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Whether you are a do-it-yourself (DIY) person or you go the route of working with the coach, making the decision to change your health for the better is the first step towards a big lifestyle change. So congratulations if you’ve decided it’s something you’re going to work on and improve this year. But where do you go from there? If you're on your own, one of the simplest tools when it comes to healthy weight loss and making serious, healthy changes is to start with a food journal. While many people enjoy the process of writing things down using paper and pen, a tool that comes in handy (and tends to be more convenient for a modern, very connected culture) is an app called MyFitnessPal. You've probably heard of it because it's been around for some time and is really gaining popularity because of its ease of use and how well it connects to other health and fitness apps. One of the best aspects of MyFitnessPal is that it is free! Yes! Free, truly free. But how do you take advantage of this awesome free tool? Here's a short list of things to make sure you're doing.


1) Set realistic goals. MyFitnessPal is set up to guide you in terms of general calorie and energy consumption from your food, based on goals that you initially set up on your profile. So you want to be very honest about your level of activity and how aggressive you want your goals to be. Fortunately, MyFitnessPal won't let you set goals greater than losing two pounds per week because anything greater than that tends to be unhealthy for the average person. But that's still very aggressive even if there are a lot of changes you want to make it.


2) In order for you to get the best general advice possible, you need to be truly honest. Never overestimate or underestimate your activity level. Also, with MyFitnessPal, goal calories are going to be net calories. Many people make the mistake of eating less and having calories left over at the end of the day thinking it will help them reach their goals faster. This is simply not true. Your body needs energy and needs fuel to function normally. When you exercise you need more fuel. What MyFitnessPal is doing is calculating the net energy, which already factors in a calorie deficit of the fat that you'll burn. Now, we know fat loss is not as simple as calories in and calories out, but this is a great ballpark and you're only shooting yourself in the foot if you are undermining the estimation. That's called shutting down your metabolism and that's a no-no!!


3) Log everything! I'm serious. Every morsel that passes your lips should be put into a journal, if you decide to keep a food journal. One of the biggest factors of weight gain or an unhealthy lifestyle is mindless eating. Just preparing to know when you're going to log your food intake will make you change your decision making around how much, when and what you choose to eat. And if you do end up indulging and having some snacks, just log it and move on so you can see the effects of the habits you currently have.


4) Hydration, Hydration! One of the most underutilized features of MyFitnessPal is to track how many glasses of water you’re drinking. Water is one of the secrets to weight loss. You must stay hydrated for the chemical processes of fat burning to take place. Not only that, but your energy will be better, your brain function will be better, your skin will look better, you generally look and feel better, everything just works better when you're properly hydrated.


5) Find a buddy! Make a MyFitnessPal friend! One of the beauties of using this app is that it's connected to some of the other social media sites out there. You can even invite friends to be your pal on MyFitnessPal so you have some accountability. Whether it’s a relative, coworker or coach, this is a great way to have somebody else's eyes on your journal. Sometimes we let ourselves off the hook if we know nobody else is watching. And this will ensure that we’re on our best behavior most of the time. That's the short list! The app is very user friendly, just download and go! If you find that you need more accountability than just a food journal, I would recommend hiring a coach to help you make more informed decisions to have a better plan of attack when it comes your nutrition. Remember, weight loss is 80% Nutrition and 20% exercise for most people, so what you put in is truly what you get out and this is the biggest area where you can make a huge impact to have a healthier year moving forward. Looking for more information? Request a free consultation if you’re local to us and in the Charleston area.


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