Food tracking sucks!  What else is there?
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Food tracking sucks! What else is there?

Before I get started, this isn’t a click-bait article. Food tracking really is a massive pain at first…..BUT it’s a good place to start when you’re looking to change your body composition either ⬆️ or ⬇️. Food tracking is one tool you can use to help you change your body composition, and in this article I’ll cover the topic of meal plans.

If we primarily focus on fat / weight loss, you need to understand several things:-

  • How much energy (calories) you should be consuming to a maintenance level – to not gain or lose weight.
  • Be aware of the foods you’re eating and their energy value.

Once you know these 2 pieces of information, you can begin to make changes to achieve a deficit on energy between the foods you eat and what your body expends.

ALL DIET PLANS work on the basis of creating a calorie deficit, even if the diet plan doesn’t include the word CALORIE. So if you choose not to acknowledge CALORIES but are losing fat/weight, you are unknowingly creating a calorie deficit.

Food tracking, the pros and cons

Food tracking can be useful. When you use food tracking through an app, you can easily see (providing you’re accurately inputting your food entries) where your calories are coming from. It’s easy to manipulate/adjust and over-ride hunger cues.

On the flip side, food tracking can be time consuming, it could encourage obsession in certain personalities, it’s not always possible and you could unlearn intuitive eating.

Non tracking methods

Non tracking methods are quite far and wide ranging. It’s about finding what works for you and doing it consistently. If it doesn’t fit into what you do and how you live, then you should try something else that you CAN do consistently and see results.

Non tracking can be less time consuming, it’s more often possible and when it works it can be seemless, intuitive and life long.

For a non-tracking method to work, it has to be more restrictive certainly in terms of food variety (limiting processed foods/snack for example), you have to be more aware of satiety levels, reduce social situations (alcohol can lead to snacking), hunger could be an issue for some and it can stimulate hedonic hunger (telling someone they can’t eat biscuits turns them into cookie monster and that’s all they can think about). It is going to make you think ‘I can’t eat this and I can’t eat that’ instead of the non restrictive and flexible approach that food tracking can provide.

Meal plans

Some people just want to be told what to eat and how much. Many meal plan-based diets have certain unspoken rules which aren’t inherently obvious to the followers. While there’s nothing wrong with that in the short term there are downsides.

  • You’ve paid your money and you don’t like the food on the meal plan.
  • The recipes are really varied and it’s looking expensive to follow.
  • Doesn’t allow for socialising (alcohol).
  • Requires you to give up caffeine.
  • You feel it’s too much food!
  • It doesn’t teach you how to eat in the real world when you finish the diet plan.
  • The plan includes exercise and a meal plan, you can’t do the exercise, but you’re eating all the food ‘prescribed’.

If the method doesn’t work, change it – but never the goal.

Don’t turn to someone else for a Meal plan, devise your own!

You’ve already estimated how many calories you need to achieve a calorie deficit, now spend a little time creating a 2 week meal plan of commonly occurring meals/recipes and plan to make extra portions to have within that 2 week period (this should save time in the long run too).

Here are some ideas to help you plan your 2 weeks foods

Choose up to 4 breakfasts to alternate over the 14 days.

Make lunches simple by making use of leftovers from a previous meal.

Sunday dinner is roast chicken. Save the breast to have for lunch on Monday as part of a Chicken Caesar Salad (The Lean Cook recipe).

Monday night make Prawn Fajitas. Make a double portion of the main prawn element and serve it with salad for lunch on Wednesday.

Limit your snacks and save 1 snack for pudding if you like something after dinner.

The rules you should take into account
  • Even though you’re not tracking, you should know the energy value of the meals in your meal plan.
  • Just because you’re not tracking your food doesn’t mean that you should stop weighing and measuring. When you’re not ‘tracking’ your food, weighing and measuring your food is a way of keeping control of portion sizes.
  • Continue to prioritise protein at each meal – refer back to the protein articles to remind yourself of why protein is important.
  • Continue to focus on nutrient dense foods – switching to ready meals high in hidden fats and sugars aren’t going to help you achieve your goals.
  • Don’t eliminate food groups.
  • Be aware that food restriction often leads to cravings. Know your triggers so that you can spot when such cravings are likely to get out of control.

Diets don’t work when you can’t stick to them.

The biggest mistakes people make when they start a diet
  • They set an aggressive calorie deficit and leave themselves with poverty calories that they can’t stick to.
  • Foods become protein sparing. For example, a bowl of special K for breakfast, a pasta salad with a lovely rich creamy dressing for lunch, and a couple of slices of pizza for dinner. Continue to eat like this and you’ll soon start to notice it in how you feel.
  • They think they have to eat diet foods which can be highly processed and include trans fats (the fat you want to avoid).
  • Eliminate carbs and fat from their diet – carbs turn to fat when i eat them and if i eat fat i get fat (noooooo!).

If you’re eating a healthy and balanced diet but not seeing any progress, going back to food tracking can be helpful as you can determine where you can make changes.

Measure your progress in several different ways as body weight scales do not always show a reduction of body fat where body weight has remained the same.