Food Tracking: Is it worth it?

Food tracking can feel like trying on bathing suits in the fitting room. You put on the suit with squinting eyes and slowly peek through to see the results, anticipating a bad response. So, why do we do it? Because the reward of finding the right suit is greater than the awkward process of acquiring one.

The same is true with tracking your food.

The black and white truth of what goes into your mouth speaks for itself. Many times we don’t even realize we haven’t eaten in six hours. Or that we ingested eight cookies when it seemed like only two. Awareness is the biggest benefit and wake up call for keeping a food journal.

And, it makes the effort worth it.

It will point out deficiencies in your eating patterns. It will show you if you eat the majority of calories after 3pm or if you’re lacking in fiber. It will show you if your sugar consumption or caffeine intake is out of normal boundaries. It’s similar to getting your blood work done at the doctors office and seeing what’s normal and what’s out of range.

Obstacles to completing a food journal typically fall into two categories: time and having to look at what you really ate. I call this the “Mirror Factor”. When the Mirror Factor is HIGH, like looking at yourself in the wrong bathing suit, you are UNCOMFORTABLE.

It might even be painful to look at it. The same is true in the food journal world.

It is definitely easier to tell ourselves that the binge was justified and forget it every happened than to write down and look at what we really ate.

So take a deep breath, and read-on to see that writing down what you eat isn’t as complicated as it needs to be…

Tip 1: Just be honest. Only you are looking at it. If that’s not enough accountability, make it public on the app you’re using or show your trainer or coach.

Tip 2: Keep it simple. You really only need three things when tracking your food: what you ate, when you ate it, and how much of it you ate. The beauty of all electronic food tracking apps is that they will assign the data to your foods- the number of calories, macronutrients, sugar, salt, fiber and all those other good things you may or may not care about.

Breaking down each item:

What you ate:This is about food choice. What did you choose to eat or drink? The Mirror Factor for this can be HIGH depending on what you ate. The good thing about this though, is that you don’t have to show anyone your journal unless you want to. Sometimes privacy is what you need to let the truth sink in about what you ate today.

When you ate it: This is an underappreciated variable because most of us think it probably doesn’t matter that much when we eat (except late at night). But, finding out how long you are waiting until you eat again is really valuable. This will determine how your blood sugar varies throughout the day and whether your body is going into starvation mode from a lack of calories. Both of these will effect your energy levels. Plus, the Mirror Factor is pretty low in writing this in your journal, so go for it!

How much you ate: This can go either way. The Mirror Factor might be really HIGH depending on the quantity of what you ate. Knowing your eating patterns is great information because it teaches you where your pitfalls are. Recording how much will also show you how many calories you eat throughout the day and whether they are evenly distributed or lumped together.

Tip 3: For the time obstacle, my best advice is to commit to just 3 days of solid recording. Invest the time to figure out what you eat regularly and then adjust from there. This does not have to be a drawn-out, lengthy time commitment, unless you want it to be. Start with three TYPICAL days (not when you’re on vacation, have a special event or other schedule jostling anomalies), and you will see some patterns.

Here are my favorite tools for food journals:

Lose It App:

Website: https://www.loseit.com/
Why: It has a great database, is simple to use and you can share your results easily

My Fitness Pal:

Website: https://www.myfitnesspal.com/
Why: Entering foods is simple, fast and it has good technical support if you lose your information

My favorite when I’m in a hurry:

Plain ‘ole paper and pen. (Normally I enter it all in one of the above apps, just so I don’t have to figure out all the data).

Regardless of your tracking preference, making the effort to write down what you eat is a life exercise well worth your time. It will open your eyes to your own eating habits and help you identify one or two changes that will make the biggest difference in your health.

Keep moving!


Note: As a fitness coach, it is my highest priority to keep my clients motivated and on track despite obstacles, distractions and just human nature. We all need a supportive environment to maintain healthy lifestyle and habits. If you are searching for that kind of environment, check out what we do here at CrossFit 1088: Hosted by Blue Wave Fit, where our mission is to bring CrossFit to All Ages. http://www.bluewavefitocala.com or email me at: priscilla@bluewavefitocala.com
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