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Tracking calories and weight on your smart phone
Old 05-21-2017, 06:59 PM   #1
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Tracking calories and weight on your smart phone

Does anyone use a smartphone app like "Lose It" or "My Fitness Pal" to track your calories and weight?

I used it consistently for about two years, and I was able to maintain a very consistent weight. Then I went on a mountain retreat during the last week of the year where it was very difficult to exercise and my friend was cooking three gourmet meals a day. I gained five pounds and have kept it on since. I also stopped tracking my calories, which I believe led to me continuing to gain weight, until I realized I was now seven pounds above my pre-New Year weight.

So I'm back to tracking calories (and eating a lot fewer) again. But I'm having a hard time figuring out how these apps calculate the total calories required to either maintain weight or lose x pounds per week. It seems to add any exercise calories that it sees on my Apple Watch if I use the activity app to track it. But if I walk three hours in one day, it might only give me a "step bonus" of 125 calories, when that much walking would clearly burn more calories. I can enter "walking 3.0 mph" and it will add the exercise calories in, but then it also gives me a step bonus, which makes me think it's double counting.

I've found the support forums for these apps to be somewhat useless, and there is basically no tech support. So I'm left wondering how accurate they are when trying to lose weight.
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Old 05-21-2017, 07:14 PM   #2
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Well, they aren't very accurate on any given day, but over time the measurement errors cancel each other out. Despite what people believe, resting metabolic rates for people with a given age, weight, and gender aren't widely variable and the estimation function gives you a pretty good starting point which you can always adjust after a few weeks, if you aren't losing weight or are losing too fast.

I don't use an activity monitor, but if I did, I would just transfer the data over by hand, because that does seem to be a common point of complaint with these apps. The connectivity between two apps from different manufacturers can be a little iffy and it's a simple enough thing to add manually. Activity monitors are also merely estimating your activity and, depending on your choice of activity, they may be way off. However, most people follow a fairly predictable routine, so if you aren't losing weight, you can always adjust your goals a little.

I use the Weight Watchers version because I like the way it breaks the weekly calorie budget down into a daily pool and a weekly pool, although I chafe a bit at the current point system which I feel is silly. The WW app is free for me since I'm "lifetime at goal", but ITrackBites is an app that offers similar features without joining WW.
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Old 05-21-2017, 09:56 PM   #3
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+1 for the WW app and program. I've been able to reach my goal weight and maintain it, difficult for me to do on diets that eliminate entire food groups.
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Old 05-21-2017, 10:30 PM   #4
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I've used MFP and Mapmywalk for almost 2 years. I've found them to be fairly accurate, especially considering the free price.

The BMR and exercise burns are good estimates and a place to start. I know the standard advice on MFP was to at most eat back half of the exercise calories. The general advise was the apps(or end users) underestimated calories consumed and overestimated the calories burned.

One of the complaints about MFP is the database accuracy. I've logged a 600 calorie garlic clove before. Point is validating their data. I weigh everything and use the USDA entries whenever possible.

Those last few pounds are typically slow.
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Old 05-21-2017, 10:57 PM   #5
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I have a Fitbit and now use that app to track meals. I don't really pay attention to the prediction of weight loss, look back on it, graph it, etc.--I just track stuff and find that action is effective enough to help me stay focused on the process.
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Old 05-21-2017, 11:11 PM   #6
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I used My Fitness Pal before to track food and exercise, guess what it didn't work for me. Too much work. Now I'm just halving my food at night. Summer now, I can eat less food and cut out my chocolate. I need to fit into my biniki, well actually tankini, but so far so good. I know I've kept the 10 pounds or so that I've lost last year. I have exactly 4-5 weeks before my Hawaii trip so I'm stepping up my effort. Back to swimming everyday now.
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Old 05-22-2017, 08:52 AM   #7
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I use the Weight Watchers version because I like the way it breaks the weekly calorie budget down into a daily pool and a weekly pool, although I chafe a bit at the current point system which I feel is silly. The WW app is free for me since I'm "lifetime at goal", but ITrackBites is an app that offers similar features without joining WW.

I downloaded the WW app but it wouldn't even let me look around before committing to paying around $220, so I don't think that's going to work for me. I'm surprised they don't offer a light or trial version just to let you see if it's for you.
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Old 05-22-2017, 08:55 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by MRG View Post
I've used MFP and Mapmywalk for almost 2 years. I've found them to be fairly accurate, especially considering the free price.

The BMR and exercise burns are good estimates and a place to start. I know the standard advice on MFP was to at most eat back half of the exercise calories. The general advise was the apps(or end users) underestimated calories consumed and overestimated the calories burned.

One of the complaints about MFP is the database accuracy. I've logged a 600 calorie garlic clove before. Point is validating their data. I weigh everything and use the USDA entries whenever possible.

Those last few pounds are typically slow.
I haven't tried mapmywalk yet. Would that provide anything different than using the Apple watch to track my walking?

Agreed on only crediting half the exercise calories. I've found that my Apple watch will credit me with about 250 exercise calories per day just from normal walking around the house and doing chores, so I disregard the first 250 calories before factoring in any additional calories burned.
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Old 05-22-2017, 08:58 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Fedup View Post
I used My Fitness Pal before to track food and exercise, guess what it didn't work for me. Too much work. Now I'm just halving my food at night. Summer now, I can eat less food and cut out my chocolate. I need to fit into my biniki, well actually tankini, but so far so good. I know I've kept the 10 pounds or so that I've lost last year. I have exactly 4-5 weeks before my Hawaii trip so I'm stepping up my effort. Back to swimming everyday now.
No doubt it's a lot of work to log all of the calories, so it's not for everyone. For me, when I was using it consistently, I found myself passing up on some snacks because it was too much work to log them, so I guess the hassle worked in my favor.

I do swim six days a week, but I still kept the weight on. The basic problem is that the number of calories I like to eat is not the number my body needs to stay fit. I guess that's probably a common problem.
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Old 05-22-2017, 09:04 AM   #10
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I haven't tried mapmywalk yet. Would that provide anything different than using the Apple watch to track my walking?

Agreed on only crediting half the exercise calories. I've found that my Apple watch will credit me with about 250 exercise calories per day just from normal walking around the house and doing chores, so I disregard the first 250 calories before factoring in any additional calories burned.
Its probably the same, perhaps Apple gives/sells you more. Best feature is Mapmywalk is free.
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Old 05-22-2017, 11:09 AM   #11
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I use MyFitnessPal a lot and I think their nutritional information databases are great. I don't mind logging everything. I love that it is completely free.
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Old 05-22-2017, 11:34 AM   #12
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Agree MFP is a great data base. I used it rigorously for a couple of months and lost about 12 lbs. I don't use it now but found the caloric content of what I WAS logging very educational and have retained most of that knowledge. I have a fairly accurate digital scale (taint) and would weigh same time of day and found the weight loss prediction pretty accurate over time.

I think biggest benefit of the logging is if you're honest the snacking between and after meals can be revealed to be a big issue.
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Old 05-22-2017, 11:41 AM   #13
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I've used the free loseit app since 2010. If nothing else, I like being able to look back at the history of my weight gains/losses. I rarely use the phone app version, especially since ER. There is always and open tab on my chrome browser for the logging the days eating and exercise events.

I've used it so much over the years, I'm tempted and ready to purchase it as a thank you.
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Old 05-22-2017, 11:50 AM   #14
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My weight never varies more than a little, week to week or year to year. I only bought a scale for the first time in my life when my girlfriend was living with me for several months during a remodel in her building. I do have a Fitbit, and pay casual attention to steps/mileage, and "floors", which is Fitbit's way to looking at hill climbing. I like the Fitbit, especially the Friend page where a little competition can get me to go a bit longer sometimes. Like if I am downtown and a little tired, I still may just head up the hill on foot rather than grab a bus. Just to give me some extra Fitbit mileage my totals will be better. A lot of my walking is what I have seen referred to as utility walking. I really don't have the personality to just "go for a walk" very often, and the guy who did my hip replacement says OK to run if I need to, but no getting out to jog. But with no car, a lot of walking is built in, as well as a lot of load bearing. When I shoulder my pack after shopping some mornings I need to be aware of my position and who is nearby before swinging it up.

Ha
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Old 05-22-2017, 11:53 AM   #15
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I downloaded the WW app but it wouldn't even let me look around before committing to paying around $220, so I don't think that's going to work for me. I'm surprised they don't offer a light or trial version just to let you see if it's for you.
If you go through the Weight Watcher's website, you can see the various plans, but it isn't free. You can pay month to month as well, choose meetings or just use the online version. They're always offering some special deal. If you go to meetings and reach your goal weight, you become a lifetime member and everything is free as long as you remain no more than 2 lbs above your goal weight. The threat of paying for something helps keep a lot of people in line.

The itrackbites app is a one time purchase fee of about $5, if you don't want all of the various other WW options. I haven't found another app that accounts for a daily minimum and weekly maximum distribution of calories. The itrackbites app uses the open nutrition databases which are messy to sort through and imprecise while WW controls their database which means that new prepared foods may be missing. Either way, for me the daily/weekly business works.

I have yet to find the perfect app, but they all get to be easier to use after a while since most of us eat the same items over and over.

I hated the logging at first, but after a while I realized that I spend more time brushing my teeth every day and stopped fighting it. In many ways I find it freeing because I don't have to guess about whether I can afford a treat.
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Old 05-22-2017, 11:58 AM   #16
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I don't track calories- only weight, steps, bike run hike miles, and weight workouts on Garmin connect with my garmin watch, phone and computer.
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Old 05-22-2017, 03:02 PM   #17
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My weight never varies more than a little, week to week or year to year. I only bought a scale for the first time in my life when my girlfriend was living with me for several months during a remodel in her building. I do have a Fitbit, and pay casual attention to steps/mileage, and "floors", which is Fitbit's way to looking at hill climbing. I like the Fitbit, especially the Friend page where a little competition can get me to go a bit longer sometimes. Like if I am downtown and a little tired, I still may just head up the hill on foot rather than grab a bus. Just to give me some extra Fitbit mileage my totals will be better. A lot of my walking is what I have seen referred to as utility walking. I really don't have the personality to just "go for a walk" very often, and the guy who did my hip replacement says OK to run if I need to, but no getting out to jog. But with no car, a lot of walking is built in, as well as a lot of load bearing. When I shoulder my pack after shopping some mornings I need to be aware of my position and who is nearby before swinging it up.

Ha
That was my method of weight control for decades too. Until, that is, my joints made the lifestyle decision to give out for no explicable reason. Enjoy it while you have it!
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Old 05-22-2017, 03:42 PM   #18
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No doubt it's a lot of work to log all of the calories, so it's not for everyone. For me, when I was using it consistently, I found myself passing up on some snacks because it was too much work to log them, so I guess the hassle worked in my favor.

I do swim six days a week, but I still kept the weight on. The basic problem is that the number of calories I like to eat is not the number my body needs to stay fit. I guess that's probably a common problem.
Swimming is good for toning. Also I notice I'm not as hungry when I do.
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Old 05-22-2017, 06:57 PM   #19
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Agree MFP is a great data base. I used it rigorously for a couple of months and lost about 12 lbs. I don't use it now but found the caloric content of what I WAS logging very educational and have retained most of that knowledge. I have a fairly accurate digital scale (taint) and would weigh same time of day and found the weight loss prediction pretty accurate over time.

I think biggest benefit of the logging is if you're honest the snacking between and after meals can be revealed to be a big issue.
+1 - just started using it and it seems accurate enough in terms of calorie counts. Not sure about the exercise credit. I do love that I simply plug in my Garmin after a bike ride and it applies the calories used.
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Old 05-22-2017, 07:15 PM   #20
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Does anyone use a smartphone app like "Lose It" or "My Fitness Pal" to track your calories and weight?

I used it consistently for about two years, and I was able to maintain a very consistent weight. Then I went on a mountain retreat during the last week of the year where it was very difficult to exercise and my friend was cooking three gourmet meals a day. I gained five pounds and have kept it on since. I also stopped tracking my calories, which I believe led to me continuing to gain weight, until I realized I was now seven pounds above my pre-New Year weight.

So I'm back to tracking calories (and eating a lot fewer) again. But I'm having a hard time figuring out how these apps calculate the total calories required to either maintain weight or lose x pounds per week. It seems to add any exercise calories that it sees on my Apple Watch if I use the activity app to track it. But if I walk three hours in one day, it might only give me a "step bonus" of 125 calories, when that much walking would clearly burn more calories. I can enter "walking 3.0 mph" and it will add the exercise calories in, but then it also gives me a step bonus, which makes me think it's double counting.

I've found the support forums for these apps to be somewhat useless, and there is basically no tech support. So I'm left wondering how accurate they are when trying to lose weight.
I'm a MyFitnessPal junkie. Been using it for about a year and half with very few breaks in entering the data. Part of a regimen than helped me drop 25 pounds.

My rule is: "If it doesn't go in the app, it doesn't go in my mouth."

I wasn't successful when I was letting the app deduct calories for exercise. Way too suspect in terms of calories burned and sort of gave me "permission" to add junkie calories back in rather than just getting them out.

I'd suggest you set a calorie target per day and a nutrient mix (AA allocation anyone?) and just stick to that regardless of exercise. Let exercise be a bonus in the "burn" column rather than a bonus in the "eat" column.

Good luck.
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