kids with special needs, hats off to you. Happy Sunday.

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Mood: 1/10 Honks! (Just in time for the adobo.)

Bye Fat Wedding Ring

I recently read an article about someone trying to avoid taking sugar for a month and I immediately thought it isn’t a feat I would succeed at. An honest assessment. It was another challenge worth checking though. With the 711 run closing in I had my mind set to cut on more sources of sweets to lose a couple weight further this week.

So far I have resisted opening the packets of Swiss Miss that’s been staring at me every time I open my workstation drawer but that’s all about it. I have a sweet tooth and can’t imagine completely letting go of sweet treats. Me regularly digging in on the Kirkland candy jar for dessert just cannot be stopped–for now. But the fat loss seems to continue. Take note, fat loss.

My weight have been stable despite my caloric deficit diet. If the fitness articles I’ve read are correct, then there’s a good explanation for my current weight plateau. Some studies show that the intake of supplements and recovery food that follow after every workout is part of the reasons that there won’t be any movement in the weighing scale. During recovery the body absorbs fluids to help heal the stressed muscles that result to muscle growth one way or another. Makes perfect sense.

Will have the right ring size moving forward.

My current diet has one obvious effect, however. My wedding ring has loosened further. I’ve been wearing mine on my middle finger for years and even that can no longer hold it in place. If I don’t pay extra attention it’ll fall off down the washroom drain. Placing the ring on my thumb is an option but would look weird. So I’m letting go of it until I either have it adjusted or replaced. Today I will be using my wife’s ring with my name on it as she stays at home most of the time anyway. Nineteen years later, a wedding ring will be on the right finger.

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On rare occasions our son steps out of the house at night. Tonight is one of those as we keep watch of the transition from blue to blood moon. Dear clouds, please don’t fail Marcus.

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Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Survived mood swings. Must be the blue blood moon.)

Hang

I finally got myself a pull-up bar which wifey paid for as an early birthday gift. No more waiting for good weather just so I can go out of the house to do my pull-ups using our window’s coping. 

Now Marcus can do his own set.

The bar is tough. It can be fitted between door jambs and manual says it could hold 100 kilos without screws. I’m several notches past 60 now and it can hold me without any problem. Anway, I still installed the screws that come with the kit to add 30 more kilos to the weight margin. For 1500 pesos this pull-up bar from Decathlon Festival Mall is so worth it. Thanks again wifey and Marcus for this great gift.
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Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Will likely set my weight goal to ‘maintain’ this week.)

Desperate Times Call for Calorie Count

I finally breached the 150 mark by a pound down. No small feat after struggling for more than six months since our December vacation that piled all the fats and the additional nine pounds. No regrets about those fudge and all the giant food servings but I just can’t carry them around all day anymore.

While seeing the magic number on the weighing scale calls for a personal celebration given the sacrifices and conscious efforts to limit food like my favorite pizza, it seems I reached the dreaded plateau again. My weight reduction progress have flatlined. Desperate times call for desperate measures then. Time to do something long overdue, time to count calories like I’ve never done before.

Resisting the initial idea of my wife to use an app that would monitor my calorie intake I eventually ended downloading it from Google Play and I got hooked on it since then.

I wish I’d have yogurt and almonds for breakfast but this isn’t mine. (Image from Google Play.)

MyFitnessPal seems like the perfect app I need. It made me realize I’ve been missing a lot on the opportunities to see the numbers behind each food I take. Grams versus calories, fats versus protein, carbs versus fiber. It was overwhelming at first but I picked up on how to process the data in less than one day. 

Under Armour is the company that created this free app. Users can search and log from its database almost any food taken during any meal including snacks. Unlike the health books I once knew, this app includes almost anything. You ate isaw, monggo, or galunggong? MyFitnessPal recognizes these local foods and its corresponding nutrional values. Had buko pie or piyaya for dessert? Yup, this smart app knows them too. The key here is just to be honest and log everything to see if you are still within your calorie goal. And the good news is that this app considers exercises performed on the same day so you can exert extra effort if you just lost control and had extra rice for lunch because it was perfect with the leftover longganisa.

One cool trick I like. Our coffee creamer says I could only have one teaspoon per coffee. (Image from Google Play.)

Besides manual entry of exercises, this app likewise connects to several smart devices. I got a Garmin watch and its Connect app works with Under Armour’s MyFitnessPal app. Data is pretty straightforward. Calorie goal minus food intake plus exercises equals remaining calories for the day. It does the math so all you need to focus is if you are still allowed to pick that tempting smores in the fridge or not. Your call but be ready to face the consequences if you go over the required servings.

While this fitness app presents useful info, discipline falls on the hands of its user. Setting the right expectations is needed to avoid any frustration and blame game. Take one step at a time and see realistic results happen. Remember that whatever is measurable is controllable. MyFitnessPal also works for weight maintenance or weight gain goals.

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My Timehops show that I usually go on a diet same time for the past years. Must be the subconscious working to prepare for December’s binge.

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Mood: 2/10 Honks (Aiming to run in a couple of hours.)