I’ve commented before in this diary that any barrier to entry is bad. My nerves and patience are already a little frayed through limiting my food intake (yes, I get h-angry). Thus, struggling to track this situation is the last thing I want.
I soon found myself struggling with MyFitnessPal – not that it’s actually hard, but it’s trickier than my previous diet app Noom. In terms of basic functionality there is little to pick between them (tracking food intake, exercise and the like) but the whole package is more complex – for both good and bad reasons.
From my first moments with MyFitnessPal, the basic task of entering my daily food and exercise felt like a chore. Coming from Noom’s colorful and tactile interface it just felt like an effort.
It’s like the difference between an elementary school (Noom) and a high school text (MyFitnessPal) on the same topic. One teaches you the basics and prepares you for the subject, while the second is more complicated but ultimately helps expand your knowledge to fully understand.
Entering my first meal, it felt like I had a lot to do. Each thing had to be searched for and entered manually. And, if a search term is found in MyFitnessPal’s directory, then it was not uncommon to be overwhelmed by suggestions. So, searching for Broccoli could result in Dr. Praeger’s Broccoli Pancakes, handy if that is actually what you are looking for but mostly unneeded.
To make this more awkward the measures on offer seemed inconsistent. Grams were regularly missing from the available choices (I’m European, I don’t do ounces) while an undetermined “portion” was frequently offered. Fortunately, once entered, it was back to business as usual with regularly searched foods surfacing the moment you start to enter your meal.
Exercise follows a similar problem, but runs into another wrinkle… weight training is divided up into separate exercises. This meant that a one hour training can take up to ten minutes to track as you enter each set of squats and curls individually. This was a real annoyance, but it did track weights lifted and improvement over time – short term pain for long term gain.
It is the little extras like this that make MyFitnessPal worth the effort. From tracking every single nutritional value of your food (sodium content, fat, etc.) to providing the option to track how much water you drink, the whole package offers a deeper look at your habits.
To reuse the education analogy, it feels like graduating. At the moment I am still learning, getting into good habits regarding regularity and volume. But eventually I want to go to high school, and that is when MyFitnessPal will step in. With its graphs and in-depth tracking of pretty much every part of lifestyle, it would allow me to eat less and also to also eat well – eliminating excesses of salt, fat, and sugar in a way that Noom doesn’t.
I am not ready for MyFitnessPal. Yet. But, much like getting back to rowing, it is now one of my goals for down the line when I am ready to start tracking everything in more detail and have the capacity to explore the numerous other apps it can connect with.
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