Wednesday, December 14, 2011

This is how we do it. Part 2 - Log your food!

I'm a bit disappointed with my lack of creativity for the title of this "episode," if you will.  It is a very important episode, nonetheless!

I am convinced that it is not possible to conquer the formidable beast that is weight-loss until you've been very, very honest with yourself about your real eating habits.  They may not seem terrible, but you will be amazed at how quickly things add up, and how it causes you to reevaluate how and why you do things.

MyFitnessPal's smartphone app.
I started using MyFitnessPal's website and smart phone app on my iPod Touch about a year and a half ago as an occasional calorie calculator, but started using it as my food journal this March.  Maybe you're more constantly aware of what you're eating than I was, but starting to take stock of every little thing you consume during the day is interesting.  And sometimes disconcerting...  And sometimes challenging...  One thing it most definitely is, is enlightening.

There are lots of options out there for food journaling.  I've tried several, and have really found MyFitnessPal to be the best.  Not only can you track your calories, but you can keep regular track of your exercise, weight, measurements, and see instant progress reports.  The smartphone app is a particularly helpful tool when you're on the go, making it a little less stressful when you're out of your element at a friend's for dinner, out to eat, and so on.  It automatically syncs with whatever you do on the website, as well.  I use both the app and the website daily.  There are also these newfangled gadgets like pens and paper...  Whatever your preferred medium, keeping daily track of what you consume is essential.

Each day, I go online and I see my calorie goals, as well as a breakdown of carbs, protein, fat, sodium, and fiber.  These are just guidelines, and you can very easily change them manually if you want.  I go with what's suggested, and so far, so good.  I usually allow for more protein and a bit less carbs.  I am not an uber-advocate of low-carb eating, I just know how my body responds to things.

I'm fortunate that I already had a pretty good understanding of what's good for me and what isn't, so I look at my daily calorie allotment and figure out how I can maximize it.  If I've got 1500 calories I can consume today, I could eat a few things that aren't as good for me, or I could figure out a way to eat better food and snacks more often.

Which brings me back to the whole enlightening thing...

Logging my food has made me far more aware of what's going in, and inevitably causes me to rethink some of my choices.  Things start to add up really, really quickly.  It has also made me very aware of portion sizes.  There were many times where I'd measure something out and think, "That's IT?!"  Well, that leaves you with a few choices.  You can either work with it, find an alternative, or eliminate it altogether.

Goat cheese!
For example, I love goat cheese. A lot.  At first, a portion of it seemed like nothing.  However, 1oz of goat cheese really does go a long way.  Long enough to put it on 11 pretzel crisps for a very delicious 190 calorie appetizer or snack.  Are there other snacks with fewer calories?  Oh, yeah.  Of course.  But I want goat cheese.

So, step one to changing your relationship with food?  Start getting to know it by keeping track of it.  It has been the catalyst for all of the other amazing growth I've had in learning how to be in control and truly enjoy food more than I ever have before.


  1. I haven't done this with what I'm eating. Ironically, I just did a post earlier this week titled "This Is How Nerds Do It" about my menu planning for the week and how I use it to help me grocery shop and take control of my finances. If you want to take a look:

    I don't really have anything in the house other than what's planned on the menu so it prevents absent minded eating. I do think it'd be interesting to track those spontaneous moments or those moments where you find yourself out and about to have meals with family or friends. I think that could have a huge impact on what you order or consume. Goodness, that's hard core dedication for you there! Great example.

  2. I think another benefit to keeping a food log/diary is that it can help deter you from eating something you know you shouldn't. It's worked for me! Somehow, the idea of having to write down that I ate a slice of pizza or cookies or whatever is enough to keep me from eating it! Also, it helps curb my night-time snacking (one of my biggest struggles), because I'll see that I've already eaten enough carbs for the day... unlike you, I am an uber-advocate of low-carb eating, and proud of it! ;-)