Staying consistent during weight loss is one of the most effective ways to boost success. Normally, we attain this consistency through tracking meals, macros, and fitness.
While it’s easy to rely on eyeballing these portions and guesstimating your nutrition intake, it’s simply not effective.
Studies show that for individuals who want to lose weight, accurately measuring food is one of the most important parts in the process. This is because without accurate measurements, it’s easy to underestimate just how much food we are eating– this is especially true for calorie rich foods such as peanut butter, cooking oils, and salad dressings.
To combat this common problem, I recommend two things to all my clients: a good food scale and an app called MyFitnessPal. Together, these tools help you know exactly how much you’re eating while also giving you a convenient place to store all that information.
This can feel overwhelming and burdensome at first. But let me reassure you– the more you track, the easier it gets. With time and practice, you will be tracking like it’s second nature.
Keep reading below for ways I tell my clients to incorporate these methods into their weight loss plans to see whether you might want to try yourself.
Getting Started: App Customization
One of the things I love about MyFitnessPal is how easily customizable the app is. With a simple user interface, it makes setting up a routine that works easier than ever.
For my clients, the main customization I want them to focus on are calories and protein. To properly calibrate these categories, I recommend the following:
1. Tap: More — Goals — Calorie, Carbs, Protein & Fat Goals
2. Set your calorie target.
1. Stay on the same screen where you set your calorie goal
2. Protein is set by percentage. Choose the % that gets you closest to your lower end range target.
3. The total for all 3 columns must be 100%, so after you set protein, set the other 2 so that the total is 100%. Tracking carbs & fat is less important, so it doesn’t matter which % you use for these, if the total is 100% and protein is set correctly.
Now that your settings are exactly where you need them, it’s time to look at the ways MyFitnessPal can help support your current health plan. Below are some tips to help you get there.
Tip 1: Pre-Log Your Day
MyFitnessPal has a feature that allows you to pre-log your meals. For many, this is an invaluable tool for meal planning effectively– something which allows you to get in the right number of macros while still remaining within your calorie budget.
To begin, plug in your protein sources first. This is by far the most important macro you will be working with and you don’t want any compromises.
Once you determine how you will meet your protein intake for the day, start to add in some fruits and vegetables.
With any leftover calories you have, feel free to fill those spaces with foods you enjoy.
Tip 2: Save Your Most Common Meals
Another feature of MyFitnessPal is the ability to set your meal preferences. This allows you to schedule in the right number of meals per-day. To get to this customization option, simply go to Settings – Diary Settings – Customize Meal Names.
By setting the right number of daily meals, you can more easily track what you are eating in each category. For instance, I have breakfast, lunch, snack 1, snack 2, dinner, snack 3. Each time I eat a food, I can log it into the precise category it requires.
Tip 3: Work on Precision
Remember, charting food works best when done with consistent precision. This means that typing in “ham sandwich” and guessing on its nutritional value is selling your progress short.
So what are some ways we can be as accurate as possible? It boils down looking at individual ingredients.
Let’s return to our ham sandwich. A better way to track that meal would be to look at everything on your sandwich and track each individual ingredient. Here’s what I mean:
- 2 slices Sara Lee Light wheat bread
- 4 oz Oscar Meyer honey ham
- 1 slice Kraft thin slice swiss cheese
- 25 grams iceberg lettuce
- 28 grams regular Hellman’s mayonnaise
By charting in this ingredient-oriented manner, we make sure to fully capture our meal down to the condiments. Ultimately, this helps us better understand how much we can eat, and where we are getting important nutrients.
For packaged foods, MyFitnessPal boasts a barcode scanner. By scanning in packaged foods, you get the same accurate measurements as though you made the meal yourself.
Tip 4: Copy and Paste Where Possible
Once you begin using MyFitnessPal for a while, you will notice your meals repeating. This is where the copy and paste function can come in handy.
See, when you make an entry, those foods get priority placement within the app. As such, when you search for “Sara Lee,” MyFitnessPal will automatically suggest your previous entry of the food. This makes logging infinitely easier over time.
If you are cooking a recipe or in bulk for your family, please see my article here (LINK) for how to enter this and always be able to log your portions later.
Tip 5: Approximate Eating Out
The reality is, we don’t know exactly what is in restaurant meals. Instead of ditching the restaurants all together though, simply be smart about the way you are logging meals into your app.
For one, some chain restaurants will already have entries within the app. To check, begin by searching the name of the restaurant in the “Add Food” bar and see what comes up.
If you are eating local, or if your restaurant didn’t show up, get as close as you can to the meal you’re eating. After finding a similar entry, add 1-2 tablespoons of oil or butter to account for the extra fat that was likely cooked into your meal during prep.
Tip 6: Streamline Your Features
MyFitnessPal is a powerful app, but in reality, you don’t need all the bells and whistles they offer. In fact, some of the features do more harm than good. Below are some recommendations of features to turn off before tracking.
Turn off net carbs. Net carbs subtract fiber from carbs, but we want to track all the carbs we eat. (Settings – Diary Settings – Track Net Carbs, make sure this is not enabled)
Turn off or ignore any calories burned from exercise. Activity trackers are typically inaccurate, and your calorie and protein goals have already taken your activity level into account. (More — Steps — Don’t Track Steps)
Reach Out With Questions!
MyFitnessPal is a great tool to use to help you be aware of what you eat and be consistent in meeting your goals over time. The best way to attain this consistency is through tracking meals, calories and macros. Let me know if you need help determining how many calories are right for you to meet your goals!