If you know me, you know I’m not big on the calorie-counting and tracking mania of the rest of the diet world. I prefer to let people figure out their health intuitively, eating whole, healthful foods that make them feel good.
But in some circumstances I actually think tracking may be a good idea.
There’s no one size fits all way to know if tracking might be a good choice for you. You know yourself best.
But here are 3 reasons you might consider tracking food intake.
Even if you’re eating paleo, you may not be getting ALL the nutrients required for health.
Ever monitored how much potassium you’re taking in? I can almost guarantee it doesn’t meet the recommended daily allowance.
Now, I’m not about perfectionism and strict rule following.
But micronutrients are just as important, if not more important than macros.
Instead of worrying about what exact percentage or gram amount of carbs you’re eating in a day, how’s about worrying if you’ve got your daily allotment of vitamin C, or the B vitamins, or (gasp!) fiber!
You might be surprised. In fact, I’m pretty sure you will be.
Because if you’re not downing tons of non-starchy veggies and leafy greens you’re not getting as much as you could. And if you’re not going to make it a priority, it might be time to start thinking about the dreaded multivitamin to help prevent nutrient deficiencies.
#2 You’re having trouble losing weight
I’m a huge proponent of eating a naturally healthy diet and being moderate about the crazy counting calories stuff.
My program Weight Loss Unlocked works for a lot of people by helping them make healthful food choices without really having to count anything. But some people just have trouble with this method.
Did you know the average person underestimated their caloric intake by about 30%?
That number can rise even more if the person isn’t tracking calories.
And while I agree that calories are not the end all be all of weight loss, and certainly not of health, you can’t eat 3000 of them as a fairly sedentary person a day and expect to lose weight.
I don’t care if you’re eating cake or coconut oil, too many calories are going to derail your efforts.
This is where tracking can help.
Take a week and see where you’re at. That can give you a better idea of where you’re eating too much and where you’re just right.
Then try tracking a week at a more appropriate calorie count for weight loss and be mindful of how it feels. Then, when you stop tracking, you’ll have a better idea of what the right amount of food should feel like.
#3 You’re gaining weight or aren’t feeling well
Weight gain can be caused by a number of factors- hormones, water retention, medications, etc.
But if you have been gaining weight inexplicably, you haven’t done anything differently, or don’t feel you have, tracking your food intake may be helpful.
Perhaps you’re eating the same number of calories but have increased your carbohydrate count. If you have insulin resistance, this could cause weight gain. If you don’t, it could be water retention.
Maybe you feel like you’ve been eating the same, but are forgetting about those dark chocolate squares you sneak in throughout the day, or that new post-workout drink, or those new fat bombs.
Excess calories could be causing sneaky pounds to build up.
Maybe it’s just the second half of your cycle, maybe it’s constipation, it could be anything, but sometimes excessive weight gain can indicate an underlying problem.
If you track your intake and nothing is outside of normal, and the weight keeps packing on, it could be a thyroid problem or a side effect of a medication, or any number of issues.
You can use this information when you see your doctor, and you’ll be one step ahead of the curve.
Likewise, if you aren’t feeling well or are having increased anxiety, depression, or blood sugar crashes, tracking food intake alongside your mood after eating can help you pinpoint possible issues or trigger food/times.
Same thing goes for having digestive issues. If you know what you ate and at what time, it’s much easier to figure out intolerance.
Mindful eating is a skill. And it’s best learned in the context of normal hunger and satiety cues.
If your insulin is out of whack or you’re carrying a lot of excess weight, or have any kind of health condition or medication that interferes with your hunger cues, mindful eating is going to be remarkably difficult and could lead to feelings of failure and lack of results.
Nutritionists and nerds alike love the website cronometer.com. It gives you WAY more detailed micronutrient values than other apps like My Fitness Pal, though that is a great choice for busy people because it has an app.
Whether you choose to track or not, I hope we can all learn to be respectful of what works for us as individuals.
If mindful eating isn’t right for someone right now, they certainly don’t need to be judged for that. And likewise if counting calories is mentally unhealthy for someone, they deserve respect and support as they follow the natural cues of their body.
Do you track food intake? Why or why not? What site do you like to use?