Tracking and logging your food can seem tedious. It also can seem like you’re taking away the freedom of food and making everything a process and a mathematical equation.
I have most if not all my clients track and log their food. I always allow someone to not track if they choose not to, but my most successful clients track and log their food when they are working with me. The ones that refuse or “forget” or say “it isn’t possible” and “they’re too busy” are the ones who struggle to see results or feel like progress is dragging by. They’ve been working with me for 6 months and haven’t lost a single pound and compare themselves to a client who has lost 7 inches around her waist or the one who keeps PR’ing at the gym. Unfortunately, those clients are dedicated enough to track and log their food to see results.
Tracking teaches awareness
It’s THE best way to gain awareness about the portions you’re putting into your body. Don’t believe me? Grab a spoon and take out that scoop of peanut butter you typically eat. You probably look at it and guess there’s approximately a tablespoon, so about 8g of fats in that serving. Now actually measure how much you’re scooping out, either using a physical tablespoon or for more accuracy weigh it. I can almost guarantee you’re scooping out double or triple if not quadruple what you think is “1 tbsp”. That’s up to 30g of fats more than what you’re supposed to be eating which is an extra 300 calories you’re not taking into account.
You don’t just do this with peanut butter. You do this with everything you’re eating. None of us can look at a piece of chicken and go “oh yes that’s 4oz”. It takes practice and awareness, skills that measuring your food and tracking it provides.
Dieting isn’t easy. It’s a fine science and comes down to numbers. When I take on a client, I first calculate how much they’re currently eating. I can’t know this unless they track and log their food. Why do I need to know this? Because I need to know where they’re at, what their baseline is, what kinds of foods they like, how many meals they like to eat, and more. Tracking and logging tells you all of this. It tells you what your diet fingerprint is. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we are all different and our nutrition should reflect those differences. Next, I calculate based off of their age, weight, height, and activity level, how many calories they should be eating so I can get them to eating that amount. #1 I can’t get them eating this amount if they don’t track it for me and #2 I also can’t get them eating that amount in a day if they’re currently eating 1000 calories less than that. Again, it all comes to awareness.
It’s also VERY hard to reach your goals blind, without knowing where you’re at and what you’re eating. Remember the mantra:
Calories in = calories out
If you plan to lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than you’re burning. If you plan to gain weight, you need to eat more calories than you’re burning. You also want to be doing this in the healthiest way possible. The only way to know you’re eating in a deficit without tracking is to make it very very obvious, which means you’ll be restricting WAY too much and will face some serious health risks in the process. The same goes for gaining weight. The only way to know without tracking is to eat an obvious increase of food, which will force you to gain MORE weight than you weight, most of it being fat instead of lean muscle.
Tracking your food let’s you reach your goals with the minimum effective dose of dieting. It let’s you lose weight in a 300-500 calorie deficit instead of a 1000 calorie deficit. This means you can do the bare minimum when it comes to dieting and still see results. It also let’s you try some of the sexy and fun things with your diet. You can try carb cycling, carb backloading, refeeds, the Matador protocol, intermittent fasting, and so much more because you’re embracing the science. These sexy, fun tools also will help you see results faster while seemingly eating more food. Take refeeds. They are programmed days with an extra 100g-200g carbohydrates during your diet phase that keep you adherent during the long haul.
Tracking also lets you stay healthy while reaching your goals and teaches you about portion sizes and how to listen to your body. You’re able to pay attention to when you forget to eat 100g carbs and you have a headache the next day or you feel like shit in the gym.
Now the problem with tracking is that people take it to the extreme. They track like their lives depend on it, which ends up creating too stressful of an environment. Use tracking not as a means of punishment but as a learning tool to help you be your healthiest and most successful self.
You have to earn the right to eat intuitively.
My goal with tracking is that when you’re done working with me, you never have to track again. It is not my goal to have everyone track their macros and weigh and measure out their food for the rest of their lives. I actually require a 30-day termination notice NOT because I want their money but because I focus that last month on how to transition off of counting macros and transition into habits-based intuitive eating that actually works. But by this point, every client has worked with me for a minimum of 3 months. Most however, stay with me for 6 months if not a whole year…if not longer than that. They’ve earned the right to eat intuitively. They’ve practiced portion control. They’ve learned how to listen to their bodies. We’ve practiced trial-runs of intuitive eating to see where they fall short and where they can improve. They learn all the skills that make intuitive eating great.
Tracking is like taking a driver’s course to learn to drive. You don’t just start driving on the roads and hope it will all fall into place. Instead, you take some time in the classroom and learn the rules. Then you take it to a parking lot to practice. Then maybe a neighborhood with not too much traffic. Then you take it out on the road, but even then you’re not alone. You’ve got your instructor or a parent. You have your learner’s permit for 6 months up to a year before taking the test and earning your license.
Our nutrition is the same way. If you’re truly dedicated to making change, be open to the idea of tracking. Ask questions. Learn the ins and outs and commit yourself 100% to the process. The sooner you do that, the sooner you never have to do it again.