Thinking about using My Fitness Pal?

Posted on Monday, February 2nd, 2015

Written by Andrea Sillberg, Dietetic Intern

Using an app to track your food intake and activity level may sound helpful but may actually be hurting you. Apps like My Fitness Pal and Lose It! draw people in by claims that the app will make you “successfully lose weight and keep it off”. The truth is these apps can cause you to become so out of touch with your body that you become robot like; inputting everything you eat and all of your physical activity, planning your day around how many calories you have consumed and how much exercise you have done.  This is not a healthy or sustainable way to live.

When you constantly track your food and fitness you tend to make trade-offs between exercise and eating. You may feel you can only eat certain foods if you work out more during the day. Making trade offs can also lead to feelings of guilty or failure if you eat a less healthy food or don’t exercise one day. Having treats should not cause you to feel guilty. Every food can fit in to a healthy diet. If you avoid your favourite treats because the app tells you they are high in calories you will crave them. The craving can become more intense leading to needing a whole bag of chips to satisfy you instead of a small bowl.

Using food tracking apps can also put you out of touch with your hunger and fullness cues. This can cause you to eat mechanically; eating or not eating because your app says you can, not because you feel hungry of full. This is not a happy, healthy or realistic way to live. It is important to eat a balanced diet and listen to what your body is telling you. If you feel sleepy, generally you sleep. If you aren’t tired you stay awake. It should work the same way with food. If you are more hungry one day, have something extra to eat and don’t feel guilty about it. This is your body’s way of telling you it needs more food for that day. If you have been more physically active than normal or are fighting off a cold your body may need more food to make up for the energy you are using and that is ok. You can know when to stop eating by listening to your body’s fullness cues. Fullness cues can be hard to notice, especially if you eat very quickly. It is important to try and eat slowly and wait a while before having seconds because it can take up to 20 minutes from the time you eat for you to start to feel full.  

Bottom line: Eating and exercise should be things that you enjoy doing and using an app can threaten this balance. Listen to your body, you know it best!

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