When Tracking Isn’t Working | 8 MyFitnessPal Mistakes You’re Making
“This just isn’t working for me! I’m logging my food, I promise I’m tracking everything but I’m just not getting any results! I think we need to change my numbers!” Does this sound familiar? Perhaps something you’ve been pondering for the last month or so?
We get it, you’re frustrated! You feel like you’re doing everything right but really you’re sabotaging your own progress without even realizing. So let’s take a look at the 8 most common mistakes people make when tracking and using MyFitnessPal.
If you’re always eyeballing your food and not measuring out your portions, then you are opening yourself up to a lot of inaccuracies. Most serving sizes for cereal are ¾ cups but we’ve become so accustomed to filling our breakfast bowl and pouring ourselves about 2 cups that it’s very difficult for us to know what exactly this ¾ cup should look like – I can tell you now, it’s a depressingly measly amount! If you’re only logging that 1 serving of cereal and in reality eating almost 3 servings, then don’t be surprised if your weight’s staying the same.
In order to have the most success we recommend weighing and measuring your food with cups as often as you can. The more you do it the more familiar you will become with portion sizes and then better you will get at eyeballing things when push comes to shove.
2. You don’t track sauces or beverages (or bites!)
Smears of mayo, splashes of olive oil and gulps of milk can all add up. If you’re not keeping track of these things, then you’ve probably discovered the cause for slow or minimal progress. Now I’m the first person in line when there’s a free sample on offer – you should see me zigzag through the aisles at Whole Foods on the hunt for free pizza and sandwich cookies! But I am also a stickler for tracking every crumb that makes it into my mouth and not onto my shirt.
When you can be a little more precise, make sure you use tablespoon and teaspoon measures for oils and condiments. For spreads I usually recommend using the scale – I’m known to be a little heavy-handed with my tablespoons of peanut butter…
3. You don’t always log the right food
Although MyFitnessPal may have one of the largest food databases out there, don’t forget that a lot of foods have been user-generated and therefore are not 100% reliable.
Instead of always picking the general entry for something like a Turkey Burger, do your best to breakdown your food into individual ingredients. So log the brioche bun, 6 oz. of ground turkey, 2 oz. of swiss cheese etc. etc. Although this might be a bit tedious the first-time round, if it’s a meal you eat out frequently at your favorite brunch spot, you can create a short-cut for it by creating a meal in the app [see step-by-step instructions in Chapter 4 of this eBook].
Ideally, you also want to try to pick foods that have been “verified” (indicated by a green check mark) BUT take care! As this only means that the listing is complete and not that it’s actually accurate.
For foods you eat regularly make sure you’ve double checked their information on the USDA Food Composition Database or if it’s a food you eat out, you can check the menu and nutritional information on the restaurant’s website.
4. You pick the lowest calorie option every time
I know it’s tempting to always pick the donut with the least amount of calories but if you’re consistently doing this then you’re just cheating yourself out of making any progress.
Take for example one of my favorite indulgences, the jumbo cinnamon roll with cream cheese frosting from Whole Foods. Excuse me whilst I wipe the drool from the corner of my lips…
On one occasion when I gave into my weakness, I searched the MFP database and found they ranged from 210 calories all the way up to 960! YIKES! That’s one solid cinnamon roll. I decided to go with the one in the middle, even though I should have known better – the picture does not do it justice, this thing is a MONSTER!
Anyway, after consuming the entire thing, I quickly realized that there was NO WAY this bad boy only came to 350 calories. So instead of lying to myself I regretfully switched my entry to the 960 calorie option and tried not to have a heart attack as I realized I had eaten all of my carbs for the day (about 180g) in one sitting! Luckily it was still morning so I hadn’t eaten anything else and was able to take appropriate action for the rest of the day – ie. eat only chicken and egg whites! #WORTHIT
5. You chase your calories instead of macros
Let’s say I want to log some sushi. I see an entry for 125 calories for 3 pieces which seems legit but when I click on it I can see that there’s no macronutrient information.
A common belief held by many is that in order to lose weight, calories in need to be less than calories out (your total daily energy expenditure or TDEE, which is the amount of calories you burn taking into account your activity). This is an outdated way of tackling weight loss. Although pounds can certainly be dropped by tracking calories alone, our bodies need the right balance of macronutrients in order to achieve a lean body composition, maintain steady & sustained energy and regulate our hormones. If you only pay attention to your calories you are much more likely to hit a plateau sooner.
So, the example above would not be a good selection. It will cause your overall calories consumed to decrease but your macros to stay the same. Ultimately, to get the results you want and to fix your metabolism you want to chase your MACROS!
6. You wait to log your food/meals
The longer you wait to record your food the greater the risk of inaccuracy. I don’t know about you but I struggle to remember whether I’ve brushed my teeth some days so the chance of me accurately remembering all the different measurements for each item of food I’ve eaten throughout the day are minimal!
If you struggle planning your day ahead, do your best to enter your food before you eat it or immediately after eating. The longer you wait the easier it is to underestimate what you ate or to completely forget that chocolate brownie your colleague brought in.
7. You track your exercise
Taking part in regular physical activity is definitely something we recommend to help you reach your body composition goals. And keeping track of your exercise is a great way to help you stick to a routine. MyFitnessPal allows you to track your exercise within the app, but if you only have the unpaid basic version of the app, then tracking your exercise will cause the app to AUTOMATICALLY adjust your calories for the day – there is no ability to switch this off with the free version, see the lock on the image below.
Whether you’ve calculated your macros using our formula or a formula from another coach, you do not want the app to be adjusting your macros for you . Changes to your macros should be done with the help of a coach and should be based on consistent data.
If you have the basic version of the app, find a different app where you can track your exercise. If you have the premium version of the app, just make sure that “Exercise Calories” is switched to off under Fitness Goals.
8. You record your weight wrong
This might seem like a fairly innocent thing to do, but if you input your weight in the wrong spot you will inadvertently cause the app to change your calories and macros!
There’s two spots where you can record your weight as progress where the app won’t change your numbers.
Option 1 – Open up the app and then select the big + sign at the bottom and in the middle of your screen. Next select Weight and you will be taken straight to the screen where you can input your progress weight.
Option 2 – From the home screen select Progress in the bottom right of the screen. You’ll be taken to the Progress section. To add your weight here simply tap on the + sign in the top right corner of the screen.
You’ll be able to input your weight, change the date and even add in a progress photo! This is a great visual way of tracking your progress and managing your expectations in relation to your weight. For example, although you can see from my graph that my weight has gone up from 101 lbs in December last year to 104 lbs. this December, I can do a side by side comparison of my progress pictures by selecting one of my images.
I can see that I look more muscular in my shoulders and arms – and you can’t see my legs or back profile but I know my booty has gotten some gains – and not just because Jason says so! J I keep track of my lifts and performance in the gym too which speaks for itself with some new PRs in my squat clean and jerk, back squat, front squat and deadlift this year. In short, despite the number on the scale, clearly I’m maintaining my overall body composition well and improving my strength.
If you tap on Share in the top right corner, you can download your progress comparison and share your amazing accomplishment with the MFP community or the world!
It just goes to show how tracking and flexible eating truly is a sustainable way of life. Not only that but you can continue to make progress with your health and fitness, even while you’re traveling the country in a camper, planning a wedding, training a puppy and being an all-round bad ass!
Whether you’re new to tracking or have been doing it a while, if you’re struggling to get the results you want then our Ultimate Guide to MyFitnessPal will steer you in the right direction! Our eBook details all the ins and outs of the app to set you up for success and throws in some helpful flexible eating hacks along the way too!