Tuesday, September 3, 2013

My Fitness Pal vs. Weight Watchers

As I mentioned a few months back, I'm in the process of determining how I will continue to lose weight, as well as how I will eventually maintain my weight loss once I hit my goal. 

I've been tracking on Weight Watchers (I'm an online-only member) since starting this journey in November 2012. It's obviously worked pretty well, though I do have a few concerns (described below). Out of curiosity, I began simultaneously tracking on My Fitness Pal (MFP) a few months back, just to try to gain a better understanding of calories in/calories out, which I don't get on WW.

Personally, I think I'll probably be tracking for awhile. I actually had a conversation about this very topic with one of my fave bloggers, Kate from The Widgeon Nest. While Kate is in search of a more non-tracking/natural/intuitive eating plan after getting annoyed with constant tracking (she's currently trying the PFC method - more here), I personally crave the stability and accountability of tracking. I'm overcoming 23 years of non-existent portion control, so I very much still need to see the numbers to gauge where I'm at for the day.

That said, here are my thoughts about My Fitness Pal vs. Weight Watchers:

MFP Loves:
  • It. Has. Everything. I'm constantly impressed with how many foods are actually in the system. Even for local Chicago-only restaurants (I'm talkin' bout you, Wow Bao), I can pretty much always find their foods on MFP. WW is lacking many Trader Joes foods, as well as specialty/local foods.
  • Awareness about my macros (protein/fat/carb ratios) - this is something I do not get with Weight Watchers at all. While I'm not yet in a place where I'm actively tweaking my ratios, but I anticipate that I will probably start doing this more when I wean myself off WW and enter maintenance phase.
  • Inability to "game" the system - there are definitely ways to cheat on WW (my favorite one is figuring out the exact number of chips before hitting the next serving/PP value and eating that amount), MFP uses true measurements to calculate values, which means no cheating. Alright, this is a love/hate.
  • Easy to snapshot day at a glance, week at a glance, etc., which makes it easy to see patterns to go back through days that were particularly good/bad.
  • It's connected with RunKeeper, so my runs are automatically entered into the system with my caloric burn. I do realize that a heart-rate monitor would be a more accurate way of reporting, but RunKeeper does take weight into account, so that's good enough for me (for now). Convenience!

MFP Hates:
  • Sometimes the serving quantities are weird (like I can either calculate in ounces or portions of the entire container). Granted, if I had a food scale this wouldn't be an issue. Alas, I'm too cheap for that nonsense.
  • Calorie recommendations seem too low. MFP initially suggested I eat 1,200 calories/day in order to lose 2lbs a week. Granted, I am allowed to "eat back" exercise calories, but at 175lbs, 1200 calories just doesn't seem like enough. I changed my weight goal to losing 1.5/week, and now I'm at a 1,330/day budget. I know I can adjust this manually, but it bothers me that MFP's recommendations just don't seem like enough.**
  • <SOAPBOX ALERT> I feel as though some people whose diaries are public are [not so] subtly competing to eat less than everyone else. And I find it extremely frustrating/annoying/unhealthy. You can't tell me you are losing weight the healthy way when you eat ~1000 calories a day AND burn 500+ calories on workouts (calories that you are not eating back). For people with disordered eating, I think MFP creates a toxic and competitive atmosphere of under-eating and overexercising. Rant over.
**According to the Harris-Benedict BMR equation, I should be eating about 1,480/day to lose 2lbs a week. This number is determined by a weekly # of workouts, so it does not change on days I work out versus days I don't.

Honestly, I'm at a little bit of a crossroads. I love WW (I really do!), and it has helped me successfully forge this weight loss battle so far. However, I think I'm hitting a tipping point with WW where the daily recommendation just isn't enough calories for me. At 29PP/day, there are times where I don't even hit 1,200 calories/day, which leaves me constantly dipping into my extra points (like, daily) in order to feel satisfied. Half marathon training has absolutely exacerbated this issue, but I am thankful for activity points! As of late, I've been eating back all my weeklies (49) AND nearly all my activity points.


At the same time, I'm realllllly hesitant to completely jump ship on WW because it's been successful for me so far! There are SO MANY different ways to count calories, make meal plans, determine intake amounts, calculate basal metabolic rate, etc., and it's kindof intimidating to go a completely new route. I do really appreciate Sharee's post about eating for your BMR, though, and girlfriend has lost over 120lbs, so she obviously knows what she's talking about.  

So, while I waffle in my indecision, I've been just trying to find a balance between MFP and WW. Trying to eat enough, but not too much. Trying to figure out what level will keep me in weight-loss mode while still being healthy (and satisfied!). And, to complicate matters, this is definitely going to change once I'm done with the Half Marathon this weekend. 

Welp, no one ever said this would be easy.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on WW or MFP (the good, the bad, and the ugly). Have you ever made a switch in your plan? How did it work? Let me know!!


  1. I've been really successful with MFP. But, I get what you are saying. People do seem to be very, very judgmental there and from time to time I do end up fantasizing about just making my diary private. (For now it is public...)

    I tend to not eat back a lot of my exercise calories. I just never really have been a huge eater, so I usually find that when it eat around 1500 I feel really uncomfortable. I do try to keep it within 1250-1400 though and for the most part this has really helped me remain honest. And I do log everything even snacks.

    I can't offer any suggestions about WW, as I've never done it though! Hopefully you'll get some good advice here!

  2. So are you reading my mind? I've been tossing around the idea of "quitting" WW for a while now. I've lost about 75 pounds with WW thus far, and while I still have another 40 or so to lose, I'm not sure if I'm getting my $20 worth out of the WW app anymore.

    I definitely find myself using all of my weekly points just to make it through the day as well. They don't get saved up for a "cheat" meal, I need them to just not be hungry every day.

    I'm wondering if I "quit" WW, will my information still be saved? So say in a few months I realize MFP isn't working, can I just go back to WW? I'd hate to lose all that progress information.

    Ugh, decisions decisions!

    1. I think it will save your measurements but not your food favorites.

  3. The timing of this post is so weird! I just joined MFP after months of sticking to WW (just using all the resouces I had from when I last joined). Like you I'm goign to run both siimultaneously but this was really interesting to read and the timing is just spooky!

    1. You're not the only person I heard this from!! Seems like now that summer is coming to a close, everyone is re-evaluating their diets. Will be curious to see how it works for you!

  4. Well, to be honest, if you gave up grains/starches and 85% of sweets and processed foods, two things would happen:

    1. you wouldn't be feeling hungry at all between meals. That is caused by grains.
    2. calories and tracking becomes essential not necessary.

    Just a thought. ;)

  5. I started off with WW and switched to MFP after about 3 months or so...I completely agree with your opinion on the healthy versus disordered eating on the public diaries...and I am actually going to up my calories, it's just not good and I end up eating all my activity calories back...thanks for this insightfulness!!!

  6. I really think you hit the nail on the head with your analysis! One thing that helped me with WW, though, was a leader telling us that the program is built on the assumption that you will use all of the weekly points. However, I never was able to lose weight when I consumed all of my weekly points, so I don't know what that says about the program! I never really looked around at other diaries in MFP and had no idea that there were so many people with such drastic restriction! Kind of glad I never had that in my head! :-/

  7. Hey Carolyn, I am a new reader to your blog. I used to be a die hard WW member going to meetings and using the online tools. I came to a point last year where I just couldn't do it anymore. The counting the points thing is crazy!! It is just not for me and I can't see me doing it forever. I found MFP a few months ago but have not been very serious in the tracking department. I am starting back at it this week. I really like it much better than WW. I agree about people's diary's I have stopped reviewing them. They all seem like they are competing for the most part. If you are on MFP look me up would love the support. I'm kimkim2014.

  8. Good luck with MFP versus WW! I've never done WW, but I love MFP. It's helped me lose over 30 pounds so far! I have it set to lose 1 pound a week (even though I lose more/want to lose more each week), so my calories have never been as low as what you shared... maybe lower the weekly goal? That doesn't seem like nearly enough calories, even when it takes into account your running. Also, great job running! That's amazing!

  9. love me some mfp - be my frennnnn? same username :)

    my boyfriend's mom is a leader for ww. not sure how that works, but she really enjoys it. that's a possibility if you keep with ww :)

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Read this thread http://www.myfitnesspal.com/topics/show/822197-how-to-track-weight-watchers-points-on-mfp you have to tweak it a bit through the instructions but I did get it to work and now I track both! I just wish I could have it on an app. Hopefully one day weight watchers will realize we need the big picture of all nutrients.

  12. I've been NEEDING to do WW or MFP for a long time. I'm diabetic and I just can't seem to get going on anything! I tried WW for about 6 mo. and haven't yet tried MFP.... I just can't get my head in the right place! I binge on cookies, ice cream, caramel... I buy the caramel for dipping apples but it's not uncommon for me to have some caramel without the apple! ;-( I'm discouraged and trying not to totally give up. The WW point counting seems ridiculous to me!!

    1. Yea.Peaches . I agree the point thing never worked that well for me either.. for years I was a late nite ice cream eater.. I recently joined a gym. Have a trainer you scared the bejeezes out of me . it what finally put me on the right path. She measured my BMI and body at.. she said that my BMI was 39 and my body fat was 47% of my weight. which meant that I had a lot of fat around my heart, and liver.. God !! she said that it was dangerous.. and since I know that I am at least prediabetic if I continue to be unhealthy by not exercising and eating too much.. .. ..well you know ....so know I have been exercising and if I have to eat a snack at nite I have dry popcorn ..and I go to bed earlier ll Dont give up Peaches.. If you exercise it does become a bit of a habit and it reduces your cravings.. good luck :)

  13. I appreciate all the posts here! I had lost over 55 lbs on ww years ago, I maintained my weight but I was really excercising daily. I moved away from my beach front apartment and with the change and being forced to put my treadmill into storage, I have gained weight back. I don't know how much because I am afraid to get on the scale! I started using MFP but keep forgetting to log my food and excercise. I have to admit I am just not as motivated as I once was. I realize mostly because before I walked for air, for peace of mind and the lbs dropped on their own, while I ate to take control of my life. I ate to energize myself and not to binge things have changed and I was looking for something to get me back to a good place. So thank you all for the input because I almost paid money to get back onto WW and it appears either will work if I WORK IT.

  14. Hello. I've been using MFP fir almost two weeks now. I log in my food intake religiously, I drink plenty of water, I watch what I eat, exercise 5 days a week and have not lost a lb. I recently had a baby 5 weeks ago and need to desperately list 35 lbs. I'm starting to get discouraged . Any suggestions or tips that would help me lose at least 10 lbs before the 29th? I will b going to Vegas want to feel a lil good about myself

  15. I lost weight tracking my weight on MFP a few years ago, but after a while what happens is usually that when I'm done eating my calories for the day, I stop. (To write down what I'm eating, not the eating.) I'm doing WW for 2 weeks now and found it much easier not to cheat especially because I have to go and step on scales in front of a person who's tracking my weight for me now.) I used the WW online tool about 8 years ago in Germany and found that there was a lot more food available than in the UK version I have now. That's something I love about MFP that I can type in food from Germany and the UK and it both finds it. Compared to that I was shocked about the variety of food in the WW app (type in tomato and it suggests all kinds of ready meals with tomatoes, but to actually just track a tomato you have to scroll until your finger is bleeding).

    Also MFP links to my fitbug site, so I don't have to guess how many hours of what kind of walking I've done every day.

    I love the idea of tracking both and will start doing that to compare how healthy it is what I'm eating. Thanks for your ideas. They really inspired me.