The Biggest Problem With Food Tracking Apps

I’ve been logging in to MyFitnessPal for more than 80 days in a row. It has been a useful tool for tracking the food that I eat each day. I still wish there were calculations for the Chinese food dishes I love. I guess I can’t have everything.

Man I miss that Gong Bao Ji Ding 宫保鸡丁. Mmmmmm.

I’ve discovered that there is one big problem with many of the food tracking apps. It’s not a bug. It’s not a user interface glitch. It’s not even because they don’t have my local restaurant’s Gong Bao Ji Ding listed in the database. I’m going to tell you what the biggest problem  is.

It focuses too much on weight

As soon as you register for the app it gives you the option to set a weight goal. I’m sure this is what most consumers want, but is it what they really need? I think I need to explain.

I recently went on a cycle of low carb, high fat eating while incorporating strength training. I would have one high carb day per week. I kept my daily calories below the maintenance amount. My goal was to cut down a few pounds of fat.

Look at what happenened

My weight actually went up over a few weeks. I gained almost 2KG! Does it look like it. From my point of view I was achieving my goal of cutting down some fat. However, I think I gained some muscle at the same time. This actually made my weight fluctuate upward rather than downward.

And yes, I even took off my pants in the second photo to make sure the weight was right.

Weight is Not a Reliable Measure

Your weight can fluctuate from day to day. There are so many factors that impact it. Yet on most of food apps they continuously ask you to check in in with your weight. I think this might encourage the wrong behaviors. I know some that try to skip meals. I know others who try to eat too few calories that their metabolism crashes. Watching your weight too closely can do more harm than good.

Instead of Weight, Try These

I’d like to give you a few alternatives to measuring weight while you are achieving your fitness and health goals.

Track your energy levels. If you feel like you have more energy and strength throughout the day, you’re probably doing something good.

Measure parts of your body. Grab a tape measure and keep track of your arms, thighs, hips, waist and chest circumference. If your goal is to reduce the size, they’ll go down. If you want to increase, they’ll go up.

Personal Challenges. Find something that you can measure in your activity. Take push ups for example. If you want to get stronger, see if you can do things that will increase your push up count.

Fat Calipers. When people usually tell me they want to lose weight, what they really mean is they want to lose fat. Use some fat calipers and take measurements weekly. This will probably be more reliable than a scale.

Those are a few ideas to help get you going. I’m sure there are some that I missed. You can get creative.


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