I strongly encourage you to log and track your food. Especially if you’re new to fitness and dieting. Whether you want to write your log with pen and paper, or use an advanced app such as MyFitnessPal, please take a close look to what’s actually going on. I’m positive that you’ll be surprised. Not in a good way.
When a client hires me for fitness and nutritional guidance, I always talk about creating a food log. After all, when it comes to bodyweight changes, nutrition is the single most important factor. There is no amount of exercise that can out-train a bad diet. Unfortunately I’m often met with resistance.
“I eat pretty well.”
“I only drink water.”
“I probably just need to cut out a little snacking.”
“I’m too busy…”
These are all common responses. But I’m going to say it here: If you have more than 20 pounds to lose, nutrition IS your problem. You’re NOT eating well. Otherwise you wouldn’t be in this position.
Food tracking is one of the oldest and most successful forms of dieting. But lately it’s seen as “too old fashioned” and “no longer in style”. Some people, professionals included, argue against tracking calories. They see it as too intrusive, too time consuming, and counter-productive. Blasé, if you will. Some people advocate “intuitive eating.” That is, an eating plan based around eating when you’re hungry, avoiding bad foods, and putting the fork down when you’re full. This is great advice! But I’m still advocating that you log your food. Why?
If you’re seeking out nutritional advice, if you’re looking for professional help, if you’re more than 50 pounds overweight, chances are you don’t have good intuition. Chances are you’ve created bad habits and no longer have a grasp of what your body needs.
I see this on a daily basis. Clients I work with who are struggling to lose 1 pound per week. Keep in mind, these are people with a significant amount of opportunity to lose weight. Every day I ask them: “How’s your food been?”
The successful people respond with detailed accounts of their foods. How much protein, carbs, fats, overall calories. They know what triggers set them back. They know the patterns and routines they find themselves in. They KNOW because they LOG.
The unsuccessful people respond with excuses. Excuses such as lack of time, lack of interest, lack of support. Excuses are the imaginary monsters we create. Unsuccessful people don’t know what they’re doing wrong. They DON’T KNOW.
Some people claim they keep a mental log of what they eat. They mentally track and count calories as they progress through the day. This can be a fine method for advanced dieters who are still seeing success. However, most research agrees that self-reporting is inaccurate (1). This means that most people greatly underestimate what they actually eat. This is why they don’t make progress in their weight loss journey. What they think they’re doing, and what they’re actually doing, are two different things.
I see a pattern. The greater the self-awareness, the greater the level of success.
Log your food!
1) Schoeller, D.A., (1990). How Accurate is Self-Reported Dietary Energy Intake? Nutrition Review, 48, (10).