MyFitnessPal: Progress or Punishment?

So lately I’ve been wanting to log my food

Tracking what you eat can be super helpful when you’re trying to figure out if foods should be eliminated from your diet or not. I did this 3-4 months ago and found out that all my bananas and dates throughout the week were contributing to some digestive issues I was having from all the excess sugar.

Food logging does something else though, too. When you track your food, you eat better. You’ll find yourself going through the day thinking twice about those little decisions that you might have made an exception for in the past… sneak in a couple cookies here, some chips there – I know you can relate :)

Keeping a journal of my food was never easy in the past though, so this time I knew I had to approach it differently and track it in a new way.

Then I found MyFitnessPal

MyFitnessPal has been around for a while (since 2009). Right now they have 1,000,000+ Likes on Facebook, so you can imagine how many people are using it regularly.

I found it through a friend who shared their progress on Facebook a while back, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

…plus I found a few other friends that were members as well.

MyFitnessPal: Progress or Punishment?

I started the initial setup and was immediately confronted with a ‘Weigh-In’. I wasn’t becoming a member to lose weight, but I figured that’s what most people use it for, so I put in my weight before changing my diet 4 years ago, which was 185lbs.

I was keeping an open mind with this new program, but wasn’t too excited to see their recommended solution…

My suggest fitness and nutrition2


Okay, now I know what you’re thinking, I don’t need to lose weight, but hypothetically what if I did?

I would probably be mislead by society… again.

Counting calories is old school – that system doesn’t work. Our bodies are much more complicated than simply carbs, fats and protein. Those are considered macro-nutrients, but what we really needed to focus on for weight loss is plants: think water, phytonutrients, vitamins, antioxidants, minerals and enzymes. Unfortunately, when we cut calories our bodies go into Starvation Mode and hang onto fat cells for survival. Click here to see why we don’t worry about calories.

I agree that you can’t just eat all day, and that you need to move your body, but there’s so much more to it guys!

I moved onto the food tracking feature (which is what I really wanted) and excitedly went to input my breakfast and lunch for DAY 1.

Except I ran into another problem…

I couldn’t control ingredients

  • Homemade Green Juice – CHECK
  • Homemade Green Smoothie – CHECK
  • Leftover Coconut Curry Soup – PROBLEM

I couldn’t find it! But worse, I began to realize the ingredients weren’t taken into consideration.

Coconut Curry Soup2


I realize I’m being critical here but, honestly, what’s the incentive to eat the best ingredients possible? Who the heck knows what their ingredients are in their meal codes. We don’t make our Coconut Curry Soup with loads of salt and fat, but theirs showed sodium & fat levels through the roof!

You could go to all that trouble to use fresh, organic, nutrient-rich ingredients just to get simplified by the MyFitnessPal system – which makes me think “what’s the point?”

I felt pressured to buy pre-packaged foods

Every time you search for foods, you’ll see tons of brand name products pop up. Even for things like Green Juice or Green Smoothies. You have to search hard to find the ‘homemade’ items, but let’s be real, not all green smoothies are treated equally, right? (PS – if you haven’t grabbed our Top 5 Juice Recipes Yet Click Here!)

The Edward & Sons Brown Rice Crackers I had been snacking on where conveniently in there, which made me think…

“Not only are the pre-packaged foods easier to select and add to your food diary, but they are also less nutritious, more refined and have more preservatives. Adding this on top of the fact that pre-packaged foods are already a huge convenience for people, it’s not wonder MyFitnessPal is so huge.”

If that’s the case….Who wants to be easy? Not me, and if you’re still reading this, maybe not you either….

I got messages that made me feel like a failure

I consider myself to eat a lot, but it’s mostly plants so I have to. Here’s what I ate on Wednesday, August 13th, 2014:

  • 8am – Homemade Green Juice
  • 9am – Green Tea
  • 10am – Green Smoothie w/an orange, frozen tropical fruit mix and pumpkin seeds
  • 12pm – Brown Rice Bowl w/store bought hummus and pumpkin seeds
  • 5pm – Sliced Apple w/a Justin’s Honey Almond Butter Squeeze Pack
  • 8pm – 2 Bowls of Vegetable Chili and 4-5 slices of Buckwheat Cornbread + 1 Tbsp. Raw Honey

Sounds healthy, right? And here’s the message I got on my phone at the end of the day… Photo Aug 13, 10 27 18 PM Why not just say, “wow, looks like you had a bad ‘fat’ day, don’t keep eating this way or you’ll need to buy bigger pants!” Not cool.

My conclusion: If you make your own food, you will fail at using MyFitnessPal

…and if you make your own food and eat like we eat, you definitely won’t need it! In The Seasonal Diet, we detail exactly how to move to a place where eating healthy is no longer mystery. Learn to listen to your body and give it the right foods for the job. We also talk about ingredient choices and how often to incorporate fitness. The mainstream knowledge of healthy eating may never uncover the fact that you need to start cooking your own foods and quitting as many processed/pre-packaged foods as possible. The “Natural Foods Industry” is big business and advertisement mediums will continue to support that rather than your local farmers market. To seek the truth is to find out on your own, and reading through our site is a great place to start. Be sure to check out our Start Here Page for additional resources that will get you on the right track stat!

A better alternative?

I found the best way to track my food was with a simple, widely available note taking app called Evernote. You can get it on your phone, computer, tablet, kindle, etc. Super easy to use, plus it’s free! That’s what Sarah and I used to track our week of eating: Click Here to see what we eat.

Do you track your food? How do you make it work?


    9 replies to "MyFitnessPal: Progress or Punishment?"

    • Leah Horton

      I totally disagree! You can create recipes in mfp which allows you to track the actual nutrients you get and the ingredients you use. This requires you to weigh your ingredients (which you can look up what the nutritional value of say, 100g of apple, is), but once you’ve made the recipe and you know you put x amount of spinach in or y amount of salt, then you can just reference back to it and say what portion of the recipe you ate. MFP has been a GREAT motivator for me to, not only lose 60 lbs., but also to choose whole foods because I get more bang for my buck and don’t wind up with the dreaded “you’d gain weight” message at the end of the day!

      • Sarah

        Super interesting hearing the different perspectives! I know MFP has helped a lot of people but I have struggled with using it myself..but I have never been very good at food tracking! 60 pounds…way to go girl!

    • Peter Hagstrom

      Wow, Leah I am super glad to hear this! Will check out that feature, but don’t have a scale to weigh my food unfortunately :/. Congrats on your 60lb weight loss success too, that’s amazing!!

    • Christian

      Great post Peter! I totally know what you mean about this app. I have experience with it and can say, personally, its a love-hate relationship. The app itself has incredible links to (average) nutritional values and it also is a wonderful motivational tool. That being said, the nutritional values are an average. You cannot look at an apple (or weigh it for that matter) and say it has x amounts vitamins and y amounts of calories. Fresh ingredients are completely unique as we are. The only time we have have pretty accurate measurements is when we use man-made items. This is when “diets” can run into trouble. As you pointed out, it becomes easier to track prepackaged foods with the app, so buying and eating them becomes a much easier thing. Packaged foods are not (usually) good for our bodies and our bodies do no recognize them as fuel.
      When I used the app, I became obsessed with the calories in vs calories out. Once I plugged in my weight a goals, it gave me number to aim for. I took this to the extreme and began weighing and calculating everything I ate. I was like a science experiment…. This caused a quick, downward spiral!! I was limiting everything I was eating to meet calories; not eating when I was hungry; and even viewing fresh fruit as bad sugary carbs… Insane I know!
      If we just get back to the way our bodies are meant to eat (fresh, plant-based, seasonal, and when we are hungry), then calories and weighing do not matter AT ALL. Our bodies are absolutely incredible and will utilize what we fuel it with in the best way possible.
      To sum– As far as the app, I can see it being a good tool if used properly (especially in the beginning of a big life change). However, it can be destructive if you let it. If you want the cleanest, healthiest, happiest body—> fuel it with the cleanest, healthiest and happiest food. You are what you eat ;-)


      • Sarah

        Christian I totally agree. Witnessing Peter use MFP I can say he was headed down that same path…super intense. Intuition and eating real whole food is way:)

    • rose m.

      Oooh this was a timely, interesting post as I started using MFP on/off throughout the summer. Right now, I am currently into it most days of the week to keep my weight in check. I rarely look at the nutrition breakdown because like you, I cook the majority of the food that I eat, which is mostly vegan. For example, I made coconut black bean soup a few weeks ago, but didn’t want to bother with creating that as a meal in MFP, so I just searched for something similar and used that for my food diary. I’m more concerned with calories, which is why I’ve been using MFP.
      As for the health aspect, I’ve been eating clean/mostly plant based for many years, so I have enough confidence that I’m getting the nutrients I need. There are times when I know I am low in iron/protein, so this is when I adjust accordingly.
      So yes, overall, I love MFP as a motivational/feedback tool! I especially love putting in my workouts (again I know that isn’t always accurate, so I sometimes I cross reference with other tools) so that I know I’ve really earned that chocolate!

      • Peter Hagstrom

        Hi Rose!

        Yeah that totally makes sense, I could see it as a really great way to keep motivated… MFP is EXTRA good at that where they have a logging ‘streak’ to help you stay excited and on top of it.

        We all need motivation to keep us eating healthy, so thanks for sharing what works for you!

        So nice to hear from you:)

    • laurel

      Agree! I occasionally search for an app or website that tracks MICROnutrients instead of macros. No luck so far.

    • leslie

      I just found this post as I’ve just started using MFP two weeks ago. I live in Argentina where the amount of pre-packaged foods is greatly reduced compared to the States, but it makes it difficult when logging homemade food on MFP. I have wanted a kitchen scale for awhile so this motivates me to buy one, if for nothing but to track my entries vs theirs and draw a conclusion as to how trustworthy their info is. I also get msgs that I’m eating far too many carbs, on days when I dare have oatmeal for breakfast, a salad made of hard boiled egg arugula and an avocado, and finish the day with carrot, ginger and white bean soup (homemade). Anyone who loves an avocado will rue the day they eat one while logging with MFP. As far as I can tell on MFP there’s no differentiation btwn refined carbs and whole grains, nor btwn different types of fats.

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