Alarming news. It seems that many people can’t lose weight even while tracking calories and macros with MyFitnessPal. Then they clog up my Instagram’s comments section with statements like ‘hey man, calorie counting doesn’t work, I’ma do keto.’

It’s because you’re doing it wrong, maybe? It’s not maybe. It’s most definitely. Here are six reasons why MyFitnessPal or any other food tracking app isn’t working for you.

1. You eat like a child


If you eat like a child — you don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables — and instead, your diet revolves around bags, boxes, and packaged foods, you’re probably eating more than you realize. In most countries, a +/- 20% discrepancy between actual and declared values is allowed.

But because humans like to do human things such as ignoring the laws, no one cares about such food legislation — this study found that only 16% of the 70 products in the study fully complied with the +/-20% requirement.

So if you’re eating mostly foods that come with a label, your calorie, and macro numbers will never be accurate. You need to eat more foods that come without a label (these are just examples):

fruits-veggies-lean-meats-eggs

Or single macronutrient foods:

oats, tuna, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt

2. You eat too many different meals


Most lean people have their favorite foods and meals and they eat those same meals each day and week. Food variety is just a sexy buzzword. In reality, it’s a synonym for being disorganized and eating portions the size of Volkswagens. Overeating, I mean.

The 2021 systematic review and meta-analysis of 37 studies…

found that greater food variety is a robust driver of food intake. So there’s nothing wrong with sticking to a smaller number of meals that you enjoy as long as they cover all your nutritional requirements.

Make a list of nutritious foods that you like and use them as staples in your diet. I recommend having 2-4 different meal options for each meal that you can rotate. Not only this will cover your nutritional requirements but also make your daily meal prep and calorie tracking easier.

3. You use way too many ingredients


If your meal on MyFitnessPal is this long…

A long ingredient list

…tracking is going to be time-consuming, overwhelming, and as enjoyable as jumping out of an airplane and into the spinning blades. Worst of all, you will be inconsistent with your diet.

Dunno about you but I would be pretty pissed about preparing a 20-ingredient meal a few times a week. Start making simpler meals.

4. You eat out too often


At home, my mashed potatoes would contain around 200 calories. At a restaurant, they would use silly butter and sour cream instead of milk and Greek yogurt and stuff 400-600 calories into my belly (don’t forget it’s just a side dish).

An elephant would handle it. Not most people though.

Restaurant mashed potatoes: 510 kcal vs homemade mashed potatoes 235 kcal

If you eat out too often, your macros will never be accurate because restaurant meals usually contain more calorie-dense foods and serve bigger portion sizes than most people need.

The average American eats almost 5 meals per week in restaurants (based on a LivingSocial survey). If you don’t want an average person’s body, then don’t do what an average person does.

So you have two options:

  • If you eat out more than twice per week, pick a meal that’s centered around a lean protein source and veggies and be okay with slower progress, or…
  • Eat out less frequently — up to twice a week — and practice portion control.

Through working with clients who successfully lost weight, I’ve discovered that the latter is your best bet as it still allows you to enjoy social occasions. Also, flexibility is the key to long-term sustainability and adherence so completely abstaining from eating out is an antithesis of a good idea.

5. You log macros as the day goes


If you log calories and macros as the day goes, at the end of the day you end up with macros way off your daily targets. This is an invitation to go off course at the slightest temptation because being unprepared creates anxiety and stress. So start planning.

I use the “24 before” rule with all of my clients. It means that they take 5-10 minutes each night to plan their meals for the next 24 hours.

This saves you time because you will have to make fewer decisions the next day and you won’t have to count calories every day in real-time. That’s going to lead to more predictability and, thus, consistency.

6. You “eat back” calories you’ve burned through physical activity


MyFitnessPal (and probably other food tracking apps) describes ‘Net Calories’ like so:

“Think of your Net Calories like a daily budget of calories to spend. You spend them by eating, and you earn more calories to eat by exercising. This means that if you exercise, you will be able to eat more for that day.”

Here’s how it would look in the app itself:

2000(goal)–2000(food)+500(exercise)=500(remaining)

Even though you’ve already hit your daily calorie target, based on the data given to the app by your phone or activity tracker (such as the smartwatch), MyFitnessPal is telling you to ‘eat back’ the calories you’ve burned through exercise and/or walking.

Which is the opposite of what you should do. Exercising and walking more should increase the calorie deficit you’ve created by reducing food intake. But by ‘eating back’ those calories, you lose that extra calorie deficit (it’s fine if you hit a weight loss plateau and cutting calories via diet further isn’t feasible)

So don’t pair your fitness tracker with a food tracking app. If you recall this article, fitness trackers are terribly inaccurate anyway and the only explanation I can think of is that inventors shrink monkeys to five inches tall and put them into these fitness trackers to spew out random numbers.

Also, don’t let your phone track your physical activity. Here’s what you need to do if you’re using MyFitnessPal:

Click "steps" and then "don't track steps"

And so yeah, that’s about it. If you still need help losing weight and you don’t want to cut your favorite foods from your diet, check out my online coaching program. Cheers.


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Originally published by me on Medium on July 3, 2022

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