I wanted to do a post specifically around tracking calories. Now, making the decision to diarise/ track your food isn’t an easy one. I get that you may be nervous. Why would counting calories work when this diet or that diet hasn’t worked for you either?
Perhaps. you’ve heard that tracking calories can create an ‘unhealthy obsession with tracking foods’ or it can become ‘obsessive’. Whilst I agree if you have obsessive tendencies or suffer from an eating disorder, calorie counting probably isn’t the best option right now. But, for the general person looking to lose fat and educate themselves around the foods they eat, it is absolutely a good idea.
The one thing that you should change is your mindset around what calorie counting is. It isn’t really a diet and shouldn’t be seen as one. It is instead an educational tool designed to do just that, educate you on the foods you eat, the amount you eat and the impact it has.
The one thing tracking your food has above everything else out there, is you actually learn about the energy values of food (energy being that which you eat or burn) and there are no banned foods. Want a kit kat? If it’s within your calories, you can absolutely eat it! It should help shift your mindset from there being good and bad foods, and instead create a flexible approach, whereby you can make room for all your favourite foods, without it impacting your end goal!
Benefits of tracking for a short period of time:
- Learn what ‘one serving size’ actually looks like
- See whether you’ve been eating too much/ too little historically
- Be able to visualise the foods you eat in the day and how they break down into proteins, carbs and fats
- See how many calories you consume from drinks
- Be able to make small changes to your existing eating habits
- Realise that you don’t have to give up any particular food and still see results
- Track your weight, measurements and pictures weekly alongside tracking your food to see what impact what you’re doing with your diet is having on your body.
- Ultimately use the above as an educational tool to help you lose fat
No food is inherently bad. But what makes up your diet as a whole, can dictate how you feel, your mood, your energy levels, your sleep and so on! It really is insightful to learn what impact certain foods (or drinks) have.
A calorie, is simply put, the energy value of a food. The more calorie dense the food, the more quickly you’ll ‘use up’ the calories you need in a day to either lose, maintain or gain weight.
If your goal is fat loss, you’ll need to be in what’s called a ‘calorie deficit’ in order to lose fat. This basically means you eat less than you burn in a day, consistently, for a set period of time in order to elicit fat loss.
In order to find out how many calories you should be eating, you need to work out how many calories you burn in a day. This is called your ‘Total Daily Energy Expenditure’. There are calculators online to help you do this. From this, we create our deficit. How quickly you want to lose fat will dictate how great the deficit is. However, the bigger the restriction, the bigger the relapse. So, I’ll always recommend losing weight at the slowest rate you deem acceptable, as you’ll be more likely to keep it off forever!
So, the art of tracking your food begins and I’ve broken it down into three clear phases. Let’s face it, no one wants to track their calories forever! These phases will help you go through the stages required to educate you and enlighten you on the foods you eat, enable you to lose the fat without feeling too restricted and then go and live your life confidently knowing you can maintain the fat loss you’ve worked so hard for!
PHASE ONE: Tracking Phase
In this phase you learn how to track your intake as well as how many calories your body needs to lose or maintain weight. Your calories are split into grams of protein, fats and carbs and getting the split right will help ensure you maintain lean muscle mass, stay feeling full and have the right energy levels to fuel your workouts.
This initial phase is to help
- Educate you
- Build routine and habits
That allow you to hit your macros (Proteins, Fats, Carbs) more easily, as for the first time ever, you’ll have full visibility of it! Not eating enough protein? The app will tell you! Eating too much fat? The app will tell you! You can make small tweaks to your diet to help ensure you’re eating the right amounts of macronutrients for your goal.
You will need to use the bar code scanner and weighing scales, as this phase is designed to educate you on portion sizes, servings and calorie dense vs calorie sparse foods.
This phase can be revisited anytime you feel a recalibration is in order to help get you back on track with your eating and check youre eating the right amounts of foods for your goal.
Every calorie should be tracked.
Where appropriate, I keep my clients on this phase for up to 12 weeks (sometimes longer), dependant on their goal and how quickly they adapt and learn about their calorie intake and see results! If you find staple meals that work for you, or you tend to eat the same foods each week, you won’t need to track for long.
PHASE TWO: Transition phase
As you start to establish these habits and learn from what you eat, you can begin to reduce how often you track.
This could be not tracking every meal or only tracking say 3 days per week. You are essentially weaning yourself off the tracking phase whilst still being able to roughly meet your caloric and macro needs so it doesn’t hinder your results.
We tend to be creatures of habit, so the foods you eat will largely be the same by now. You should be much more aware of…
- The types and amounts of foods you need to eat to achieve your goal
- Your hunger and energy levels based on the foods you eat
You should use this phase for as long as needed to build sustainable habits into the long term. I’d recommend counting 2 x weekdays and 1 x weekend days so you cover all basis!
PHASE THREE: Consolidation Phase
You should now be in position where you’re able to no longer track, but know roughly what portion sizes, snacks and meals you should be eating to maintain the results you’ve achieved so far.
You should know your hunger cues, and how to fuel your workouts without needing to plug in your macros. Research does show some degree of tracking can help maintain results, so it’s recommended to still audit your food intake (such as a food diary) and take progress pictures and measurements bi-weekly or monthly to review progress.
by this phase, you should be confident in your nutritional habits and have the ability to eat freely and intuitively without the need to cut out any particular food or track what you eat.
The result? Congratulations, you’ve now achieved sustainable habits and set yourself up for long term success…
- You’re educated on your Nutritional requirements
- You do not need to restrict or ban certain foods!
- You know your body and what works for it… And what doesn’t!
So, there we have it. Tracking could be the map to nutritional success you never knew you had. Say goodbye to diets and hello to diet freedom and understanding how much your body needs to eat to elicit fat loss. A couple of key points before you go…
- Your first calorie goal probably won’t be exactly right. It takes work to find the exact goal you need to work towards to achieve your goal. As your weight changes or if you become more active, your calorie intake goal will also change! Be prepared to adapt it weekly for best results.
- MyFitnessPal (one of the most popular calorie tracking apps) has a tendancy to ‘give back’ calories burnt from exercise. ‘Oh, we can see you’ve just burnt 200 calories on your fitbit. Here! Have another 200 calories to eat today!’ Erm, no! This is rather counter productive, and you can turn this feature off in settings.
Ready to track your calories for fat loss? Good luck and if you have any questions, reach out at any time.
If you’re struggling with accountability or getting results on your own and you want someone to make it easy and simple for you, click here and I’ll be in touch.
Stay healthy, Stay Safe.