The Benefit Of Tracking
So after explaining the 5 main problems with tracking numbers in the previous post… this one may come as a surprise!
Numbers by themselves, don’t tell the whole story with an individual’s nutrition – except when considering the extremes. For example, if a client comes to me feeling lethargic with a food journal showing that they’re ‘living’ on 800 calories a day… you may be able to identify a problem!
However, the true benefit from tracking for a specific period of time is…
If you track your intake for a 3-7 day period, you will learn a lot about yourself…:
- WHAT you’re eating
- WHY you’re eating
- WHEN you’re eating
- And HOW you’re eating (e.g. rushed and anxious VS calmed and relaxed)
When the EMPHASIS in on FOOD and not numbers, you become aware of what you’re thinking, doing, sensing, and your patterns, habits and triggers associated with food.
And when YOU’RE AWARE, YOU’RE IN CONTROL.
As an added bonus, you can take it with you wherever you like, for the rest of your life. Unlike let’s say, the food scales – unless you don’t mind explaining to friends at your next dinner party who’s your new ‘lover’ you’re in a relationship with… and who probably has you on a ball and chain.
When you gain awareness, you find yourself in a position of power. You can identify what foods / meals / emotions / situations / physical, social environments etc. PERSONALLY influence you, your behaviours, and your feelings.
Becoming CONSCIOUS of this can kick-start serious change, and put you on the right path to learning more about your INTERNAL cues and mastering the ability to become IN-TUNE with your body.
But like anything, this takes practicing achievable and progressive habits, repeatedly until they become second nature to you.
A few other aspects you might become conscious of when tracking your intake for a short period of time…things you may not expect such as:
- How simply knowing that you’re recording your intake, you change your eating habits.
- Where you put your locus of control?
o Are you eating when you’re physically hungry, or holding back because you’re afraid of the numbers?
o Or worried what the food journal will think?
- Finding resistance to writing down everything you’re consuming?
o “It’s just a small snack, doesn’t count”
o “I’ll get round to writing it down later”
o “I’ll remember it when I look at my journal tonight”
o “I already know what I eat, I don’t need to write it down”
o ‘Forgetting’ something because it was less than ‘ideal’ and would ruin the ‘perfect’ streak.
- You may identify your own patterns, routines or habits.
o What do you do more or less of?
o When, where, how do you eat?
o Are you a routine-based eater or a spontaneous eater?
When becoming aware of these, take it as information / data, don’t try to ignore or avoid it. These are the aspects you’re looking for in your diet – where you’re doing things really well and what working for you, and how you can do MORE of that.
Also looking over areas that concern you, and what action steps / strategies you could put in place to influence change in those specific areas.
This is where tracking with a purpose can be powerful – tracking ONLY what NEEDS to be tracked and what’s relevant and meaningful.
- If you’re a fast eater, track how fast you eat your meals
- If you’re a scheduled eater and not always hungry, track your hunger and fullness before & after each meal
- If you’re an emotional eater, track the emotions you feel before & after a meal and what foods you associate the emotions with.
- If you have a disordered eating behaviour, track the lead up to the behaviour, what are you feeling, what habits do you do subconsciously? How could you implement one small change to break the pattern?
- If you’re an athlete, track which foods / meals you thrive off and perform at your best.
Tracking calories and macronutrients by themselves is never an optimal strategy. However, there is another situation when they can be beneficial. If you're strictly dieting for a short term fat loss or lean muscle mass programme, and the numbers lifestyle fits in with you during that period, it can be a good strategy, but for longevity and for understanding how to become in-tune with your body, tracking for life makes you a slave to the numbers and take the control away from your internal bodily cues.
Once again, the greatest benefit of tracking is AWARENESS
Gaining awareness, puts us in control and in a position to move us in the right direction for serious change.
But it’s important to only track what is RELEVANT and PERSONAL to you. This is an awareness building tool that is useful for short period of time.
UP NEXT: Compensation & Bargaining
Stay Healthy & Happy!