How to Make My Fitness Pal Work for You + How to Diet at Work
Even though I love Facebook and Instagram, my favorite app of all-time has to be My Fitness Pal. I discovered it in 2012, and it relieved my brain after 15 years of calorie counting in my head. That may sound weird to some people, but I’ve mentioned it to others and I’m not the only one who has been reflexively calorie counting since I was 13. In 7th grade, my science teacher taught us how to count calories, and it was eye opening. I went from being chubby to being thin within months because of this big secret. My weight has fluctuated over the years because of different things, but counting calories and taking responsibility for them is the only way to keep yourself in check –unless you’re just very lucky and were born with a high metabolism (to which I say I am jealous!)
My Fitness Pal takes the guesswork out of it, especially if you’re eating prepackaged food or even restaurant food. The only parts that require your discretion are 1) remembering to use it, 2) being honest about the amount you consumed, and 3) using it proactively.
The first 2 things are pretty simple. I mean, if you don’t input your food, it’s not going to do anything. And if you lie to yourself about the quantities, you’re not hurting anyone but yourself. Remember, My Fitness Pal doesn’t actually care if you lose or gain anything. My Fitness Pal is not going to go up a pant size if you eat 3 servings of ice cream and said you only had 1! But seriously, the real accountability lies within each of us.
But what do I mean about using My Fitness Pal proactively? I didn’t learn that until about a year ago when I started losing baby weight from Benji. Using it proactively means that I think about where I might go today. Do I have dinner plans? Am I going somewhere for drinks? I am on my period? Seriously, though. I think about that, and then I enter in a presumptive amount of calories I may eat because of those things, and then I see how many I have left for the day. And if I am going out to eat, where? If so, can I plan my order ahead of time by using an online menu? All of these things –being proactive –that will help so much.
Another thing about being proactive with My Fitness Pal is something I do if I did overindulge. I use a free feature that gives me my weekly calorie average, and I can use it to figure out if I’ve done okay overall (because maybe I overindulged today but barely ate yesterday…if so, it’s probably okay). So you’ll have your daily calorie goal, and set it to something realistic –don’t set it at 1000 or something crazy –I’m 5’10’…I’d wilt if I only consumed 1000 calories a day. Basically, let’s say your goal is 1600 calories. Maybe today you ate 2000 calories, so your weekly average calorie intake is over what it should be. This feature can help you figure out how much you should cut back, and for how many days, to get back on track! Isn’t that awesome? You can go day by day ahead and project your intake –or what you plan to eat –then go back to the weekly average and see how long you’ll need to do that to get back on track.
This may seem obsessive to some of you, but I really hope it’s helpful. Losing weight is hard, and it is personal. If you’ve had kids or any other major life change, it’s even harder! Right now, I’m still working out my Christmas weight! I lost 24 pounds last year –from 173 to 149. Now I’m 156, and I’d prefer to be about 145. I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I’d love to talk about this more –either in more posts, in the comments, or privately.
Now! On to some little tricks and easy meals I learned to make when I was a true “working mom.” When I worked in an office, I had to really plan ahead. I was a secretary for doctors, and we had so many meals catered by drug reps, plus all kinds of treats brought in all the time, and the cafeteria, and people wanting to go out to eat! The temptation is everywhere to splurge all day. Every day. People used to make fun of me for snacking on “weird” stuff throughout the day, but you know what? I was happier feeling good about what I ate. Here are some of my favorite snacks and meals for the office:
- String Cheese
- Raw almonds (about 24)
- A Ghiradelli chocolate square
- A Thomas Multigrain English Muffin with 2 pieces of Canadian bacon (for breakfast)
- Fiber One Bars
- A make-ahead, gourmet “anything” salad: In an 8 cup Tupperware container, add a few handfuls of your favorite salad greens. Top with any dry veggies or add-ins, like bell pepper, onion, carrot, or cheese. Separate any wet veggies like sliced cherry tomatoes or cucumbers. Add a small container of protein, like some shredded rotisserie chicken or some salmon (be honest about how much, because salmon is calorie-dense). If possible, keep salad dressing at work in the fridge. If not, put some in a Tupperware ramekin. At lunchtime, add the extras to the large container, seal, and shake to toss! You can literally have a restaurant quality salad at work without paying $10 plus a tip. Not to mention, you can control exactly what you put in, how much, and proactively add it to My Fitness Pal.
- For chillier months, these were my 2 favorite soups to take to work. Roasted Winter Veg is really filling and can be made in batches and frozen ahead of time. Chicken Noodle is an easy short notice soup because you can have the whole thing done in 30 minutes. If you want more soup recipes, most of mine are pretty healthy because I don’t like cream-based soups.