MyFitnessPal – The Good and The Bad

MyFitnessPal is a food diary, calorie/ nutrition tracker all within an easy to use app. You can access it on your phone or online. Many people use it to track their overall calorie intake, their steps or exercise (calories output), their macro breakdown, track their water intake or to record foods to identify ‘trigger foods’.
It is used by a variety of people for a variety of goals including but not limited to:
Maintenance
Weight Loss
Weight Gain
The app is free. Like most apps you can get a Premium product that has extra features, but you. For me, the free one suits me and my wallet just fine.
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My Experience

I initially downloaded MyFitnessPal after returning from surgery and being underweight. I lost a lot of muscle and weight after surgery and for being so sick beforehand. Prior to surgery I was consuming a liquid supplement called “Resource Plus” as I couldn’t handle solid foods with my illness.
After surgery I had to eat Low Fibre foods for 6weeks. I continued to consume two – three Resource Plus supplements a day to assist in regaining weight as well as fuelling my body with the all the nutrients it needed in an easy digestible way.   After I had started gaining my weight back to a healthy range, with my dietician’s permission I stopped the supplements and returned to eating 100% real foods (no liquid supplementation).
When I returned to exercise I downloaded MyFitnessPal as a recommendation from my Strength Coach to ensure I was fuelling my body with enough calories. Although the exercise was initially very minimal my body was still healing and I needed as much nutrient dense foods as possible. The purpose of MyFitnessPal for me was for weight gain and ensuring I was getting enough calories and nutrients.
MyFitnessPal breaks down the nutritional information so you can clearly see you day to day nutritional activities. It mainly focuses on the macronutrients (carbs, fats and proteins) however it also shows certain vitamins and minerals.
Prior to surgery I was iron deficient. This was not due to me eating enough iron, this was due to my body not being able to absorb the nutrients (hence losing so much weight). After surgery it was assumed that my body would be able to absorbs all my nutrients, so monitoring my Iron intake was a priority.

The Good

+ Calorie Tracker (including nutrients)
+ Large food database
+ Exercise Tracker (and counts your steps)
I do not use this as I aim for a certain intake regardless of if I train or not. Although I like the step counter for office competitions. 
+ Community and blogs
+ Feedback and graphs
+ Educates and highlights the importance of serving and portion sizes.
+ Educated and highlights not all calories are created equal.

The Bad

– Possible to create an unhealthy obsession
Please be mindful that with anything you can create an unhealthy obsession. Be mindful of what you want out of it, what are your goals. Be your own guinea pig and work out what is best for you.
– Time consuming
If you are recording strictly you require measuring and weighing your food, checking nutrition labels etc. This can be time consuming. I followed it loosely as I am trying to increase weight so I just try and make my serving size bigger, however for someone with weight-loss goals finding out your serving sizes is important. Plus I always recommend reading nutrition labels. Especially for me who has some dietary restrictions it is vital, but it is also important for people wanting to lose weight. If sugar is one of the first ingredients listed that means it is one of the main ingredients (they order the ingredients by proportions in a descending order)
There are many meals you can copy across so if your day to day meals are similar it is not too time consuming. Also I find that if you do it for a week or two you get the feel of what is what and you can base it off experience. So the initial experience is definitely useful but longterm you’ll have that experience and knowledge behind you and tracking your food won’t be necessary.
– Inconvenient
If you are recording and tracking strictly, weighing food can be inconvenient if you are not at home, especially when eating out or eating at someone’s house.  Balance is key!
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Final Thoughts

At the end of the day I think this is a great aid in assisting you with your overall health goals. Whether you are using it as a loose guide to ensure you are eating enough or not over eating, or using it for a few weeks to portion control, or strictly measuring the food you are eating for serious weight loss or weight gain it caters for all individuals.
Please note MyFitnessPal is not the only app available (however it is the only one I have tried). There are many other calorie trackers/ food diaries that are out there. Like anything find the one that works best for you and your goals. 

Top Tips for Living with a Chronic Disease

I love sport, I love food and I love adventures. Unfortunately I was diagnosed with a disease that has made doing the things I love very difficult. Late last year, October 2015, I was diagnosed with a Chronic Autoimmune Disease, Inflamed Bowel Disease called Crohns Disease. Most people have not heard of Crohns unless they have it or know someone who has it. I have gone through the wars with this disease and currently in remission and on the road to recovery to do the things I love! 

 

I decided to collate my top tips for anyone living with a Chronic Disease, in particular tips from my own experience that have helped me cope with Crohns, specifically with exercising/training.

 

Health

Know and Respect your Limitations

Listen to your body. In my case, my gut. You know the saying gut feeling? It’s a thing! Your gut is your second brain. If I had a dollar for every time I have felt drained and unwell but I have tried to keep up with other people, I’d be rich! A friend named me Astro Girl as I am usually full of energy “Go! Go! Go!” and then all of a sudden I run out of batteries and will just turn off. At first (before diagnosis) it was very frustrating as I loved to train (swim, bike, run) on weekends and then go out at night and could not understand why I would feel so ill and fatigued. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed Crohns and was informed that my intestines were so inflamed nutrients were not being absorbed resulting in anaemia.

Fuel your Body

Keep a food diary. Not only does this help you keep track of trigger foods but it is also important to take note of your intake of food especially when training to ensure you are getting enough energy. Some illnesses you need a higher intake of food as your body is working overtime fighting the disease. Your appetite will vary along with symptoms and it is important to keep your body fuelled even if it is through liquid form (if you can’t handle solids). It is beneficial to see a dietician if you are unintentionally losing weight as you may require a nutritional supplement.

 

Rest and Recover

Fatigued? Exhausted? Similar to knowing your limitations and fuelling your body, I can’t stress enough that everyone has different requirements. I need a good solid 8-9 hours sleep per night otherwise I get completely run down, compared to other people who can handle less than 6 hours. It can be hard to keep on track with your training program when you don’t know how your body is going to handle the day. Playing it by ear, or in my case playing it by gut. Don’t push through as you will probably make yourself sicker. For me the best thing is to rest and rehydrate and if I am feeling up to it some active recovery (walk, yoga etc).

 

Share Experiences

They say misery is always better with company. Although I don’t wish this disease on anyone, it is comforting to know that I am not in this alone. There’s a small army out there fighting to find a cure. It is a very scary prospect being diagnosed with a disease or undergoing surgery, therefore hearing feedback and advice from ‘veterans’ help ease the uncertainty. For instance, before my surgery I was told that sneezing, coughing and laughing will really hurt after surgery and that pressing a pillow against my stomach will help limit the pain. Thanks Emma for that advice!

 

Support Network

Similar to sharing experience, a support network will be you rock throughout this journey. Your support network does not have to have a team of disease sufferers, they can include your partner, your parents, your friends, a counsellor, a doctor, a nurse. It is really up to you who you can rely on to support you on your journey. For me it is my partner, my parents, my sister, a few close friends, my doctors and my dietician.

 

Seek Medical Advice

It is very important to have a reliable, trustworthy, caring GP. Your GP will co-ordinate/ refer you to a specialist, surgeon, dietician, physio etc. Don’t be afraid to ask questions (no question is silly!), bring your own research to the table and ask for their medical advice. Your GP can also assist you with your current quantity of training and if you are in a state to continue at that level or need to back off. It is also very important to discuss with you doctor / physio a gradual return to exercise plan after any surgery.

 

My biggest tip is find the doctor that is the best fit for you. If you like asking lots of questions and don’t settle for someone who rushes you along. This may take time as it may not be your current GP. I was so fortunate to have a great medical team, GP, dietician, gastroenterologist, IBD nurse and surgeon. Forever grateful.

 

Research

Research. Research. Research. I’ve learnt that no one is going to help you unless you help yourself first. It’d be lovely for someone to come knocking at your door with a big bunch of answers but it’s really up to you to determine what you want to do and how you want to live your life. Be proactive, not reactive… I want to be cured not just treated. Like I mentioned before, medical advice is vital however do not just settle for an opinion of one doctor, explore your options, seek different opinions until you find the best fit.

 

Another topic to research is nutrition. Everyone has different perspective on what your ideal diet should be and an opinion on diet and it’s role in autoimmune diseases. To determine if diet can help you, research and experiment. Explore different diets to see what best suits you, whether it is the elimination diet, raw foods, paleo, GAPS, plant based, the list is endless. Remember do what works for you!
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