Lose It! versus MyFitnessPal

I want to lose weight and my Google research tells me keeping a food diary is essential to this goal.  My wife said they taught her at Weight Watchers:

If you bite it, write it.
If you nibble it, scribble it.
If you drink it, ink it.
If you snack it, track it.
If you steal it, reveal it.
If you sneak it, leak it.
If you chose it, disclose it.
If you hog it, log it.
If you grab it, blab it.
If you indulge it, divulge it.
If you ingest it, you guessed it!
If you imbibe it, inscribe it!
If it goes in your smacker, it goes in your tracker!
If you lick it, bic it!
Grab your pencil before your utensil!

I’m not a joiner, so Weight Watchers isn’t for me.  I’m a do-it-yourselfer, so I found a couple of apps to help me out.

Loset It! and MyFitnessPal are both great programs that help you lose weight by tracking what you eat.  They both work from a web site and/or mobile device.  Both have barcode readers to quickly look up calorie and nutritional content.  Both help you track calorie intake and calories burned through exercise.  Both programs are essential for fighting weight loss.  Both programs have social networking features.  Both are easy to use.  Both work with iOS and Android.  Both are free.

So how to pick one?  Since they are free you could just start with both and see which one you liked.

However, my basic characterization is Lose It! is best for non-techies and MyFitnessPal is best for power users.  Lose It! has an elegantly simple user interface that goes deep with features with the minimum of thinking.  MyFitnessPal is a tiny bit harder to learn, but you can do more customization.  MyFitnessPal gives more nutrient information and it’s barcode scanner seems to recognize slightly more foods, but it’s program menu structure is a touch more cumbersome than Lose It!’s menus.  I like proportion control in Lose It!, but MyFitnessPal can be more accurate if you like math.

You sign up for each program and answer some questions about your height, weight, age and your weight loss goal.  The program then tells you your daily calorie goal and what date you’re reach your weight loss goal if you follow their routine.

My goal is to get down to 180 pounds by July 25, 2013 by losing 1 pound a week.  I get 2,271 calories to work with each day.  I can eat more if I exercise more.  For years I’ve felt like I was dieting all the time because I wasn’t eating all the food I wanted and had given up all my favorite junk food.  But tracking calories closely clearly shows I was still eating too much.  Well, duh!  I’m still fat.

The Math of Weight Loss

I want to lose 1 pound per week.  1 pound is about 3,500 calories, so that’s 3500 / 7 days = 500 less a day.  Lose It! asked my age, height and weight and told me 2,271 calories is what it takes for me to lose 1 pound per week, which means eating 2,771 calories maintains my weight, and eating more means my bodily universe expands.

It’s extremely important to honestly record everything you eat and use accurate proportions, otherwise you are fooling yourself.  Don’t cheat, or you won’t loose weight.

Both programs work in almost an identical way.  You track calories by adding food or exercise to a diary that’s broken down by:

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
  • Snacks
  • Exercise

You add calories to your diary by selecting food items by:

  • Scanning the barcode
  • Searching a database
  • Selecting from items you’ve already added
  • Selecting from complete meals you’ve already recorded

You decrease your calorie count by adding an exercise from:

  • Menu of exercises
  • Exercises you’ve already listed

You can use both of these programs from the web if you don’t have a mobile device.  I don’t have a smart phone but I do have an iPod Touch that I carry with me everywhere.  It’s the current generation with a camera, so I can scan barcodes.  It’s extremely easy to keep a food diary with these programs and a mobile device.  It’s pretty easy to just use the web version, but it will be a bit more work because you have to run find a computer after you eat each meal, or jot down what you eat during the day and enter it at night.

Here’s what the daily diary looks like for the two programs:

Lose It! (the program I use)

LoseIt-daily-diary.jpg

MyFitnessPal (the program I’m testing)

MyFitnessPal-daily-diary.jpg

Neither program had physical therapy exercises on their list, so I used yoga as a substitute.

Once you’ve looked up most of the common foods you eat, recording a meal or snack in the diary takes seconds.  I make up menus of my favorite meals and just add the whole menu with one click.  I tend to eat a lot of the same meals.  In Lose It!, breakfast is one item that’s a stored recipe, but lunch is from a restaurant.

Eating out is a big problem.  No barcode to scan, or label info to read.  Both programs lists items off of chain restaurants, but if you go somewhere else you have to make the best guess you can, or build an approximate recipe.  This restaurant guide at CalorieKing is very helpful, but I wished they had photos of the food, with dimensions.  At CalorieLab you can search 70,000 foods and 500 restaurants for similar meals and hope you get close.  The FDA is rolling out a law that will require all restaurants with more than 20 locations to list nutritional information.  It would be great if the menus had little barcodes to scan.

More than Counting Calories!

These programs are about more than counting calories, they provide overall nutritional information, like this my current information from Lose It! (I haven’t had dinner yet):

nutrients.jpg

I eat too many carbs, and too much salt, and I need to eat more protein in relationship to the carbs and fats.  I’ve seen all kinds of recommendations for the proper ratio for Carbs/Protein/Fat.  Moderate is 50/25/25, but the Zone diet recommends, 40/30/30.  I’m a vegetarian, and not a particularly healthy eating vegetarian so my protein is low and my carbs high.  As I work on my diet I want to get close to the Zone diet ration of 40/30/30.

Not only do these programs help me watch calories, they help me watch the kind of foods I eat.  When it comes to nutrition data, MyFitnessPal is superior to Lose It!  Here’s what MyFitnessPal shows for Quaker Oat Squares cereal:

MyFitnessPal-nutrition-data.jpg

Here’s what Lose It! shows (but for 1 and 1/2 cups – Lose It! is easier to adjust proportions):

LoseIt-nutrition-data.jpg

I find Lose It! a breeze to use and adapted to it quickly.  I’m tempted by MyFitnessPal because of the extra nutritional information, but for now I’m going to stick with Lose It!  When I want to know more I just add the foods to MyFitnessPal.

My wife and two friends use Lose It!  This helps us stay on track and gives us stuff to discuss and argue.  My friend Peggy nags me about my carbs.  I nag her about her cholesterol and protein.

I’ve just started using these programs.  I wished I had discovered them years ago, or I wished they had existed decades ago.  Back then I tried keeping a food diary.  It involved a pen, a notebook, and a nutrition fact book.  It was tedious and I gave it up after a couple of days.  I’ve adapted very easily to Lose It!  But it’s too soon to see if I’ll stick with it for a whole year.  However, I feel closer to dieting success than ever before.

JWH – 6/16/12 (Happy Birthday Susie)

UPDATE: 8/21/12

I ended up picking MyFitnessPal for my standard app.  I preferred the look of Lose It!, but MyFitnessPal had way better barcode scanner and nutritional database.  And being able to scan the barcode for information is just too handy.

After losing 10 pounds I started getting lazy with recording my food intake.  I thought I could remember my good habits, but I was wrong.  If I don’t record everything I don’t lose weight.  I’m now back to using MyFitnessPal, but it’s hard.  I try to tell myself I can’t eat anything unless I record it first.  Or it’s not worth eating if I’m not willing to record it.

I hate having to control what I eat, but the act of maintaining a food diary helps that control.

MyFitnessPal makes it about as easy as possible to record what I eat, but it’s still a pain in the ass.  I’ve even thought of eating the same meals every day so I won’t have to record.

JWH

 

21 Responses

  1. You should send that to some magazine as a review article.
    Most restaurants have nutrition info online.
    I like the poem!
    I prefer tracking with pen and paper. Easier to me. I know most of the calories in everything I eat so I just jot it down. I don’t eat too many foods that come with a barcode on them. If I do, I already know the calories. I don’t worry about protein or fat – because if I get the kcal’s, I’ll probably get enough protein & I don’t get that much fat except from whole milk yogurt and chocolate. I don’t use processed food and I don’t add salt in cooking so I don’t think I should track that. My main problem is I go “off” my “diet” and then it sets me up for a sweets binge. But, if I’d just log it I know I’d get it back together faster. Anyway, interesting.

  2. What an excellent review / article! And great graphics. Thanks! I tried one on-line program a few years ago and I know generally how they work. I go on binges – sometimes I’m all home cooking, fresh fruits and veggies, soups, pilafs and so on. Other times it’s all processed – (because I get tired of cleaning up). I know I need to lose weight – one pound a week sounds quite reasonable -

  3. Myfitness pal works better with things like the FitBit.

  4. Thank you for the great review. I have been a committed Lose It! user for two years and have lost 180 pounds and am at my goal weight (losing half of my starting weight). I agree that MyFitnessPal has a better database, and I use it as a reference when Lose It doesn’t have a food or it does but seems suspect. However, I am sticking to Lose It! as my primary food log app just for the reason you mention, the interface is easier. Continued success in your weight loss journey!

  5. Great review! Thanks!

  6. Great review, exactly what I was looking for!

  7. This was a great amount of info. I have been struggling to pick a good app for tracking my food intake. Thanks for posting this and I hope you are doing well!

  8. Great article! I just started using Lose It! this week, and find it very easy to use. But since it has less foods in there, I’m looking at switching to MFP. Problem is maybe MFP has too many foods!

    Can someone help me though? I entered a food I had, and the only options were 3/4 cups or 1 cup. What if I had 2.5 cups? Then what? I’m not going to eat less because the option isn’t there… Am I missing something?

    • I quit using Lose It! and deleted it from my iPod touch. But if I remember right, you still had a multiplier. So you could say 1 cup and then use 2.5 as the multiplier.

  9. I cringe whenever I hear people refer to apps for “power users”. Many people will gravitate to apps that are more difficult to use just to say they are using the “best” (most complicated) thing out there. I am a network engineer and spend all day using computers in very complicated ways, and I prefer the simplicity of Lose It. To me, the key to success is to make everything as easy to use as possible, and Lose It does that. I only care about calories, not the rest. I can’t stand all of the inaccurate data in MyFitnessPal. I have tried it a couple of times and keep deleting the app. It’s much too cumbersome when I just want to enter simple things. If you like complex and longer entry time, go for MyFitnessPal. If you want simple, full-featured and easy to use, use Lose It. They will both get the job done, I just don’t have the patience for MyFitnessPal

    • I really liked Lose It’s interface, but MyFitnessPal has a superior barcode scanner and database. Although I’ve been meaning to try Lose It again to see if they’ve improved their scanner and database.

    • You are spot on. Great review i couldn’t agree more with. I am a computer applications engineer. I want brain downtime after my 9-10 hr days. It needs it! Loseit flows simply and has the database locally. Entering my recipes as a whole and defining the number of servings is a snap for future reference.

      What graveled me about myfitnesspal was it said I could use it offline but every time I tried to get into the app to log foods, it sniveled I had no internet access. I researched it more than once but didn’t find a definitive answer; only people suggesting to write it down to enter later. What is the point of having an electronic logging device if I have to resort to paper and pen to log it later? I have to handle it twice? A waste of time when many people already don’t want to take the time once to track their kibble but must for that wakeup call regarding total calories and portion control.

      I have patience in the zen of knitting with glorious natural fibers not for a cumbersome tool that should be working for me.

      And the barcode scanner didn’t capture several codes of different products from a galaxy tab 10. That got tedious as well but the idea is wonderful for those products that contribute to my recipes.

      Success to all of us in this lifestyle flip. :)

  10. thank you for the nice raw review of both apps – i particularly enjoyed the last sentence of your writing – made me chuckle as that’s the thought that would quickly come to my head as well to make it “easier” on myself. cheers.

  11. If you have a fitbit, you have to be a “premium” member on Lose It! to sync them. $40.00 or free…..you do the math lol. I like the decimals on MFP better and Lose it doesn’t (or didn’t) allow for ounces & grams making my food scale useless. Just my 2 cents.

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  13. Having read this I believed it was extremely enlightening.
    I appreciate you spending some time and effort to put this
    short article together. I once again find myself spending way
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  14. I’ve read three other ‘reviews’ and I think yours was the most helpful. I noticed one person said that MFP worked better with the FitBit site. Does anyone else want to comment about the usefulness of MFP or LoseIt! with FitBit?

  15. While this review was made back in 2012, here we are in 2014 and I must say while I agree with the MyFitnessPal being superior in many ways, WARNING: They still do not use Secure Sockets Layer (SSL; httpS) for their general web…only logging in. Lose It!’s web site is actually fully SSL supported! If you’re concerned about privacy…this is a big deal. I really wish MyFitnessPal would get on the 2014 ball and make their entire web site (and mobile app-to-website) connections secure!

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