The Argument for Logging Your Food

If you have more than 20 pounds to lose, nutrition is your problem. Otherwise you wouldn’t be in this position.

Advertisements

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!

 

Sources:
1) Schoeller, D.A., (1990). How Accurate is Self-Reported Dietary Energy Intake? Nutrition Review, 48, (10).

 

 

Your Fitness and Diet Programs Don’t Matter

Your fitness and diet plans don’t matter. The problem is you.

Allow me to ask a simple question: How many fitness plans have you started? How many diet plans have you started?

Did they work?

A follow-up question: How many times have you said to yourself, “This time I mean it! This time it’ll work”?

Argue with me all you want but your fitness plan doesn’t matter. Your diet plan doesn’t matter. You have to overcome YOURSELF first.

 

You Are Your Own Worst Enemy

Chances are, when you hire me, you won’t take my advice. At least at first. You’ll want to take my advice. You’ll try to take my advice, but you won’t succeed. You’ll convince yourself it’s not your fault. You’ll convince yourself that outside forces have conspired against you and your fitness goals. You’ll paint yourself as a hero fighting the good fight, barely surviving, and reward yourself with the comfortable lifestyle with which you’re accustomed. Few people who hire me have what it takes to succeed. After all, this is why they hire me. To help them make a change they can’t do alone. It’s not that my methods are unusual, or overly complicated. I don’t recommend any extreme fitness or nutrition plan. I don’t recommend a nutritional system requiring a four-year university degree to understand. Instead I find the problem lies much deeper. The problem is you.

It’s not that you don’t WANT to follow the advice given to you, it’s that you don’t know HOW to follow the advice. You’re overcome with bad habits and a warped view of what is normal. You’ve slowly, day by day, adopted a lifestyle that leads to a place you don’t wish to be. Over time your perception of normal has shifted making any variation of “eat less, exercise more” seem like an unattainable lifestyle. Before we can make any sustainable fitness changes, we have to work on eliminating your bad habits and overcoming your perceived obstacles.

 

Monsters

Perceived obstacles are like the invisible monsters that lived in your closet when you were little. You convinced yourself that something was out to get you. You convinced yourself that if you didn’t turn the light on, or get outside help, you would be EATEN. Once you turned the light on, you saw these monsters were simply shadows being cast by small objects. In much the same way, your daily life has turned into a monster that is out to get you. Metaphorically. You’ve created your over sized monsters from things like a busy schedule, managing a family, running a business, or even saboteur family members. You perceive these obstacles as an unstoppable outside force bent on destroying your fitness goals. They deliberately prevent you from taking my advice.

However, the reality is that these monsters don’t exist! Just like when you were a kid, you’ve created a scary illusion. I’m not saying you don’t have a busy schedule or that your family doesn’t deserve 100% of your attention. I’m saying that you’re making them bigger problems than they need to be. You’re NOT planning around these obstacles appropriately. You’re allowing them to interfere with your goals more than they should. By putting your fitness and nutrition at the bottom of your priority list, nothing I prescribe to you will work. It doesn’t matter what exercise plan I lay out. It doesn’t matter what nutritional guidelines I recommend. You won’t do them. You will allow your monsters to eat your dreams. You will allow the illusion to overcome reality. You’ll have to conquer yourself first. You’ll have to identify your monsters and shine the light on them. Only then you’ll realize that these monsters – these obstacles – are simply shadows creating the illusion of monsters.

 

Shine the Light on Your Monsters

In order to break down the illusion of monsters, you have to shine a light on them. Take a close look and see what’s actually causing them. Moving from a metaphor to reality, this means you have to analyze the patterns and behaviors that are setting you back. Look at them objectively and see how you can work around them. Don’t try to fix them. Don’t try to avoid them. Plan around them. Be prepared for what could set you back, and have a contingency plan in place. Planning and preparedness is one of the secrets to success. Keep a calendar and write down your workouts ahead of time. Set reminders to visit the gym like you would set reminders to visit the doctor. Log your food and see what you’re actually eating.

I’ll give you two real-world examples of success from people I’ve worked with who have taken their perceived monsters, shined some light on them, and planned around them. These are real people who went through the same struggles as everyone else, and still found a way to succeed.

Candice – a 36 year old mother and wife with a full time job. She came to me to help her lose weight. She wanted to lose 30 pounds. She wanted to be fit and feel better about herself. Yet she didn’t want to commit to a consistent workout schedule. She didn’t want to log her food. She didn’t want to put her fitness needs above the needs of her family or job. She assumed that she could exercise whenever she was available. She assumed that she didn’t really need to change her nutrition. She was quickly met with frustration. I offered various exercise and nutrition strategies but was consistently met with resistance. She claimed she couldn’t modify her eating habits because her kids were accustomed to a certain lifestyle (they were 2 and 5). She claimed that her job responsibilities overshadowed her workout schedule – (she worked from home and controlled her own schedule).

After much frustration and a closer look, she realized that, leading by example, her kids would respond to her authority. She realized that she was in charge of what she ate, not her family. Even if they had to eat separate meals, she was the only one responsible for putting food in her mouth. She eventually began changing her nutritional habits. She also realized that she was, in fact, control of her schedule. She could plan her workouts as if she was planning a business meeting and block out a routine. Once she made these realizations (and it seems obvious in writing), she quickly lost 30 pounds and reached her fitness goals. Her obstacles appeared like monsters at the time. But by taking a closer look, she was able to see through the illusion.

 

Barb– A 47 year old woman who, along with her husband, lived with her mother-in-law. Both her and her husband were diagnosed as morbidly obese and with a host of health problems. Her husband especially was diagnosed with extremely-low cardiac output, type II diabetes, and would later go on to be diagnosed with cardiac failure. Unfortunately for Barb, her family refused to accept from their doctors that their weight and inactivity was the root cause of their health problems. Barb’s husband passed away before he turned 50, causing her to reach out for fitness help. She wanted to make a change to her lifestyle so that she could see her children start a family. Her mother-in-law, however, was acting out on their family’s loss by sabotaging Barb’s weight loss strategies. By constantly keeping bad foods in the house, cooking high-fat, high calorie meals, and creating schedule conflicts with Barb’s workouts. Barb wasn’t seeing the weight loss or health improvements that she desperately needed and was blaming her mother-in-law.

It took almost 6 months, but with enough practice, Barb was able to see that her mother-in-law wasn’t trying to sabotage her efforts, but was instead trying to reach out to her in the only way she knew how – through her son’s favorite foods. Once this realization hit, and with the help of a therapist, Barb was able to connect to her mother-in-law without the use of food. Like Candice, Barb realized that nobody else was in control of what she ate. What she perceived to be a monster living in her house was merely a cry for help. She was allowing her old habits to control her lifestyle. She took what appeared to be an obstacle – a family member stopping her fitness journey – and turned it into a better experience. After that, Barb lost over 60 pounds, reduced her medication, and improved her lifestyle.

 

These are just two examples of people who have overcome their monsters. They took a close look and shined the light on them and were able to come to one conclusion – They were their own worst enemy. They were letting other things control their life.

 

Last question: Are you doing the same thing?