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Tracking vs. Intuitive Eating

Tracking vs. Intuitive Eating

Is tracking food or eating intuitively right for you? How do you know? What’s the difference between tracking your food and eating intuitively?

Well, as clique as it sounds, it depends.

Sometimes clients come to us with a preconceived notion that they don’t want to track their food, or that tracking won’t be right for them even if they’ve never tried it before.

Sometimes clients just want a better relationship with food and don’t feel like they need to track what they’re consuming in order to achieve that goal.

And then there’s the client who has been a part of our program for quite some time, has learned the benefits of tracking their food intake, achieved various goals, and is ready, willing, and wanting to take an intuitive eating approach.

There are different points in people’s lives, or during the year that I believe it is more beneficial to track calories, or macros and times when I believe it is more beneficial for that person to eat intuitively. Myself included. There are even days of the week that I prioritize eating intuitively versus tracking my food.

For instance, during the holiday season (Thanksgiving-New Year’s), I usually take an intuitive eating approach, or simply just track my protein intake to ensure I’m getting an adequate amount of protein in daily (let’s be honest, no one wants to track their food on Thanksgiving and Christmas). When it comes to the rest of my food consumption on those days, I eat when I’m hungry, and I don’t eat when I’m not. If I’m craving something special like pizza, sushi, Half Baked Harvest Crinkle Top Brownies, or anything else, 9/10 I will eat the dang pizza, or brownies and not feel bad about it.

However, during the rest of the year I track my intake more closely, whether I’m in a cut, maintenance, or a bulking phase to ensure I’m staying on track with whatever goal I’m trying to achieve. However, there’s always a day or two out of every week where I choose to eat more intuitively if I want.

Whether, or not I suggest a client track their food, or eat intuitively is also heavily dependent on their goals. For instance, if your goal is fat loss, it might be more beneficial for you at the time to track what you’re eating in order to determine how many calories your consuming on a daily basis to ensure you’re in a deficit. However, if you’ve been tracking for a while and feel like you need a break, intuitive eating might be the best approach for you.

I want this blog to not only be a way for you to deifier the difference between tracking food and intuitive eating, but also help you determine which one might be the best option for you in this season of life you’re in as well as establish the place each tool has in one’s day to day life.

So let’s get started.

First let’s talking about tracking food.

What does tracking food look like?

Honestly, tracking looks different for everybody.

Some people like to track every day, some people every other day, or once or twice a week.

Some people track macros, some people just track protein and calories, some people just track calories.

Some people use precise weighing and measuring, some people use hand sized-portions.

Some people use an app to track their food, some people keep a hand-written journal. You get the point, the bottom line is the possibilities are endless!

As I mentioned before, whether or not tracking is right for someone and what that might look like for them is heavily dependent on their goals.

A lot of the time clients come to us with a preconceived notion that they eat “healthy,” or only consume “X” amount of calories, but can’t seem to lose weight, gain weight, or aren’t seeing any body composition changes. However, after a few days of actually logging and tracking their food, us coaches, can see where the issue lies.

Maybe the client is an active female looking to lose weight, but is only eating 1,000 calories a day and 50g of protein but had no idea!

Maybe a male client is looking to just improve overall health but doesn’t eat a single fruit, or vegetable throughout the day but wasn’t conscious of this!

The numbers don’t lie. Which is why tracking can be such a beneficial tool for some clients when they aren’t seeing progress and have no idea why.

That active female client looking to lose weight but only eating 1,000 calories a day and 50g of protein needs a coach to educate her on the benefits of protein and to reverse diet her to consume more calories.

That male client looking to improve his overall health, but isn’t eating fruits or vegetables needs a coach to encourage him to eat a dang vegetable and/or fruit.

Tracking food consumption is a way to “lay on the cards on the table,” so to speak and can help coaches and clients pinpoint problem areas on paper.

It’s also important for athletes, or people looking to optimize their performance in the gym to track their food from time to time, if not every day, to ensure their fueling or replenishing their bodies pre/post-workout.

Without tracking their food for a period of time, these imaginative clients wouldn’t have known that what they were eating was actually hindering them from achieving the goals they set out for themselves to begin with.

However, tracking food, calories, macros, etc., is just a TOOL in our tool belt to be utilized to do just that, help us reach our goals. Tracking is not meant to be stressful, or create any anxiety around eating or food in general. Some people can go every day tracking their food and be unfazed, but some people only need to track for a certain period of time before their ready for our next topic…intuitive eating.

What even is intuitive eating?

Intuitive eating has multiple “by the book” definitions, but the way I like to explain it to people is basically going off your body’s intuition for what it needs or wants, or it’s need for food without conscious reasoning.

Going back to the female client who’s goal was to lose weight but was only eating 1,000 calories a day and 50 grams of protein, she might learn from working with a coach that only eating 1,000 calories might actually prevent her from losing weight. Her coach would reverse diet her up to her maintenance calories within a few months and then be able to successfully put her in the deficit she needs to lose the 10-20lbs she wants while educating and keeping her healthy along the way!

After receiving the education she needs from months of working with her coach, this client might want to take an intuitive eating approach. This might look something like this for that client…

“I know I need to get in at least a palm sized portion of lean protein in at each meal and half of my plate needs to be filled with veggies. From there I know I can include a cupped hand-sized portion of carbs and one or two thumb-sized portions of healthy fats. If I’m still hungry after my meal and I want a cookie, I can eat a cookie.”

If this client is getting in three to four meals in a day and one to two snacks. She would be hitting about what her daily caloric needs would be if she was logging what she was consuming into a tracker.

Same thing would apply to the male client in the tracking section above who never ate any fruits and vegetables. He would learn from his coach the benefits of vegetable and fruit consumption at each meal and once he started to implement this habit into his day-to-day life could start focusing on other aspects of his nutrition like protein, or what his pre/post-workout meals should look like.

Going back to the athlete example in the tracking section above, intuitive eating for the same client might look like them knowing “Hey, I know I need to get some carbs and protein in pre-workout and post-workout, so 1-2 hours before I’ll have some Greek yogurt with berries, or other fruit, and then post-workout I’ll have my shake with whey protein powder and carb powder (dextrose) and then I’ll be good to go.”

Because at one point this client tracked his or her food, they know that they will be getting about 20-30 grams of protein and 30-40 grams of carbs in pre and post-workout without weighing and measuring and without logging their food into a tracker.

Notice how in all these examples each clients tracked or logged their food at some point in time BEFORE taking an intuitive eating approach. Their coach had them track their food for a few months to educate them not only the amount of food they were consuming, but also what their food was actually comprised of.

Intuitive eating is that next step that a client is looking to take when they’ve been educated on what a balanced meal looks like and how much they actually need to be eating in order to achieve their goals.

Again, intuitive eating is just a TOOL to be used when we need it, not something that should be stressful, or take much forethought.

I hope that after reading this blog you at have a general idea of what tracking food, or intuitive eating looks like, but again, no matter which approach you take, it looks different for everybody.

And that’s the beautiful part of nutrition and our coaching style at Clar-e-ty. We’re always evaluating and developing a plan that’s specific to YOU in whatever season of life you’re in whether you’re tracking your food, or eating intuitively, or whatever the case may be.

If you’re unsure on what approach might be best for you, or not even sure where to start, apply for coaching or a consult call here and let us help you figure out what’s best for YOU!


This article was written by Coach Ashley. Ashley has been a coach with Clar-e-ty since Winter 2020 and is excited to be apart of the Clar-e-ty team!!

Apply here to work with Ashley.


Resources and Coaching:

Online Coaching here.

[Free] Nutrition Guide here.

Recipe & Macro Guide here.

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