How to track calories with less pain...
It is a fact: what gets measured, gets improved.
But often, success can contribute to our self-sabotage. When we have been successful at losing weight, reaching goals, and making better food choices, we become complacent. We get comfortable and start slipping.
This is when we usually stop tracking our calorie intake. And, you may ask, why is it so important that we continue to track our calories?
First of all, if we are not tracking how do we know how much we are eating?
It may only be a few hundred extra calories a day but those few extras can count. It is a common misconception that with weight loss, we gain a better metabolism. This is not exactly how it happens and I am going to attempt to explain math, so please bear with me...
Our resting metabolic rate (the number of calories each individual burns just by waking up and doing life) is unique to each of us. It is dependent upon many factors, some of those being our height, weight, sex, and age. As our body weight decreases, our resting metabolic rate decreases. Meaning, as we lose weight, we burn less calories in a day.
For example: when you started your weight loss journey, you had a resting metabolic rate of 1500 calories a day. By incorporating a 1200 calorie diet plan, you lost 40 pounds in six months. Now your resting metabolic rate may be closer to 1350 calories a day. This gives you a smaller margin of error and a smaller calorie deficit. Therefore, going over your 1200 calorie budget by just 150 calories a day could stall your weight loss.
If you are not tracking, you will most likely miss that 150 calories.
Second, the concept of weight loss is not simply "calories in" < "calories out".
This concept does not consider all the factors impacting an individuals metabolism and how energy is uniquely utilized.
Factors that impact "calories in" are digestion, absorption, metabolism, and the type of calories ingested. Someone with irritable bowel syndrome or gastroparesis will digest and absorb food much differently than those who have no issues. Health conditions such as diabetes and surgeries such as gastric sleeve or gastric bypass can impact absorption.
Calories come from carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Our bodies absorb these macronutrients differently and for different purposes. Often, the percentages you are consuming can impact how your body utilizes the calories and in turn effects your weight.
Some of the factors impacting "calories out" are the inconsistent activities of our day to day lives. One day, we may put in 70,000 steps. The next day, we may sit at our desk for 10 hours. Another factor is the myth that 3500 calories burned is equal to 1 pound. This is a general assumption but given we all have a different resting metabolic rate, we will all burn a pound differently. And, when you lose weight, your metabolism drops. Because your metabolism is dependent upon your body size. Smaller you = lower metabolism.
Bottom line: we should continue to self monitor even after we have reached our goal weight to ensure we maintain our weight and stay on track.
That being easy said, how do we make it easier and less painful to be done?
1. Download a phone app
We all have our phones handy 24/7. Keep an app on your phone that has a large database of foods and can keep a running tally of the calories you have eaten that day. My personal recommendation is Lose It. This app is free and has a large verified database of foods. You can scan barcodes, plug in your personal recipes, and keep track of your repeated entries so you don't have to search over and over again for the things you eat on repeat.
2. Make your food log your planner
Take the work off your day by planning your meals ahead of time and plugging them into your app or logging them into your journal before your day begins. Then, stick to the plan. Use your food journal just as you would use a calendar or planner.
3. Use a meal delivery service
If you do not have the time or motivation to meal prep or meal plan, have someone do it for you. There are numerous meal delivery services out there. Some, you prepare yourself but others come prepared and require you to simply warm up. My favorite is Factor.
If you want to prepare the meal but like the ease of having the ingredients and recipe shipped to you, Hello Fresh is a good delivery service. You also have the option of grabbing frozen meals or steam bags in your frozen food aisle if that is more convenient.
4. Eat habitually
If you like to eat the same things most of the time then use that to your advantage. Keep your favorite foods on rotation and the calories are easier to remember. You spend less time researching and remembering. And, have less decision fatigue.
I hope this post helped explain why self monitoring is so important to weight loss and weight maintenance but also how to make it easier and less painful!
Share some tips that have worked for you to stay on track and keep you successful!
Have a great weekend,