MyFitnessPal puts calorie logs behind a firewall

Popular nutrition and weight loss app MyFitnessPal is moving its free barcode scanning feature behind a firewall. For years, users with free accounts have been able to use this tool to scan food barcodes for easy logging and tracking of daily calories, but the company recently announced that Starting from October 1, a Premium account will be required.

Calculating daily calories in MyFitnessPal is a key component of the app, where the barcode scanner provides a shortcut to finding the nutritional value of a particular food item in the app’s extensive food database. A large part of this database is user generated, free and premium users can add any food by entering nutrition facts and barcodes from the label. Once October 1, free users will still be able to search the database for their food entries, but the barcode scanner will cost $19.99 per month or $79.99 for the annual plan, among other premium features. Any new users who create a free account on or after September 1st will be disqualified from scanning barcodes even earlier unless they pay.

This blatant move comes after MyFitnessPal Redesigned the app in May, which puts more useful information on the home screen for premium users while adding more scrolling through ads and popups for free users. While the loss of this handy barcode scanning feature came as a shock to longtime MyFitnessPal users, it is perhaps no surprise that the app sacrificed user experience to maximize ROI after being sold by Under Armor in 2020 in order to Venture capital firm Francisco Partners.

The free features behind paywalls in the tech world, of course, aren’t a new concept — rather, they’re fairly common in the tech fitness category, like when Fitbit ported its sleep data vision to its premium service or when the Oura ring went From a premium hardware product with free software to just about everything special, users have been drunk. Companies may feel pressure to increase their profits by monetizing popular features, but they take a hit when they do so with features that have life-changing benefits.

As a personal MyFitnessPal user with a check-in streak of 2,632 consecutive days, I’ve used the app to change my habits, lose weight, and get in better shape like many others. Being a free user, I knew the tradeoffs and withstood the ads and attack of popups urging me to get premium because I like to log my weight every morning. The user-generated food and nutritional value database is a valuable tool when I choose to be stricter and log every bite I eat each day.

My personal MyFitnessPal streak stretches back to 2015.

By losing the barcode scanner, MyFitnessPal is grossly harming its users. Losing weight and being aware of what you’re eating is hard enough. I’m shy enough of manually searching the app for the nutritional value of half an entire Costco pizza after allowing myself to make some bad decisions, so adding more friction to the process when someone just wants to score a cup of Greek yogurt seems wrong. Anyone who’s made major changes to their eating habits knows it’s a delicate balancing act to maintain weight, and anything that gets in your way even a little can tip the scales toward undoing weeks of hard work in a day.

MyFitnessPal is clearly looking to maximize profits, but if the popular subreddit r/lostit is any indication, Many users may consider switching For competing applications such as Cronometer, Loseit or Macros due to this loss. MyFitnessPal will likely continue to add more premium features such as recipes, nutrition plans, and anything else that bloats its app. The truth may be that most people just want the simplest calorie and weight logger possible, and MyFitnessPal takes a big notch here. Maybe it’s time to let my streak end.

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