My closest friends and anyone who has ever asked for my top weight loss tip are already rolling their eyes. They’ve heard it and they hate it. The single most powerful tool in controlling your diet is knowing exactly what’s going into your body.
Pop Quiz..What do the following have in common?
1. 100 fresh raspberries
2. 16 mini pretzels
3. 6/10 of an oz of dark chocolate
4. 15 french fries
5. 30 stalks of asparagus
6. 1/3 of a container of cup-o-noodle
7. 70 radishes
8. 3 medium zucchini
9. 18 stalks of celery
10. 2 bites of homemade mac and cheese
They all have approximately 100 calories. I don’t know about you, but I can’t recall the last time I was able to call it quits after 2 dainty bites of mac and cheese. I also can’t recall ever eating 18 stalks of celery, because I don’t know that its possible.
Logging your food is about mindful eating, not mindless snacking. I truly believe that before you can start any balanced plan, you have to see whats wrong with your current one. That means logging every bite, snack, sip, meal and taste for 10-14 days- without changing anything. If you have been maintaining a weight for more than a few weeks, this will give you an idea of what kind of calories do this for.
It’s not as easy at it sounds. My favorite database is My Fitness Pal. It has a free and a premium version that breaks down macronutrients etc. One of my favorite features is that you can import an entire recipe and it will break down the calories and nutrients per serving. It also has an extensive (I found out to my dismay) database with foods a the vast majority of restaurants you can go to. Users can make recipes public, so check for accuracy when you are using one of the restaurant recipes. Another great feature is you can snap the UPC code with your mobile device and the extensive database usually finds exactly what you are about to eat (or just ate). When all else fails you can manually add the nutrition information yourself.
The first several days are definitely the most difficult. But once you have populated your account with the foods you commonly eat, you will find the need to research and add gets more and more seldom. I strongly recommend a digital food scale, which Amazon sells for under $15. Its vital to know if you are eating 4 oz of something or 7. Guessing can cost you calories you could have enjoyed and vice versa.
After a minimum of 10 days of logging, that’s when you can accurately determine what adjustments you need to make to see the REASONABLE loss that is your goal.
For me, the science of this tool is extremely valuable in knowing what is even possible. If I’m eating 2000 calories and burning off 3000, its a deficit of 1000 per day. If I can do that for a week, the most I am going to lose is 2 lbs because its takes a deficit of 3500 to lose one. As a caution, don’t rely too heavily on the calories it tell you you are burning until you experiment with the process. Since the program builds in a basal rate (what you burn just existing) when you add in activity and exercise, it doesn’t adjust back down. YOu also might put in 60 minutes of Crossfit (I do) when in reality, there was 10 minutes of warm up, 15 minutes of strength training 15 minutes of a crazy-hard WOD.
What the science helps me realize, even if my head should have known it already, is I am not going to lose 15 lbs in 2 weeks. Unless I work out 8-10 hours a day and don’t increase my calories, I can’t burn and extra 3750 calories a day beyond what I’m eating. With my sedentary job, even with working out at Crossfit PLUS walking 5-6 miles a day and eating a clean 1500 calories a day, I struggle to create a 1000 calories deficit. In the past, to see a 1-2 lb loss a week would have discouraged me. Now I know why and that its the best I can expect. It also beats the snot out of gaining weight.
So stop whining and take the step that will empower you to get moving the right direction.