Healthy Byte: Secret Weapon to Healthy

Anyone who has frequented & hopefully is a subscriber to my blog knows that I attribute my weight loss & keeping it off is the exercise & food tracking app MyFitnessPal (accessible on desktop & mobile). And now it is being touted as one of the most effective tools to getting healthy. Check out this article!

The advice is supported by numerous studies. “One of the most consistent research findings is that people who keep [food] logs — whether it’s daily or weekly, or in a notebook or tablet or phone — do better than people who do not,” weight-loss specialist Charles Seltzer, MD, tells Yahoo Health.

While keeping a food or exercise diary isn’t a new concept, technology — specifically the widespread adaption of cell phones and apps — has revolutionized the practice.

MyFitnessPal, one of the most popular diet and exercise tracking apps, has more than 90 million users, the company claims. Weight Watchers now offers a suite of phone and tablet apps for its members, and has an online-only membership option. Other food-tracking apps include, but are not limited to: My Food Diary, Calorific, Lose It!,MyNetDiary, MyPlate, Nutrition Menu, and Calorie Counter.

Do it quickly, and this habit isn’t rude — it’s actually the key to losing weight and keeping it off. (Photo: Ben Pipe Photography/Corbis)

Thanks to these apps, it’s now easier than ever to log every handful of chips, bite of pizza, or spoonful of peanut butter. “Tracking food intake and exercise is important because it brings a greater awareness to our daily activities,” says nutrition expert Dana Ryan, PhD, who currently works as the manager of sports performance and education at the nutrition and weight management company Herbalife. “Writing down what we eat makes us more accountable, because we are more conscious of every little thing we are putting in our body,” she tells Yahoo Health.

The Rise of the Weight-Loss App

Twenty-five years ago, recording every morsel that passed your lips was a laborious process. You’d flip through a paper calorie guide to find the food, figure out the number of servings you consumed, multiply that by the number of calories in a serving, and repeat for every single food and beverage — then add it all up at the end of the day.

The process became easier in the 1990s as websites started popping up with food databases and automatic calculators that made the process significantly easier. But that still usually required logging onto a computer in order to input that day’s meals and snacks, and the sites weren’t very user-friendly.

 This frustration was the inspiration for brothers Mike and Albert Lee to create MyFitnessPal. “Mike and his wife were planning a beach wedding and they both wanted to lose a little weight,” Albert Lee told Yahoo Health. “They went to see a fitness trainer and he gave them a book listing the nutritional values of around 3,000 foods and a small pad of paper to use for tracking our calories. He had been programming since he was 10 years old, so he just knew there had to be a better way to keep track of … meals and snacks, but couldn’t find anything online that was good enough. Every digital product on the market at that time was just as painful and time-consuming to use as food-logging in that notebook.”

So Mike Lee went to work creating the platform that would, in 2005, become MyFitnessPal. The first iOS app launched in 2009. “Since then, we’ve helped more than 90 million people achieve and maintain a healthier and happier lifestyle. We have a database of nearly 4 million foods and hundreds of exercises, plus top fitness technology partners and community insights,” Albert says.

Published research on weight-loss apps has been limited, but most studies show that tracking calories via a mobile device is more effective than keeping a paper journal. A weight-loss study led by researchers at the University of South Carolina found that participants who chronicled their food intake with an app consumed significantly fewer daily calories than those who used a paper log. Specifically, the app users ate about 500 fewer calories each day than the other group — the amount most experts suggest people cut out of their daily calorie intake to lose weight.

In a 2014 study from Arizona State University, app users logged their foods more consistently than people using a paper diary or the voice memo app on their phones, although there wasn’t a significant difference in weight loss between the groups during the eight-week study. A year-long study published recently in the journal Obesityconcluded that the consistency and frequency of entering calorie information improved participants’ long-term weight-loss success.

What Successful Dieters Do Differently

Tracking what you eat forces you to confront reality, Seltzer explains. “It’s objective data. It forces people to look at their own habits without being able to have the out of saying, ‘Oh, this is just this guy telling me it’s wrong.’ The numbers don’t lie,” he says.

“Sometimes people will say to me, ‘I started doing that but I didn’t like what I was seeing,’” Murphy says. “Well, the app isn’t being mean to you, it’s just being honest to what you’re actually eating. So if you don’t like what you’re seeing, you’re in denial about what you’re eating.”

Arthur concurs that keeping a log can be a huge reality check. “It’s that someone is seeing it, even if it’s just you,” she says. “If you’re walking by the cabinet and grab a little snack of something, you can kind of pretend no one saw it, but when you put it on paper, you have to see it, and you have to face it.”

When Seltzer’s weight-loss clients start recording their calories, “they always say it’s an eye-opener,” he says. “Almost without exception, they say, ‘I’m eating so much more than I thought I was.’”

People are also surprised to learn which foods are high or low in calories, Seltzer says. At Applebee’s, for example, the New York strip steak has fewer calories than a fiesta chicken salad (480 calories for the steak versus 700 for the salad).

When Murphy started using MyFitnessPal, she realized just how much sugar she was eating. “I hadn’t really thought about it before, but seeing that pie chart [on the app] and seeing days where carbohydrates were like 70 percent of my caloric intake was shocking. … It was really eye-opening,” she says.

Marissa Vicario, a certified integrated health and nutrition coach, explains that most people know how to lose weight — they’re just not always doing it. “Diet tracking provides accountability to actually put what they know they should be doing into action,” she tells Yahoo Health. “When you can actually see what you’re eating, it makes it a lot more real.”

A Life-Changing Habit

Sarie Bronish was 240 pounds at her heaviest, about three years ago. “I was feeling horrible about myself. I didn’t have any self-esteem, and my depression issues were at their worst,” the Washington state resident tells Yahoo Health. “That was the point in my life where it felt like everybody else in my life had to change for me to get happy, but I didn’t understand that the problem was actually myself.”

Her turning point occurred at a friend’s birthday party. “I was worried that when I walked in the room, everybody was going to be looking at me because of my thighs, and everybody was going to be looking at my hips and my waist,” she says. “I couldn’t enjoy myself in public anymore because it seemed like everything in my own head was going back to my weight.”

She started making small changes, like switching to wheat bread instead of white, and buying almond milk instead of dairy milk to save calories. About a month into her journey, she began tracking her calories and walking for exercise.

The pounds started to come off, and Bronish started tracking her macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) using MyFitnessPal. “That’s when everything really started to fall off,” she says.

She has now lost and kept off 95 pounds and kicked her depression and anxiety issues entirely, she says. She still uses the app to track what she eats and make sure she’s getting enough protein. She also posts photos from her weight-loss journey to her Instagram.

Tips to Start Tracking Successfully

Keeping a lot of what you eat may seem inconvenient or intimidating. “But the tradeoff in the big picture is that you have a lot of flexibility over what you eat as long as you control the quantity,” Seltzer says.

If you’re new to tracking, experts and experienced MyFitnessPal users suggest these tips:

  1. Try it for two weeks. Learn how the app of your choice works and how to enter foods and recipes. “That two-week period is an excellent way to get used to the program without putting any pressure on yourself to do anything specifically,” Seltzer says.
  2. Don’t get down on yourself. “Just kind of go in without judgment and track for a while and see if you can spot some patterns,” Murphy says. “I think people can get really hard on themselves, especially in the beginning, and then that’s really discouraging. You just have to get over that hump.”
  3. Work with your habits, not against them. “I tell people to go back [into their logs] and start looking at their habits to realize what their natural tendencies are, and then adjust within their natural tendencies rather than against them,” Seltzer says. If you’re a grazer, don’t try to start eating three meals a day — just eat a little less when you do snack, or choose lower calorie foods. If you eat most of your calories at night, just eat a little less at night.
  4. Use whatever method works for you. Apps have convenient features, like saving your favorite foods and adding up calories for you. But some people like writing it down on paper. “It’s really a personal preference,” Arthur says.
  5. Record what you eat or drink right away. If you don’t, you’re more likely to forget about something you ate, or forget to do it altogether, Seltzer says. The habit will get easier with practice.

Originally Posted HERE

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