Strong 6: O is for Own It- Track Food and Meals in MyFitnessPal and Be More Mindful of Your Eating
OWN your food choices, “good” or “bad.” During the time span that I packed ON the weight that I eventually lost, I pretty much ate with reckless abandon. I mindlessly snacked, I binged when I was upset, and I was completely unaware of the calories I was consuming even with “healthy” meals via large doses of rich dressing.
Even if you don’t create a specific calorie or macronutrient goal, I think most people could get some benefit from recording their food intake, even if just temporarily. It can be super eye-opening (And sometimes scary, let’s be real!) to realize exactly what you’re consuming day-to-day.
I've personally chosen to continue tracking- even today! It keeps me honest and on-target, and I don’t find it to be a hassle.
The most convenient method of food tracking I've found is with an app on a smartphone/iPhone. The most popular is probably MyFitnessPal and that’s the one I use today.
Step 1: Find MyFitnessPal in the app store and download
Step 2: Set up your account
MFP will ask you to answer a few questions (sex, current weight, goal, etc) and it will automatically set target values for your calories & macronutrients. I've found the calculator at https://www.sailrabbit.com/bmr/ to be slightly more accurate, just FYI. If you choose to go this route, you can manually set goals instead of using the MFP pre-set.
Step 3: Start tracking your food today!
The best way to learn to use the app is to - SURPRISE!- start using it. Start with something simple.
EXAMPLE #1- Let's say you have a Nature Valley Oats & Honey Granola Bar as a snack today.
Click “Diary”, scroll to the “Snacks” section, and click “Add Food”
There are two ways to track the granola bar; you can A) Search for “Nature Valley Oats and Honey” and click a result or B) Scan the barcode straight from the wrapper.
With both options, I urge you to double check the nutrition facts on the label to ensure that they match your selection! Occasionally an item will have been entered incorrectly into MFP and you'll need to find a corrected version or add one yourself.
***A green check symbol means that MyFitnessPal believes the listed nutrition info to be complete and accurate.
EXAMPLE #2- Now let’s track breakfast
Scroll to “Breakfast”, hit “Add food”
I start out adding the 2 large eggs- I enter “large egg” into the search bar, find one that matches my Harris Teeter Eggs, and changes the quantity to “2” easy peasy
Now I want to enter my oatmeal. I search “Quick oats” and find lots of results for 1 serving. But what if I actually use more than that? I weigh my dry oats and find that I actually use 60g, which is 1.5x the normal serving. The more accurate you are with your tracking, the more accurately you can predict your results. I HIGHLY recommend purchasing a food scale if you’re serious about changing your body.
Step 4: Learn to guesstimate food portions when eating out
There’s a WHOLE lot to learn here, so I will be doing a separate post about how to eat out when dieting/how to track restaurant food. If you’re eating at a chain, they most likely have a nutrition guide on their website, so check for that! If not, do the best you can to record what you’re consuming. It’s damn near impossible to be 100% accurate with restaurant food EVEN if a nutrition guide is provided. Use common sense, but don’t expect perfection!
Step 5: Use the Recipes and Meals Functions
If you have a recipe that you frequently make at home (AND your portions come out consistently) you can actually enter it into MFP as a Recipe. This should make it faster to track a single portion of a meal you make all the time (versus adding each individual ingredient every time).
The Meal function can be used for home-cooking or eating out, though I tend to mostly use it for restaurant food that I eat frequently.
EXAMPLE: I LOVE me some City BBQ.
When I go, I pretty much always get the same thing- Smoked Turkey Breast, Green Beans w/Bacon, Hushpuppies, and a small side of Swine Wine to pour over the turkey. To enter this combo I go to “Meals,” “Add New Meal,” search for each item, and add it. I name this meal “City BBQ Dinner.” Now when I eat it, all I have to do is add that one meal to my diary instead of adding each of the 4 items separately. I like this function because it’s one click to add, but each of the items appear individually on your diary...say I go to City and I’m full after eating only half of my hushpuppies- it's fairly easy to go to my diary and edit the quantity on the hushpuppies while leaving the rest of the meal alone.
Accurately tracking your food intake takes PRACTICE and CONSISTENCY. I can’t emphasize that enough! It’s taken a long time to learn the in’s and out’s of the app and to learn to accurately measure or estimate my food. Be patient with yourself and trust the process knowing that the dedication you put in WILL pay off!
Some people only track while trying to meet a specific goal and then stop once they reach it. If you’re able to do that and maintain your progress- then go for it! Tracking isn’t for everyone and it doesn’t necessarily need to be a lifetime commitment.