Tag Archives: MyFitnessPal

Ediets vs. MyFitnessPal: Weight Loss and Technology

26 Jan

As I mentioned in my last post, all that cooking and baking in November and December, with very limited time for the gym (as in, never!) led to unwanted weight gain for me.

Although in the past I have been successful with losing weight quickly on an all-raw food diet, or even a few days of juice fasting, I decided not to go that route this time because of the added pressure of a new part-time teaching job.  Plus, I’m not in any rush.  It’s the dead of winter, and I am not going any where in a bathing suit.

Generally, I eat lots of healthy foods, and cook with a minimum amount of oil and salt — if at all.  However, I also have a huge appetite and a weakness for chocolate.  I used to be quite active and burned it all at the gym or outdoors in the summer, but now with a brutal winter and concerns about having time to get to the gym, I can’t just eat as much as I want.

Therefore, I decided that this time around I would stick to a more traditional means of weight loss — calorie counting.  But how?  I couldn’t do it without help.

First I attempted Ediets, which helped me lose a lot of weight nine years ago before I was vegan and knew how to cook.  At the time I succeeded using the Vegetarian convenience plan, which designed a menu using mostly frozen entrees and simple recipes for salads, dressings, snacks, and easy cooked foods like chili.  I did not abstain from dairy at the time, but I am happy to report that Ediets now provides a check box option for avoiding both dairy and eggs in their Vegetarian plan — thus making it vegan friendly.  The plan costs about $18 per month, and gives you menus, shopping lists, exercise logs, and a community for connecting with others.

But I did not stay with Ediets.  Within 24 hours I called back for a refund — which they did promise to return to my credit card.  I don’t believe it’s a bad service at all, and do believe it would be helpful to some vegetarians and vegans — but not me.

As I looked through the menus planned for my first week, I was discouraged by the choices automatically chosen for me.  There were a lot of meals planned with vegan deli meats, vegan cheeses, and bread.  Now, I love a great sandwich from time to time, but I’m so passed the stage of wanting my food to look like a substitute of the Standard American Diet.  It’s probably great for newbies still attached to the ham-and-cheese sandwich ideal, but I just can’t have it every day, or even every other day.  Also, I wouldn’t want just one sandwich — if and when I do splurge on something like a vegan grilled cheese sandwich, I want at least two!  Plus, I wondered where all the greens were in the Ediets plan.  A small salad once  a day isn’t enough for me.

Ediets does permit you to modify the menus.  In fact, if you are like me and you prefer to have the same breakfast food all the time (I just can’t think in the morning), you could find the one you want and set it to come up every day until you change it.  When you modify the menu, you scan through other meal options in their database.  You also have the option of choosing a different meal that is not from the Ediets database.

And therein lies my problem.  After my modifications, my first three meals all said “I chose my own meal.”  None were from the Ediets database.  At that point I realized I would be paying for a service that would essentially  just track my weight as I reported it week to week — since their menus did not appeal to me.  But before I gave up, I tried one more thing.  Since I’m not a huge fan of bread — or rather, I don’t want to waste my calories on bread — I actually changed my Ediets plan from Vegetarian to Wheat-Free, thinking that perhaps a new body of meals would appear in my menus sans sandwiches — more whole foods-based, perhaps.

And that’s when I got the error message!  Under the exclusions section, I marked the “wheat” category and kept the boxes checked off for all the animals (eggs, dairy, beef, pork, fish, shellfish, poultry).   In fact, the only box left was “soy.”  The red-lettered threatening message said “You cannot exclude more than 5 sources of protein.”

Really?  I wasn’t under the impression that I had… I mean, I hadn’t excluded tofu, tempeh, beans, seeds, nuts, rice, quinoa, etc…. oh, and let’s not forget I didn’t exclude plants, who also have protein — a building block of life present in all plant foods!

I came to the sad realization that although Ediets attempted to accommodate vegans, it was still stuck in that Standard American Diet protein-obsession (hence all the bread and vegan meats and cheeses).

Thankfully, the agent on the phone was understanding and promised to refund my money within 5-10 business days.

So what else can I do?

I discovered a free Droid app for my phone called MyFitnessPal.  It is available both on the Internet or through the phone app.  There are tens of thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands?) of food items in their database, and one need only specify the food and its portion size.  And the coolest part is…

… the BAR CODE SCANNER!

If I do eat a granola bar, a certain cereal, or other packaged food, I simply scan its bar code with my phone and it is added to my daily food log.

As I document the foods I’m eating, the program keeps a list of recent ingredients or foods that can easily be chosen again if you repeat the same foods.  For breakfast every day, I’ve been eating 1/2 cup of rolled oats with 1/2 a cup of almond milk, a tablespoon of raisins, and three prunes.  After selecting the individual ingredients on the first day, I was able to save it as a meal called “Breakfast” (I wasn’t very creative with the title), so every day since then I’ve been able to record this meal with one click.

I also created a meal called “Soup” (yes, I have to work on these names).  After my  husband and I cooked a simple soup with broccoli, carrots, tofu, rice noodles, and broth, I looked carefully at my bowl and estimated how much I had of each ingredient in one serving.  It looked like a 1/2 cup of the noodles, 1/4 cup of carrots, 1/4 cup of broccoli, and maybe 1/2 cup of tofu (if in doubt, one could measure it).  The rest was all watery broth with seasonings.  So I entered these ingredients on my food log the first time I ate them, and saved it as “Soup.”  Every time I’ve had left over soup since that day, I just simply clicked on the “Soup” meal I had created.

Another option is to just enter the calories.  So if I make a meal from a recipe book that has the calories listed per serving, I can just add that number to my log (although with this function MyFitnessPal wouldn’t be able to also count the other nutritional information like carbs, proteins, vitamins, etc.)

MyFitnessPal also has an exercise log.  You can add an activity from their database for which it will estimate how many calories you burned.  If you know for a fact how much you burned, you can simply enter them as well.  These calories burned are automatically added to your daily food log, so you know how much more you can and should be eating for that day.

If you decide to use MyFitnessPal, I would suggest creating your free account on your computer first so you can set up your weight loss goals and any meals you eat regularly, like breakfast or snacks.  Then keep track of everything you eat on the go by using the cell phone app.

Well, it’s only been about 6 days, so it is still too soon for me to report any success with MyFitnessPal, but I can say that I am getting the hang of it and am particularly motivated to go the gym more often when I see how it makes my calorie goals go up — that means more food for me!