How MyFitnessPal’s Inaccuracies Redefine What True Health Is

Story by Nicole Garbanzos

Photo by Marcus Aurelius on Pexels

There’s been growing discussion on the level of inaccuracy calorie tracking app, MyFitnessPal continues to provide its users with. Countless health professionals have publicly shared their findings of the app’s various errors to more of its former users speaking out against its stringent practices that strained their relationship with food. The app’s inaccuracies have ranged from daily calorie counts to individual meal data. Health professionals have even confirmed that foods ranging from snacks to meals are constantly off by 20-90 calories.

Dietician, Rachael Hartley rallies in her recent blog post on why we should delete MyFitnessPal off of our phones as soon as we can. She says that aside from its instances of straying several users to a path of disordered eating, the calorie tracker also excludes other necessary health components like an individual’s body composition. The more muscles a person has, the more energy they need during the day. This means they need to eat more, which the app does not thoroughly promote.

Photo by Julia Larson on Pexels

The app reflects the health of its users mainly on the calories they consume. Not on other relevant aspects of their health, like their medical history or genetics. Former user, Susie, says the app demonizes certain foods that can still be part of a healthy lifestyle. She not only confirms how the app affects one’s relationship with food, but she also says that it creates a bad habit of obsessing over what you ate and believing you’re not good enough if you don’t continue to do so.

“MyFitnessPal suggests dangerously low-calorie counts and also isn’t accurate. It can have terrible effects on your heart, metabolism, and body in general,” says Susie.

She says she began noticing the app’s inaccuracies when she started going to school for nutrition. She learned all about the diet industry and how much of it is more harmful than we’re led to believe.

Erin de Jong is a Health Promotion Specialist for Sheridan. Adding to Susie’s point, she says a person can end up harming themselves if they solely depend on an app to transform their health. Erin elaborates on the importance of seeking a health professional for serious matters about a healthy and balanced diet.

“When someone isn’t working with a health professional and is simply relying on something like an app, that’s where it can be harmful,” says Erin.

Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels

She continues by saying how she isn’t sure if bettering one’s journey in their relationship with food would necessarily include MyFitnessPal. Erin believes that food is meant to be enjoyed, not restricted. She believes that there are still ways to pursue a healthy life and not lose a balanced relationship with food at the same time. Like learning how to cook a new recipe or eating a meal with your friends and family. She says this inserts more mindful eating into your life, rather than constantly having to track your calories.

Photo by Jack Sparrow on Pexels

In recent years, the anti-diet movement has emerged. It strives to challenge the diet industry and everything it promotes, like calorie-tracking apps. This new way to approach health promotes it as a package, rather than its usual physique-driven ways. It wants to change how we perceive our health by adding more holistic practices. It seeks to add more awareness towards our mental and emotional health and wants to change the narrative we have around our food restrictions. The movement invites more conversations on the various stigmas diet culture started and strives towards change to hold better support for those most affected by it.

MyFitnessPal may have been the tool for success in some of its users’ health journeys. But it also may have played a pivotal part in a high number of their former users’ disordered eating habits. I’m not saying that all health tech is bad because there are some that are useful for motivation and encouragement. Our definition of health shouldn’t be determined by an app that limits our well-being.