My fitness pal usage in men: Associations with eating disorder symptoms and psychosocial impairment

Eat Behav. 2019 Apr;33:13-17. doi: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2019.02.003. Epub 2019 Feb 10.

Abstract

My Fitness Pal (MFP) is a calorie-tracking smartphone application that is gaining popularity worldwide. Although MFP has the potential to be a cheap and efficient weight-loss tool, concerns that MFP could trigger, maintain, or exacerbate eating disorder symptoms have been raised. Preliminary research has documented associations between MFP use and eating disorder symptoms in women with eating disorders and in undergraduate students. However, whether these associations exist additionally in a male-only sample has not been tested. Thus, we aimed to estimate MFP usage and examine its association with eating disorder symptoms and psychosocial impairment in a male sample. Cross-sectional data were analysed from 122 male participants (Mage = 28.4, SD = 8.93) recruited primarily through fitness-related social media sites. Around half (56%) of the sample reported having used MFP. Nearly 40% of users perceived MFP as a factor contributing to disorder eating symptoms to some extent. MFP users reported significantly higher levels of attitudinal (dichotomous thinking, shape, weight, and eating concerns) and behavioural (binge eating, dietary restraint) eating disorder symptoms and psychosocial impairment than non-users. Effect sizes were large. MFP use also predicted unique variance in global attitudinal symptoms after controlling for eating disorder behaviours, impairment, and demographics. That nearly one-third of men perceived MFP as a factor contributing to their disordered eating highlights the possible utility of enquiring about the use of calorie-tracking apps when screening and assessing for eating disorder symptoms in men.

Keywords: Calorie-tracking; Eating disorders; Impairment; Males.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Binge-Eating Disorder / psychology*
  • Body Weight
  • Bulimia / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Energy Intake
  • Exercise / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mobile Applications / statistics & numerical data*
  • Psychology / statistics & numerical data*
  • Smartphone / statistics & numerical data
  • Students / psychology
  • Weight Loss
  • Young Adult