Food Tracking: A Tale of Choice and Caution

After a lengthy hiatus, I have taken up food tracking again.

I initially used tracking at the beginning of my health journey, but decided to cut it out after about a year partially due to laziness but mostly because I felt like I had my eating habits under control.

Food tracking is tedious and after a while I just found it to be a major pain in my ass. I also wasn’t a fan of feeling beholden to a magic number.

If you have read anything I have written you know that I don’t believe in using numbers such as weight or even measurements as a barometer for success. Numbers tend to get us caught up in only one aspect of health and can lead to unhealthy decisions in order to reach those goals.

I much prefer to track my progress by how my clothes fit, how much more I can run this week compared to last month and of course most importantly, how I feel.

However food tracking was not without its benefits. It taught me portion control and definitely provided me with a wake up call when I saw just how many calories I was eating in comparison to what was recommended for my age, weight and activity level.

I ain’t taking a few 100 calories here, I am talking like 1000+ some days!
And thus the reason I have decided to make it apart of my routine again, I need to regain a handle on my portions as well as my sugar intake.

However disciplined I have become, my ability to not eat a whole pint of ice cream on a Saturday could use some work!

I would like to caution you though that food tracking is not for everyone and I can not tell you what is best for you. I can help you out by doing a bit of the leg work and compiling a list of pros, cons and things to look out for if you decide to give food tracking a try.

The rest my friends is up to you.

The Good

You Will Be More Mindful of What You Eat

This is my main reason for tracking. Sometimes I don’t realize how big my portion is or how much sugar I might be consuming throughout the day. Sugar is hidden in everything and I want to avoid it as much as possible!

Tracking will also make you think twice before grabbing a donut out of the break room. Sometimes we eat food simply because it is there and it looks good without really thinking to whether it benefits us and how all these little indulgences begin to add up throughout the day.

Overall, writing down what you eat will definitely make you more conscious of what you are piling into your mouth. You are making more decisions about food in a day than you realize. Simply being aware you have choices can help you become more mindful.

Become A Better Decision Maker

Once you realize all the times you are forced to make a choice regarding food throughout the day, you will start to think more about the decision you are making. When you consider any behaviour change you undertake you need to realize that it all comes down to the tiny decisions you make everyday.

Do I add sweetener to my coffee?
Do I have another portion?
Do I eat one of Sheryl’s cupcakes simply because she was nice enough to offer me one? (Damn you Sheryl and your moist AF cupcakes!)

These are all small decisions that you do always realize you making, and trust me they all add up!

You Shall Gain Knowledge

Tracking your food intake may spark an interest in nutrition or at the very least some base knowledge. You will naturally overtime gain a better understanding of what is in the food you are eating. As a society we are not in the habit of reading our food labels and often think things may be healthier than they are.

Think of the foods you eat all the time. Do you know how much protein it contains? How much sugar? Probably not. But in my opinion we all should. Our body is our vehicle and we are all walking around with no idea what we are fuelling it with.

Get past the  branding and look at the label. Just because it says organic does not mean it does not also contain 5 tsps of sugar. The more you know the better choices you will make. 

Think about it.

The Bad

Obsession

It is entirely possible that you may become utterly obsessed with tracking food. This is a problem. This had been my problem as well. As soon as you feel you are getting to the point where anxiety kicks in the second you are nearing that calorie limit you need to stop! I have seen people skip whole meals or cancel plans to avoid difficult food situations.

Food tracking should only be used as long as it is helping you become healthier. As soon as it starts to creates others problems, stop.

I became overweight because of a negative relationship with food. Let’s not replace it with a new one.

Applying Stringent Solutions

It is very possible that you also become obsessed with certain ingredients in foods and find yourself cutting out entire food groups or avoiding them in an attempt to lose weight.

Example, I knew someone in an effort to cut back on sugar avoided fruit almost entirely. Cutting out entire food groups or even never allowing yourself to have something you enjoy even occasionally will not help you in the long run.

Disordered Eating Patterns 

This is one I am guilty of in the past, especially when I first started and was desperate to see results quick.

I would eat almost all of my calories by say 4pm and then not eat for the rest of the day.

Perhaps for you, you don’t eat breakfast so you pack in any unused calories late at night before bed.

This is not a smart approach.

Ideally you should be eating small, frequent meals throughout out the day (this includes eating breakfast people!!!)  Eating all day can help you feel less tempted by the monster-size food portions that are rampant in our society!

So space out your food intake, and if you use all your calories by 4pm and feel starving at 8pm. Please eat something. You might go over your daily calories but if this experience becomes one of deprivation, it is not a healthy fit for you.

My Biggest Tip to Safe & Sane Food Tracking 

Food tracking is honestly as likely to have a negative effect as a positive one.

That is why my biggest tip when food tracking is to not focus on accuracy and definitely not perfection.

As soon as you start measuring or weighing everything you eat with the absolute precision you are going to far! Perhaps you can not find the exact item in your tracking app and you become panicky that your entry isn’t a 100% accurate, you need to take a step back.

Some days you might go over your goal. That is totally okay. If anything I now look at the occasional experience of seeing a number in red with a giant minus in front of it (not intimidating at all….) as a healthy thing.

You need to enjoy life and treat your self. People need balance.

Like I said at the start of this post, the aim of tracking is simply to be more mindful.

My main take away from tracking is the process of thinking about what I  have eaten gives me a minute to pause and reflect on my choice and subsequent decision. That alone can be a very powerful experience you if you eat simply out of habit or the fact we seems to be constantly surrounded by sugary pastries. If you are  not aware that you have a decision in front of you, then it is like you have no choice at all.

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I hope this post will help you if you are either considering tracking or are perhaps struggling with it.

If you have any questions, comments or other suggestions please do not hesitate to comment below.

Thanks for reading and have a good one!

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