I'm on the opposite side of the spectrum from Lilli. In the past, when I tracked obsessively, I lost minimal weight - never more than 5 pounds; all of which came back when I got frustrated and quit. This time around, without tracking, I've lost 25 lbs and have maintained, and continued, the weight loss. It's slower than what some people may be satisfied with, but it's enough for me.
While I'm not an advocate for tracking everything, I am an advocate for knowing what you're eating, and how many calories are in it. I have weighed and measured food before I eat, and will still do it every now and then to make sure my estimates don't veer too far off from concrete measurements. I do still track every now and then - sometimes just a meal or two, sometimes several days in a row. Again, it's just to make sure I'm not veering too far off track.
I think that everyone's situation, and everyone's relationship with food, is going to be slightly different, so what each individual needs to do to be successful is going to change. For me, with my past, my personality, my current situation, etc, etc, etc - this is what works for me. I was maintaining my weight with my current diet and level of exercise, and had been for years. It only took small changes to kick start the weight loss process. And I know from past experiences, that certain things do NOT work for me, so I avoided those things entirely.
I'm not saying that some day I won't get to the point where I do track everything. But right now, for me, I don't want to, nor need to, track what I eat in order to lose weight and increase my overall health and fitness. Like the OP, I found it easier to focus on one thing at a time, and adding exercise came first. Then small diet changes. Being consistent with strength training is next. What comes after that, I'll figure out when I get there. I'm not worried if it takes me years to get the weight off. It took me decades to put it on, after all.
To the OP, I'm a big fan of making small changes, living with them until they no longer feel like changes before moving on to the next small change. If it feels like torture to track meals, then tackle something smaller. Switch out an unhealthy option for a healthier option - popcorn for chips, fruit juice for soda (yes, I know there's still lots of sugar in fruit juice, but I'm looking at healthIER not healthIEST options here). Make it a habit. Then find something else to change. Track a single meal, every day. Then add in snacks. Then whatever comes next for you. Do what feels right for you. Experiment until you find it.
4/16/13 6:58 P
The one thing that yields results for me is tracking my food. If I don't track my food...weight loss does not happen. Period.
Maybe you can lose weight without tracking, but I personally wouldn't advise it. It's so easy to lie to ourselves about what we're eating, how much, how healthy, etc.. Make it easier on yourself. Remove the doubts and the little white lies.
I am NOT a fan of tracking food/calories. I would rather focus on eating healthier, well portioned meals than worrying about how many calories that last nibble added to my daily total.
In the past, when I was consistently tracking, it got to the point where I was obsessive about it and wouldn't eat anything I couldn't track accurately, which completely destroyed my enjoyment of the food that I was eating. This is not where I want to be, so I had avoided tracking like the plague for a long time.
For the past few months, I have, gradually, started tracking again. Rather than tracking whole days, I will often track individual meals. For example, I tend to cycle through a selection of three or four different breakfast options. So for a weekish, I tracked my breakfast every day. I created recipes and food groupings for them so with a quick click, I can track them again in future, although this wasn't my primary goal in tracking the meal. I now know, within a reasonable percentage, how many calories my typical breakfasts contain.
Rinse and repeat the above with lunch and dinner, and I have a general idea of how many calories my meals contain, and as long as I'm eating within that selection, I don't really worry about tracking at all. When I eat something new or different, I will often track that meal to get an idea of where it falls in relation to my 'usuals', but don't stress as much about adding it to my plan.
Adding dishes to your recipe book really does help. It takes a little longer in the beginning, but it saves a lot of time later on. Most cooks tend to have a selection of favourite recipes that they'll use numerous times over the course of a month. Look at every 15 minutes you spend adding a new recipe to your cookbook as saving you time and energy later.
Here is what works for me. Just a few suggestions:
1 - I am very competitive and want to "level up" in Spark as much as possible. So, I compete with myself to get as many points as possible, and tracking food is 15!
2 - I really want to know what I am putting in my body and be aware of choices I am making. This REALLY helps. There are some days where I have thought I was close to over my calories, when I was barely making it to the bottom range. Which is why I was so hungry! So I got to eat a "bonus" meal, to make sure I had enough energy for the next day!
(This might be the most helpful)
3 - Save your meals to your "favorites" when you track. Then, the next time you only have to scroll through what you already saved as a favorite. I'm not saying you repeat meals all the time, but it sure makes it a lot faster!!! I have quite a few I do that with.
Sometimes, when I am very busy I just keep an old fashioned pen and paper journal. I have a good idea of what most of the food I prepare is calorie-wise and still measure. Not entering everything in the sparkpeople recipe calculator may mean that your calories are a little off, but they'll be close. Keep in mind - people who eat packaged or prepared food from either a store or a restaurant are not getting 100% accurate calorie counts either. There have been several studies showing that the calories in these foods are off, usually over, and sometimes significantly so!
So do your best, track what you can as best you can, but don't stress getting the calories 100% correct. NONE of us are, I promise you! :-)
4/15/13 3:04 P
Does the day crowd have any suggestions?
4/15/13 12:15 A
Thanks for the advice! I think I'll need to start small with a few times a week, but before that - maybe I need to figure out WHY I hate tracking. I will reflect on that.
My family makes dinner, so that is always a surprise. And even though everything is homemade, it is never the same so that I can do the convenient "food groups" option. :-/
Sparkpeople has lots of fantastic articles and workouts that are made with Ten minutes in mind. Long ago I had moderate success with Coach Nicole's SparkPeople's 7-Day Bootcamp Workout. http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/fitnes s_articles.asp?id=1102
But this time my success has been with Fit Zombie - cause it's more fun to have zombies be your motivation that just losing weight and being healthy. ;) I started this fitness adventure with the simple statement that as a new nurse - my work life will be much easier and better with more muscles to lift people and carrying around less fat on my knees.... but that motivation only lasted a few weeks, now I just look forward to giving myself prizes every 25 days!
I blog about fitness and food success/issues every night (on my tumblr. I used to do it here, but I have the mouth of a sailor and prefer to blog uncensored over there). It just feels good to complain about how much I didn't want to workout and then being able to write "But I did it anyway. The whole thing. Mission accomplished." Cause a lot of days ARE a struggle, and that's not including the extra life drama the universe throws at us - brother in jail, coworker on drugs, mom sick, finding a new job, etc etc etc - But I know in myself I am still able to devote less than an hour to working out. There are many things in this world beyond my control. But I do have control over whether I workout today or not. That is also why I reward myself for consecutive days and not pounds lost. I can't control if I'm retaining water today, but I can control that I did my Back & Biceps + Core workout today. :D
Have you tried exercising at a different time of day? Some people do mornings.... this pirate does evenings after dinner. Also, remember that the 10 minutes dont have to be all at the same time. Start with what you are able to do. 5 minutes before breakfast, 5 minutes while waiting for the news to come on at night. Maybe later that week you are able to find time for 7 minutes before the family comes home. Put a sign on your bedroom door "Be back in 15 minutes" and take time for yourself to get the workout done you want to do (and 5 minutes to relax afterwards and rehydrate) :)
Fitness Minutes: (3,151)
4/14/13 11:34 P
I;m only on day 11 so I really have no room to talk, but that's never stopped me. It's the fitness/exercise piece I find really hard. I love the food tracker. I've tried others over the years, and tried keeping a food diary, and this is by far the easiest one I've ever used. If you want a hard one, try the one at the my pyramid.com website. The sparkpeople tracker is a cinch compared to that. It's given me some shockers though, when I've eated out, thinking I was choosing wisely, then went home and entered it. Ugh! Couple of things: You could try committing to doing it twice a week, maybe one week day and one weekend day. Do that for two or three weeks (small, measurable goals), review it and see what you've learned from it. Why do you want to do the food tracking? There are lots of articles that say keeping a food diary is a strong factor in weight loss, but is it a factor for you? Just found this Mix and Match Meal Planner on the Sparkpeople site, with simple lists and drop down menus. If your meals fit into this pattern, you may find it easier to set this up in advance and then click it off. If you or whoever cooks for you makes the same dishes frequently, you should be able to list them as groupings or favorites and not have to enter all the dishes in each time. The recipe calculator should help with that too. Does someone else in the family do the meal planning and cooking? Because it's easier to plan and put it in if you can set some (doesn't have to be all of it) up in advance. And after you've done it for a bit, review it and see what you can learn. If it doesn't change anything for you, maybe you don't need to do it. Any advice for someone with lots of job stress and home stress and fatigue who spends too much time planted in front of the TV, and has no inclincation to exercise? I'm trying to commit to 10 minutes daily but finding even that difficult.
4/14/13 10:51 P
I am on Day 99 of my fitness program and I am struggling so much to track food/calories. I just hate doing it.
During my first 10 weeks, I just kept myself focused on the fitness side of the program to get used to working out and not overwhelming myself with too many things to track. For the last few weeks I have been trying to add the focus on the food aspect, but I am struggling.
Over all I am much better at choosing better options and portion control (my personal struggle), but I just can not get myself to track food everyday... or even every other day.... I think the most I did was twice in the same week once..... Our house cooks from scratch all the time so every meal takes forever to enter.
I am already giving myself rewards every 25days for sticking to my fitness plan... I don't even know how I could work in rewards for food tracking.... I know all the benefits of tracking food, and know that I will be even more successful with getting fit IF I do it - but the knowledge is not enough to get me to do it. I even paid for the sparkpeople app so it's on my phone by my side all day. I don't have any reasons not to do it except that I hate it.
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