Tracking and weighing food. Most people dread the idea of keeping a food diary or tracking their calories. It’s unnatural, uncomfortable, and takes away from the organic process of eating some would say. I agree to be honest. Constantly taking your phone or food diary out to log what you eat and how much you eat can be at the very least a hassle, and at its worst bordering on a eating disorder It’s definitely unnatural to look at your food as simply chemicals and numbers, our ancestor’s were not “tracking macros” or concerned with eating to many carbs. And it was not until the early 20th century when nutritional science emerged that these mechanical attitudes towards food were developed.
But consider that loosing weight (particularly bodyfat) and building muscle are not “natural” goals for the human body. If you have a significant amount of bodyfat to loose, or are looking to build as much muscle as possible realize that neither of those goals are “natural”. Outside of modern agricultural society the human body would “naturally” be very unlikely to become obese. On the other hand the human body would not “naturally” hold 20-40lbs of extra muscle mass. Both goals are made possible because of the advent of agriculture and food technology, which have allowed us to harness vast amounts of energy with minimal physical effort, along with increased cultural vanity. Do you really think our paleolithic ancestors were 60lbs overweight? Or able to sustain the metabolic demands of carrying 35 extra pounds of lean muscle mass? I’m going to argue no. Therefore, why would a natural approach to eating work to achieve such unnatural goals? I would argue that tracking your caloric intake and weighing your food for a predetermined period of time, is the MOST important and necessary nutritional habit someone can develop to achieve a fitness goal related to body composition (i.e. loosing bodyfat or gaining muscle).
Here are 3 reasons why should start tracking and weighing.
You actually know how much you should eat and how much you are eating.
Everyone claims they don’t eat a lot. But how much you really need to consume to maintain your weight may be even less than you think. Once you have a general idea of what your caloric intake should be, then you have at the very least guidance towards your goal, if you don’t know this basic number you are blind and have no sense of direction.
Without direction, you can’t be consistent, without consistency you won’t achieve your goals. This is so important because consistency is key when it comes to body composition related goals. Loosing body fat and building muscle take time, a lot of time actually. Most don’t realize that under eating 3 out of the 7 days each week may not be enough to be loose weight each week. The same can be said of those looking to add muscle mass, if you stuff your face every weekend but revert back to eating one meal a day for the other 5 days of the week, you won’t be gaining weight. It’s not about what you do in a single day or even over the course of a week, it’s about concentrated consistent effort over the course of many months.
Once you understand your caloric needs, then comes the task of figuring out how much this translates to in actual food portions. Then comes the issue of misjudging or guessing about portions. This is where the dreaded digital food scale comes in handy. Unfortunately, what you might perceive as “alot” or “not much at all” may be objectively more or less than what you assume. When it comes to portioning, most of us either overestimate or underestimate, and unless you have consistently weighed your food with an electronic scale you unfortunately cannot accurately guess how much you eat. This is why I highly recommend getting a digital food scale and weighing your food for at least several months, 3-6 months, but a year would be more ideal. This way, you will be able to guesstimate in the future accurately and no longer rely on the food scale. This also makes your life easier because you become familiar with portions and caloric amounts for various foods you eat on a regular basis. This knowledge leads to better food choices and more appropriate portioning, which in turn means long term success.
You can plan for those “uh oh” moments and turn them into controlled indulgences.
Remember when you ate a whole package of cookies ( I do ) and thought to yourself , “Uh oh well there goes my diet! Might as well give up now.” When you track your food you can plan for little splurges and indulgences while staying on track towards your goal. This also can turn your diet into a game. Let’s say you follow the 90/10 rule which i recommend to all my clients with weight loss goals, strive to have 90% of your caloric intake be whole unprocessed foods, let the other 10% be a small treat for you. Obviously, on holidays and special events you can use your own judgment for how much you should indulge, but you should indulge on these days and all you have to do is plan for it.
For example, lets assume someone was eating approximately 2250 calicoes per day to loose approximately 1-1.5lb per week. Using the 90/10 rule, this person should aim to eat 2025 calories a day from whole unprocessed high quality foods (90% of their caloric intake), and use the additional 225 calories (10% of their caloric intake) to allocate towards whatever small treat they want. This means each day you could eat 3 cookies as opposed to a whole box and still be on target to reach your weight loss goal.
You can be an actual functioning human being
When tracking your calories you can still have a social life eat out and overall enjoy life while still working towards a fitness goal. I don’t expect my clients to track every single thing they consume of every single day, being successful 90% of the time will lead to excellent results for most, and while 100% is always the goal the reality is fitness is not most people’s first priority, and that’s perfectly okay.
With that in mind, during times where you do go out to eat or to a family party during the holidays, if you continue to track your calories you can enjoy yourself and still continue down the path of success towards your goals without any guilt or self resentment or negative emotions surrounding eating. This again goes back to planning. If you know of an indulgent day or meal that revolves around food, you can plan for it and not abandon your goals all together because of one meal or even day of indulging. This could mean reducing your caloric intake for a few days after, or for a few days before your indulgence. If you are planning for a large festive day of eating, or planning for a large indulgent meal, you should strive to eat less calorically dense meals early in the day before that awesome dinner out or Christmas gorging. This way you can regularly enjoy yourself and continue to work towards your goals without feeling guilty, discouraged, or upset which should never be emotions that surround eating.
All of these benefits made possible because of actually tracking (and for a while weighing) what you consume! I’m not saying we should ultimately weigh all our food with a digital scale at all times for the rest of our lives, all I’m really recommending is if you have a goal that relates to body composition (i.e. building muscle, or loosing fat) you need to track your food for at least that period of time. Most importantly if you have never weighed or tracked your food before, I highly recommend you start now if you are pursuing a body composition related goal. Now go out there and track some food!