Thursday, December 2, 2010

Rules of Weight Loss: #2 -- Keep Track of What You Eat

I had posted previously on what I put as the number one Rule of Weight Loss: Make the Decision.

So, let's say I'll make "Track what You Eat" as Rule #2.

I honestly believe (partly from what I've read from studies and blogs and partly from observation) that a lot of people lose track of what they eat and, more basically, have no idea just HOW much they are eating in terms of calories.

I've seen assorted systems. Exchanges (so many meat, so many starch, so many veggies) and Points (Weight Watchers) and Plate Portioning (half simple veggies, a quarter lean protein, a quarter complex starch) and the standby old-fashioned calorie-counting. I've seen successful losers do a countdown (a simple notepad they carry with allowed calories or points on top and then a countdown as they eat, subtracting to 0, then stop eating). Some do electronic tracking (on a smartphone, online, on some gadget). Some have nice journals. Some have great memories and just add it up in their heads as mouthfuls are consumed.

However you do it that is accurate enough to work for you, keep track of what you eat. Learn what makes for a weight loss or, if you are at goal weight, maintenance level of food (by points, by calorie, by plate configurations). Make sure you get your calcium, protein,, fiber, and nutrients by eating variety and taking good supplements on days when you fall short.

Unless you have a tracking system, whether simple or moderately detailed or really complex, it's easy to convince yourself you didn't eat that much so, goldurnit, why aren't ya losing!?  If you aren't losing, you still are eating too much. Don't kid yourself that the double-cheeseburger can't be more than, oh, 350 calories. It might be 700. Don't think that chunk of cheese was just 100, when it was two ounces and more like 220. Initially, tracking is a major pain in the keister, but it's a learning experience, that keister-pain. Then, you get better at it and can eyeball and track with greater ease.

Eventually, you'll habituate to what is a proper portion/ratio/quantity.

So, yeah. Keeping track of food intake. Studies* have shown it helps dieters. Awareness, no fudging, no lying. Knowing what is going in. It's important to learn how much should go in....

* Too lazy to look em up. You have a search engine. Use it. :)


Beth said...

I will never forget all those years ago before I "made the decision", I decided to track my calories for a day - I had eaten 4 humbugs (a British hard candy) and they were 40 calories each! 160 calories of nothing. At the end of the day, I'd consumed over 2,000 calories and I was shocked. I'd guessed that I was eating about 1500. oooppps. And that was a good day!

I've read those studies, underestimating our calories is one of the biggest mistakes that dieters make. I use an old fashioned paper diary and a calculator. Sometimes I google nutritional info online but I've been aware of calories for so long that it's second nature.

Ann (-34 lbs in -60 lb challenge) said...

I am also using Beth's method. Although I still have to look up things, I find the items I eat routinely or most often are already committed to memory.

When I first started tracking, just a few months ago, I was surprised by some of the values. Sometimes, seemingly healthy things are not so much so. It was quite an eye-opener.

Colleen @ Goodbye, Fat Girl! said...

This is where I struggle and am making a huge effort to get better. Fact is, I'm fat and lazy. I'm working to remedy both of those things!

Anonymous said...

I've been tracking my food, and use an online tracker (myfitnesspal (dot) com

It has been a HUGE help staying on track, and Beth is right about candies. I can't believe how much empty calories I'd been eating before I started tracking. I now look for healthy things that fill me up without adding on the calories.

Mrs. D said...

I use an app on my iPhone to track, and I still sometimes measure out my veggies and ALWAYS use my kitchen scale for meats and whole grain pastas. I can eyeball it now or the most part, but always worried I'm going to start slowly increasing my portions if I don't stay on top of it. Tracking is definitely a necessity, no matter how you do it!