We regularly discuss how we need to change our ingrained habits to achieve lifelong success at lifestyle transformation.
One of the key habits to form is recording what we eat. Recording what we eat will undoubtedly be a game changer for many people. Whilst it may seem like a laborious task, you can guarantee that this activity will be one of the fundamentals of your future success.
Why? Because once we gain an understanding of what our body needs to either lose, gain or maintain weight, we have literally cracked it!
Why should I start to record what I eat?
This understanding won’t come overnight. It will be a slow process of learning and understanding that will eventually underpin your whole lifestyle.
Ideally you should record what you eat and drink, without changing your eating and drinking patterns first. Do it without guilt or judgement of yourself, purely as a means to learn about what you are fuelling your body with and the impact it then has. A weekly check in with your weight can reveal the impact of the food you are consuming upon your overall goals. Because, let’s be clear – it is what you put in your body as fuel that impacts on your weight! It is not down to how much exercise you do.
By recording what you eat and drink, you become more in tune with the effects it has on how you feel, and it’s impact on your weight loss goals, which gives you opportunity to improve things through understanding. When we fully understand the reasons why we do something, we have more chance of sticking to new eating habits and routines.
After you have recorded what you eat for a few weeks, you may start to see some patterns of things that you consume, perhaps a little more frequently than you realised. These are what we call ‘the big wins’.
Isolating those big wins allows you to make some tweaks to your eating patterns, either by reducing the frequency of consumption or by cutting it out all together and reserving the item only for a special occasion. If you suddenly see that you are eating a block of cheese every two days, or you are going through 5 packs of kit kats a week, not the rest of the family, as you initially thought, there’s some stark indicators as to what you need to change.
Not only does the practice of recording food allow us to track what we eat in relation to our weight loss goals, but it allows us to develop our mindfulness. It builds our overall awareness of how food makes us feel, because food is associated with how we feel emotionally and physically. You may suffer from some digestive problems or feelings of sluggishness and discomfort; recording your food and drink intake, can help you to work out what might be causing these issues. You may be an emotional eater, who eats certain foods to make themselves feel better. However quite often these feelings don’t last, and we end up feeling guilty later, after the initial high has passed. Recording our food intake allows us to become more aware of the wider impacts of what we eat and drink on our whole body and mind and, as you start to see patterns in how the food you eat makes you feel, you will start to make changes that allow you to feel good for as long as possible.
What about calories?
Initially we wouldn’t recommend recording calories. This habit is all about just building awareness of the types of food you eat, and making the action of recording something that you do every day. Once you have got into the habit of recording your food and drink consumption regularly, then you can start to look at recording the calories. Then, this will be where the real learning begins, when it comes to your weight loss goals. This is where you can start to learn how to manage your food and drink consumption, to ensure you hit your goals, but still enjoy life, with your family and friends. This will teach you that if you have a full English breakfast one morning, if you still want to lose weight and stay on track, you need to eat food which is really efficient in calories for the rest of the day. It teaches you that if you have a day where you drink lots of alcohol and have a take away, then the following couple of days, you bring that calorie deficit back, by eating lighter foods. You know like all those people do with a ‘normal weight’ and ‘normal eating habits’ that never seem to put any weight on?!
It gives you the freedom to eat what you choose, when you choose but have the accountability to your goals, so that when you run out of calories, you will have to be more efficient with your choices.
But I just don’t have time…
There has been a recent scientific study which has accurately analysed the success of people who track their food intake, whilst trying to lose weight. In the past, scientists had to rely on self-reporting methods of research into this area, which is unreliable, but now with the advent of tracking apps, they can actually get data on how tracking helps those who want to lose weight, based on how long they spend in the app and how often they make an entry.
In a study published in ‘Obesity’, a research journal, 142 people with an average BMI of 35, took part in a 24 week study looking at tracking. With regards to time taken, it showed that over a period of time, people spent less time tracking, there were two reasons given for this – the participants learnt more about their food so had to spend less time looking things up, and the participants were eating less food, so had less to log.
In month one of the study, on average people spent 23 minutes in total each day in the food tracker. By month six, this had reduced to just 14 minutes in total each day.
So, is it really that time consuming? If you think about how many times you might check your phone each day or how long you spend scrolling Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Insta, I bet 23 minutes writing in a book is less than your total screen time each day!
The more you record, the more you succeed…
The same study showed that the more entries that were made into the food tracker, i.e the more frequently a person used the tracker throughout the day, the more weight they lost. The conclusion being drawn from this was that more frequent entries correlated with recording food at the time of eating, rather than waiting to do it all in one sitting at the end of the day. So if you record food each time you eat (preferably beforehand, in our opinion) then you will lose more weight.
The results showed that those with the most time spent on the food tracker, and the most entries, lost over 10% of their body weight in a 6 month period. Those with the least time spent on the food tracker, the least entries and also who stopped tracking altogether at some point during the six-month study period, had lost less than 5% of their body weight at 6 months.
The statistics show that recording or logging food and drink intake, and calories, is a very worthwhile investment. And if you want to change your lifestyle in the long term, stop the yo-yo dieting and hit a healthy weight and stay there, then picking up this one habit will be key to your success!
You can learn more about habit transformation on the ‘Lifelong Program‘, the ultimate program to get you on track towards lifelong lifestyle change and healthy weight maintenance.