Why You Should Start Food Tracking
The average American underestimates the amount of food they eat by 1,000 calories.
This is bad news for those of us that want to lose weight, shred fat and tone as we need to be in a consistent calorie deficit to do do.
This means we need to be consuming less calories than we burn each day.
But how do we know how many calories to eat? How do we stay consistent?
The answer is food tracking. This simply refers to recording the food and drinks you consume each day in a journal or food tracking app.
And the research agrees.
One study split over 1,600 participants into 2 groups.
Researchers put each group on the same calorie deficit diet.
Group 1 just focused on the diet.
Group 2 focused on the diet but also tracked all of their meals.
At the end of the study each group lose weight. In fact, over the course of the study participants lost an average of 13lbs.
Here's the kicker though: the participants who tracked what they ate lost an average of 18lbs where participants who did not track what they ate lost an average of 9lbs.
Yes, the food tracking group lost twice as much weight on the same diet!
That's a BIG difference in weight-loss achieved just by simply tracking their food.
So what does tracking your food entail?
There are a few ways to track like keeping a good old-fashioned food journal where you simply write down the foods and beverages you consume and their amounts.
We recommend using an easy to use app like My Fitness Pal though which will also easily break down how much of each food you're eating (carbs, fats, proteins, sugar, fiber, etc) and your total calories for you.
Some very important things happen when you start tracking your food and beverage intake.
Today we're covering 4 reasons why you should start tracking your food intake today and tips to help you get started.
1) It shows you what's really going on
Many of us "think" we're eating good or healthy foods but are actually greatly overeating and therefore gaining or maintaining our weight.
Even with the best intentions of eating healthy, guessing the amount of food we eat each day leads to overeating.
Food tracking takes the guess work out of it by showing you exactly how much you're eating, the amount of calories you're taking in, and the balance of the foods you're eating.
On top of that, food tracking opens your eyes to your current eating habits. It will show you areas like how often you eat, when you eat, and what.
We can use this information to drastically improve the quality and quantity of our eating. We can also identify unfavorable nutritional habits that we want to change like eating out of boredom, mindless snacking, and overeating.
2) You start to eat less (especially less junk)
Tracking can really open your eyes to the amount of food that you are not only eating but overeating.
When tracking, you're going to be less likely to eat that extra dessert or indulge in an additional spoonful of peanut butter. You're going to be less likely to grab that extra snack or treat that you really don't need because you have an instant visual of what that looks like to your day.
These once mindless additions to your day that you ate just out of habit, boredom, or stress, add up quick and can easily account for an additional 200-600 calories per day.
This is very bad news for losing fat.
3) You increase your consistency
Getting into the best shape of your life is all about consistency. There aren't any magic pills or shortcuts. It's about continually doing the small things that move us in the right direction.
Tracking helps you here immensely.
As we stated earlier, if you want to lose fat, you need to create a consistent calorie deficit. This means we need to burn off more calories than we consume on a very consistent basis.
A key concept in fat-loss is understanding that it's about the average amount of calories for the week, not one day.
In other words, we need to dial our nutrition in for the entire week, not just a day or two. This is one reason why it's so important to not sabotage your results on the weekends after a great week of eating and working out.
This consistency is key for fat-loss. If your calories end up where you want them to be one day, only to be too high the next day, it's going to be very hard to lose fat. You will end up maintaining or gaining weight over the long-haul.
Tracking will allow you to be consistent throughout the week and allow you to continually work towards your goals.
4) You learn about proper portion sizes
Here's an experiment for you.
If you have a food scale at home take it out. Next take out the peanut butter and take what you think is a serving (2 tablespoons). Hide the number on the scale and place the peanut butter down.
YIKES is right!
I bet you drastically underestimated the amount. Probably by a lot. These guesses and underestimates lead to big increases in calories over the course of the day.
This can be a big problem as a few too many servings of peanut butter can take us out of our calorie deficit and put us into a position of maintaining or gaining weight.
Those handfuls of almonds, yes, they add up quick!
Food tracking gets you in tune with what portion sizes really are so you can stay on track when you're cooking from home or out at a restaurant.
Here's 3 tips to help you get started:
1) Download an easy to use food tracking app like My Fitness Pal
Make tracking easy and accessible. Food tracking apps allow you to quickly track your meals and count your calories with just a few clicks.
2) Start by tracking 1 full meal per day
To avoid feeling overwhelmed, we recommend easing into your tracking. Start by tracking 1 full meal per day with each ingredient and their amounts. Once you get comfortable, add a few meals and snacks until you're tracking every meal and snack each day.
3) Track before you eat
Tracking before you eat will give you breakdown of that meal includes what's in it and how much. This will prevent you from overeating at a single meal and allow you to spread your meals out over the course of the day. This tracking in advance is also a fantastic way to keep you on track.