Do food trackers work?

Any thoughts on whether they add value or not? I for one tend to use them for a few weeks then go out for a meal where it’s practically impossible to find the relevant foods / menu items without a degree in nutrition and food science so give up.

Anyone found an easy ton use one that is practical and helps track what you eat without being over the top?

Which one do you use?

I’ve found the first time I used one & stuck to it yes it did, subsequent attempts have failed, I’m either under counting calories, over counting exercise or as is happening mostly - not finding the time/enthusiasm/motivation to use it correctly.

I used a pda based one in the days before the smartphone, then all the popular ones on Apple/Android.

Now I’m on here & in my first group I’m trying not to count calories but to eat sensibly, exercise well & use the knowledge I’ve built through a decade of reading & dieting.

I still use MFP quite faithfully. It helps keep me honest with myself and helps me stay within my allotted daily calories. I feel a sense of accomplishment on days that I succeed. I’m a bit pissed at myself on days when I go over but I tackle the following day with a new resolve.

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My answer is yes, they do work, but probably not for the reason you expect. There are many, I have used MyFitnessPal the most, but it doesn’t really matter. The reason why they work is because when you know you have to account for all the food you ingest, you end up being a lot more careful about what you eat. I don’t typically use a food tracker without a plan - I always have a calorie goal. I don’t let them factor in my exercise, I do that separately, I only want to account for the calories coming IN from food. So the times when I have a set goal (typically my BMR) and track what I eat, I end up losing weight every single time. That’s because when I eat at my BMR, any exercise I add contributes towards weight loss.

I really wanted to prove to myself that if I were 100% faithful in tracking calories IN and calories OUT that I could lose weight, so I did an experiment and documented it on my blog. But in my article I also talk about the inherent inaccuracy of not only food tracking, but fitness trackers, scales, pretty much any tool you use. But the great thing is that if you’re tracking and recording, you can tweak what you’re doing until it produces the results that you want.

Last point - is this sustainable? In other words, is it practical to track your food on an ongoing basis, forever? I would say some people might have that discipline, but most people do not, including me. So I actually just use food tracking as one tool among many. I keep records of my weight, take photos, body part circumferences, and fat measurement. If I can tell that I need to tighten up my food consumption (i.e. stick better to my caloric goals), then I use food tracking for a few weeks to get myself back on track.

So consider it an effective tool. Try it for 4 weeks, inaccuracies and all, and I guarantee that you’ll see results. And to your point about how to log food you get from restaurants…well, if it’s a large chain restaurant, MFP has many of those foods already. If it isn’t, then I type in what I ate (like Chicken Parmesan) and review a few different versions and take one that appears to be average. That’s good enough.

Here are the relevant articles:


I use MFP religiously - even on days when I am totally off plan (you’d be amazed at the calories consumed after an all day beer festival :flushed:).

I would not have achieved what I have so far without it.

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I generally use My Fitness Pal as i think its the easiest with the biggest database of foods so you scan barcodes. It alos links with lots of fitness devices so it tracks excercise pretty well too.

thanks everyone for the really useful input, i’m going to try again with MFT and see if i can stick to it.

Will let you know how i get on.

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I have 523 days logged in MFP. I started out looking at the calories and adjusting my intake. But I’ve continued largely as an exercise in reflecting on what I have eaten each day. Most days I won’t look at the numbers I’ll just log the food. As @Brickhouse says its useful to log the mistakes/failures and not just give up.

It’s helpful when trying to make informed choices if you are out and about. Whilst a lifetime of dieting means I know what I should and shouldn’t eat 95% of the time, the app still tells me stuff I didn’t know.

I’ve also become accustomed to weighing and measuring things regularly. Things like yogurt, porridge oats, milk etc can be prone to creeping portion sizes.

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Why I think it’s a good idea for a beginner to track calories initially, even if it’s only for a few short weeks…

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Absolutely they help - but only as part of the whole picture. It adds to the accountability of what you’re doing day to day - 100%

It can get very addictive - and you do end up employing some wierd processes such as pre-logging before you eat - but overall it’s a good thing!

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Also a very good pointer with things like sodium, vitamins and mineral consumption which often get forgotten about in the great scheme of logging intake.

I think ultimately the more process and stucture you have in your plan, no matter where it comes from the better