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How to use MyFitnessPal for weight loss

Why am I not losing weight?

Calories are energy.

Your body uses calories for everything it has to do.

From intense exercise like running and weight training to everyday tasks like standing and tying your shoes and activities like gardening and walking... they all burn calories.

Did you know that your body actually uses a ton of calories every single day even when you aren't doing anything?

Keeping your body alive and functioning burns lots of calories.

Include things like walking, housework and gardening.

If your goal is to lose weight, you can either increase the number of calories you burn through exercise, reduce the number of calories you consume, or do both.

But, to lose weight, you must be in a consistent calorie deficit.

So, in answer to your question "Why am I not losing weight?"

You're not in a consistent calorie deficit.

Same goes for "Why am I exercising and not losing weight? I'm walking so much in this lockdown but my weight has gone up!"

You're not in a calorie deficit.

In fact, if you're putting on weight, despite moving more, you're in a calorie surplus.

What is Calorie Counting?

You must be aware of what you're eating when you're trying to lose body fat and what changes you can make to ensure the process is as efficient and fast as possible.

Tracking your calories opens your eyes and forces your buried head from the sand.

The number of people that tell me they undereat but can't lose weight or fat is truly remarkable, and then after two weeks of calorie counting suddenly see why that is.

We all under report what we eat, seeing it in black and white gives you the evidence you need to make changes.

Fat loss is only achieved through a calorie deficit, take the guesswork out of it and begin logging your food without much effort.

Being aware of how many calories you are consuming daily gives you flexibility in what you can eat and how much of it.

This way of eating provides dieters freedom in their food choices, which may help keep weight off over time and create a positive and healthy relationship with food.

How many calories to lose weight?

For general health purposes, you never want to make large or fast changes to your calorie intake.

Instead, you want to be very slow and very gradual.

It is recommended that weight should be gained or lost at a rate of about 1 or 2 pounds per week.

There are about 3500 calories in one pound.

That means if you are 500 calories under per day, you will lose 1 pound per week.

Because 500 calories below each day, multiplied by 7 days in a week, equals 3500 total

calories under for the week.

And, 3500 calories under equals about 1 pound of weight loss.

The same goes for weight gain. If you are 500 above each day, you'll gain 1 pound per week.

Too large a calorie deficit and you run the risk of suffering several undesirable consequences.

Yes, you will lose weight but your body might start to break down your lean body mass (muscle) for fuel and you run the risk of upsetting your hormones.

Also, your mood, energy levels and sex drive may all take a turn for the worse.

So, it's generally not a good idea to create a calorie deficit below 500 calories a day.

MyFitnessPal includes a calorie deficit calculator that works out your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) based on the information you give it.

You can then specify how large you want that calorie deficit to be.

And, as we've already touched on, a deficit of 500 calories a day is recommended.

How To Reach Your Specific Weight Control Goal Through Calorie Counting

An app such as MyFitnessPal helps you to take control of your goals by tracking calories and breaking down the ingredients.

Study after study has confirmed the benefits of keeping track of the food you eat and the activity you do.

It's simple - the more you track your food intake, the more likely you are to lose weight.

That's why every successful weight management program suggests that you keep a food diary.

But recording everything you eat without the right tools can be tedious at best, or impossible at worst.

With a free calorie counter app like MyFitnessPal, you can log your meals easily and as quickly as possible.

Because the easier that is, the more likely you are to stay on track, and the more likely you are to succeed in your weight loss goals.


If you’ve never used a calorie counter app before, it can be a little daunting and a bit confusing to set up.

In my opinion (and the opinion of 140 million others), MyFitnessPal is the best calorie counter app there is.

I promise that once you begin using MyFitnessPal, it will become second nature.

You won’t even have to think twice when logging meals and snacks.

Plus, having a central place to track your calories and store your go-to meals makes it much easier when you’re out and about.

It’s one less thing to think about!

Below is a quick how-to guide for getting your MyFitnessPal account ready and customised to your personal goals.

Trust me, with a little practice and patience, you will be an MFP expert in no time!

Now, let’s get you set up for tracking success.

How to use MyFitnessPal to lose weight

Download the MyFitnessPal app (the basic version is free) from the Apple app store (iPhone) or Google Play (Android).

Once downloaded, open the app and sign up for an account.

You can do so using your email address, Facebook, or Twitter credentials (using Facebook or Twitter is a little easier).

You will be prompted to answer a few questions to set up your profile and help the weight loss calculator work out out your daily calorie allowance.

Questions include your goals (lose weight, maintain weight, gain weight), activity level (not very active, lightly active, active, and very active), gender, date of birth, height, current weight, and weekly weight loss goal.

Your activity levels explained

Sedentary (Not very active): Less than 4,000 steps per day (28k steps per week)

Lightly active: 4,000 - 8,000 steps per day (42k steps per week)

Active: 10,000+ steps per day (70k steps per week)

Very active: 14,000+ steps per day (98k steps per week)

Just because you go to the gym three times a week doesn't make you active - especially when you're sitting down at work for 8 hours a day.

Calculate your activity levels based on your number of steps and if you do moderate to vigorous exercise on top of that, it's a bonus.

Walking for weight loss

This is why I band the drum about everyone doing a minimum of 10,000 steps a day.

It's the simplest, most accessible form of exercise but often the most neglected.

10,000 steps are roughly 5 miles.

Generally speaking, doing 10k steps a day means that you're exercising for at least one hour.

And depending on several individual factors, one hour of walking at an average pace of 3.0mph can burn up to 476 calories!

Remember your NEAT

MyFitnessPal creates a plan for you based on your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure), which is basically a fancy way of wording the number of estimated calories you burn daily.

Included in your TDEE is your NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.

NEAT are calories burned during non-intentional exercise activities, such as walking, dancing, gardening, housekeeping, standing and sex.

The better your understanding of NEAT, the easier weight management becomes.

Increase your daily NEAT to really aid weight loss.

Should you eat back the calories burned from exercise?

**A quick note about adding your exercise:

Here's how a simple calorie counter like MyFitnessPal works.

You start each day with a certain number of calories to spend.

This number is based on your own individual factors.

Over the day, you log your food and drink intake and those calories are subtracted from your goal.

Ideally, you don't want to get to zero by lunchtime.

Now, I know what you're thinking ...

I'll go for a run and that'll give me another 400 calories in the bank.

But wait...

It doesn't quite work that way.

Your exercise is already accounted for when you set up your activity levels.

By entering the calories you burn exercising, you essentially 'double count' the calories from your workouts.

And, by eating back those calories, you then 'double eat' your daily allowance.

Effectively, reducing your calorie deficit and slowing down your weight loss.

A little story...

I once heard from a client that said she burned around 3,000 calories a day and was only eating 2,500.

She couldn't figure out why she was gaining weight despite this calorie deficit and high activity levels.

When we looked at her MyFitnessPal, her baseline level was 1750 calories.

Turns out, she had logged every activity she did during the day and according to her tracker, it gave her an additional 1250 calories.

So she thought that she could eat 2,500 calories a day and still lose weight.

She hadn't realised that all of these activities were already included in her calorie calculation and she was in fact, eating a calorie surplus.

How to enter your food into MyFitnessPal

Head back to the home page.

Click on the “plus” sign at the bottom of the page.

Click on “Food” and select the meal you are logging for.

Let’s go with breakfast!

Click on “Add Food”.

You can do this one of three ways:

  1. Directly search for the food on MFP.

  2. Scan the barcode of the food if it’s packaged.

  3. Manually enter it.

I use a combo of all three options, based on what I’m eating.

For example, for home-cooked meals, I’ll often add each ingredient individually and adjust portion sizes accordingly.

For packaged food, I’ll just scan the barcode.

And if I’m out at a restaurant, I’ll scan the database to see if they have a similar dish already in the database.

I don’t stress if I can’t find the exact food. It just needs to be close enough!

Once you adjust the serving size based on the portion you’re eating, click on the “checkmark” on the top of the screen.

While this process might appear to be tedious at first, the more you do it, the easier it will become.

MyFitnessPal will begin to track patterns based on what you’ve eaten.

So when you type in a food, it will make suggestions according to what you’ve logged before.

You can also repeat favourite meals with the “copy to” and “copy from” option.

This definitely makes tracking easier if you’re eating the same foods from day-to-day.

To sum up

Using a calorie tracker such as MyFitnessPal for weight management helps you to take control of your goals by tracking calories.

Study after study has confirmed the benefits of keeping track of the food you eat and the activity you do.

It's simple - the more you track your food intake, the more likely you are to lose weight.

It really is an easy way to lose weight.

Every successful weight management program suggests that you keep a food diary.

Any questions… give us a shout.

Ben Yates is a personal trainer based at Places Gym Hinckley and Hinckley Leisure Centre in Leicestershire.

To book your free personal training consultation click here


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