“Food is fuel – fill your tank.”
Food tracking is a common strategy for weight loss. I’ll guess quite a few people out there are currently tracking food, probably counting calories, all in the name of keeping that New Year’s Resolution to lose weight.
But tracking food brings benefits that, while supportive of weight loss if that’s the goal, aren’t about losing weight. And, no matter the goal, food tracking can (and, in my opinion, should) be done without counting calories.
Food Tracking and Counting Calories
The theory behind weight loss is burn more calories than you take in. Simple, right? While the theory is true, the execution is where it’s flawed in real life. Not only is it tough to calculate actual calorie burn (especially exercise machines, those are a ballpark, a best, not an accurate count), it’s even tougher to count calories.
I could give you my explanation but it’s better coming from a professional. Check out this video from my pal and the best authority on everything health and fitness related, JoeFitness. Joe explains why counting calories is a terrible idea and flawed process.
Let me say one thing quickly: no judgment if you track calories or have before. It makes sense in theory, if you’re trying to lose or maintain weight. However, now that we understand why it’s a bad idea to count calories and try to balance out with inaccurate estimates of calorie burn, let’s talk about the true value behind tracking food: fueling the body to feel and function its best.
Food is Fuel
In case I haven’t said it enough before, food is fuel. Food is good for us. Food is not bad, food choices shouldn’t incite guilt, and consuming food is not a punishable offense by cardio and burpees to “burn it off.”
Keeping in mind this positive association with food, it’s just as crucial to realize what too much or the wrong foods for you can do.
I believe that healthy food isn’t black and white. What’s healthy for me may not be for you and vice versa. Healthy foods are what makes each person happy and functioning at their best.
Tracking food helps to ensure the foods you’re eating are providing adequate fuel, nutrition, and making you feel your best. Conversely, tracking food can be a great strategy for those feeling sluggish and looking to boost energy for workouts, raising kids, getting through classes – pretty much living life.
Why to Track Food
I’ll admit it – I’ve tracked calories before. However, I didn’t do so to lose weight (again, no judgment if you have, it makes sense in theory).
When I was training to quality for Boston Marathon, I tracked calories, carbs, protein, sugar, all of it, to help ensure I was getting enough to eat, as well as identify patterns of what made me feel great for a run and when I didn’t feel my best.
Still today, I track my food, though I do it fairly casually. No numbers, no specifics, but I like to keep track for similar reasons as I did when training for a Boston qualifier. Tracking food ensures I’m getting enough to fuel my body for its needs, along with helping me realize if certain foods are getting in the way of feeling my best. So there’s plenty of value to tracking food even if weight loss isn’t a goal.
Don’t Count Calories to Lose Weight
For those who are looking to lose weight, there’s still benefit to that goal that comes from tracking food – without tracking calories.
Tracking food makes a person aware of how often and what they’re eating. This can help identify patterns (hmmm…when I don’t eat a quality breakfast, I’m hungry by 9:30 and the donuts in the breakroom sure look good…) as well as makes eating more mindful. There’s something about writing it down that makes you stop to think, “Am I really hungry? Or am I eating this for another reason.”
Of course there are reasons to eat when you’re not really hungry – and that’s okay. Even though you might not be hungry, but something sounds really good, that doesn’t mean it’s bad to eat it. Enjoy it! The exercise of mindfulness is beneficial and may help diminish a craving next time.
For the record, when hungry, eat. Weight loss be damned, if you’re really, truly hungry, your body’s signaling you should eat. Also, life’s too short to be hangry.
What do you think about tracking food without counting calories?
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