If you want to improve something, you have to assess it.
“If you can not measure it, you can not improve it.” — Lord Kelvin
EDITORIAL DISCLAIMER: Any advice or recommendation given in my writing is what works for ME and may not be the best regimen for you based on your psychological or physiological makeup and stability. Please consult a doctor when making decisions about your health.
There have been a number of great things that have come from the pandemic for me as it relates to my health.
One of those things is the discovery of a little app called Myfitnesspal that has been a game-changer for my overall health and fitness.
At the age of 25, after I thought the best way to date a personal trainer at my gym would be to get in really good shape, I decided that eating healthier should probably become a priority in my life.
Therefore, I stopped eating all fried food and became pretty maniacal about only eating things that were low in fat content. I always inspected labels and if it had anything more than 5% fat for the daily recommended intake, I would not eat it.
While the relationship with the young lady didn’t last, my healthy eating habits did as I loved the results that I started seeing.
Over time, I eased up on this a bit from a fat percentage perspective, but I still refused to eat fried food and generally stayed away from a lot of red meat.
This continued until about two years ago in which the pandemic opened up my eyes to a few major mistakes I had been making.
One mistake was that I had no idea how many calories I was still consuming because I didn’t put any emphasis on my portion size or really assess certain types of foods I was eating for their calorie count versus their nutritional value.
Second, I was not taking into consideration a number of other dietary factors that were important to my overall health that I needed to understand and do a much better job of tracking for my long-term vitality.
When I stumbled upon Myfitnesspal on the recommendation of a friend, I began to track almost all of my meals daily, and this has taken my health to an entirely new level for a number of reasons.
It helps me not guess about what I am eating and make better dietary decisions
Before I discovered Myfitnesspal, I wasn’t really sure of the various nutritional statistics of many of the foods that I ate that didn’t have labels on them.
Therefore, while I was confident that I was eating food that was low in fat percentage when there was a label on it, I wasn’t as sure about the things I would eat at restaurants with my clients.
This would often cause me to eat a number of things that I thought were good for me but really weren’t.
For example, I would often eat a rotisserie chicken meal from J. Alexander’s (one of the best restaurants in Atlanta BTW) because I thought since it wasn’t fried, it must be decently healthy.
I wasn’t thinking as much about the portion size or the tremendous number of additional calories that come with the outer skin still attached.
Couple this with a side of broccoli to make the meal complete, and I could easily be in the 800 to 900 calorie range for that one meal.
Now that I had the Myfitnesspal app to guide me, I could compare it to other foods at the restaurant that I also enjoyed.
This helped me realize the Thai Kai Salad (maybe one of the most amazing salads in the world just so you’re aware) clocked in a much more reasonable 470 calories and left me just as satisfied.
With the ability to now punch everything into the app before I made the decision to eat it, I could easily make better decisions with the type of foods I ordered, something that makes a big difference when you eat out as much as I do.
At home, this helped me discover that I could choose foods that were less calorie-dense than others (for example, a sweet potato versus white rice) but that also provided great nutritional value and left me full.
These decisions helped me decrease my average calorie count from 700–800 calories per meal to almost half: 350–450 calories per meal.
Over time, this aided my weight loss efforts greatly by allowing me to be in more control through managing my diet appropriately, as opposed to just “hoping” that I would lose weight if I worked out enough.
It helps me manage my salt and sugar intake
When I was younger, I pretty much rarely ever thought about things such as salt and sugar intake, as I felt invincible and able to do almost anything at any time.
As I aged, however, and my doctor began to notice things such as heightened blood pressure and increase insulin levels, I started to have to take this seriously.
Most people rarely think about how much salt and sugar they are ingesting every day, as it’s included in almost all of our foods for added taste and/or preservation.
Excess salt intake is one of the main causes of high blood pressure, which can lead to a number of health issues that can prove fatal, such as heart attacks, strokes, dementia, and kidney failure.
It is called the silent killer because often you don’t experience many symptoms before it becomes a problem, and the majority of people just don’t realize how much salt they are taking in daily.
This is a major problem in society as a Canadian study revealed that more than 85 percent of Canadian men and between 60–80 percent of Canadian women exceeded the daily recommended amount of 2300 mg per day.
In the U.S., it is theorized that most people consume three times that at a clip of anywhere between 9,000–12,000 milligrams per day.
Sugar, as shared in this previous article, is just as bad and equally over consumed by the public at an alarming rate.
With the Myfitnesspal app, you only need to turn your phone sideways, and it will break down how much sugar and salt you are consuming with each meal.
Now, similar to how I am able to manipulate my calorie intake by choosing foods with fewer calories to give me the same feeling of satiety, I can also choose foods that are lower in sugar and excess salt, whereas before I would have had no idea.
Here’s an example of my app from yesterday in which you can see how the screen breaks down each of the foods and meals below with the different categories at the top.
It helps me track my macros for maximum nutritional growth
Lastly, as seen above, the Myfitnesspal app also tracks the all-important macros that have become the craze of athletes, bodybuilders, and fitness trainers around the world.
For those who are not familiar, macros are short for macronutrients and are the combination of the three types of nutrients that we consume that also provide the most energy for our bodies: protein, carbohydrates, and fats.
While I don’t care as much about the actual mix as I did in the past, I am always focused on ensuring I get enough protein daily due to a recent decision to eat less meat as well as make sure I’m not consuming too much fat, as this is still a pretty good dietary practice.
At the end of each day, I can just flip my phone to the side and get a quick snapshot of how I did and then decide where I may need to make adjustments if I was low or over in any particular category.
The app helps me easily see what goals I stayed under by putting them in green while using red to highlight any that I may have exceeded.
I can then scroll from day to day using the top arrows to see how I’m trending and make decisions on foods that I need to replace with better alternatives to stay within my goals over time.
I personally believe using the Myfitnesspal app to take an assessment of what one is consuming daily is an absolute must for anyone who truly desires to have more control over their weight and fitness goals.
The number of benefits don’t just relate to your caloric consumption but will also help with preventing the dangerous overconsumption of sugar and salt that so many people do daily.
And while doing this for every meal may seem a bit tedious at first, it gets a lot easier, as you can save different meals that you eat regularly, so you can just add them with a few clicks.
The return on investment is well worth the time, as I do this at every meal and every day with the one caveat being my Saturday cheat meal in which I absolutely REFUSE to put into the Myfitnesspal.
Why? You may ask.
That’s definitely something I’ll be sharing soon in an upcoming article, but in the meantime, happy calorie counting…