Tracking itself and the internet can become an addiction, if you let it. ;-) And frankly, if you are going to be that food focused, you are missing out on your life.
BUT, at first, and maybe for quite a while, you need to learn how to eat. What is a portion size? What are your trigger foods that make you binge? What can you just not say no to? What are you missing, health wise, on a normal day, etc.
But at some point, it does become habit, and you can stop the tracking. However, you need to keep the awareness.
I put on 30 lbs in one year, after losing 30-40, just cause i started sneaking in a cookie here, a candy bar there...till i'd stopped all teh good habits.
I tracked everything for a month or so, but I found it time-consuming, and "made" me get on the computer, which for me is a danger. The internet harms my physical health like sugar harms my diet, so I try to avoid both. (I just logged in after 2 months away to enter my weight data over the last 2 months and see how much I have fallen behind - not as bad as I feared!)
However, I also found tracking my food to be quite educational. I have realized I need to track *something* to stay on track. I am still trying to figure out what I can and cannot get away with. Right now, my daily goals that I track (with checkmarks on a wall calendar) are taking my supplements and going outside for 30 minutes. My goals for every meal are to drink 2 cups of water and make it balanced. I divide my plate so: half the plate is fruits and vegetables, 1/4 is protein, and 1/4 is high-fiber carbs. By focusing on each meal individually, I don't have to keep track of so much at once, but I still end up with a balanced diet.
Also, I learned what 100 calories look like for a lot of foods. I found it's easier to remember that I ate tens of 100-calorie servings rather than thousands of calories. I'm able to estimate calories when I go out by breaking down the meal into 100-calorie segments.
It's still a work in progress, but that's what has worked best so far.
I'm a bit "off and on" with tracking. I rarely fit within the limits that SP has set so tracking daily doesn't benefit me much.
But every now and again, I'll do it for a week or so, especially if I've been using new foods.
Fitness Minutes: (14,871)
367 9/22/10 10:51 A
I must be weird because I LOVE tracking! First thing in the morning with a cup of coffee I plan my food for the day. It is like this fun puzzle to see what yummy foods I get to eat staying in all my nutritional and calorie ranges.
If your new to it, understand that it is going to take a bit of practice to learn the short cuts. All my families recipes are in my favorites so it is easy for me to add them to my trackers.
Good luck, do what works for you. For me, yes I can see doing this every day for the rest of my life. Much like my food choices and exercise, it is now just part of my healthy life style.
Fitness Minutes: (69,744)
1,330 9/22/10 10:48 A
I am another one who tracks everything and to me, it is hugely important. I will track in some form for the rest of my life. But, I do feel we have to do what we are comfortable with. If we can keep our food in check without tracking, that's great. For me, though, I tend to overeat/underestimate so tracking is essential. It does get much easier over time and takes only minutes per day.
9/22/10 10:45 A
This is MY experience: I did not want to have to track what I ate. I associate tracking with dieting, so I really fought this. My doctor encouraged me to find/use a program where I had to be accountable. When I found SparkPeople I immediately found the Food Tracker. It was much easier/faster to use than the old calorie counter and pen and notebook method I had used in the past. I got started using it and found out what a useful, helpful tool it was for me. I could see what and how much I was eating - really finally saw the purpose of a food diary: to give one insight into your eating habits. For me, tracking my food has really, finally made the difference. I have been doing it each day for the last 3 months and a week. I have lost over 20 pounds; I exercise too! But the real difference has been being able to SEE what I eat, and make better, healthier, informed choices - and I give alot of credit to using the food tracker tool. For me, tracking my food, daily has been a successful learning stage. Ideally, I hope that some day I won't have to - maybe when I reach my goal weight I will be more 'educated' on portion sizes, etc. and can wean off of it. But for now, it's been very helpful in moving towards my goals of healthier living! Just my personal observation. Good luck!
It really is up to you whether or not you should track. I only track on the weekdays, since my weekends are usually so busy. And once you know what a portion size really is, it is easy to have an idea of much you are eating. Good Luck!
I like tracking because it makes me think when I am eating 1)Am I still hungry? 2)I am going to have to account for this on the tracker, do I really want a brownie etc..?
9/22/10 10:34 A
For me, tracking food has been the single most important step toward success. I simply had no idea how much I was eating. I tried not tracking this summer, since I'd met my weight goal, and while I ate noticeably better (clearly the patterns have changed), I did end up eating more. It sort of crept back in, and I'm back to tracking for a while, with the goal of learning what my maintenance range looks like food-wise, rather than calorie-wise.
But anyway, tracking does get a lot easier once you start getting all your regular foods listed as favorites. Now, I just use the mobile SP on my phone and almost everything I eat is in there. I even have a "misc cal" food that I entered in, that's in 10 calorie increments, so if I know I ate a 400 cal burrito, I can just add in 40 misc cals to my tracker if I'm in a rush, rather than looking up (or creating an entry for) the actual meal.
As others have said, different things work for different people, but for me, simply deciding to make better choices and eat smaller portions just didn't work. Measuring, weighing, and tracking was the key.
I personally track every day, but I feel that I really need to because left to my own devices, I don't make good choices. I am still learning to eat better and seeing how the things I choose look like nutritionally helps me. I think that eventually when I feel that I have this down, I will slack up, but pay close attention to my weight. If it starts to creep up, then back to tracking I will go.
When I first joined SP I found tracking difficult...foods weren't always listed etc. But since then I have realized that it has helped me. I am understanding porportions better..understanding the carbs, sugars, fats and protein better. Understanding my eating habits better. But I don't always track..sometimes I am not able to. But I have learned to make wiser choices that are helping me. You really do need to find what works for you. I like tracking because I feel it helps me to stay on target for the day (most days). Good luck to you.
9/22/10 9:12 A
It is not always possible to track but if you track most days or every other day, it keeps you honest.
Tracking your food is a learning tool. What's stressing you out about it? Is it what you're seeing, or the process itself? I know it's a little bit of a pain at first, but once you get your favorites and food groupings set up, it goes pretty quickly (I'm a creature of habit, so I eat the same things pretty often). I get a real sense of satisfaction when I make some good choices and they're reflected in my totals, and I try to learn something when I have a not-so-hot day.
To answer your question, I agree with a lot of the others....whether you track "forever" is up to you. I'm pretty flexible with it....if I'm too busy or don't have access to a computer for a day, I don't worry about it. I didn't track for an entire week while I was on vacation, and I maintained...yay!
Mostly, I track. Weekends seem to be my weak point. I find that when I do track, I eat "better," meaning I am more able to see my nutrients and make better choices. I don't think this has to be an all or none. Find what works for you and go from there!
for most people, tracking what they eat is a great way to see proper portion sizes and how they fit into a balanced diet. diet as in what you eat, the primary definition. it also helps them see what foods really cost in terms of calories. so many people think that healthy food equals low calorie, and they should therefore eat as much of it as they can. and while that's great for green leafies, for things like nuts, olive oil, avocado, salmon and other fattier -but good fat- foods, it's a great way to kill progress and you should eat but limit how much and you're not going to figure that out if you go from unlimited to gigondo portions.
one thing that can make tracking easier is to look for shortcuts. if your plates and bowls have patterns on them, use them. i have 2 cup pyrex bowls that i use for everyday and they have a little squiggle around the rim. if i fill the bowl to the bottom of the squiggle, that's a cup. if i fill to the top of the squiggle, that's a cup and a half. knowing what your portions look like relative to what you eat and eat on can help you sorta track but not really. the bikini diet is also a great thing to use too on off days. it calls for you to mentally divide your plate into three portions. one portion is the whole bottom half of your plate, and that spot is to be filled with veggies. the top half gets divided into two again, so it becomes 1/4 of the plate. one portion is for protein, the other for starches/grains. it's an easy visual way to get closer to where you should be without counting too much.
and this last cheat takes a lot of work. but the idea is that you already have a breakdown of about where you want your calories to be. say 200 cals for breakfast, 200 cals for midmorning snack, 400 cals for lunch, 200 cals for another snack, 400 cals for dinner, and 200 cals for your after dinner snack [can you tell i'm a grazer?]. so as you track and find recipes you like, you start a list of 200 cal breakfasts. and you write down your options. so once you've done a good bit of the legwork, you basically just have to look to the list and pick a breakfast that sounds good, because you've built the list to be a list of good options with decent portions so you just follow the recipe. 200 cal breakfasts might be -half a whole wheat bagel, half an ounce of cheese, and an apple. -an egg white, half a zucchini, half a teaspoon olive oil, half an ounce of cheese, and a piece of lavash. -four ounces of yogurt and a Tablespoon of granola
or whatever you like that happens to work for you. when you hit maintenance, you'll have to make new lists. go back and you'll probably have a spare 50-100 cals per eating opportunity, so make a new list of foods with the revamped larger portions. so your 250 cal breakfast may be adding a half ounce cheese to the bagel, another egg or a whole egg and more cheese to the zucchini, and larger portions of yogurt and granola. this way you have lists of basic recipes to use when maintaining and when losing. and it's not more measuring than following a recipe. and if you can get away with eyeballing, do so. but every now and then, measure out your portions to make sure they are staying true.
and as others have said, some people do have to track forever. most people don't, but there are a few who can't do it any other way. so start now by tracking some and trying to achieve that balance that you need. if you keep failing without tracking, buckle down and really track. then slowly try and transition back or find a middle ground that works for you. then try your tricks and/or not tracking. and see how you do. it may take some time tracking before you can not track. and if you do have problems, keep revisiting tracking.
Yup, there's no "best way", there's only "what works for me". :)
It is entirely possible for some people to lose weight without any tracking at all, just a general healthy idea of what a good day's eating looks like and what to avoid. It's also entirely possible for some people to fly completely off the wagon and be unable to make any progress at all without tracking every single bite. And many other people fall between.
This is why you're getting mixed signals - different things really DO WORK for different people! So you just have to experiment.
Know this though - if you're a bit of a noob now and tracking works for you, don't stress out that you'll have to do this for life. You can and probably will learn what good eating looks and feels like, and make new habits, so that eventually you are at the point where you won't need to track religiously all of the time.
You ultimately get to make the decision for yourself.
Some people do just fine with tracking daily. Some people take a break for a while and only return to tracking if they see their weight's moving in a direction they're not happy with. Some people find a way to move forward without tracking at all.
You have to experiment and find out what's going to work best for you.
Is it that important to track everything you eat and drink? Do people track for the rest of their lives? I find it very stressful, and stress leads to binge eating. Someone suggested not to track, but to make better choices and to lower my portions. Does this make sense to anyone? The question is will I always have to track? I just want to do the best thing for myself, and I do want to lose weight, but I seem to be getting mixed messages. Please clear this up for me. Thanks, Leeann261
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