'My Fitness Pal' website - January 2015

Welcome to our all-new monthly spotlight on an organisation or resource that can help us all in our quest for better health!

The January spotlight's on......The 'My Fitness Pal' website

Read on for all the details and/or download your personal copy here

What is it?

My Fitness Pal (MFP to its friends) is a free online food and activity tracker, which, as the name suggests, aims to help people to lose weight and become fitter.  You set your own weight and / or fitness goals, which it then converts to daily calorie and exercise recommendations. Then you simply add your daily activity and food intake and it automatically makes the calculations, so you can see your progress! 

There’s a vast, calorie-counted foods and activity catalogue, and you can store your regular foods, meals and activities, which makes it very easy to be exact about tracking these. The site also summarises your progress, either publicly or privately, according to your wishes. It has a friendly and supportive, rather than bossy or critical, approach and encourages you to make your own use of all that it has available.

For support from others as well as self-help, there are blogs, success stories, forums and communities, where MFP members can meet, share and compare their progress – or lack of it! – so as to keep motivated. 

It’s an American site, run by a fitness-orientated company, which encourages its employees to ‘walk the walk’ of healthy lifestyle. They’re so concerned about service that their support department styles itself ‘The Customer Happiness Team’!  However, the site runs in different languages and can be customised to the country of use (for example in terms of weights and measures). 

My Fitness Pal seems dedicated to excellence and, importantly, has both volunteer and staff moderators for the discussion forums, which also have prominent ‘terms of use’ rules.  The company are constantly adding new ways to make it easier to use the site and recently have launched several Apps in order to make continuous tracking on a mobile device even easier.

How can it help me with living with diabetes?

Maintaining your ‘fighting weight’ is one important dimension of managing diabetes of any type.  Another is taking regular, aerobic activity.  Both have been shown to help prevent long-term complications and other health conditions. which in turn can make diabetes more difficult to live with. This site not only helps with keeping an eye on food and exercise, but also gives reward (in the form of feedback) for doing so – both really important to prevent ‘sliding’ away from weight and fitness goals.

Losing weight is one of the most difficult aspects of life in general but in particular, it’s often the first recommendation on being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Many people struggle to succeed and My Fitness Pal offers a really quick, easy, attractively-presented way to help. 

Logging your food intake is well known to be a predictor of success in losing weight and the success stories the site features, can also help you stay motivated. Your motivation is increased further by the option to share your progress on the well-laid out discussion forum. 

Best of all, My Fitness Pal is free, so you can, as the site itself says ‘stop wasting money on other dieting programs’!

How can it help me with working with diabetes?

Most obviously, you can talk about the site to the people  with diabetes whom you meet in your clinics and education sessions and encourage them to give it a try if they are looking to lose weight or become fitter.  This will not only help them to help themselves in a very practical way, but also reassure you that they are following a reliable source of support.

And…as the recent NHS ‘Forward View into Action’ implementation programme has specified, it’s not just people with diabetes who need to look after their weight, activity and general health and who sometimes struggle to do this!  These are universal experiences for us all, including health care staff, so if you are looking to improve your own eating and activity habits and / or tend to be short on staying power or motivation, this could be the site for you!

Logging your progress and sharing the ups and downs with others are equally effective in losing weight or getting fitter, for those without diabetes.  And after all, if you think this site will be good for the people with diabetes you see, it makes sense to try it out yourself - doesn’t it?!

Our 3 top reasons to give My Fitness Pal a try

 1.    It uses well-known techniques for success in losing weight, made easy and accessible

2.    It lets you use its resources your way, while offering loads of support from the company and other members

3.    It’s free!

Any down sides?

Only a couple of very small things….

1.    The nutritional information about foods tends not to include fibre content, which would be a useful addition  

2.    Some of the feedback could be worded better – for example ‘(your name) has not visited for 3 days’ could possibly make a user feel guilty and demotivated. When you return, it might be better to translate this as ‘welcome back’!

That’s it for now! Hope you like our take on My Fitness Pal and watch out for another ‘Self Health Spotlight’ in February!

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