Want to Lose Weight? Keep It Simple.

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I've always been an advocate for learning to eat healthy instead of learning to "diet". Diets teach most people to eat in ways that they can't sustain forever. It can be easy to lose weight, but as soon as you go back to eating normally, the weight comes right back. Learning to eat a healthy, balanced diet means that you make good choices most of the time. You learn what kinds of foods are important parts of your daily nutrition, and which ones should be eaten in moderation. When you first start eating this way, it can take some time and label-reading. But eventually, it becomes an easy way of living.

For years I've tried to convince my mom to adopt this style of eating. But she says she's someone who needs structure and something that tells her specifically what she should and should not eat. She's always gone the route of dieting (which is probably why she's always struggled with her weight), but it seems that not all diets are created equal. New research is looking at what makes some diets more successful than others, since weight loss isn't quite as simple as just eating less.

A new study, published in the journal Appetite, found that the complexity of diets has an impact on how much weight is lost. The study compared two diet plans: one provided shopping lists and meal plans for participants to follow, while the other assigned point values to foods and required dieters to eat within a certain points range. 390 women answered questionnaires during an 8-week period, and researchers found that the more complex the women found the diet to be, the sooner they were likely to give up on it. The scientists concluded that "Even if you believe you can succeed, thinking that the diet is cognitively complex can undermine your efforts." Although some diets are more attractive than others because they allow more freedom (versus following a specific meal plan), if it's hard or time-consuming to do calculations, people are less likely to stick with it.

One of the biggest complaints I see on SparkPeople is that it's too time-consuming to track food. The SparkDiet encourages members to track their foods for a while, but eventually they can start to make healthy choices on their own without needing to track everything. I think that's a great strategy to follow. It would be nice if you didn't have to track foods, but if you never did, it's difficult to learn what's going wrong with your diet and where you need to make changes. Tracking food gives you the knowledge and experience to be able to progress to a point where you no longer need to track (unless you really like to for accountability purposes.)

What do you think? Have you gotten to a point where you don't need to follow a "diet" but just eat healthy?

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For me tracking my food and fitness and goals is empowerment.Being so over weight while my diabetes was making me get blockages in my heart and neck arteries scared me.I was out of control quick taking my insulin and didn't track anything felt hopeless and lost.Yet i just didn't want to die and leave my son who has a form of severe Autism i just could not leave my baby even if he is now 30.
So i got mad and i needed to be in control,so i record each day good or bad in foods and work outs.On another note book i take blood pressure and blood sugar and the time.It is my win even on days that i may have made a mistake and eaten or missed a work out.I always answer the truth because it would only be lying to myse4lf. I love smart for making me so much more aware!! I love you spark program!! Report
I completely agree! It's so easy to eat way too many calories without putting in the easy work of just entering the food. Report
The Spark food tracker is the BEST! I'm easily tracking everything I put in my mouth, and seeing it visually with all the nutrition breakdown really helps me make wise choices. Thank you so much SPARKPEOPLE.co! I love you :) Report
I just started keeping a food journal, and watching my calories. I am amazed at how easy it is and wonders why I didn't do it sooner! I am obsessed now with counting and tracking not for a diet, but for my lifetime, to ensure I never go down this "fat road" again! Report
Still tracking but not daily. I have switch to being a veggie eater most of the time.
I do not mind the tracking idea but I really know what I should eat. Just having a little problem with protein to sustain my energy level. Report
I have to track. when i stop the scale goes in the wrong direction. I do have a cell phone pda where I write the foods I eat if I don't have time to look it up. I put it in the SP tracker when I get home. Report
I love the tracking...it keeps me honest about how much I eat Report
I have been tracking food off and on since I started weight watchers in 2004. I know can do better with the foods I eat. I just get bored easily. I haven't had a chance to get bored with SP. This is a wonderful site. Report
I actually enjoy tracking my food points on Spark. That probably will change eventually but I've been on the site seven weeks now and it's still fun. In contrast, the couple of times I tried Weight Watchers I was fed up with filling in the little book within 2 weeks. An automated tracker is SO much better. Report
KISS - Keep it So Simple (my own modification of the acronym). Totally agree, I can't take more things to memorize, record or deal with. I have stopped consistently tracking and blogging, things I need to get back to.....I'm almost there. Report
I track my calories religeously, every morning, afternoon and night. WHen I stop learning and have reached my goal weight I might stop. Report
Has anyone read Naturally Thin by Bethanny Frankle? It addresses this very subject and is a very helpful book. She also includes some really good, really healthy recipes. Report
I track my foods but am getting more comfortable about my choices. If I can't track for a day or two I don't sweat it. After that I start tracking again to make sure I stay on track. Report
I've never really tracked calories, and I've never followed a specific diet (South Beach or Weight Watchers or Atkins or grapefruit or squid on a stick or anything). However, I find that I am much more conscious of, and conscientious about, what I eat if I am writing it down. Even though I know I'm not being graded or judged by anyone, I don't want to have to record all those mindless snacks. Report
Tracking is the most difficult thing for me... I want to. I just forget, or try to calculate in my head when i don't take the time to write it down. I know if I track I have more success. Thankfully my mentality is not that I diet. I have changed the way I live with food. It has made a drastic difference in my health. This is not something I know has a beginning and ending... this healthy lifestyle has become part of who I am and who I strive continually to be. Report
Joining SparkPeople has changed my entire outlook on weight loss. What? No deprivation? No "sin" foods that I can never eat again? No strange eating rules? No complicated equations to figure out points? It can't be!!

But it is!!

I can't imagine a time when I'll be able to NOT track my food and just make choices on my own. If I go off even for a day or two I'm right back to being way over in calories, not making the healthiest of choices, not wanting to exercise. Sure, it takes some time in the beginning, but as you do it you get better at it.

I recently made a set meal plan for a month's time, then went and input all of the food in my SP tracker under the "Food Groupings" tab. It took a couple hours to get everything in, but once I did it make things SO SIMPLE! All I have to do is log in, click the meals I plan to eat for the day, and I'm done! Takes all of 30 seconds now! And, I find, if I plan it, I'll eat it!

Oddly, I also find that if I'm NOT tracking I actually AVOID eating the healthy foods I have in the house. I think the thought is that if I'm not on track, I should save the "good" foods for later. Strange little quirk of mine .... Report
Tracking keeps me focused. I got off track this past week because I was stressed about a silly situation and didn't log my food intake. My whole system was off. Now I am back to my regular routine and I am happy! I am a very organized person so logging my food intake works for me. Each of us has our own way of doing what is right for us...the point is - Just Do It! Report
I found I loose more if I track what I eat. If I have to log it, I then ask myself if I really want to eat it. Report
I love it that SP has so many ways to live-it (excuse me for not saying the other word)!

I like to track. I believe I will get to the point where I don't have to do so. Most of the time I could get away without it now as far as calories go. BUT tracking helps me measure other nutrients. I never knew I ate so little protein until Spark People tracker.

Besides - tracking is fun AND I get Spark Points! Report
I love to track my food. It just keeps me accountable, because I hate to put something on the tracker that takes me over the edge. Report
I find it so much easier to stick to my diet if I'm tracking my calories as well as tracking the calories I'ved burned. I lose more this way. Report
I've never been one to diet. I prefer the old fashioned way of losing weight...working out and eating healthy. Sure, it takes longer and sometimes I want to give up, but it's worth it in the long run! Report
It can be time consuming - but tracking keeps me on target! When I don't track, I can tend to get into 'not thinking about what I'm eating'. Report
It is a pain at time to track and log my food, but I find that it helps keep me on track. If I didn't track everything, I know myself enough that I would get lazy and start snacking on things I shouldn't. This is exactly why I have been up and down for YEARS! Report
tracking my food helps - especially since every time you get rid of hopefully FAT you also have your calorie count reduced ... it was a big surprise for me last week so I need the tracker to keep in balance. Report
This is kind of a "DUH" article for me... I know what it takes for me to be successful: track food and work out! Report
I tend to over eat, so tracking my food intake is an essential tool to my being successful in weight loss, eating healthy, and staying within my calorie range. Before Sparkpeople showed me how track I just grazed my way through my day. Report
Previous "diet" I was on counted food by points. Didn't lose anything significant in 5 months(up/down/back/forth). Now with the SP tracking, I see I was eating waaay too many carbs and fat. I love that my decisions are made based on the pie chart recommendations. It's that simple for me. Report
Yes it is time consuming - and I am worth EVERY moment of time I spend inputting my food and exercise in the tracker. I was thrilled when I downloaded the SP app to my Driod phone, made it all easier when I was away from the computer. By recognizing the what, the how and the why you can make changes to those patterns - you cannot make that change until you see what needs to be done - the trackers provide the information I need to make the necessary changes required on this healthy lifestyle journey! Report
i love the calorie tracker it keeps me in line. and shows me what i am lacking..
it does take time to enter the things i eat, and odd foods but once they are in there it is quick and easy. Report
I'm new to this, but I really like the nutrtion tracker. I'm a person that loves food and doesn't really want to give up anything and this is way for me to keep everything in moderation. Report
The tracker keeps me honest! I use it every day and feel guilty if I don't track my calories. Report
I track occassionally, especially when I think I am getting away from the healtful eating. I also like to monitor the breakdown of PRO, CHO and Fat intake as well as my Calcium and Sodium Report
I think I will always use the nutrition tracker ( at least periodically) to keep myself in line - it is so easy for me to overeat or not realize what I am eating that I need that reality check. Report
The tracker definitely keeps me on track - especially portion control. I print out my days and then put my blood sugars on the print out...this also gives me a good way to see what meals work and which don't. I have become much more aware of portions etc and don't really need the tracker for that but it does keep me accountable on days when I don't stick to things... as my doctor says I have the best documented lifestyle change he's ever seen and said that if it works for me..then do it! the next 100 pounds will be harder and seeing what I am doing every day will be extremely helpful!

I love the fact I can enter my own items in as here in Canada we have different items..or items on the main list don't match. I love the recipe calculator as well...NOW I know how many calories are in my spaghetti sauce or other dishes I love to make! Report
There are some ways to make it easier - like copy one meal to another day. I usually eat the same things for breakfast pretty consistently. I also have to say that I am bad on getting enough calcium in my diet - and Sparks has helped. Report
I've been on SP for a few months now and still find it rather difficult to track. I'll get there soon enough. Right now, I'm just trying to write down everything I eat, and substitute healthy for unhealthy foods. Report
Diets don't work...it's the healthy lifestyle way for me...SparkPeople! Report
I always track my food an exercise. I do it on Sparks, but if I'm away or too busy to get on-line, I keep a journal that I write in everyday, and I track my food an exercise in there. Report
Its all about substituting healthy habbits for not so healthy habits and everything in moderation. Report
I HAVE to track my food or I fall prey to mindless eating. I am working on the emotional struggle, and until I can fix the "loose screws" in my head, I need to physically see how much I am eating every day. Report
Tracking is as normal a part of eating for me as washing the dishes is. I just do it. It is not a burden; it is a part of my routine. I have lost 158 pounds and kept them off. Tracking. Everything. Everyday. No big deal. Report
Maybe it's a case of glass half full or half empty. The way I see it is that tracking *through SP* is the opposite of time consuming. This is because all I have to do is click a few buttons and SP does everything for me. True, often I have to enter the information first but once it's there it's there and I never have to do it again for that item.
The alternative is that I'd have to write everything down and calculate it myself with pen and paper... now *that* would be time consuming! Report
I agree that at first, it took a long time to track foods because entering all of the information is very time consuming. I have tried to utilize other members entries in the "search" mode for tracking food, but more times then not i have found that there is slight differences to either calories, or fat, or sodium etc so I try to enter everything from the food label in front of me. Keeping track of everything I eat actually helps me keep myself on track. I am a creature of habit, so I will eat more when given the chance. So, I do like to track my daily food. It's an awesome tool, and keeps me on track. Report
i will always track my food....it just helps me plan my meals better in advance so i know what to put on my grocerie list and what im preparing... if i plan on going out for a meal to a resteraunt or a family members, i plan around that so i dont over do it for the day... this is just part of my healthy living and daily life style now Report
I track every meal and snacks. I weigh and measure most everything and I am loosing weight. I keep my calories just under my allowed calories because not everything is created equal. I am working on this I have made a choice to meet or go just above my low end range and gradually increase this to where I am consistanly eating most of my calories. This will take me into maintainance and I hope it works. This has been a learning process and I know it will continue for quite some time ... I really wish that before a recipe could be entered into our recipe list that it had to have the serving size in it. Some things I just wont bother with because I don't now if I'm eating 100 calories or 250 calories.. It really makes a difference. Report
I find tracking is realy important for me because I tend to not eat enough - this slows my metabolism and weight loss stops. I also am a bit "nerdy" because I think it is fun! At the end of the day, it also helps to make sure my report is showing the appropriate ratio on my macros. Report
The Tracker is the best help for me. Today I was sure I had enough calories left that I could eat more fruit tonight. Wrong! If possible I check my tracker before my evening meal to make sure my carbs and fats are not too high, then I work my dinner around that. I joke with friends and say I will probably be tracking until the day I die, in spite of the fact I know the healthy food plan. Report
As time-consuming as tracking can be, especially in the beginning before I saved all my "favorites", I've found if I don't track, I definitely give myself way too much slack and overeat. Tracking helps me stay accountable to myself for what I'm putting in my body. Report
I've been eating "healthy" for over a year. My problem is quantity - not quality. I don't eat any junk food or even processed foods and rarely go out to restaurants. I track because I need to keep myself accountable. Report
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