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MyFitnessPal: A Beginners Guide

There are plenty of apps designed to make calorie counting and nutritional tracking easier. But MyFitnessPal always tends to top the charts.

With its huge community of more than 80 million users, exhaustive food database and easy-to-use tracking features, it’s no surprise that it’s one of the top-performing apps in the massive health and fitness category.

Read on to learn how to get started — we’ve used an iPhone for the walkthrough, but using an Android phone or signing up via the web is a very similar process.

Grab the app below:

1. Sign up and define your goals

When you first sign up, the app asks you whether you want to lose, maintain or gain weight. Get your goals defined and stats filled in now as it’s likely to make you feel more committed. And be realistic.

More people use MyFitnessPal to lose weight than gain it so we’re assuming that’s what you’re doing.

Next up the app wants to know your Activity Level. For days when you’re not using an activity tracking wearable it’s good for MyFitnessPal to know how active you usually are. Over or underestimating at this stage might mean your calorie allowances are slightly skewed.

Next up you need to fill in some basic details about your gender, birthday and current height and weight, all worthwhile info for the app.

MyFitnessPal will now serve up your Weekly Goals and you can choose how much weight you want to aim for each week. In the example below the app is recommending a 1lb deficit each week, generally considered to be the healthiest option. For most people MyFitnessPal will label it as recommended. This doesn’t mean you can’t choose an easier or tougher goal though.

Next, add in your email address and pick a username (for forums so nothing too silly).

2. Log everything

MyFitnessPal is created around the idea that to lose or gain weight you need to account for everything you do.

When you first sign in, the app will run you through the basics of how to upload a food. Hit the plus sign, select the meal, add a food and hit search. You’ll then be served up a lot of different options. If it’s something generic, like strawberries, you should be fine.

If it’s branded, like cereal, it’s a good idea to spend some time scrolling through to find the right brand as there can be pretty huge differences between cornflakes from one brand and another. Yes, really. You can also hit the barcode icon and scan the barcode of any packaged food to easily log the item.

Once you’ve found the food, enter in the right quantity. Using a food scale or measuring cups/spoons is your best bet to ensure accuracy. Once you’re done, hit the little tick in the top right and the food will be added to your daily calorie intake, which you can monitor from the main screen.

At the end of each day, click the little tick in the top right hand corner of the diary screen. Hitting that will figure out how long it’ll take to get to your goal based on the day. This is really useful as it can give you a kick in the right direction if you had a day of over-indulgence.

3. Set reminders

There are all kinds of things you can do to make tracking the food you eat a bit easier. So do yourself a few favours from the start.

For instance, you can set yourself reminders that arrive as push notifications on your phone to remind you to log meals. Just head to the three little dots in the bottom right hand corner of the screen and hit More. Then go to Reminders.

Tap the plus sign in the top right and then define a reminder, which can be a weigh-in, at particular times of the day (at breakfast or lunch, say) or simply a daily reminder to give MyFitnessPal some love.

4. Add favourite recipes, foods and meals

MyFitnessPal knows how annoying it is to enter everything little thing you eat, so to make the whole process easier you can create special lists of your favourite recipes, foods and meals.

This means if you enjoy a particular dish with 38 different ingredients in it, you only have to enter them all in once and then you can just select that meal each time you eat it. Otherwise, you’d be doing nothing other than adding in each ingredient night after night. Boring.

Head to the three little dots in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen and hit More and then go to My Recipes & Foods to start adding in your favourite – hopefully healthy – meals. You can either manually add ingredients or import recipes from the web and MFP will automatically pull in the ingredients.

5. Record Your Steps

The app is much more accurate if you tell MyFitnessPal how many steps you take and what kinds of exercises you’ve done. You can add all of this in manually but you can also use apps, wearables, and even your phone.

Hit More and then go to Steps. Here you can turn off this functionality altogether, use Apple Health to track your steps or head to Add a Device.

Lots of different step counting wearables can sync up to MyFitnessPal from Fitbit to Withings to Apple Watches.

If it’s steps you’re keen to sync up with your wearable, then find your device in the Steps section and hit Connect. Give MFP permission to talk to your wearable and, for some, head into the wearable’s app too.

6. View your progress, add notes and progress photos

Watching your weight drop (or rise, depending on your goals) can be a huge source of motivation. That’s why you need to make sure you add your stats to weigh in. You can do this by hitting the plus sign at the bottom of the dashboard and selecting Weight.

Over time you can see your weight plotted in the Progress tab, which is good to check in on, but also makes it clear if you need to start tweaking your goals.

You can also make notes if you want to record experiences, keep tabs on your mood or just add in something you’d like to see plotted against your progress.

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