Track your food and learn what works for your body
Tracking your food is the most underutilized tool we have towards reaching any fitness or nutritional goal. I’m going to show you why you should track your food.
I know, I know that the idea of writing down in an app everything you eat is daunting! It’s worth it! You don’t have to be a food-obsessed individual to track either. It can be a very powerful tool toward eating more mindfully!
Check out this article about self-monitoring as the focus of behavioral weight loss. It looked at 22 research studies that were published on the relationship between weight loss and self-monitored reporting of weight, food consumed, and exercise. There was a consistent positive association between successful weight loss and diligently tracking food intake in studies where dietary reporting was measured.
Most of us eat inconsistently due to our busy lives and sometimes inhale our meals due to lack of time. We might even overindulge one meal and have no idea how many calories or macronutrients are. But, this is why you should track your food; you will learn so much than just calories consumed!
Think of tracking as a tool to help you connect the dots between food and what your body really needs, and might be trying to tell you with physical and emotional symptoms.
Benefits of tracking your food
- It helps with weight loss
- You learn what is actually in your food
- It can identify food sensitivity or intolerances
- It will reveal any emotional connection with foods
- Teaches you about nutritional goals
When I started to track my food, I had no idea where my macronutrients were or what I was consuming calorically. I literally tracked for one week, and it was really revealing! I had no idea I was consuming so much sugar. It helped me connect the dots between foods high in sugar and my energy level as I observed how I responded with what I ate.
I remember reading Eat Naked by Margaret Floyd, and she suggested tracking your food for a week and then doing a sugar detox. At the time, I was feeling out of balance both physically and emotionally.
My energy was unbalanced, workouts were draining, my skin was breaking out, and I was tired after every meal. My overall feeling was just blah. I realized if I was going to feel better day after day, I needed to look into how I was fueling my body. Track your food, guys; I’m telling you it is so revealing!
What I learned with tracking
After tracking for one week, I saw that sugar was literally everywhere in my diet, and I had no idea. I realized my relationship with food was more comfort-seeking than fuel seeking. Wow, that was a wake-up call for sure. When I was hungry, I would gravitate towards starchy foods and simple carbohydrates such as pasta. Lessons like this are why you should track your food.
I noticed I had poor energy in the afternoon and wanted another coffee to get me through the rest of the day. Some days I would feel like a big salad because I felt bad eating the pasta the day before, but then chose a salad dressing filled with sugar; what you put on your salad matters too, guys.
So, I changed my lunches to protein and vegetable-based meals, which helped me stay satiated and more balanced for the rest of the day. On days when I had heavier workouts, I ate sweet potatoes or rice as my carbohydrate choices, which felt much better about maintaining energy. This was all new to me to learn what was working and what was not.
Another interesting thing that popped up for me with tracking was that I would confuse thirst with hunger and didn’t realize I was dehydrated. Sometimes I would eat snacks every few hours, still seeking that full, satiated feeling. The foods that I was choosing were not high in nutrients, and I was dehydrated. So I started tracking my water as well and noticed a huge difference in energy and mood. Yes, there are plenty of apps for tracking your water as well if you want to check those out.
By tracking, I could tell that my emotional state was hand in hand connected to my eating choices as my body was not functioning at its full potential. This explained the crashes I felt mid-afternoon after lunch and my sluggish morning mood. I knew I needed to change how I was fueling my body to bring myself back into balance, and tracking was how it all began.
Seeing what I was eating every day actually encouraged me to make healthier choices, and over time, my physical and emotional symptoms that were unbalanced faded away. My workouts, energy, skin, and whole physique improved and evolved into a well-balanced machine!
How long should you track?
Today I still feel it’s important to always check in with my tracking intermittently and make small changes with either choices, portions, the time of day I eat, or maybe preparing my food. You can use tracking as a tool to tap into when you want to hop back on track, change up your nutrition, or are after a specific goal tied to fitness. Remember, you are what you eat, and being aware and mindful of your nutrition is the first step towards eating right for you!