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If you could do one thing…
If you could do one thing to absolutely cast iron guarantee your weight loss success would you do it?
“Absolutely!” I hear you say!!
Well do you know what the one single thing is that guarantees you see a loss on the scales every week?
It is simply to track your food and drink, to ensure it meets your daily calorie target.
What we mean by that, is that you check the calories of the food you are planning on eating before you eat it, and then record it somewhere, either a notebook or in the meal tracker. Not after you’ve eaten it, and not only if it makes the tracker look good. We want you to track absolutely everything that you eat and drink – including those bits you pinch off someone else’s plate or out of the fridge when you are making a brew.
Oh, do I have to?
We know there is huge resistance to tracking. We know that most people think it will take up too much of their time, they tell us they don’t understand it, that it is boring so they just can’t be bothered, or because they think that they can still lose weight without tracking properly and by just ‘eating healthily’.
Some people can lose weight this way and some people can’t. If you are in the latter group of people, then we are going to convince you, once and for all, that you should start tracking your food and more importantly your calories. If you aren’t currently tracking, we would love you to do so, just for a week – 6 days out of 7 – and see what difference it makes when you step on the scales. If you’re currently not achieving what you want to achieve, then surely it’s worth a try.
Why avoiding tracking leads to failure
If you don’t track there will be a number of reasons that you probably won’t succeed in achieving your weight loss goals.
- No accountability – if you don’t write it down, you didn’t eat it
- We forget what we have actually eaten
- We can’t easily calculate how many calories we have had in a certain day
- We mindlessly pick at food without conscience
- When we are bigger, we are clearly unable to moderate our food intake, so we will overeat if there is nothing keeping us in check.
What does tracking do for you?
Tracking guarantees that you will lose weight.
When you track your food and calorie intake by writing it down, subconsciously you will only want to enter food in your book or diary that fits with what you are ‘allowed’ within your calorie allowance. It makes you accountable to your choices.
Tracking shows you where your big wins are. If you track every day, you will start to see patterns of eating, that you can learn to manage. If you spot in your tracker that that you eat a lot later in the day, or you like a higher calorie evening meal, then tracking allows you to manage that by eating lower calorie food throughout the day, to give you enough calories left over at night.
Tracking also allows you to see what your most sensible sacrifices are. If you think you are eating a particular type of food in moderation, tracking will confirm that or show you that you are actually eating more of it than you realise, giving you an opportunity to cut back on this, save some calories and start winning!
Tracking before you put the food in your mouth, means that you are checking the calories before you eat it, so you will be more mindful of making better choices.
Tracking stops you picking mindlessly and without conscience, because if you put it in your mouth it has to go in your tracker. If you don’t want to put it in your tracker, you won’t eat it.
Tracking allows you to save some calories every day throughout the week, for weekend treats. If you have tracked, you know what you have spare, and therefore what you can have on another day potentially, and still be within your deficit for the week.
Tracking teaches you
Tracking teaches you how to do lifestyle change, and how to manage your food sensibly. It teaches you how to eat normally. It teaches 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 also 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?!
Tracking gives you the freedom to eat what you choose, when you choose, but when you run out of calories, you just have to be a little more efficient with your choices. This is what lifestyle change and more importantly long term weight management is all about.
But doesn’t it take too much time
It does take a bit of time at the start. But tracking isn’t necessarily a long term game – this is short term effort for long term success. If you really want to lose weight and keep it off, this is how you learn about food and how to manage your diet forever. If you have been yo-yo dieting for 10 years by eating fish and kale and then going back to your regular eating habits and piling all the weight back on, never managing to keep the weight off long term, then don’t waste another ten years doing the same thing over and over!
Why not take a few weeks or months to get to your goal weight and stay there… for the rest of your life? Most people only have a couple of stone to lose – by tracking for 14 weeks, you could be there, and have learnt how to keep it off for the long term.
Let the science do the talking
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 frequently 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 actually spent less time tracking. There were two reasons given for this – over time 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, Tiktok and Insta, I bet 23 minutes logging your food in meal tracker is less than your total screen time!
The more you log, 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 and calories each time you eat (preferably beforehand, in our opinion) then you will almost certainly 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.
Results from another study carried out by the Diabetes Prevention Program in the US, showed that for every entry made in a food tracker, your chances of getting to your target weight increased by 7%. By the end of a month of tracking calories, this study tells us that you are 32% more likely to hit your target than if you didn’t track.
If weight loss is what you really want – give yourself 15-23 minutes a day! You are worth that!
If you want to lose 2 stone, it will take around 14 weeks. In those 14 weeks, you will learn how to keep that weight off forever, because you will learn what fits into your calories, you will learn how to manage your social life, you will learn how you get to where you want to be by still doing the things you like doing.
If you have been struggling – losing a quarter of a pound here, and half a pound there, gaining a bit, losing a bit, then now is the time to stop ‘trying’ and start tracking. Tracking is what you do, when you are really serious about losing weight. When you have accepted that some things need to change. When you are ready to make some sacrifices. That sacrifice is 15 minutes a day!
Next week we will focus on