Why TRACKING Your Food is Essential to Successful Weight Loss

When it comes to managing your weight, we know that it mostly boils down to our ability, or lack of ability, to properly control our food intake.

Successful weight loss is mostly dictated by eating less in terms of *calories* than we burn. Weight gain is the opposite, where above all else, you need to eat more. These concepts are fairly simple to understand. Execution, however, tends to be significantly tougher. One of the main reasons why: According to the scientific data, more often than not, we tend to underreport our food intake. In other words, we suck at understanding our food.

We often think we’re eating less than we actually are, and that’s why we don’t see any results. So how do we fix this? Well, you know those calorie tracking apps your fit friend has always been harping about? That might just do the trick. Track your food to know exactly how much you’re eating! Crazy idea, right?

In all seriousness, monitoring your food can be quite effective. And it’s actually nothing new. Even back in 93, studies implementing self-monitoring tests were able to yield great weight loss results. With pen and paper no less. Nowadays, mobile apps make tracking easier than ever, even recording intake just by scanning your food labels. But to elucidate tracking efficacy further, we can take a little dive into a fresh, 2019 study from the Journal of Obesity Society.

In this 6-month weight loss study, subjects were instructed to track every single thing they ate or drank into a web-based food tracking system. However, researchers weren’t interested in the subjects’ food choices, but rather their tracking patterns. With that in mind, data was collected on the amount of times subjects logged their food per day, the time they spent on the website, the amount of days per month they tracked their food, and the amount of weight they lost. The results:

Those that lost the most weight, categorized as losing 10% or more of their initial bodyweight, were the most consistent in their food tracking endeavors. Those that lost the least, categorized as losing less than 5%, were also the least consistent. At the end of the study, the most successful group tracked 21 days of the month with an average of about 3 sessions per day. The least successful group clocked in at only 9 days per month with a one and a half session average per day and more than half quit tracking completely.

Boom. Simply put, track your food folks. Now, if you’re one of those that complain that tracking takes too much time and effort, note that the most successful group in the study initially took only 23 minutes per day to track their food. By the end, it dropped down to just 16 minutes. Again, they used a web-based system. Consumer apps like MyFitnessPal should be much easier and quicker to use. Perhaps taking only 10 minutes of your day.
Now, a few tips on actually tracking your food:

1     Make sure you log EVERYTHING, especially those little snacks you think wouldn’t make a difference. They do.

2     Track frequently. Best practice is about 3 times per day like the folks in the study, preferably around the times you have your big meals.
3   Once you know your average intake, adjust it as you see fit. In short, more food if you’re trying to gain weight. Less food, or better yet, more exercise, if you’re trying to lose weight.
4      be consistent. No explanation needed there.

Oh, and one more thing. Even though tracking’s main appeal is to learn your caloric needs, it doesn’t mean to just go eat whatever you want until you hit that magic calorie number. Choosing healthy whole food choices is still a good idea. And getting something like more protein, especially for weight loss, might help you achieve your results more effectively.
Another topic for another day. But there you have it. Track your food folks. Once you understand your food a bit better, you can dial your tracking back just a tad bit. For now, let’s get to it and happy tracking!

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