Do you track your food intake with an app like myfitnesspal or loseit?
Do you have a wearable tracker like a fitbit or jawbone that tracks your fitness for you?
If you said no to all of the above and you’ve never tried tracking your activity and food, we suggest giving it a whirl.
Why? Because, it can be one of the best ways to educate yourself on what you’re putting into your body.
However, it’s important to remember to take these tools are just that. Tools to help us get more in tune with our bodies so we can make healthier decisions.
But you’re not alone if you’ve been using an app like myfitnesspal for weight loss and are left scratching your head as to why the numbers and what you see in the mirror don’t match up.
These trackers are missing a couple factors that can leave a huge gap between what they calculate and what’s actually happening.
So before you start taking those “you’ll weigh x amount in x days” alerts too seriously, take a minute to consider these weight loss factors:
1. Quality and timing of food: According to food trackers, you could get 100% of your calories from fast food restaurants and as long as you used more calories than you consumed, you’d be on track for weight loss. This is a major fault in the belief that counting calories is the only way to lose weight. From a nutritional perspective, this type of thinking can lead to eating too many low calorie, low nutrient foods (popcorn, rice cakes, crackers, diet sodas ect.) As a nutrition counselor, I know that eating more nutrient dense foods (yes, even if they are higher calorie) can be the better choice for supporting metabolism and long term weight loss. Also, timing of food intake isn’t taken into account. Are you eating 3 square meals a day or are you starving yourself during the day and eating 80% of your food right before bed? You can see how these reports could quickly get very misleading. Remember to pay attention to what you eat and when and to listen to your body before you consider to your “stats”.
2. Intensity of exercise: Intensity of exercise matters. Sprinting up a set of stairs is going to have a very different effect on your metabolism than going for a walk or lifting weights. Most trackers only take into account total calorie burn, not the metabolic effect. Remember that most of these programs are estimates and take them as such.
3. Overall health and happiness: There are so many other factors that can affect health. Sleep, stress levels, hormones and nutrient deficiencies can all have an effect on weight loss. Remember that these programs and platforms aren’t made for you, they’re made for the masses. If you need or want specialized recommendations, it’s important to speak with a trainer, nutritionist or doctor.
So should we use these trackers?
Are you using this technology to help educate yourself and make better choices? If yes, then keep it up! Like I said, these tools can be a great way to learn about our bodies and our habits. With that said, if it’s making you feel stressed or overwhelmed, then it’s not the tool for you right now. Try journaling about your food choices, creating a simple weekly meal plan or find another way to get in tune with your food and fitness.
At the end of the day, put down the phone, the app, the stats and remember only you can make the best decisions for your health.