Should I Track My Meals?
A question I get asked a lot about is tracking meals.
For me, there is no clear cut answer and it really depends on a few different factors which I am going to go into in a little bit of detail for you.
1. Do you know what you are eating & are you seeing results?
People are notoriously bad at underestimating what they ACTUALLY eat.
This is a common flaw within us all.
We forget snacks that we had, we underestimate our portion sizes and we forget to add in beverages.
Don't worry, you aren't alone in doing this. In fact it is one of the major flaws in epidemiological studies.
So if you have been stuck at a plateau for awhile and aren't seeing any progress, I would suggest that for 9/10 of you, you would be underestimating your calories.
This includes calories on the weekend to BTW as they still count ;)
If you don't know, you don't know...
So getting an idea of what you are eating can be a great first step to take stock and find out where you are at.
Then you can start to put a plan of attack into action about what you can do.
If you need help with what to do to put a plan of attack into place THIS BLOG walks you through how to design your own meal plan including calories and macros.
2. Are you working toward a specific goal with a deadline?
When I am comp prepping I track my food.
When I am not, I don't bother.
When you are working toward a specific goal, tracking your food can help keep you accountable, make sure you are on track and make sure you are hitting your progress markers along the way.
Plus, you know what to tweak if you stop making progress!
But, when you are just living a healthy lifestyle and either maintaining your goal, or maybe even bulking it isn't necessary that you do track.
Tracking can become obsessive. You can get so caught up in the numbers that you forget about enjoying life.
That's why I recommend tracking to get an idea of where you are, and then when you are working toward a specific goal.
3. Are You A Secret Eater?
I don't know if you have ever watched the show 'Secret Eaters' but it is quite an interesting show.
Like my 1st point, you can easily underestimate your calories or forget about meals you have eaten.
But also, do you hide meals that you have?
Do you eat meals in your car away from family or friends...?
Or wait til everyone has left the house, or gone to bed to have some chocolate?
You may be hiding these meals from others, but you aren't hiding them from yourself.
By tracking your meals you are laying bare what you are having.
Sure you can not log your food.... but it just adds an extra layer of accountability and thought that has to go into your food.
Which can create second thoughts and give you more willpower to say no!
The first step to resolving an issue is to acknowledge it.
So if you are having problems with secret eating, but can't quite seem to have the strength to stop... having to log your food in can help be a bit of a wake up call and a great first step to healing your relationship with food.
4. Are You Worried About Nutrient Deficiencies?
Tracking your food can be a great tool to help give you peace of mind against developing a nutrient deficiency, especially when you first change your diet.
You can track you macro and micronutrients (depending on what app you use) to make sure you are hitting your recommended amounts each day.
Note... this is not a fool proof solution, as depending on your gut microbiome, levels when you start out, nutrient timing, timing of nutrient blockers with food (ie. coffee, green tea), stress levels, hormones, gene mutations etc you may absorb vitamins differently.
But it is a good way to keep in the loop and get a fair idea of how you are tracking. This teamed with regular blood tests can help give you peace of mind that you are on the right track and can really help you stay in tune with your body.
Now that you know some of the reasons WHY you might like to track your meals, how do you track your meals?
There are two main apps you can use
- myfitnesspal (MFP)
Personally, I use MFP. Although the data doesn't go into as much detail in the free version I have been using it for a very long time and it is what I am used to.
If you are starting from scratch, unless you wanted to share data with someone who already uses MFP, I would get started on chronometer as the micronutrient data is next level.
Then you just start logging your food.
There are two ways you can log... the first is to log all you plan to eat tomorrow in advance and make sure you are hitting your targets.
The second is to do it as you go, then fill any gaps with a 'makeshift' meal to fill any gaps, make up macros & micros etc.
Until you get the hang of what foods contain what, I definitely recommend inputting in advance and then sticking to your plan.
Again, this helps create accountability as you know in advance what you are going to eat and you just have to follow the plan.
It makes life a lot easier.
Then, as you go along you assess your progress and make tweaks to what you are doing.
NOTE... you don't make major changes, minor tweaks often yield the best results and if you do one tweak at a time you can see if that has a positive or negative impact.
If you need help with coming up with a plan of attack and want one on one help setting up your meal plan, macros and calories - private coaching is a good option for you, as I can walk you through the process and check in with you daily to make sure you are logging and are on track with everything! You can find out more about that by CLICKING HERE.
So I hope this has helped you decide if tracking is right for you at this point in time.
If you are still a bit confused about it, or need more help, let me know in the comments below what you are struggling with and I will help you out :)
P.S. Have you joined my health & fitness motivation community yet? If not, what are you waiting for... JOIN HERE
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