There’s plenty of reasons why the MyFitnessPal App is so popular, but popular doesn’t necessarily equate to true health.
For starters, this service allows you to track:
- water log
All of this tracking is possible across various devices too. For these reasons along with some other reasons we’ll cover below, the service is incredibly popular.
With over 40 million users, the MyFitnessPal app is one of the most popular calorie counting apps out there. Plus in October of 2020 Under Armour Inc sold the MyFitnessPal app for 345 million dollars.
That’s a lot of dough!
Why is the MyFitnessPal app so popular?
Besides the tracking feature, there are other many features that make the MyFitnessPal app so valuable.
For example, if you scan the barcode of a food product, the MyFitnessPal app can quickly tell you how many calories your food item is worth. Pretty neat huh?
However, it turns out the very things that make the MyFitnessPal app popular are also probably causing binge eating and overall worse health.
In this article I’ll be covering the positive features of the MyFitnessPal app, while also showing how these very features end up becoming detrimental to your health over time.
And side note for full disclosure – I am an eating counselor. I routinely work with people who find themselves trapped in their thoughts about food and struggle with emotional eating.
Because of my profession and worldview, I admit I am biased. Read here if you want an alternate list for great food apps without calorie tracking.
With that being said, let’s look at the top 5 reasons why you should remove the MyFitnessPal app from your phone!
Reason #1 – Calorie Counting Is Nice But Inaccurate
The MyFitnessPal app is arguably the best calorie counting app in the world.
The MyFitnessPal calorie counting app:
- Is quick, fast and easy overall
- Has an incredibly large food database with over a million foods
- Has a great barcode scanner
- Has the Fitness app as well as food diary
- Has a recipe importer
And like I mentioned earlier, if you scan the barcode of a food product, MyFitnessPal will quickly report back to you the calorie contents of your food item.
However, what if the MyFitnessPal calorie counter was inaccurate about the foods you eat? Would you still use the app to reach your goals?
But here’s an inconvenient truth – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that companies have to report plus or minus 20% of the calories.
This means that your favorite burrito, which MyFitnessPal lists as 200 calories, might actually be between 160-240.
That’s a caloric range that MyFitnessPal never takes into consideration. All of their meals and recipes use exact measurements, which simply isn’t useful because they aren’t not accurate.
This means that all your daily measurements could be way off!
But that’s not all …
Reason #2 – Calorie Counting Limits Can Set Up Binge Eating Rebounds
One ‘positive’ aspect is how quickly the app calculates your weight loss goals. How convenient!
(I’m putting ‘positive’ in quotes because I believe that this feature is incredibly dangerous overall, even if it is convenient in some ways.)
At this point, you may be wondering how this app works in the first place:
How does MyFitnessPal work?
Here’s what happens when you create a profile in MyFitnessPal:
- You’ll be asked to list your weight
- You’ll be asked how aggressively you would like to lose weight
This setup process reveals the true point of MyFitnessPal: weight loss.
MyFitnessPal is about weight loss. Duh!
But is encouraging people to aggressively lose weight with insufficient nutrition information really good for your health?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below! I have my own thoughts I want to share with you too.
For experimental purposes, I recently tried creating a profile with my true height and weight and said I would like to lose 1 pound per week.
My daily calorie limit came out to be 1200 calories per day.
As I read the 1200 calorie limit per day, my mind flashed with recognition.
There was a dramatic study at Harvard back in the 1940’s that conclusively showed how dieting less than 1500 calories per day literally caused binge eating for 30 guys.
This study is remarkable because nowadays you cannot repeat it — it would be considered unethical.
Back then, however, the moral guidelines of science weren’t so stringent, so the scientists were able to really enforce the 1500 calorie limit.
No more, no less.
What ended up happening was shocking. All 30 guys which had been selected because of their competence and likeness to soldiers serving in WW2, went crazy with food.
Basically, only eating a limited amount of calories turned these normal people into crazy, binge eating, food obsessed zombies!
Can you imagine being someone who had no food cravings, changing to becoming totally obsessed with various meals and recipes and constantly trying to lose weight?
Has this been your experience too?
The bottom line is simple and easy to understand – rapid weight loss backfires for most people and leads to regaining any lost weight and/or binge eating, so why do it in the first place?
I know this might sound confusing, especially if you have friends who use the app …
Reason #3 – MyFitnessPal App Gamification Gives Temporary Weight Loss Results
You might have logged on and seen that your friend recently accomplished a milestone of some sort:
- Weight loss
- Drinking more water
- Reaching macronutrient goal
- Meeting other types of health and fitness goals like walking
Essentially, the MyFitnessPal app makes weight loss a game.
With the calorie tracking, you can even count your progress towards your weight loss goal that you set up in the beginning.
Now, having your friends achievements and a calorie tracker in one place is a great feature.
Honestly, this is one of the best perks of the MyFitnessPal app. Even the free version has a huge community!
But this brings me to one of the most important conversation points of MyFitnessPal.
Can you lose weight long-term with MyFitnessPal?
The app is free. And so is the desktop version.
Another nice perk about the app is that it’s on both desktop and mobile, and tablets too.
And honestly, their calorie counter is a good one regardless of how you are accessing it. If you upgrade to premium, you won’t see the ads that are a feature of their free tier.
But, the MyFitnessPal app is not worth it, free or not!
On its own, the app is fine. Like I’ve said many times in this article, the app has its own merits.
However, the point of MyFitnessPal is weight loss. The point is not to be a calorie counter, but to be a calorie counter that gets people to lose weight.
And that is dangerous.
When weight loss becomes a game, all this really does is motivate you to aggressively play the calorie limit game, which we already said was way too limiting!
For example, once you are tracking, the app will forecast where you will be in terms of weight.
It will tell you exactly, if you have this many calories every day, then here would be your weight this many days in the future.
This of course shows you the projection of progress. Just keep tracking and weight loss is inevitable, right!
With support from your friends and having the quick, calorie counter readily available, in the beginning you will see quick weight loss.
But what about long-term weight loss?
MyFitnessPal cannot be said to help with weight loss in the long term.
While it’s true that rigid calorie counting can lead to initial weight loss, it’s important to distinguish between short-term weight loss and long term weight loss.
What ends up happening is that you see temporary rewards – like your weight going down, your friends logging on and posting their nutrient and calorie milestones, or your successes in following the calorie limits.
But long term, terrible things are happening …
Reason #4 – Only Teaches Willpower / Logic
Let’s look at the main functions of the app:
- Calorie Counter
- Gamification using projected future progress, milestones, and friends
The app makes things simple. Just track your calories, and you will lose weight.
That’s their promise. And they have an easy to use, well-designed app that accomplishes that goal of helping those who want to lose weight.
But that is losing weight , using aggressive calorie limits and teaching you to rely on willpower like measuring and recording your food intake.
But in terms of long-term weight loss, the app is missing several things:
- Does it teach you about hunger and fullness?
- The app, does it teach you about the dangerous game of yo yo dieting?
- Does it talk about meeting your emotional needs, or self care?
No. Instead, using the service presents a rigid, willpower-based way to achieve short term weight loss.
When you rely on willpower, it’s oftentimes done in a restrictive manner that leaves you depleted, fatigued and filled with cravings.
It’s the worst possible combination!
Reason #5 – Emphasizes Buying Food Products
A big feature of the app is being able to scan barcodes and get instant calorie information.
This seems particularly a nice way to stay motivated because the app emphasizes precise measurements of food to reach weight loss goals.
Unfortunately, the app isn’t able to swipe a home-cooked meal and tell you how many calories that meal has.
The service is limited!
You either buy food products that already provide the total caloric information, or you have to do this difficult act of thinking about how many grams your home-cooked meal – which has lots of different components — has and entering your estimate into that app.
This directly promotes the purchasing of food products, instead of meal prepping at home.
And if you are trying to lose weight, funny enough, it’s the homecooking that’s really important!
Why? The most simple explanation is that cooking from home contains foods that are less processed, and therefore have more nutrition.
When eat at home, for example, I can have something simple like yogurt, fruit and oats along with drizzled honey and I’ll be satisfied for hours.
But the same ingredients bought as a Parfait at the supermarket, simply won’t fulfill me the same way.
But … of course it’s hard to calculate the calories from the at home meal because measuring yogurt is an imprecise science!
This wraps up our final point on why you should remove the MyFitnessPal app.