Waking Up to What You're Really Eating


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  59 comments   :  18,729 Views

If you have been following along with my weekly blogs, you know this is the second in a series.  Last week we talked about WAKING UP and beginning to LIVE again.

How many calories do you eat in a day?

Did you stay within your recommended calorie range?

When did you last look at a label to know what is in the food you're buying?

Do you know what your BMR calorie burn is for a typical day?

You aren't sure about any of those answers?  I wasn't either when I started but I am here to tell you it is all at your fingertips.

This month, I'm sharing my personal success factors that helped me lose 100 pounds and keep it off.

Step 1: Know WHAT/HOW much you eat daily (track it).

Here's the deal: If we really want the outside of our body to look great, we must take care of what we put IN our bodies.  I'm sure we've all heard that saying "garbage in and garbage out."  Well, it's true.  If we put garbage in our bodies, then that's what we'll get out of our bodies.  Your body is a very meticulous machine.  Learning to FUEL your body is not easy; however, you'll notice a difference fairly quickly if you pay attention to what you put in it.  Yes, this means that if you give up a few things like fast food and soda alone, and replace them with a healthy snack and 8 cups of water a day, you will see a huge difference. 

I have to give massive props to my wife for the idea of looking at the labels at the store.  She did the homework and realized that changing our family's lifestyle meant we needed to start paying attention to the packaged products we bought.  If there are words on the ingredients list that we cannot pronounce, we simply don't buy it.  There are other items that we no longer buy if the sugar content is too high or the sodium is out of control.  We no longer buy something simply because it says it is fat free.  This can be deceiving unless you look thoroughly at the nutrition label and ingredient list.  Knowing WHAT you are putting in your body matters. 

Once you get a better understanding of what is going into your body, now you need to determine how many calories you are taking in during the course of one day? 

When we all signed up for SparkPeople, we completed a series of questions to establish our starting points and our goals.  We were then given a recommended range of calories to eat and calories to burn to accomplish those goals.   How cool was that?  We got this expert advice that comes from years of experience absolutely free!  Are you using this to your advantage?

SparkPeople's Nutrition Tracker is the most amazing tool to track this information.  This tool is very simple to use and doesn't take more than about 5 minutes to complete each day's meal tracking.  The main database is very extensive and I'd say that nine of 10 items anyone eats can probably be found there.  If you can't find an item, look at the foods entered by other members.  That's what makes SparkPeople so great: people helping people!  This database is massive, but if you can't find something, you have the opportunity to add an item and share for the next member.  How simple is that?  But there is more!  The ability to add foods to your favorites list OR create a food grouping if you eat the same foods for lunch daily all help in making the process speedy quick.  (VIDEO: How to Use SparkPeople's Nutrition Tracker)

Now that you have tracked your nutrition for the day, you KNOW how much you have eaten.  You can tell if you stayed within your calorie range or not.  Knowing this information is CRITICAL to your journey. Without this information, your success will be hindered, period.  Can you have success without tracking?  Probably, however I'd venture to say that most major success stories track everything. 

But wait, there's even more!  The reports section contains amazing information about your nutrition, fitness and calorie differential. Did you even know they exist?  Using these reports you can see your nutrition intake for a week or month.  This is crucial information.  The reports will hold you accountable to your daily calorie count of a given period of time.  These reports were crucial to my personal journey and I used them daily when I was in weight loss mode.  Knowing how my calorie intake was affected by my calorie burn thus giving my differential was absolutely amazing for my journey.

Get to know the nutrition tracker, learn about what you are eating.  Pay attention to what goes IN your body to enhance your daily performance.  Your performance might be as an athlete or simply to get through the daily grind we all face.  Whatever your needs are throughout your day, remember to fuel your body, not fill your body.

Tracking your food, knowing WHAT/HOW much you are eating daily is crucial to your journey.  I can't stress this enough. 

Disclaimer: There days when I fail. There are days when I go crazy with my calorie intake, some days it seems that my metabolism is raging and I simply can't get enough to eat.  I don't beat myself up over it.  I make every effort to learn from the mistake and move on, not stressing about it.

Men, I have a challenge for you.  I challenge every man who reads this blog to do two things. 

1. Make a habit of tracking your food, you WILL see a difference. 

2. Comment below. Put it in writing your commitment to track it. 

Let those who might read this blog after you, know that you are committed to your health.  Something you say might spark the next person into action, and there is nothing more rewarding than that!
Are you ready to wake up and start tracking what you're eating?

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  • 59
    I track even when I dislike what it shows me. - 1/23/2018   8:05:02 PM
  • 58
    I track every day, but I'll commit to ensuring that I continue to be as accurate as possible. - 12/28/2017   1:15:40 PM
  • 57
    I've been tracking for 6 days now and I can definitely see how this is so powerful. Using the tracker in conjunction with the apps on my phone allows me to track calories I eat and calories I burn through exercise. One of the cool features of SparkPeople is that the nutrition tracker adjusts to compensate for exercise. If I eat a little extra, I can burn it off and know immediately how effective my exercise program is. Very cool. - 12/11/2017   1:24:31 PM
  • 56
    Tracking is the key to successful weight loss. - 11/24/2017   8:58:42 AM
  • 55
    I lost 65lbs and then stopped tracking. I thought I could handle it. I gained 25lbs back. I started tracking again and lost those 25lbs again. Licking that cat twice angered me more than anything else. I don't miss a day of tracking and I track EVERYTHING I eat healthy or not. I have to hold myself accountable since I am the one putting it in my mouth. I still have 47lbs to lose and I know the only way to get there is to keep doing what works. TRACK TRACK TRACK!!! - 11/5/2017   6:41:16 AM
    I agree, tracking is very important along with exercise. - 10/6/2017   3:34:18 AM
    Tracking is key in this journey. - 9/24/2017   10:21:28 PM
  • 52
    Tracking everything I eat is so important . - 7/17/2017   5:38:35 AM
  • 51
    Terrific blog, thanks for the link to it. I have been tracking everything on paper but have only been putting in breakfast on the tracker here on Spark. Thanks for the link to BMR, I do not think I am eating that many calories. But will be tracking all meals/snacks/drinks from now on to see where I am at. - 2/27/2012   4:17:19 PM
  • 50
    Tracking really does make all the difference for me. The first month I did sparkpeople, it was the only change I made and I lost 10 lbs because of it! - 2/27/2012   4:05:25 PM
  • GHALEY11
    I do also agree that tracking your food does make a difference. I feel much better when I eat more meals aday rather than 2. - 1/31/2012   5:30:26 AM
  • 48
    I have tried many different "lifestyles" to lose weight. The two I LOVE and have worked for me indicate that tracking calories is not necessary - which is true - except for me... I have such terrible portion distortion that I need to weigh/measure my foods or I will eat too much. I have to KNOW exactly how much I am eating, or I don't lose weight... and once I've measured it, I might as well track it. My biggest problem is sugar - can't get enough of the crap - and sadly, it's EVERYWHERE!! - 1/25/2012   9:29:29 AM
  • 47
    After two and a half years, it's this simple for me: If I track I lose or maintain; if I don't I gain. - 1/24/2012   2:23:57 PM
  • 46
    I agree with some points and disagree with others.. I do think it is paramount to read labels.. #1 above all things - read what you are eating.. and if you dont know what an ingredient is on the label then you shouldn't be eating it.. HOWEVER, I don't think you are hindered if you don't track your food.. I am a recovering binge eater and sugar addict - so tracking food continues that mania for me.. I eat clean and watch my portions and naturally the calories I take in are reduced.. I wouldn't say I was hindered b/c I didn't track - I have lost almost 50 lbs so far in 7 months time.. I think for some people food tracking works, and for others its isn't necessary (IF they have a grasp of healthy food and portion control).. I just had to comment b/c i know there are some people out there like me that tracking food would cause even more problems and I don't want them to think all is lost bc they can't maintain sanity and track food too. - 1/24/2012   1:15:20 AM
  • 45
    Greetings people!! I just want to say what a life saver this site is! And free? God Bless the person or persons who came up with this site.You are saving lives by helping others to change their life. I became disabled in 2001 after, let's say a terrible accident and medical nightmare. In the years since the weight has steadily piled on until I am what they call morbidly obese :'(. This has been hard since I grew up without a weight problem.I was healthy and athletic and could exercise.Anyways, depression set in,high blood pressure happened, but luckily not diabetes.I wanted to lose weight butcan't exercise so I thought I was doomed. Over a week ago an aunt visiting from out of state told me she was shocked to see how much I had gained.I promptly broke into tears and went home.My sons tried to console me but I said "No! Don't sugar coat it. I'm fat! The madness stops here!" Well, that opened my eyes.I don t want to die overweight or unhealthy. Then my youngest son,age 29,came in my room the next day and said he figured out our BMR's. He then explained what that meant.My own BMR at that point was 1800. He said if I do nothing,even sleep,my body burns that much per day.He then told me that to lose a pound of fat one needs to burn 3500 calories.So, if I take in 500 less calories a day in a week I lose a pound.(Now if a person moves around or does more they burn more!) Glory be! I can see clearly now! We made a pact to lose together.Be each others buddies! I am 5 '8 and last week weighed 255,age 55. My son,age 29, is 6' 3 and weighed 325. Now after just a week of tracking every thing that we eat, reading labels,researching,etc we each have lost 7 lbs! That's with no exercise! (He has a messed up knee so can't right now). Anyways, we both enter what we eat every day, if what we have isn't on the search list we enter it carefully. We read every label or look up every item.We read articles,we share what we each discover. I can't believe how simple this all really is! Why didn't I figure this out years ago? But, we don t dwell on negative thoughts.This is NOW! So excited about our future. Plus I bought a juicer and books and love juicing and veggies! There are so many healthy things to eat we never get hungry. We have so much energy,we don't get cranky or irritable. If we want a snack we have tons of healthy choices. We like to just eat slices of cucumbers..yummm, or make a smoothie( one banana,one Yoplait light yogurt and a quarter cup low fat milk..or half cup, it's up to you long as you read the label and know your calories). Instead of mashed potatoes like I loved I boil a head of cauliflower and treat as potatoes, mash or even puree in a blender like I love to do..Easy on your sodium.We try not to do salt since foods have enough sodium. We use other spices instead. Plus instead of potato chips look up recipe for Kale chips! They are awesome.So, watch your calorie intake,know your BMR,if you can exercise then do so but if you can't don't worry long as you are totally accountable and honest for every bite you place in your mouth..We are so happy to do this.Oh,yes! Portion control.We measure everything.Your meaduring cups and spoons are your best friends.We especially measure salad dressings or use alternatives. I like lemon juice on mine.Zero calories. But as long as you measure you can use what you like.Most people tend to pour too much on.I know I use to! Not anymore. Best to all of you! Happy health style changes! - 1/20/2012   12:41:40 PM
    Always know what you are eating. - 1/19/2012   6:21:26 PM
  • 43
    I did a challenge in Loving Our Kidneys team to track your nutrition. This helped me get on track with tracking daily, now I do not miss a day of tracking. To develop this habit is as important as developing the habit to get my daily exercise. - 1/18/2012   10:48:28 AM
  • 42
    I have done pretty well in the past with loosing weight with out tracking food - (and really thought it was a waste of time BUT this time around I thought I would try it - and it makes it so much easier to really keep in balance and so far I have been able to loose weight faster than I ever have before... - 1/18/2012   8:45:30 AM
  • 41
    Yes, it DOES make a difference! Some days I am ravenous and exceed my calories.... but I track it. I'm convinced my behavior is better even when I do go over when I continue to track. Slows me down, for one thing! - 1/18/2012   1:06:39 AM
  • 40
    Another great blog. The nutrition tracker was a huge factor for me and something I still use over two years later. - 1/17/2012   11:38:59 PM
  • 39
    I have been at or hovering at goal since late last March and I still track my meals. I weigh just about everything and though I can usually eyeball a cup of Cheerio, I check myself every few weeks and measure what I've eyeballed to see how close I've come to getting it right. I'm getting very good at that! Keeps me honest with myself! - 1/17/2012   11:17:24 PM
  • 38
    I agree if I can pronounce it I don't eat it. Watching what you eat is key to weight loss. By tracking your food intake you will be amazed at how much you eat. - 1/17/2012   10:41:03 PM
    Amen! you never outgrow tracking no matter what stage you are in...ever. It is almost impossible to "troubleshoot" a plateau without some idea as to what I have been doing (or not doing) I dont track all the time but, I do several times a week to make sure my boat is still sailing in the right direction....

    bottom line... YA JUST GOTTA KNOW! - 1/17/2012   9:54:39 PM
  • 36
    Wonderful Blog! I am new to Spark and the first thing that I did was track my food-all I can say is I now know why I need to lose weight! I track my food everyday and I look at the reports at the end of each day. I cannot believe that this is a free website. The Spark website is AWESOME and I am so grateful for the friend who told me about it. - 1/17/2012   9:32:07 PM
  • MKCC94
    For me the tracker is not only a great way to track calories, but to make sure that I get the right amount of protein, carbs and fat each day. When I was younger, I ate very little protein or fat. It worked for a while, but now I find that I maintain or lose much better when I eat a balanced diet. The food tracker is perfect for making sure that I do that! - 1/17/2012   8:31:03 PM
  • 34
    For me the nutrition tracker is like a gift from God. It has been so helpful in keeping track of my carb counts for diabetes in addition to the calorie count. It also makes meal adjustments so much easier than the " look it up in a book and do your own math" style I was using previously. - 1/17/2012   7:28:38 PM
  • 33
    Tracking is a real eye opener! We can sometimes deceive ourselves, but the tracker puts it in black and white. Then we know how we are really doing! - 1/17/2012   5:50:17 PM
  • 32
    I use both hand notes if I am out away from my computer and I use the tracker daily.
    If I take notes on what I eat I will then put it in the tracker and I can still see the report of how my eating habits are going and if I need to adjust my calories.
    I agree with ERIC19312 where we would have a better database for food tracking. i would like to add my foods into the the favorite section ahead of time and they would be their when I ate them I donot always keep the nutertion lables to add the food and search does not alway have the brand or type of food I may eat. - 1/17/2012   4:57:39 PM
    i will work on taking handwritten notes. its hard to find time to use the tracker. this is step one for me and food control - 1/17/2012   1:23:26 PM
  • 30
    I have never been terribly overweight, but definitely not in the healthey weight range. I have been on through the weight loss yo-yo a couple times, but never able to reach what is considered a healthy weight, and never consistent in my weight loss. When I would try to lose weight, I would work at tracking my exercise and working at increasing my physical activity. Until 4 months ago, I had never also started tracking what I ate. In the past 4 months I have lost 34 pounds and am within 11 pounds of a 'healthy' weight. I honestly believe their have been two keys to success, tracking everything I eat and my wife and I have been on this venture to a healthier life together. Though we generally did eat a lot of healthy food before, we weren't necessarily as aware of portions and a downfall that I still fight is the snacking, especially in the evening. We have been using many Spark Recipes, finding many wonderful, flavorful, healthy recipes that help fulfill our needs for great tasting food and healthy food. Each and every day we are learning more about what we eat and how to make sure we are staying on track. - 1/17/2012   1:11:18 PM
    When I first started using the nutrition tracker to measure my calorie counts (before using the suggested meals), I was absolutely stunned to see how many calories my "normal" eating habits I was consuming and even more stunned to see where the calories were coming from; and I could not believe how much over-eating I was doing.

    I still keep track of what I am eating and stick more closely to the recommendations for the meals each day. I do make modifications to the meals for things that I have on hand, but I keep a close eye on my calories, checking the totals after each meal so that I can make adjustments to the next meal, if necessary.

    At first the measuring and weighing seemed like such a hassle but now it has become second nature to reach for the food scale or measuring cups. I still measure everything I eat and log it as soon as I eat it so I don't get busy and forget to log in my food.

    The biggest benefit I see from doing all of these things is that I finally started to lose inches and weight. I still have a ways to go, but the more I work at it through eating proper portions, proper foods and proper exercise, the pounds are just melting off all thanks to Sparkpeople for getting me on the right track! - 1/17/2012   12:52:13 PM
  • 28
    Great article!

    I credit 100% of my weight loss success to the Nutrition Tracker. I find the Tracker so helpful that I actually am using it while I'm in maintenance so that I can - for once and for all! - keep the weight off. - 1/17/2012   12:44:31 PM
  • 27
    Always good to check in and remind myself what my BMR is. I've been back to counting calories for 2-3 weeks now, and it's very simple and quick once you get the hang of it. GREAT advice! - 1/17/2012   10:27:43 AM
  • 26
    I believe the most important tool for me was the daily calorie differential. Obviously that report would not work unless you track your nutrition and fitness. I LOVE spark people!!! - 1/17/2012   10:04:41 AM
  • 25
    Great Blog... that might be why I'm "stuck" at my current weight. I don't track my food. So I will start tracking my food.

    Thanks for always inspiring me. - 1/17/2012   9:57:39 AM
    Thanks for this blog - most of us will "think" we are watching what we eat but it only works if you write it down - I love the nutrition tracker and I do use it every day - I don't lose if I don't measure and count and weigh!! - 1/17/2012   9:38:16 AM
  • 23
    "This database is massive, but if you can't find something, you have the opportunity to add an item and share for the next member. How simple is that? "

    * I am amazed at how many times I find a food that is obscure and the tracker has at least a couple of entries from the SparkPeople community. this tracker has really given me a compass pointing north with the tacking and analysis.

    Between that and my SparkFriends (who I love very much), success is pretty much a lock. - 1/17/2012   9:35:06 AM
    So true! As soon as I stop tracking food, I stop losing or worse, start gaining! Over the last few weeks (post-holiday....) I started omitting some of the things that was eating (grazing again...) and my weight loss stopped. Yesterday I got back on track and my weight is already coming down and I feel much better. - 1/17/2012   9:16:14 AM
  • 21
    i've tried other weight loss programs that don't tell you to track your food and i never lost weight or gained it right back. I've been on Sparkpeople since September and (tried to) consistently track my food, and I've dropped over 30 lbs. Seems pretty obvious that tracking makes a difference!
    I do wish there was a way to eliminate duplicate entries on the food database. Sometimes I'll see 8 or 10 entries for the exact same food with the same nutrition data, so the multiple entries only make it confusing, but the confusion is a small price to pay for the success I've enjoyed so I can't complain too much! - 1/17/2012   9:14:38 AM
  • 20
    I agree with tracking EVERYTHING. I notice on days I fudge my tracking by omitting a Hershey's Kiss or 100 Calorie Yogurt thinking what's the big deal, those are the days there is no weight loss or have a gain. So to me tracking is the key to make sure you eat the correct calories, carbs, protein and fats and reminds me to drink that water. - 1/17/2012   8:28:19 AM
  • 19
    Tracking food is the only way I lose weight. I know what to eat, but when I am not tracking, I always take seconds or more of this or that. By tracking I know I am hold accountable for my daily intake by the tracker and thereby by me. And it motivates me to stay within calory range. - 1/17/2012   7:49:34 AM
  • 18
    This is just what I needed to hear today. I have been tracking successfully and losing weight but my eating last night was out of control. Reading that you've had the same problem but just picked yourself up the next day and moved on really helped me to get back to tracking today and put yesterday behind me. Thanks. - 1/17/2012   7:42:02 AM
  • 17
    Jerome my Spark Friend you are becoming famous! Good for you. I will admit to becoming VERY lazy about my tracking. I resolve to get better about it. - 1/17/2012   6:54:27 AM
  • 16
    Using the tracker works but I HAVE to use it. I'll commit to using it again. Starting today. - 1/17/2012   6:19:32 AM
    Not everything natural is good and not everything synthetic is bad. If you can't pronounce it, look it up, see what it does. I track my food, but find the BMR has me undereating, I track my TDE - Total daily expenditure. Eating to my BMR is great if I lie in bed all day, but i don't. I workout, clean my house, go to work, clean their house and take clients out and about. I'm active about ten hours of the day. I burn 2500 cal a day. If I ate to my bmr, 1500, I'd be in an undereat of 1000 cals a day. Tell me where that's healthy. - 1/17/2012   6:09:16 AM
  • 14
    I started tracking again after seeing no progress in weight loss over several months. I've lost 3lbs in two weeks. Enough said... - 1/17/2012   5:58:41 AM
  • 13
    Now that I have lost my weight and into maintenance now for the last year, I STILL track my food everyday and STILL check to see how I am doing nutrionally. I cook healthier now, then I did a year ago. I am always looking for healthy alternatives. - 1/17/2012   5:34:21 AM
  • 12
    I need to work on portion control. Tracking does help me. When I track consistently..I see my weight go down. I go through times even healthy food just tastes good to me and it's hard to stop. Interesting to note that when traveling sometimes I just crave healthy foods. I am changing! - 1/17/2012   5:26:00 AM
  • 11
    Do I have to be a man to reply? ^_~

    One thing I love doing in the reports section is looking at my weekly averages rather than the more widely varied day-to-day changes. One day out of whack is minor and not worth worrying about IF we get the weekly average in range. I also used the weekly and monthly reports to make an effective goal with a specific number to boost my protein consumption. Comparing a daily or weekly sodium intake to scale fluctuations could be eye-opening for some.

    Admittedly, I'm a fan of spreadsheets in general. Tracking what I eat doesn't feel like a chore, doesn't make me feel deprived. Instead, it makes me feel empowered, able to tweak what I eat during the day to make room for a specific dinner item or adjust my snacks to add more of whichever nutrient is struggling that day.

    Any concerns that things aren't in the database - by four months of consistent every day use, almost everything I eat semi-regularly has been found or entered. I've learned to "Save to Favorites" on everything. Most of us have tried and true regulars we eat. Once they've been entered once, or found once, we're set.

    I have had issues with how entered foods aren't always clear about serving size. (When I enter, I include grams at the end, but some things I still enter as "1 serving" which makes it harder to calculate. I'm trying to fix mine slowly now that I figured out how to edit my manually entered ones.) - 1/17/2012   3:54:23 AM
    This is the best thing ever. It makes me take control of my eating - 1/17/2012   3:27:15 AM

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