One of the most important weight loss habits I’ve developed is tracking my food intake. Since I’ve been doing it so long, it doesn’t even feel like a chore. It just feels like part of my meal. Does the idea of recording what you eat sound awful? There are a few reasons why you might want to give it a try.
Why should we track our food intake?
If we are trying to lose weight, we need to be sure we are not eating too many calories. I think of my points/calories as a budget. I can spend my calories however I want as long as I don’t exceed my daily budget.
How do you know how many calories/points you have used and how many you have left if you aren’t recording it somewhere? While it might sound simple to keep track of it in your head, that just never worked for me. With everything we have going on in our lives, it is too easy to forget! My brain also likes to have a selective memory when it comes to food, especially food that I really didn’t have the points for.
One of the worst feelings is finding out after the fact that your meal was WAY more calories than you thought. It has happened to me, and it’s awful! Look it up before you eat and save yourself that regret and heartache!
I almost always track BEFORE I eat. If I don’t track first, I do it as soon as I am able. If it’s not in my tracker, it’s like it didn’t happen and the calories didn’t count. Of course on weigh-in day I realize that those calories definitely counted!
Tracking makes me accountable by forcing me to know the points/calories of the foods I’m eating. This gives me the opportunity to decide if it’s really worth it. When I have to write down 7-10 points for a donut, it makes me think twice. I have to evaluate how that food fits in my budget for the day and week. It is not about willpower. It’s about choice and making the best choice for my situation.
I do NOT do well with making things off limits. If I tell myself I can’t have something, I want it even more. I end up feeling deprived and restricted and then cave in and eat even more. Now I tell myself that I can have anything I want. I just have to plan for it and track it. If I can work it into my daily or weekly points budget, it is fair game.
I know that might sound crazy. I know there are plenty of you out there that HATE tracking. You find it tedious and boring and restrictive. Let me tell you why I LOVE tracking. See if this can help change your mindset, even just a little bit.
Tracking allows me to have treats and live my life without guilt and with the confidence that I can still lose weight. By tracking everything, I know that I am still following a plan and that I am still within my budget. I don’t feel guilty for “cheating” on my diet because it’s not cheating! It’s just about making smarter choices MOST of the time but still allowing for indulgences now and then.
I don’t do well with the vague idea of “oh, I’ll just eat better” or “it can’t be that bad for you.” Yes, it can be that bad for you. That salad could actually be more points than a cheeseburger. By tracking honestly, I can’t live in denial about what I’m eating. It can be hard to change if you aren’t being honest with yourself.
How should we track our food intake?
How you track is not important. There is no right way. The best option is the option you will use consistently.
1. Pen and Paper
I tracked my food with pen and paper for years. Sometimes I used weekly trackers provided by Weight Watchers and sometimes I used larger journals. If you are a visual person, you can have fun with this. Buy a pretty notebook and colored pens. You can even decorate your journal with motivating phrases or pictures.
There are lots of options out there for tracking your food intake online. If you are a WW member, you can track online in eTools. Other popular websites include My Fitness Pal, Supertracker, and Calorie Count.
3. Smartphone App
This is my new favorite way to track because I already have my phone with me everywhere I go. I don’t have to worry about fitting my food journal in my purse or remembering to take it with me. I can’t tell you how many times I used to forget my paper tracker at work and then have to try to remember what I had left for the evening. I even called a co-worker a few times and had her check my tracker for me!
Weight Watchers online and monthly pass members can use the WW Mobile app. There are also free apps for My Fitness Pal and Calorie Count.
What do you do?
I typically use a combination of tracking online and using a smartphone app. Since I’m a Weight Watchers member, I use WW eTools and WW Mobile. I admit there was an adjustment period when I started tracking digitally. For awhile, it was out of sight, out of mind. Since I didn’t see my tracker laying out on the table, I wasn’t reminded to track. Once I got used to my new system, this wasn’t a problem. Now tracking is just part of my meal! I’d love to hear your best tips and tricks for tracking!
Do NOT let money be the thing that holds you back. Buy a notebook for 10 cents and track that way. Use your phone’s notes app or download a free calorie tracking app. Just do something. Figure out what works for you and what you are willing to stick with. If one option doesn’t work well for you, don’t give up! Try another option. Tracking works if you do it and do it honestly!
Check out all my Habits of a Loser posts!!LIKE THIS