Being healthier makes me happy!…
“Oh, watch me go, I’m a happy girl!” -Martina McBride, “Happy Girl”
I figured I’d start out my posts on health and fitness with a bit on my goals and the resources and tools I’m using to reach them. No reservations here – I’m 19, 5’4″, and wear a size small or medium (6 pant/dress) depending on the brand/fit, so I don’t have a whole lot to lose, but I’ve never focused on muscle vs. fat mass and have been on the edge of green and yellow zones on the BMI scale for as long as I can remember so I decided it’s time to get to a good solid spot in the green and replace some fat with muscle to be more toned and healthier as well. Through multiple recommendations, I decided to start regularly using MyFitnessPal, a free application accessible both online and through any iPhone or Android smartphone. I’ll explain how MFP has helped with each of the steps I talk about below in setting and reaching my goals.
Over the years I’ve jumped from app to app here and there, but this one’s helped me both set goals and keep track of my progress with complete ease. After some experimentation with the app and getting things started, I’ve come up with some main steps I’ve seen to work in my own case of getting healthier – hopefully these will help you get started stay on track too!
Determine Your Goals:
Driving to a destination is easier with a roadmap, and goals are clearer in sight with a good plan. Setting your health goals can get you to where you want to be faster if done with some research and analysis, or it could hurt your health timeline if determined blindly. Your goals and plan for your health must be tailored to your body and your lifestyle. Taking the time to really look at myself, stop and think about the options, and balance ambition with what’s realistic has made all the difference. One of the great things about MFP is that you can start out by entering some basic biometric and activity level information and it will estimate what your caloric intake should be based on how much weight you want to lose per week.
It’s simple math: 3500 calories burned = 1 lb. lost
-500 cal/day x 7 days/wk = -3500 cal/wk = -1 lb/wk
In this example, if your goal is to lose a pound a week, the trick is to have a net loss of 500 less calories per day than what your body uses. MFP estimates this when you set up your account to help you with your daily goals, and here is an online estimator for your daily caloric use.
Of course, everyone’s different, which is why the next step is so important…
Log, Modify, Repeat:
Once you set a plan, simply follow it and log, log, LOG every step of the way. It is important to have relevant data so that you can compare actions to results. For example, MFP can estimate what your caloric intake should be based on your information and goals, but maybe after a couple weeks even with following the guidelines you realize you’re losing weight too rapidly or aren’t losing as much as you’d like. Everything you input into MFP is stored in your profile so you can access graphs of pretty much anything within the system later on. With the numbers in front of you, it will be easy to see if you need to increase or decrease intake and/or exercise. Depending on what your goals are, you will keep track of different data sets. Currently I’m focusing on both overall weight loss and fat mass loss so here is what I log in MyFitnessPal as an example:
- Daily: Caloric and nutritional intake (MFP has all the facts for me, I just type in the food or scan a product’s barcode, enter the amount I had, and presto!) and exercise (again, just type in the activity and amount of time and MFP does the rest).
- Weekly: Overall weight, fat mass (both just taken quickly off the scale – and yes, there are scales that tell you your fat mass, water mass, muscle mass, among other things which are available at home tech stores like Brookstone or with a simple “body composition scale” search on eBay).
- Occasionally: Mood (sometimes I’ll even log a noticeable lasting mood as a note in MFP just so I can go back and see if there’s a correlation of certain moods with exercising more/less or going over/under my daily calorie goals).
Get Friends Involved:
As early as possible, keep friends connected to what you’re doing. Add them as buddies on MFP so you can post nice little notes on people’s pages when they’ve logged for 10 days straight or hit a milestone, and receive the same words of encouragement from them! Talk about it with a friend or post some healthy things you’re doing on your social networking pages every once in a while, when you do you’ll feel even more on track and empowered. Also, multitask by making exercise an option for hanging out and catching up with friends. Eventually get some regular workout buddies to keep each other motivated! It all helps tremendously.
Before you know it, presto! You’ve maintained on track, made it public so you’re more likely to stick with your plan, and you’re on your way! Starting out a fitness plan? Think any of this will help you? Have you had success with MyFitnessPal? Let me know in the comments!