Now on the smartphones of people everywhere looking to manage their weight and fitness, MyFitnessPal has gone from a homegrown calorie-tracking website to help a couple prepare for a beach wedding, to a $475-million company with over 90 million registered app users. We asked Mike Lee, the co-founder and CEO, about the power of this fitness app.
Parvati Magazine: How effective is MyFitnessPal as a tool for weight management?
Mike Lee: Keeping a food diary can double a person’s weight loss according to a 2008 study from Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research. A healthy lifestyle is generally achieved with 75 percent diet and 25 percent exercise. With 90 million users and 5 million foods in its database MyFitnessPal users can accurately and efficiently track their caloric intake and keep track of their physical activity. Our blog (which can be accessed through the app or the web) is filled with healthy recipes, exercise ideas and fitness tips and helps you to learn how to live and maintain a healthy lifestyle. We also have a very active, encouraging community that helps you feel accountable, like you have millions of friends on this journey with you.
PMAG: When did you get the idea to create MyFitnessPal?
ML: The idea for the app actually stemmed from a personal need. My wife and I were preparing for our beach wedding and we both wanted to lose a little weight. We went to see a fitness trainer and he gave us a book listing the nutritional values of around 3,000 foods and a small pad of paper to use for tracking our calories. I’ve been programming since I was 10 years old, so I just knew there had to be a better way to keep track of my meals and snacks, but I couldn’t find anything online that was good enough. Every digital product on the market at that time was just as painful and time-consuming to use as food-logging in that notebook. So, I built my own solution, and it eventually became MyFitnessPal.
Since, we’ve helped more than 90 million people achieve and maintain a healthier and happier lifestyle. We have a database of over 5 million foods and hundreds of exercises, top fitness technology partners and community insights. We’ve become the leading resource for achieving and maintaining health goals.
PMAG: What has been some of the most crucial feedback you’ve gotten from users?
ML: Our user success stories speak for themselves. Through our data collection, we have created a virtuous cycle: users add to and improve our health data and expand our food database, we use that data to improve the product to drive more user success, and more success leads to more users, which leads to even more data.
Additionally, we hear from users daily and listen to their needs and evaluate the features they want to see. While we couldn’t possibly provide every feature on our own, we’re always partnering with other health and fitness apps and gadgets to integrate useful features with MyFitnessPal. In fact, we currently integrate with 80% of the wearable fitness devices on the market, with 4 of the top 5 GPS activity-tracking apps and with the top 2 wireless scales—these integrations enable our users to get the round-the-clock view into their health data that makes the data usable in their quests to meet their personal health goals.
PMAG: How can tools like MyFitnessPal help people to keep a light and positive attitude towards their fitness journey?
ML: MyFitnessPal gives you a virtual cheering squad through its active, well managed community of more than 90M people, providing support when you need it—not just once a week. That’s greater than the population of California! You decide how you want to use MyFitnessPal — through an app, on your desktop, to lose weight or to reduce your risk of diabetes — and we’ll make it work for you.
Mike Lee is Senior Vice President of Under Armour Connected Fitness, responsible for MyFitnessPal and MapMyFitness, the leading health and fitness technology platforms. Mike is the Co-Founder of MyFitnessPal, a wholly owned subsidiary of Under Armour, Inc., which was acquired in March of 2015 for $475M. Prior to founding MyFitnessPal, Mike co-founded NextC, a venture-funded startup focused on building online communities. During his 20 year tenure in the technology industry, Mike has held leadership positions at several other top start-ups in Silicon Valley, including Palm, Handspring, Beyond.com, and Regis McKenna. Mike graduated summa cum laude from Princeton with a B.A. in economics.