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E-Fitness Experiment: My Fitness Pal

E-Fitness Experiment: My Fitness Pal
  • On July 26, 2014

The E-Fitness Experiment continues! Last time I set myself a main mission and two side missions, so let’s start with an update.


My main mission was to go to sleep by 1 AM and wake up before 9 AM. This has been an epic fail. I managed to do it once; since then I’ve been going to bed around 4 AM and getting up between 10 and 12. 

Because I failed so badly this continues to be my main mission. I have a tendency to start a new book or game an hour before bedtime, so I’m going to set a “last call for entertainment” alarm for 11 PM.

My side quests last time were to move my body (exercise) for at least 30 consecutive minutes a day and to reduce my sugar intake. I did pretty well on these.

There were only a few days I didn’t do anything active. Reducing my sugar was more of a problem because I have poor impulse control and a lot of candy in my house. I did eat less than I would have without this goal, though, and I noticed that when I ate a lot of sugar I felt pretty gross afterward.

Results So Far

I’m getting to know a lot about my body. I still get drowsy in the afternoon, but I have noticeably more energy than I did two weeks ago. My asthma seems the same although I have noticed that it eases off about ten minutes into a cardio workout.

There’s no real improvement in my back yet, but since I’ve done almost exclusively cardio, that’s not surprising. I have to build muscle to support my spine before my back pain eases.

The biggest change is that it feels like less work to move my body. Things like walking up a hill are less of a struggle, and jogging feels like something I can actually do (well, if I didn’t have asthma) rather than an impossible task. My body feels lighter, even though it isn’t.

I have continued to use my Fitbit Flex, and I have some mixed feelings about it. I still like it a lot;  it keeps track of the days that I exercise and how well I’m sleeping without any effort from me, and I’m a fan of things that don’t require effort. It also continues to motivate me.

The problem I’m having is that the only option I have for wearing it is on my wrist. The band is rubber, so it can be uncomfortable. It’s the worst when I’m exercising, because sweat builds up underneath it and even gets into the Fitbit compartment, and it doesn’t dry. It’s really, really gross.

I’ve started wrapping it around the shoulder strap on my workout tanks when I exercise, but there are a lot of situations where I’ve wished I’d gotten a Fitbit One or a Fitbit Zip instead. If there was an accessory that would allow me to take it out of the wristband and clip it on it would be perfect.

This Week’s Missions:

Main Mission: To go to bed by 1 AM and wake up before 9 AM. Start working with alarms to keep myself mindful of this goal.

Side Quest 1: To continue to incorporate 30 minutes of sustained activity into each day. Because I’ve done so well with this, I’m increasing the difficulty. I’ve been doing cardio every day because it’s easy and I like it; starting this week, my goal is to alternate cardio with (ugh) muscle building exercises (ugh) or yoga.

Side Quest 2: To continue to wean myself off sugar. I hope to combat sugar cravings by snacking on healthier alternatives when they hit; fruit, vegetables, cheese, things like that.

This Week’s Review : My Fitness Pal (Warning: Calorie Counting)

I’ve been sporadically using My Fitness Pal for a long time. It’s a website and app that help you keep track of your diet and exercise.

You can set goals in My Fitness Pal; you tell it whether you want to gain weight, lose weight, or maintain your weight. Then you tell it what your daily activity level is (Sedentary, active, etc) and, if your goal is weight gain or loss, the time frame within which you would like to achieve those goals. My Fitness Pal then uses what are probably complicated algorithms to calculate the number of calories you’d need to meet your goal.

(For the record, I found exercise tracking in My Fitness Pal to be basically useless, and I’m looking for a different app to keep track of that.)


As you track you food and exercise throughout the day, your calorie count is adjusted in response to your activity. For instance, if you log that you ate a cookie, the number of calories you took in will be subtracted from your daily allowance, and you’ll see how many many more calories you have to spend. If you log that you spent an hour swimming, it adds the number of calories it think you spent in that activity to your calorie allowance for the day. It is also integrated with Fitbit, so your activity from your daily step count is calculated in, as well.

2014-07-09 20.13.05

My Fitness Pal also calculates your nutrition, suggesting a daily allowance (or limit) for vitamins, minerals, and things like sugars, protein, and sodium. Unfortunately, it doesn’t differentiate between things you want more of and things you don’t; if you go over your daily protein allowance the app reacts the same way it does if you overdo it on sugar.

The app and website are helpful to me in ways you might not expect. Since my goal isn’t weight loss, I expected that the calorie function would be an annoyance rather than a help, but I was wrong. I take medication that suppresses my appetite, so while I pay little attention to whether or not I go over my suggested calorie intake, there have been many nights that I’ve eaten extra to make sure I at least met it. (In fact, if you don’t eat enough you’ll get a stern lecture in bright red about how starving yourself damages your body.)

It also forces me to hold myself accountable for the things I eat. It’s been an invaluable tool in the fight against sugar: it’s one thing to eat half a box of Gobstoppers. It’s entirely another to have to type in that you ate 50 of them. I can’t gorge myself on things that I know hurt me and then pretend it never happened; I have to write it down. That’s deterred me more than once from eating three Butterfingers in one sitting.

The other thing that’s been very helpful is the way that it tracks your nutrient intake. It turns out I am not eating enough protein and that I desperately needed to take a multi-vitamin, so I’ve taken steps to remedy both of those issues and I feel much better for it. I never would have known that if it weren’t for My Fitness Pal. I’m eating more and eating better because of this app.

Tracking your food is pretty easy. It keeps track of the foods you eat regulary, so you can add them with a few clicks of your mouse. The app has a barcode scanner, so if you want to add that beer you just drank all you have to do is scan it in. You can also search foods or add your own. A lot of recipes are already added in, so if you use a recipe from, say, Vegetarian Times, you can often search the name of the recipe and find it in My Fitness Pal’s database.

This is not a tool for people who feel a lot of shame regarding food, or who obsess over calories until the make themselves sick. For people like me, however, who either don’t eat enough or who will enough candy in one sitting to make themselves sick, it can be very helpful.

Much like Fitbit, My Fitness Pal has a “friends” feature. If you’d like to be My Fitness Pal friends with me, my profile name is Desertbell. )



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