Fat Loss Nutrition

Track what you eat—a necessity, or a nag?

Track what you eat. You hear it all the time in regards to weight loss. Keeping a food log is one of the cardinal rules of going on a diet. But obsessing over the details can definitely kill the fun for some people. Maybe you worry that it will ruin the joy of simply being in touch with your food and enjoying healthier eating habits. Maybe you’ve stocked your fridge with healthy foods, and decided not to go the calorie-counting route.

Or maybe nutrition tracking just seems like that one extra trivial detail you don’t have time for.

That was my view of it. I stopped tracking what I ate a long time ago, because 1) I thought it was annoying, and 2) I felt like I had “graduated” from needing to do it. I had started eating healthier on autopilot, and was more aware of what I was eating (whereas in the early stages, scrutinizing my food log enabled me to discover that I was eating one spinach leaf for every can of Pringles, and drinking about a gallon of sugary coffee drinks a day).

But in the last few weeks, I discovered two new benefits of watching—and writing down—what you eat each day. They made me want to start keeping a written log again, so I have. See what you think:

You’re probably eating healthier than you think.

We have a tendency to focus on the negative. It’s human nature, and it’s probably worsened by the constant barrage of advice from the news and health education media. One minute caffeine is good for a workout, the next it’s bad. One minute our diet is “all,” the next we’re told exercising is more important to health than what we eat.

Doesn’t it seem like no matter how many positive changes we make, we’re always missing an ingredient to the perfect recipe for health? After hearing so much of that, it’s enough to make anyone ask, why bother?

Of course, a story about the things we’re already doing right is not newsworthy. And our brains are just like the news: we skip over all of our positive accomplishments because it doesn’t seem “useful.” However, focusing on what’s left to fix can be counterproductive when it turns into a major bummer, and we feel so overwhelmed and down on ourselves that we aren’t pumped to keep making good choices.

That’s why it’s worth keeping a food log and checking it out at the end of the day. Chances are, you’ll discover you’re doing most things right! For me, putting things in that perspective makes me excited to keep at it, and it’s fun to add one more thing to the list of positives tomorrow.

You’ll create a pact with yourself.

Did you know that the act of writing something down is even more powerful than thinking it or saying it out loud? The act of putting your hand to paper and writing words sends a message to your subconscious, and—just like a signature—creates a binding promise in your mind.

If you write down your meals, snacks and drinks every day, the details will be processed at even the deepest levels of your brain. That means even your subconscious can start “chewing” on it and deciding what to keep and what to get rid of. And heaven knows, the subconscious mind is our greatest ally in getting fit.

Writing down your food objectives at the start of the day is powerful for the same reason. You can put your subconscious mind to work on helping you reinforce your goals throughout the day. If you make a written pact with yourself to cook a healthy meal for dinner, you’ll be mentally prepared to put the recipe together, and less likely to fall back on something not-so-healthy just because it’s quick and “doesn’t require any thinking.”

On that note, I’ll be writing down my food objective for the day: go to the grocery store and load up on ripe fruits and veggies to make summery salads for today and tomorrow. (By the way, if you haven’t made Carla’s spinach salad, do!)

For ideas on what to write down in your food log, read Carla’s post Keeping Calories Down the ‘Log’ical Way

Have you ever tracked your eating habits, and has it worked out for you? Do you track online or on paper?

Take a look at these similar articles from the IdealShape blog

Keeping Calories Down, the ‘Log’ical Way

Calorie Counting: In or Out?

Based on a “2 Many” Calorie Diet

Chelsea Ratcliff

Chelsea Ratcliff

Writer and expert

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