Hi Haley!

Over the last year, a period of super high stress followed by a knee injury made me lose my good fitness and eating habits - and gain more weight than I'd like to admit to. Since fall still feels like the "new year" to me I'm putting on a big push to get back into my good habits, lose fat and inches and gain muscle.

I know that nutrition is a huge part of the battle, and I want to use some kind of tracker app for my meals (and my exercise), and I'm looking for your suggestions on the best ones. I've used MyFitnessPal before but found in frustrating in two ways.

First, it didn't have a good way to input any exercise that wasn't straight cardio. I've heard repeatedly that interval and weight training are actually much more efficient ways to lose fat/inches and gain muscle, and I generally prefer group classes to long cardio workouts anyway. Are there any trackers that do a better job of this?

Second, the calorie intake it assigned me was so low that it seemed impossible to meet it unless I only ate celery and lettuce. I'm really only exaggerating a bit. Other women I know have the same complaint, though men seem to get a calorie allowance that allows them to eat healthy but regular meals. What's a reasonable expectation for a woman in a sedentary job, assuming about 30 minutes of moderate activity per day? Are there other trackers that do a better job?



All diet and fitness trackers basically do the same thing, and choosing which one you use is more a matter of preference than a matter of which one is more accurate. The fitness trackers that you can download to your smartphone are great, because they are free and easy to use and like most of us today, our phones are never too far out of reach. 

Be careful when recording your workouts as the caloric expenditure measurements are not always 100% accurate, so it is best to underestimate what you are expending. For example, if you are doing a 45 minute spin class, I recommend recording that as 30 minutes, just to be safe. Most types of exercising can be found within all of the applications but if there is an activity you can’t find, you may just have to find one that is closest. For example, your interval and strength training workouts, which you mentioned you cannot find, would be recorded as circuit training.

If you want to make sure your exercise measurements are more accurate, you are going to have to spend a bit of money and invest in a fitness tracker that you wear, such as a Fitbit. Most of these types of fitness trackers can sync directly to the app you have downloaded, making tracking your daily burned calories a lot more efficient as well as accurate. A bonus is you will also be able to monitor other health issues, such as your overall resting heart rate and how much sleep you are getting each night.

When entering your data and goals into whichever fitness tracking app you choose, keep it to no more than 1 pound per week of weight loss. Anything more than that will greatly restrict how many calories you can consume daily, and if you only have 30 minutes each day of moderate activity on your side, you are not provided with much leeway room. Yes, it is possible to lose 2 or more pounds per week, but this takes extreme dedication and sacrifice and you are more likely to give up than if you were to set your expectations more realistically. 

Also, focus more on your macro nutrient breakdown rather than your caloric deficit. Although it is important to consume less energy than we expend in order to see weight loss, it is also important to make sure those calories are coming from the right sources. Set a daily goal of consuming 40% of your calories from carbohydrates, 35% from protein and 25% from fat. You will be surprised at how much you actually get to eat when following these guidelines.

Weight loss is never easy, and it takes many weeks before you really start to see the changes in your body and on the scale. When you become frustrated it is important to understand this so you don’t throw in the towel and quit. Take it day by day and if you fall of the wagon, just wipe yourself off and get back on.