As of this morning, I have logged at least one meal into MyFitnessPal every day for 2,162 days straight. That is 5 years and 9 months if you are keeping score. It is an app that has been a key part of me losing nearly 100 pounds over the past decade and an app that I will still look upon fondly. But over the course of the past six months or so, I’ve increasingly been frustrated by MyFitnessPal for a lot of reasons – both as a service and as an app. That frustration led me to start looking at Lose It!, another diet and exercise tracking app that has been around for years. Over the past few weeks I’ve been logging my meals and exercise into both apps and have come to the conclusion that Lose It! is a better option for me.
First, a bit of background. About a decade ago I weighed 275 pounds (124.7 kilograms). I was a big boy for my 6-foot stature. I made the decision then, based on family history and my general physical feelings (always fatigued, aching knees, etc) that it was time to get the weight off. Over the course of the following year, I dropped nearly 100 pounds, bottoming out at 185 pounds. Today, I’m 198 pounds so I need to get a bit more regimented in my lifestyle.
Part of the process of me losing that weight was tracking everything I ate, something I’d never done before prior. I asked a few friends from other sites and they pointed me to MyFitnessPal. So I started using it and was happy with it. It allowed me to easily see what I was consuming and what I was burning in exercise to help me stay focused and on track. From those early days in 2009, I started using the app but it wasn’t until 5 years ago that I really began making sure I logged everyday. Today, it is second nature.
App Performance and Stability
One of the biggest reasons that my satisfaction with MyFitnessPal has been weaning has been app performance and stability. It seems as if there isn’t a day that goes by that the app will suddenly close (crash) or will report that it is unable to connect to the MyFitnessPal servers to update my information. 9 times out of 10, this warning is a false-positive. It will sync up my entries but the fact that it throws this error consistently is frustrating.
It use to not be this way. For years, and dare I say before the Under Armour acquisition, the app performed flawlessly. It seems that, while the app has certainly been update in the UA days, it is not the focus and attention of the company. It shows.
Contrast that with Lose It! I’ve yet to experience any crashes with the app nor any odd sync errors. I fully grant you that I have only been using it for a few weeks consistently… but I can’t go more than a day without MyFitnessPal doing something odd. Indeed, if you want a proof point of this, just have a look at the MyFitnessPal Operations feed (@MFP_Ops). There are constant issue they are fighting, mostly around syncing.
I have found that Lose It! just works, every time and all the time. That’s a big deal for any app but especially an app that you rely on for your health and diet.
Less Ads… A Lot Less Ads
The fact that MyFitnessPal is not as stable as it once use to be is one thing. A big, huge factor in my decision to leave that app for Lose It! are the ads. Oh my god the ads. So let me be clear: I’m not talking about the free version of the service. The premium service, which is $49.99 a year, or $9.99 per month, gets rid of the ads in the app itself. What I’m talking about are the Under Armour ads that pop-up when you do specific things in the app. For example, if I log exercise in the app manually (I’ll get to Apple Health integration in a minute), It is a guarantee that an ad will pop-up to promote UA’s own exercise app.
Dude, I do not want your app. I have my own app. I like my other app. Don’t pester me every. single. time. about using your app.
Compare this to Lose It! First, there really aren’t any adverts in the app. Their approach is different: They lock down some of the more advanced features of the app (micro nutrient tracking, water tracking, etc) for premium customers but the basic app doesn’t have any ads. If you want to join and get the premium features, it is $39.99 a year, $10 less than MyFitnessPal and you get the same features.
Let’s be honest here dear reader: Losing weight and watching what you eat isn’t necessarily fun for most people. Let’s also be honest on another point: Making a game out of a tedious task (gamification) is a way to get people to do things. Lose It! has got this figured out in their app. Much like what Apple has done with Apple Health, the app provides you with rewards (badges) as you achieve certain goals like weight loss, logging for consecutive days, joining challenges with other users, and the like. Basically, the more you use the app and the more you log, the more rewards you get. This may seem like a simple thing and some of you will scoff saying you aren’t into it. Trust me, you will because the competition with yourself to get in better shape, have a better diet, or get more exercise will make you want a reward. Even if it is a digital icon in an app.
Another way that Lose It! has gamified their app is through user challenges. These challenges, were you compete against other users, are great motivators. To be fair, MyFitnessPal has a similar concept but it is a lot less intuitive (which goes back to my general complaints about the app itself). Effectively you are competing against other users of the app (or they could be your friends if they use Lose It! as well) that can be centered around weight loss, taking daily steps, or other things. The really cool element is you can create a challenge and anyone can join it if you publish it.
Apple Health Integration (and other apps)
Perhaps the single most important feature of Lose It! for me is the deep integration with Apple Health. Not only does it inject my dietary information into Health, much like MyFitnessPal does, it also adds exercise and your weight to it. It is a far more comprehensive and deeper integration that makes it as close to a one-stop app for inputing vitals and other information that you want sync’d with Health. It can even tie in with other apps like Withings for your blood pressure or weight measurements. The only thing I’ve found it won’t sync is my water intake – which MFP doesn’t do either.
Having used Lose It! these past few weeks, it feels to me that the developer, FitNow, wants you to use Apple Health in conjunction with their app. I don’t think Under Armour feels the same way. It seems they want you to use their apps and their apps only, as if they begrudgingly have done minimal Apple Health integration. One of the key reasons I moved from Android to iOS and to an Apple Watch was for Apple Health and I’m glad that Lose It! respects that choice.
Easier to Use Food Database
The last major area that drove me to switch to Lose It! over MyFitnessPal was the food database. To be fair, both are really good at this and both are pretty comprehensive. What I found though was that when I did searches for restaurants or just random food items in Lose It!, I generally got better, more accurate results. I also found on restaurant listings that I got a more comprehensive list of their food items. As you can see from the screenshot below, I did a search for Chipotle (which I love!) and it has basically every item on their menu in the listing. That makes getting a more accurate calorie count on that burrito I order easier and faster. I like that.
What I will say though is that the food databases in both of these apps should not be your deciding factor. They are both really good to be honest, I just think the one in Lose It! is a little more detailed and a little more accurate.
I’m not going to conclude this article (confessional?) with some sales pitch telling you to switch to Lose It! and not to use MyFitnessPal. It completely depends on what you want out of one of these apps and both, frankly, are really good. For me, stability, gamification and the food database were all reasons for me to move. Oh, and the damned ads! Ugh! But seriously, I can’t say it is best for you because I don’t know you. I don’t know your dietary goals or your weight goals. I just know that for me, it is a better solution and a better app.
What I will do is encourage you to try Lose It! If you haven’t. See what you think and if it fits your needs and goals, use it. Get a premium subscription (if for nothing else to help the developer pay the bills) and join some challenges and start earning some badges. Oh, and get healthy while you are doing it!