Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Using MyFitnessPal While Breastfeeding

How I'm using myfitnesspal to lose weight as a breastfeeding mother...

I'm loving myfitnesspal.  I am learning so much about my old eating habits.  It's sort of terrifying, what I'm learning, but as a fan of The Walking Dead, I'm no stranger to terror.  So I love it.

I used to eat chips, queso, and three tacos with an orange juice for brunch on Sundays.  By tracking my calorie intake I realized that that much food should last me pretty much the whole day.

Or so I thought at first.  BUT, that was not taking breastfeeding into account.  No wonder I'm hungry enough to eat my own young!!!  My old habit of a huge Torchy's Tacos brunch was definitely too much sodium and more than I needed to eat before dinner, but it wasn't as dramatic as I thought.  So spreading that meal over the whole day Sunday wasn't necessary after all.

Photo by Gloria Sanchez

I saw a dietitian a few months ago, and since I crapped out on dieting then (the holidays = classic excuse to wait on dieting), I did nothing with the paperwork she gave me.  Then yesterday Sonya Feher of spaceWise Organizing helped me tackle the Paper Monster living in my house, and I found the paperwork from the dietitian.  And I found 450 calories!

Breastfeeding a toddler, with my height/weight/age/weight loss goals and/or whatever, she recommended an intake of 1600-1800 calories.  Since I'm ravenous, for now I'm going with 1800.  That's 450 more than myfitnesspal allotted me!

(Yes, I knew I was burning calories by nursing Bellybean, but I didn't know how many or how to input that on the app.)

Since myfitnesspal unfortunately doesn't take allow for breastfeeding in their calculations, I might have maybe figured out a way around that, which I'll share at the end.  But first I'll share the email I sent them, asking them to consider breastfeeding users:

Hello.  I am a breastfeeding advocate in Texas, excited to be using your services.  The past three days I have appreciated the projection of how much weight I can lose if I keep going as I am now.  Unfortunately, now that I have adjusted my calorie goal as per my dietitian's recommendation, I am apparently only set to lose one-tenth of a pound per week!  I would very much like, as a breastfeeding mother, to have the ability to adjust the "Calories Burned from Normal Daily Activity" to reflect calories I burn breastfeeding.  This would give me back the motivation of being told that I will lose weight if I keep eating at or under my goal.
Unfortunately breastfeeding rates are low in the United States.  But they are on the rise, and breastfeeding is optimal nutrition for infants, so a health app should, in my opinion, take nursing mothers into account.
I would love to see you work with a lactation consultant to create a resource as part of your app for breastfeeding users of myfitnesspal.  A recommendation to see one's doctor or physician may still be in order, but a lactation consultant could offer guidelines about how many calories breastfeeding burns, and how to watch for a dip in milk supply that may come from cutting calories too far.
Thank you for your consideration.

Since I still want to have the weight loss projection, I tried a few things.

First, I tried adjusting my calorie goal to 1800 and adding breastfeeding as an exercise.  But that just earned me another 450 calories, on top of 1800.  Um, no.

So then I tried changing my lifestyle from sedentary to lightly active (not a big enough difference of only 220 calories for me) and then to active (a difference of 510 calories - too many since I'm not nursing a newborn).  This changed my Calories Burned from Normal Daily Activity, but the numbers didn't line up with my 450 calories burned while breastfeeding.

What I think is going to work is this (SEE EDIT BELOW FOR ANOTHER SIMPLE OPTION): I changed my goals one last time and allowed myfitnesspal to again allot me 1350 calories.  I set my exercise goal at 11 minutes of exercise.  Each day I will add "1 minute" of breastfeeding as exercise (cause it's easy to do the math - if I exercise for 20 minutes, that 21st minute is my breastfeeding calories).  I input that that "exercise" will burn 450 calories.  And voila - I've "earned" those calories, setting my daily goal at 1800.

I will let y'all know how this seems to be working for me, and I hope it helps other nursing moms!  And if my math is crazy wonky or you're sure this isn't the way to go about this, by all means, please let me know.  This is new territory for me.

One other thing I've learned by tracking my food: I should probably weigh as much as a small truck.  Here I was all "Phooey!!!" that I wasn't losing weight while breastfeeding, but I now realize that breastfeeding while eating enough for two to three people was surely helping me to not gain weight.  Thanks, boobs!

If you'd like to encourage myfitnesspal to better serve breastfeeding moms, consider emailing them.

  So after all that, I found out that you can eat a negative number of calories!  You can choose breastfeeding as a food, or enter it yourself with your negative calories if they're not already represented (I only saw 300 and 500 I think).  I swear to you when I Googled this, all I saw was mfp saying to manually adjust your calorie goal because they don't calculate for breastfeeding.  So I still think they could do better by bf moms.

Also, the reply to my email said the same as what my search turned up, with the addition of suggesting to add breastfeeding as an exercise (too bad I didn't get the email before I fiddled around with it to come up with the exercise thing).  But I'm finding it simpler somehow to add it to my breakfasts.  I can finish my first meal and still be in the negatives!  Thank you to all who commented on Facebook (and here) to let me know I could add bf as a food.

Here's the reply from myfitnesspal, if you're interested:
Thank you for taking the time to contact us and for your suggestion.
Since breastfeeding varies for each woman, we don't currently offer a specific recommendation for adjusting your calories. However, if you obtain a calorie estimate from your doctor or nutritionist, you can easily change your calorie goal to account for the difference. 
To adjust your calorie goal:
On the Web​
Click "My Home" then "Goals" then "Change Goals, then select "Custom." Be sure to save your changes.
In the Android, iPad and iPhone apps
Select "Settings" in the Menu Drawer then "Fitness Goals."
Tap "Net Calorie Goal"
In our other apps
On the "More" page select "Edit Profile"
Select "Net Calorie Goal."
Selecting the current goal will allow you to change it. Be sure to save your changes.
As an alternative, you may log "breastfeeding" as an exercise. Once you have a calorie estimate, you can add "breastfeeding" as a custom cardiovascular exercise to your exercise database. (For information on adding a custom exercise, see the article here: http://j.mp/ZqGjQe )
We hope this helps. Please let us know if you have any other problems or questions. We wish you all the success in reaching and maintaining your health and fitness goals.

Are you taking the 5 Pound Challenge with me?  How is it going?
What tools are you using to meet your goals?


  1. If yiu type breastfeeding when adding a breakfast utem, it subtracts calories!

    1. Thank you!! I edited it to include that, & it's how I'm doing it now, too. :)