I never count calories now. I haven’t for years.
I eat whole natural foods and I know my calorie intake will be where it should be.
Really the only time you need to count calories is when you have to worry about calories in vs. calories out. And that only happens when you don’t consume quality calories.
So while I’ll make basic notes about to help guide my eating, I don’t that often use a calorie counter or food tracking app.
However, there will be periods of time that spur me to be curious about my exact macronutrient breakdown, which is when I turn to a calorie counter/food tracking app.
Food logs or food tracking apps/websites are a great way to help you really be conscious about what you are eating. While I think calorie counting is awful and stressful, I think tracking what you are eating can be super helpful.
If we aren’t truly aware of what we are consuming, how are we going to know what needs to be changed if we aren’t making progress? If we are succeeding, how are we going to know what works so that we can keep doing it?
That is where a food log comes in handy.
Anyway, after our Metabolic Typing workshop at Innovative Results, I became interested to see my exact macronutrient breakdowns.
I generally don’t worry about exactly what ratios I’m eating. I focus on eating meats and veggies as the base of my diet, with carb cycling throughout the week. My carbs include rice, potatoes, fruit and the occasional corn tortilla.
I knew my carbs stayed low, under 60g, on most days and about 150-300g on carb refeeds (with my fat intake under 50g on carb days).
But I honestly had no idea what my fat and protein intakes truly were.
So I decided to try out a food tracking app.
In the past I’ve used Fitday.com.
And I like Fit Day, but honestly, it isn’t the easiest thing in the world to use. If you are willing to spend the time to put in your own foods and the nutritional breakdown, it is perfect.
I’ve also had clients use Spark People and love it. I found it easy to use and liked that it had some good information in addition to the tracker for anyone using the site.
But I decided to try out My Fitness Pal since a ton of my clients love it and I’ve liked using the phone app with them.
I’ve only used it with clients and never really sat down and fully used it myself so I was curious to really give it a try.
And it is pretty darn great and tracks a ton of stuff.
I customized my own macronutrient ratios and there are a ton of foods listed in the counter already.
It is also super easy to save a meal so that you don’t have to go back through and select the list of foods in that meal every time you eat it (which for me is great since I eat a lot of the same meals over and over again).
Of course, I was amused by how many different foods there were in there….It is always interesting to see what people consider healthy…Lots of soy milk lattes and sugar-free things….YUCK!
There were also a lot more restaurant dishes and processed foods than whole natural ones. Which I guess, at least, allows people to know what they are eating when they eat out. But still, it is sad to see how much of even the diet of people trying to be “healthy” is really processed crap.
At least though, people are CONSCIOUS of what they are eating when they track it. Because so many people aren’t conscious of what they eat.
And being conscious of what you eat is extremely important. As I said above, if you know what you are consuming, you can figure out what is working and what isn’t.
Same thing goes for tracking your workouts.
Which is why it is nice that My Fitness Pal allows you to track your goals AND your workouts along with your food.
However, while I like the food tracking portion of this app, I can’t say I’m a fan of how the other two sections work.
I like that they exist…Just not how they work.
Under goals, you can choose macronutrient goals. You can even take a few measurements. You can record how many times a week you want to workout. Which is great.
But really the main focus is on weight loss. And it almost even encourages you to weigh every day…Which I don’t like.
It shouldn’t allow people to record their daily weight. Because daily fluctuations don’t matter and can even discourage people.
Shoot if I weigh right before a carb day and then right after a carb day, I can fluctuate numerous pounds. It’s not really cause I gained weight though! And sometimes I might have even eaten fewer calories than on a low-carb day.
And actually the carb days are what help me become even leaner over the long run even if I do gain weight on the scale right after them.
The point is…YOUR WEIGHT FLUCTUATES. Be it water weight or whatever else. Weight fluctuates so shouldn’t be tracked daily.
And while it has measurements, it only allows you to record neck, waist and hips. Waist and hips are two great places to measure, and tell you a lot, but still…Why not just include arm and thigh as well?
You can lose/gain inches on a number places. And all can show progress. So why not include them all?
I know that there are only so many things a food/workout tracking app can do, but a couple extra measurements should be included.
Just like I think it would be great if the app included a place to record a couple lifts and/or runs and their numbers or times.
Right now, the app asks for workout goals that include how many workouts per week, how long and even how many calories you want to burn. And yes, working out the number of times you planned to, and having that be tracked, can be motivating.
But performance goals for during your workouts can be even more motivating! Having performance goals can help keep you motivated so that you accomplish other goals, like weight loss goals.
Because, let’s face it, when you have a performance goal, you are more likely to eat well AND workout hard no matter how much you want to skip the workout that day.
Anyway, I just think it would be nice for the app to allow you to include a bit more under “goals.”
Not everyone who wants to track their food intake cares about losing weight. And if weight loss IS the goal, it never hurts to have other markers of progress to help keep you motivated!
I know I just went on a bit of a rant about the goals portion of My Fitness Pal, but really the only thing I HATE about the app, is the workout portion.
I’m not sure how they could make it more accurate, but it isn’t accurate at all when it comes to calories burned. Which doesn’t matter to me, but since they add that in to what people can then eat, you would think they would want it to be more accurate. (I guess though if you really care, you could manually enter it yourself….)
But worse than that, is the fact that the app puts a HUGE emphasis on cardio.
Because when you choose the strength training moves, they don’t show you any calories being burned. Fortunately you can add weight, so if you really wanted to track your lifting progress you could always scroll back through your workouts.
However, the only way to show calories being burned during a strength training workout is to select “Circuit Training” under Cardio!
I, personally, don’t care if it doesn’t show what I burned during my workout, but since they do add that in to what you should then be consuming, you would think that strength training would have some value.
It just made me mad because I felt like it perpetuated the LIE that cardio is key to weight loss (and health in general).
Anyway, I’ve found tracking to be very interesting. And I would recommend My Fitness Pal, at least for the food tracking portion.
Do you keep a food log? Workout log? What is your favorite app? Anyone else pissed off about the exercise portion of my fitness pal? (Am I just maybe missing something that makes it better?)
P.S. Another reason I like some of these online/phone apps is that you can easily SHARE and create a community. The more you involve other people in your goals, the more likely you are to accomplish them. ACCOUNTABILITY and SUPPORT!
Yesterday I mentioned that one of the main reasons why people don’t accomplish their goals, like their goal of being able to do a pull up, is because they don’t track their progress.
And most people know they should keep track. But they don’t.
They don’t track their progress because it takes energy and time. Of course, in the end, it really takes way less time to outline and track a program than it does to flounder around for months with no clear idea of how to reach your goal, but whatever…right?
Just keep floundering and not tracking. Just keep wondering why you haven’t hit your goal even though you’ve been working hard trying all these diets and spending long hours in the gym.
Really is spending a few minutes each day keeping a food log or recording weights and reps really that awful? Is it really that big a pain in the butt?
Is it really harder/more time-consuming/more frustrating than not reaching your goal?
And I’m not saying it isn’t annoying. Because guess what? It kind of is…but it is also probably the single best thing you can do to keep yourself moving forward toward your goal.
If you don’t track your progress, you won’t know what worked and what didn’t work. There are so many different workout variables out there you need to consider when creating a program (intensity, duration of workout, rest periods, type of exercises, number of exercises, reps, sets, weights, body parts worked, movement patterns worked…). And if you don’t track which types of each thing you used, how can you possibly know what helped your or hindered your progress?
You won’t know.
You won’t know if you get better results with shorter workouts. You won’t know whether or not 5 or 15 reps works better for you. You won’t know what helped you finally do that pull up…or what kept you from even getting close!
You also won’t know if you’ve gotten closer to your goal until you’ve hit it.
And if you don’t hit it soon enough, you may give up because you don’t FEEL like you’ve gotten any closer.
I mean how many times have you started on a goal only to give up because you’ve spent time working toward your goal only to feel like you haven’t gotten any closer?
Probably more often than you’d care to admit.
BUT if you’d tracked your workouts and diet and TRACKED YOUR PROGRESS, you would have concrete evidence showing that you are closer to your goal now than when you started even if you don’t necessarily FEEL closer because you aren’t there yet.
Often we get down on ourselves and FEEL like we haven’t made progress just because we aren’t exactly where we would want to be.
But when we’ve tracked our progress, we can remind ourselves of all our hard work and show ourselves all of the victories we’ve had no matter how small. And even those small victories can be enough to keep us motivated.
No matter how we FEEL we can’t argue with concrete progress. And even when we feel down, seeing those results, seeing that progress toward our goal, will keep us moving forward.
It is way easier to give up when we don’t see any forward momentum.
Whether or not you admit it…seeing even the smallest victory can be motivating.
Heck, even the victory of TRACKING can be motivating. You want to give yourself small things each day that you can easily ACCOMPLISH and keeping a food log or recording your numbers is just such a task.
Tracking, while we complain that it is hard and time-consuming, really isn’t. It truly is a “low barrier to entry” task that you can do in a matter of minutes. It is a small, easy task that you can do each day which gets you moving in the right direction.
When we ACCOMPLISH things, even small, easy tasks, we feel successful. And when we feel successful, we feel MOTIVATED to continue working hard toward our goals.
And the final, and probably MOST IMPORTANT REASON, why you should track your diet and exercise programs is because you don’t see yourself, your habits and your daily activities clearly and you don’t hold yourself accountable for what you are actually doing.
I’m sorry…but you don’t.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone tell me they are eating well only to retract their statement when they actually keep a food log.
They aren’t aware of how often they take “just one bite.” They aren’t aware of how often they DON’T actually have fruits or vegetables with their meals. They aren’t aware of how quickly “handfuls,” “bites,” “pieces” added up.
They aren’t aware.
Tracking makes us aware and makes us hold ourselves accountable.
It makes us aware of what works and what doesn’t. It makes us aware of our progress, even the smallest of victories. It makes us aware that we are doing things each day that move us closer and closer to success.
So if you’ve been struggling to reach your goals, if you’ve given up on goals more than you’d care to remember, maybe you should start tracking your progress with food and workout logs….
So for work this past month, I’ve had to keep a food log, which is something that I honestly haven’t done since I did my low-fat diet experiment a couple of years ago.
The reason I haven’t done one is the same reason I haven’t counted calories for the past year or more….because I don’t need to.
I’m very conscious of what I’m putting into my body and I know that if I eat whole, natural, unprocessed foods, I don’t need to count calories.
For me looking at the nutritional breakdown of what I’ve consumed is interesting, but I also don’t like getting caught up in what I do on a day-to-day basis and I don’t like getting caught up on calories.
For me the overall picture is more important. I know I will have slip ups and bad meals and I don’t want to get caught up on them because I know if I stick to my diet in the long run that is what will matter.
How I FEEL, how my body functions, and how I even look are enough to tell me if I’m on track.
BUT that doesn’t mean that keeping a food log doesn’t have merit or benefit. And I did find it very interesting to look at my macronutrient consumption now that I’ve added in corn tortillas and some rice for carbs instead of only getting carbs from fruits and vegetables.
I think for anyone about to start a new diet, or evening starting a new diet, it can be a great tool. It can get you more in touch with what you are ACTUALLY eating.
I think sometimes we aren’t truly aware of the nutritional value, or calories, of what we put in our mouths. I think sometimes keeping a food log can be eye-opening.
I think it can also force us to be honest with ourselves about our diet.
I hear lots of people say, “Well I was pretty good today. I BASICALLY stuck to my diet.”
But if they were to food log their day, I guarantee most of them wouldn’t be saying it was a good day at all.
Most people don’t realize how quickly that handful of nuts adds up. Most people haven’t really stopped to think about what a handful of potato chips as a snack every day really looks like as part of their diet.
Heck most people have no idea about the nutritional or caloric value of half of the food they eat, especially when they dine out or order in!
So if you are happy with your current diet, I’m not saying you have to start keeping a food log.
But if you want to make a change or have failed to really achieve success in the past, maybe you should think about starting a food log. It may just reveal the flaws in your current diet program.
Here are some great logs you can use online!
SparkPeople – http://www.sparkpeople.com/
Fit Day – fitday.com
MyFitnessPal – http://www.myfitnesspal.com/