Question of the Week: How should I track food intake to lose weight?

There is no doubt that proper nutrition (including eating enough) is essential to good health and sustainable weight loss. Diet trends tend to lean toward restriction and elimination of calories or certain foods. A popular way, for many years, to know that the number of calories coming in was less than the calories going out was to closely track everything that went into your mouth. 

Now, before I go too much further, let’s establish that I have done food journaling myself and recommended it to others. There is merit in attention to the details of what you eat. Not to create obsession or a laundry list of things to feel guilty for, but because we are the greatest deceivers of ourselves. If you really want to create change in your body, you need to know what you’re feeding it. 

At times, I have needed people who think they eat “alright” to see that barely one ounce of protein passed their lips in a day or to realize how heavily impacting their fast food habit could be on their saturated fat intake. Tracking food can be powerful for helping us take a step back and acknowledge what we are actually eating every day, and then relating that to how we feel, physical symptoms we experience, or how quickly we are approaching our fitness goals. 

What are some of the ways you can track your food intake? 

The most classic way to food journal likely relates back to counting calories. For many looking to keep an eye on what they eat, particularly for the purpose of speedy and intentional weight loss, it’s all about the calories. This basic unit of energy does, in many ways, boil food and weight loss down to this: less calories in – more calories burned = weight loss. 

Diet programs, food tracking apps, and even pencil and paper can help you track this intake/output with some really simple tools and the ability to read and understand food labels. 

The positives? It’s simple and fundamentally true. The negatives? It can lead to poor focus on food quality, extreme/harmful restriction, and lacking fuel for your body to exercise and perform well in your day-to-day activities. 

After years of calorie-counting, along came the concept of tracking macros. Macronutrients – protein, carbohydrates, and fats – forces us to take a closer look at not just how much we are taking in through eating, but the proper ratios of these macronutrients that our bodies require. 

Tracking macros took the nutrition world toward a much-needed focus on food quality. Certain foods benefit our bodies more than others and that is an important consideration in the pursuit of health over a lower body weight. 

There are a great many positives to considering the benefits of the foods you eat over just their calories. The negatives, though, are that macro tracking can be a daunting task, especially to those new to attending to their food, the details of it can become tiresome, and it can still feel restrictive for many (though when I tried it personally, I felt like I was constantly eating!). 

What way haven’t we tried yet to track food intake and produce results?

Tracking nutritional habits over the details of our food is a new approach and it’s the one we stand behind. Habits-based nutrition coaching is about finding the one or two adjustments that you can make to improve the quality or quantity of your daily eating, and attending to those things for weeks or even months. 

Here are some of the habits that we focus on with our nutrition coaching clients at Shores: 

  • Ensuring every meal is ½ vegetables
  • Eating without distractions (mindful eating)
  • Drinking 100 oz of water per day
  • Eating three sources of protein each day
  • Eating to 80% full
  • Cooking 90% of their weekly meals at home

The possibilities are endless because we all have a few habits that hold us back from the pursuit of our best health. We make the decisions about what habits to focus on along with our clients and, since these habits are closely connected to their goals, it’s easier to stay motivated. 

Tracking your habits helps you recognize that you have power over your decisions and, by choosing just one or two, prevents the overwhelm that comes from trying to change too much, too soon. 

Conquering old habits and making new ones gives you reasons to celebrate from the very first week of starting nutrition coaching and, trust me, we’ll find a great many more. 

Plans for nutrition coaching with Shores start at just $18 per week, so the pursuit of better health is not out of your reach! If you’d like to learn more about habits-based nutrition coaching and how we can help you to move toward better habits and health, book a free intro call here.