A Little More Each Day

One working mama learning to run & to maintain my 100+ pound weight loss!

Back to Basics: Tracking! Own it!

on September 12, 2013

A common quote you’ll hear Weight Watchers leaders spout is “Only track on the days you want to lose weight” – for me, this is absolutely true and as my husband can attest, I am a religious (almost compulsive) tracker. I got twitchy on our cruise when I couldn’t use my phone to track like normal and it was a real exercise in intuitive eating for me to practice self-regulating without my tracking app! After being overweight for years, I really don’t have a very good sense of self-regulation when it comes to food (although it is getting better), so tracking has absolutely been key to my weight loss success.

More importantly, in my mind anyway, is that this is not just a Weight Watchers idea. Using a food diary to track your daily diet has been recommended by nutritionists and diet gurus for years, with several independent studies showing that the more food records people keep, the more weight they lose. In one of the more publicized of these studies, from a large group of patients through Kaiser Permanente (J Hollis et al, 2008, American Journal of Preventive Medicine), patients who tracked their food intake at least six days a week lost twice as much weight as those who tracked one day or less for the week, even when they were otherwise given the same food and exercise education and guidelines. Several different weight loss factors were evaluated in this study and food tracking turned out to be one of the most powerful tools in their extensive weight loss program. Just being mindful of what we eat seems to limit our intake, which makes a lot of intuitive sense and I love when science and common sense come to the same conclusions!

Food tracking is helpful because it helps us to be mindful of what we put in our mouths and really take ownership of our diet. Certainly for me (and others if my WW meeting is any indication), knowing I have to log it makes me think twice about taking an extra cookie I don’t really want or need (or have the calories for in my day). It is also helpful in looking for patterns over time, including things that lead to unexpected weight gains or binges or physical symptoms.

Thanks to my tracker, I’ve noticed for me, on days I eat lots of processed carbohydrates, A) I’m starving for the rest of the day and B) I am guaranteed to have an “undeserved” gain on the scale, even when I stayed within my points for the day. It may be that on days you feel hungry, you look back and see you were low on protein that day or distributed your calories for the day differently than normal or had more alcohol than normal. I once had a huge unexpected weight gain and looked back at my tracker to see where I’d gone wrong and realized that the Japanese hibachi restaurant we ate at for dinner, while it felt healthy with all of those shrimp and veggies, actually came with a ton of soy sauce and probably contributed to my gain (thanks sodium!).

What is really interesting in some of the data about food diaries is that it doesn’t really matter how you keep track, so long as you are consciously noting what you ate (even if not the amount or nutritional information). Just taking ownership of your choices is powerful.

Some ideas for keeping track of your daily food intake:

Notebook: This is what I used when I had gestational diabetes and was tracking my daily food for carbohydrate concerns. Cheap, low tech, very easy. There are also specific tracking notebooks you can buy, if you like.

Photos on the phone: Some people even post their food on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram for accountability. I’ll take a photo if I’m somewhere I don’t have time to track my meal at the time.

SmartPhone apps: There are many, many apps and websites out there now including (but not limited to): MyfitDay, MyFitnessPal, SparkPeople (all free) and of course the Weight Watchers e-tools, which is what I use (not free). All have big databases of food already entered plus the ability to enter your own information if you want to track something they don’t include.

Email/Text Yourself: Useful if you don’t have a phone or access to your tracker.

I’ve used post-it notes and napkins and anything I could get my hands if my phone wasn’t available for some reason.

Other tips for successful tracking:

– Include any bites/licks/tastes of things. If it goes in your mouth, track it. Sometimes it’s the little things we graze on through the day, rather than our big official meals, that get us in the most trouble.

– Pre-tracking: I prep breakfast and lunch at night for the following workday during the week. As soon as I do this, I go ahead and track these things for the next day. It’s nice to already have 2/3 of my day tracked and planned because then I start the day feeling like I’m already successful in my weight maintenance tools and I know how much room I have in my calories/points for any splurges that come up or for dinner. I can always change it if I get an unexpected lunch invitation or forget my lunch at home (hate when that happens!).

– If you’re an emotional eater like me, noting your emotions or other possible triggers when you’re eating, especially if you find yourself looking back on a big slip up or binge, can be really helpful. For me, when I’m tired or worried, I want to shove things in my face until the feeling goes away. Not the healthiest coping mechanism and one I’m shifting to drinking a mug of tea or going for a walk or writing, but tracking those emotions helped me see my problem areas. Likewise, most of my unplanned eating occurs at night after dinner – seeing that pattern helped me develop tools for changing that behavior. It may help you to track where you’re eating if you’re having trouble, or who you’re eating with, to figure out what’s affecting you in your environment. Black and white data can help you identify patterns that otherwise are hard to discern.

Check out the Facebook Group for Back to Basics for other tips and advise regarding tracking this week!

*Just realized I don’t have a single pic in this post, so here’s a gratuitous shot of my little guy shopping the produce section for apples, carrots, strawberries and grapes (drawn on a piece of paper so he had his own grocery list to work with!). Gotta start those healthy habits early!



11 responses to “Back to Basics: Tracking! Own it!

  1. haha. i do the same thing with pics on posts. like let me just find a meme or something….

    great post! i’m obsessed with my phone too, i’m not big on writing things down. I used to use WW app when i was doing it but i transferred all that energy to MyFitnessPal.

  2. leannenalani says:

    Food tracking is awesome. I did it through weight loss and still track even though I’ve been on maintenance for almost 2 years. I love the MyFitnessPal app on my iPhone – It’s quick and easy to use.

    • I keep having people ask when I think I’ll be able to stop tracking but I honestly can’t imagine keeping the weight off without it. It’s so easy to let “one little thing” snowball into a giant pan of brownies.

  3. […] Back to Basics: Tracking! Own it! (littlemoreeachday.wordpress.com) […]

  4. […] Back to Basics: Tracking! Own it! […]

  5. […] us to overeat during those times can be really helpful. A journal or food diary can help you track what you’re eating and what you’re feeling during whatever your “red flag […]

  6. […] Be honest with yourself. Be honest with yourself about what you’re really eating (tracking is key in this regard for me) and how active you really are. If you’d asked me before I […]

  7. […] There are some foods I never track or count, despite my complete belief in the importance of tracking. None of these things are big enough to matter in the grand scale of things and it makes me a feel […]

  8. […] right, I, the big believer in tracking, took a vacation from tracking. That was a huge decision for me and so I thought it was worth […]

  9. […] I got back to tracking like I normally do and eating like I normally do. Thanks to all of that tracking, I was able to look back to see that yes, I have been eating within my points range for maintenance […]

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