MyFitnessPal vs Weight Watchers – Which app is right for you?

I’ve been working very hard since the beginning of the year to change my life and become healthier and happier. So people have been asking me what the secret is! Really there is no secret; it’s all about the math {Decrease calories in – Increase calories out = weight loss}. I have definitely learned a few little tricks to help me out along the way. One of the most important things for me is to keep track of every single thing that I put in my mouth. We live in a time when people want immediate gratifications and with temptations like fast food and junk foods all around us it is very important to be accountable for what you are eating. Losing/maintaining weight takes constant diligence of what you ingest and expend, and I don’t think there has ever been a day of my life that I haven’t thought about what I should and should not eat.

Studies such as ones in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity have shown that self-monitoring activities like weighing yourself, as well as tracking calories have been associated with successful weight loss and weight loss maintenance. Another study of obese/diabetic people showed that monitoring calories through a tracking program is effective in losing weight healthfully because it gives people direct feedback and provides information about what is healthy for them. One final study found that people who kept a record of their meals and exercise lost nearly twice as much as people who didn’t log but did diet and exercise! Numbers don’t lie so when you have the numbers right there in front of their face it will help you make changes more quickly.

I know a lot of people are old fashion and are okay with using pen and paper or a diary to keep their food log, but since it is the 21st century I immediately looked to my smartphone to find the best solution for me. Recently MyFitnessPal’s CEO Lee joked “I would argue my phone has more information than my health records. It’s gathering my runs and caloric intake, my sugar intake. My doctor just has those instances I walk in, and the frequency is much less.”

So the hunt was on for the best weight-loss apps to track calories and fitness. There are so many out there I think I looked at them all SparkPeople, Livestrong’s MyPlate, Loseit, but my favorites quickly became MyFitnessPal and Weight Watchers Online. In this post I will go through each program and tell you about the pros and cons so that you can make an informed decision about which if any is right for you.

MyFitnessPal Vs Weight Watchers Online

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MyFitnessPal

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MyFitnessPal is a free, health and fitness website that makes it easy for you to live a healthier life, and attain your health goals by giving you the tools for tracking what and how much you eat as well as how many calories you burn through activity. This is made even better by its mobile app, which helps you to be fastidious in logging what you eat 24/7, no matter your location. The app makes invisible data not just visible but also sharable, people are more likely to make healthier choices. It definitely isn’t a miracle cure instead is a reality check which makes you realize how many calories you are putting in your mouth compared to how many calories you are burning. MyFitnessPal has been the #1 health and fitness app in the iTunes and Google Play stores for the last three years, and is a top 10 health and fitness app in over 65 countries. It’s for anyone with a busy life, looking to lose or maintain a healthy weight, and it can be tailored to fit the needs of people with specific doctor/dietitian-recommended requirements.

MyFitnessPal was created by CEO Mike Lee 9 years ago when he and his fiancée were trying to lose some weight before their beach wedding. Lee was given homework by his personal trainer to keep track of all calories eaten by writing them in a journal. Lee took this idea to the next level and decided to create a computer program to use instead. The original website launched in September 2005 and has grown exponentially since its inception. With over 65 million users in the community and 1.5 million hits daily they have grown by 1.5 million new users each month s, and the brand expanded with an iOS application in 2009. With impressive statistics like 88% of the people who use MyFitnessPal actively for at least seven days lose weight and with users losing more than 100 million pounds they must be doing something right.

When first setting up a profile with MyFitnessPal it goes through a bunch of questions regarding your weight goals, your activity level, as well as standard questions about your vital statistics (i.e. Age, weight, height, gender etc.) The app will give you a few options about how aggressively you want to attack your goals while aiming for no more than 2 pounds of weight loss per week which studies show is the rate of weight loss that leads to more long term success. Based on the information that you enter MyFitnessPal determines how many calories is necessary for you to reach your goals of maintaining/gaining/losing weight. Now you are ready to start logging!

GoalsThe newly redesigned app makes it even easier for you to track your daily progress. Every day you have the options of logging what you eat by searching through the enormous database, which is fast and easy, or creating your own recipes. To get the best out of the use of the app you can also keep track of how much water you have ingested, what activities, such as walking, swimming, and biking, you have performed as well as your weight. It’s nice that you don’t have to go through a lot of different pages as everything is located on the main hub page of the app.

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With over 350 workouts in their database to choose from including both cardio and strength training exercises it is easy to add all activities not just what you do at the gym. Household chores and walking the dog are listed and will give you a general number of how many calories you burn during the task. If you have the exact number from a heart rate monitor or activity tracker you can enter the information in yourself. Another new addition to the app is the connectivity with trackers or activity logging services which include Jawbone up, Fitbit, MapmyFitness etc. The more exercise that you do the higher the daily recommended caloric intake for that day becomes though it is not necessary to eat all those extra calories.

It is very easy to see summaries of what you have eaten in the diary view. It is broken into meals breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. You can also see your net calorie total which takes your activities into consideration showing you exactly how many calories you have left to consume. At the end of the day when you are finished logging all of your information the app will calculate what you would weigh if you ate consistently for 5 weeks. It’s nice to see where you have the potential to be in the near future. It will also give you some hint like whether you ate enough calories or exceeded your daily limit. You also get a breakdown of the macronutrients of the day in pie chart form. It will display the amount of carbs vs fats and proteins that you consumed. You can go even further and see everything in more detail including cholesterol, sodium, potassium and vitamins etc. You can check out these charts every day or at the end of the week to see what you are doing right and which areas need a little bit of work.

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You also have access to a chart to track your weight. There is a line graph that you can plot for weekly, monthly and yearly views. You can do your measurements and track those as well as the new feature of steps. There are many other great features such as the blog ‘Hello Healthy’ where you can get recipes, workouts as well as tips and information. You can add friends and see how they are exercising and eating properly to help keep each other accountable.

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The overall experience is fast, intuitive and very user friendly. If my mom who is not very technologically active can use it with no problems than anyone can!

 

     PROS                                                                                CONS

 

  • Free
  • Desktop and Smartphone apps available
  • Quick set up
  • Very user friendly and intuitive – Don’t waste a lot of time looking down at your phone!
  • Enormous database which is very fast – Tons of brand names, restaurant foods as well as homemade recipes added by other users
  • Barcode scanner to look up foods quickly/easily
  • Connectivity to activity trackers such as Jawbone, Fitbit, Nike+, Mapmyfitness to name a few
  • Instant feedback – Snapshots of the day allow you to see everything in real time and figure out easily how many calories you have left for the rest of the day.
  • Track Macronutrients
  • Flexibility – you can change your goals and activity levels which will in turn change the amount of calories that you are allowed daily. You can also set your own percentages of nutrients/macronutrients.
  • Online and limited offline capabilities
  • Large community with over 65 million users you can log in and inspire friends as well as have friends hold you accountable as well as vice versa.
  • Over 350 activities in the exercise tracker and you can add your own.
  • No Forbidden foods – you can easily change portion sizes to allow for treats
  • Makes you aware of what you are eating so more likely to eat only when hungry
  • One of top satisfaction scores in Consumer Reports’ new diet ratings for maintenance, calorie awareness and food variety.
  • Gives you a streak if you log in everyday

 

  • Some people complain of the unimaginative push notifications
  • Inconsistent updating – dependent on phone/battery life and Wi-Fi
  • Some Inaccuracies in calories burned during activities
  • Duplicates and inconsistent calorie information in the database
  • Errors/issues with the barcode scanner
  • Some people argue that calorie counting is not the best/healthiest method to maintain a healthy lifestyle i.e. 100 calories of an apple is a better choice than zero calories from a diet soda
  • Counting/Restricting calories can sometimes lead to /propagate eating disorders – Especially when competing against friends
  • Shaming from not meeting caloric needs – People feel like losers if they don’t meet or exceed daily allowances and might fall off track
  • Serving quantities can be weird or cause problems difficulty with metric vs imperial forms.
  • Calorie recommendations can seem low

 

Weight Watchers

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Weight Watchers was founded in Brooklyn NY, USA by an overweight American housewife who had a self-confessed obsession with eating meat. Jean Nidetch tried a few fad diets of the time and was able to drop 20 pounds, but when she found she was losing her resolve she contacted a bunch of overweight friends and started a support group with weekly meetings. And so Weight Watchers was founded in 1963. The company has grown to become one of the most well-known and successful weight loss programs to date with famous spokespersons including Jennifer Hudson, Jessica Simpson, Jenny McCarthy and Sarah Ferguson as the face of the company. The 1.5 billion dollar company has helped millions of users lose weight and keep it off.

Weight Watchers introduced their popular points program in 1997 and it has evolved over the years. They maintain that a person must learn to eat more healthfully, increase physical activity as well as handle the changes of changing behaviour. The foundation of the diet program still remains the weekly meetings where you can gather with people in similar situations to you and learn about diet and exercise. In recent years they created an online version of their program which allows people on the go to track their food instead of relying on weekly meetings.

 weight watchers online, online weight watchers, weight watchers online sign inAfter the initial set up with all your personal information you are ready to start tracking. When you open up the app you will see your tracking area. It clearly shows you how many daily points that you are allowed as well as how many weekly points you have remaining. Under this you have your areas for tracking food, activities and a barcode scanner. If you swipe to the right it brings you to a spaces section this is if you are going somewhere special that day for example if you pick workplace it shows you possible stressors that could happen in that area and how to avoid them i.e. I forgot my lunch at home it gives you options of how to remedy the situation. The spaces include eating out, traveling, shopping, etc…If you swipe to the right again you can see the Routines section. This is an area you can personalize to fit your needs Every day you log in it will ask you if you have accomplished your routines for example get 7-8 hours of sleep a night and eat breakfast every morning. You can pick three routines that you would like to make a habit. There is also a healthy checks section which allows you to easily track your water, dairy, fruits and veggies, vitamins and oils by simply checking a box. These are important staples that Weight Watchers encourages you accomplish daily.

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The second area of the app is the Planning tools. You can browse through the food database which includes restaurants, foods, meals and recipes as well as brand names. There is also a barcode scanner for checking packaged foods. The activities section does include a broad array of different types of exercises and activities including different video games, sports as well as household chores like gardening.

One of my favourite tools in the app is the Points plus calculator. There often times when I am out for example at the grocery store trying to figure out how many points is in a product before I buy it and so you can enter all the health information from the packaging and it will determine how many points are in the serving size. Other areas include tons of healthy recipes and articles like how to survive eating out a restaurant which always comes in handy. You can also read success stories from other members including both meetings members and online only subscribers. There is also a shopping list section so you can be fully prepared when you are off to the grocery store.

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I like the interface of the app as it is colourful with pictures to go along with sections. The weight tracker is particularly nice since it shows where you started, where you are and what your goal weight is. You can see a line graph as well as a table with each weeks weight listed. One of the things I like about Weight Watchers is they give you little achievements when you have reached certain accomplishments like losing 5 pounds or 5% or your weight so you get little stars by that week. You can see all the achievement stars on the graph mode which always makes me smile

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The overall experience is fast, easy to use and bright. This app is also very user friendly and intuitive.

 

   PROS                                                                               CONS                    

  • Well known company with good success rate
  • Allows members, and those who can’t get to meetings to stay on track
  • Easy Set up
  • Studies show that Weight Watchers is most successful diet program
  • No Forbidden Foods
  • Large database of foods, exercises and recipes (but not as vast as MYFITNESSPAL)
  • Points system better for some people. Focus on what you are eating and not how many calories something has. So you are urged to eat fruits and veggies, healthy fats, dairy etc.
  • Free fruits and veggies
  • Weekly allowance of extra points for slip ups/special occasions
  • One of the top scores in commercial category of Consumer Reports new diet ratings for allowing variety of foods and for encouraging calorie awareness, exercise and consumption of fruits and vegetables.
  • People’s choice 4/10 Consumer Reports’ readers choose WW
  • Makes you aware of what you are eating so more likely to eat only when hungry
  • Help you pay attention to what you eat
  • Star accomplishments/achievements reached at certain milestones.

 

  • Monthly fee
  • No group meetings likes members might be used to
  • Can’t add friends to keep you motivated/accountable
  • The food database isn’t as extensive as MYFITNESSPAL
  • There are ways to cheat i.e. know exactly how much of an item you can eat before you go up another point level (for ex 27 chips is 3 points and 28 chips is 4)
  • Dependent on phone/battery life and Wi-Fi
  • A lot of scanned items don’t show up in the database
  • Cannot track macronutrients

 

When I started my transformation I went with Weight Watchers because I had tried the program in the past was familiar and comfortable with it. My mother was also a member and so we kind of did it together. I had used the MyFitnessPal app/website in the past but had never stuck with it. I also had an old fashion food/exercise log book which I filled out faithfully every day. When I found out that MyFitnessPal had all the macronutrient information I figured that would help me with my book so I started keeping track in that app and found it very easy to do so. I liked filling everything out in a book and being able to see it all in one place right in front of my eyes. Eventually I found myself going to MyFitnessPal and not filling out my logbook as much. Then I found that I wasn’t being as faithful with my Weight Watchers account so I figured that spending $30+ dollars a month to keep Weight Watchers active when I wasn’t using it as much as MyFitnessPal wasn’t worth it so I committed fully to MyFitnessPal and haven’t looked back since.

I actually renewed my membership to Weight Watchers Online when I was doing some research for this post and I think that I will keep it active for a few months because it is actually really helpful and it’s always good to get a new perspective when you have been doing something the same way for so long.  I don’t think that you need to use a tracker for the rest of your life. After only using these apps for 8 months I have learned a lot. I know a lot more about the amount of calories/nutrients in items and have a good idea of what I am ingesting on a daily basis. Some people might feel confident that with time they have been educated enough to stay on track without logging everything and instead make clean, healthy eating a part of their everyday lives.

So all that being said, people are probably thinking to themselves which is better?? And the answer is so easy!! Whichever one you will actually use! And if you decide that neither are good for you then there are others that you can try like Loseit, SparkPeople, Livestrong to name only a few. So pick an app, any one, and try it. If it works stick with it. If it doesn’t switch and if at any point it stops working then you can switch back or try another one. These apps can’t replace the medical advice of a doctor or nutritionist, but they can help you become more aware of what you eat and help you obtain your goals. I really hope that this helps people take control of what they are eating, and make a change in their lifestyles. People are always asking me when I am going to be finished, but for me there isn’t a finish line. This is my lifestyle now, this is how I plan to eat for the rest of my life, and I genuinely know that I can sustain this lifestyle and be healthy, be active and be happy.

Cheers,

Allison

PS I would love to hear from you guys. Have you tried either app or use one regularly? Why do you love or hate these apps? If you use MyFitnessPal you can add me as a friend my user name is Allison81 🙂

 

 

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