So You Want to Track Your Food
Food tracking … many will have the reflex of thinking: calories, macros, scale, writing values/weight down, using some sort of app.
Now let us set the advanced stuff aside, we’ll get back to it soon enough.
The reality is that most people with an interest in fitness will quickly stumble upon diets and people telling you how much of what you need to have, there might even be a calculator (e.g. MyFitnessPal) for you to get the number of calories and macronutrients down to the gram. The topic of meal prep and a couple of diets may arise as well.
It’s all there, on one page and all that’s left is for us to simply completely stop doing nutrition the way we have been so far and commence executing the new plan.
Please stop, and think back a little. Life is not black and white, there is a lot in between. I do believe there is a good number of you guys with the ability to take upon such changes without stress.
However, for the majority, it is the ineffective method which will last for a week or two and get left behind after, because of drastic change.
Why food track at all?
Diets, health, weight-loss, performance and so on. For whatever the goal, we need to build awareness over our food intake and gain control of the nutrients we decide to take into our body.
During years of our lives, we have had thousands upon thousands of meals, each and every one of us have established a habit of taking food a certain way.
Even if we think we know everything about our food, there are still things we have gotten used not to pay attention to. Hence the change we want to bring should be taken in gradual steps if we want to build new habits without stress so they would last for longer than two weeks.
Here it all begins, before deciding upon changing anything, we have to assess the situation. Building an in-depth awareness of our eating habits is the fundamental step towards taking actual control of our diet.
This is the reason why I always recommend everyone to start with a journal for the first 2 to 4 weeks.
A simple yet underestimated tool. Start simple and add complexity when the time comes.
For the purpose of journaling, I want to tell you following. Take pen and paper, something tactile, a simple notebook is enough as long as it collects your handwritten notes.
The writing down itself is already valuable, even if you won’t read it in the future, writing down makes sure you are actively thinking about the process. And if you do read your notes at the end of the day or week, your perception will increase by enormous steps.
What to write?
First and foremost, write down the times of every meal you had and how much time it took. It is important for you to visualize how much time you spend with the food that ends up building your body, and how many meal sessions a day and when you have them.
Also, write a little note down about your state of mind. Were you mindful while eating, were you enjoying your food, were you paying any attention at all at the food you were eating while watching TV, were you sitting or walking on the street?
Focus and stress influence how you digest the food, putting it into your mouth doesn’t put it into your system.
Build the habit of tracking your meals, start by doing so for at least 2 to 4 weeks.
Practice makes perfect … NO … Practice makes habits.
Now the food
Now that you built awareness of your eating habits, it is only natural to start taking note of the food itself. There you do the same thing as before, except you write down the food items (porridge, apple, rice, chicken, vegetables, nuts etc.), if you feel like it, add an estimation of the weight, how much do you think it was. You can have a read in the evening and see what is all the stuff you’ve been ingesting.
And if you have been extra nerdy and taking pictures, at the end of the week you can read through a week worth of notes, look at a week worth of pictures (before deleting them) and visualize how much you have been eating and what it actually is.
All that stuff, that’s your body composition.
The scale and the calculations (logging into an app).
If you have gotten that far you re rather likely to want to in depth information of your food intake, like the total amount of calories and macros.
Here you are cooking the majority of your meals which means that you can weigh the ingredients separately and have precise measurements resulting in more accurate tracking.
You also build up a feeling for weight and portions, so if you’re eating out and there’s no scale or barcode to scan, you simply estimate and log the approximate size. No need to worry either, a couple of calories here or there isn’t the end of the world.
Even though unusual, I hope that these steps make sense and you can see why actually knowing the food you eat is important. You are what you eat, and how you eat it makes a big difference.
Personally, I was astonished to see how efficient the human body is, to realize how much junk I was really allowing myself to eat, and after some time … how much the body composition can change after consistently eating healthy. Feeling good and fresh more than ever before.