Counting calories, tracking macros, weighing our food…it all seems like a daunting task if you’re really getting into it. It seem like it takes a lot of extra time to measure out your food, put it into MyFitnessPal (some people swear by it, I personally can’t stand the interface), and look at your progress for the whole day.
Did you you also know that most people, once they’re in a routine of writing down their food, macro counts, and calorie counts, that it takes a total of 15 minutes per day to track all of their food intake? I was pretty surprised too, but it’s true.
The Duke Low-Cost App Study
In fact, using the free or low cost apps to track food were more effective at helping people better manage their weight than in-person interventions which are more costly, according to this Duke study.
Their reasoning is that not everyone who wants to lose weight can do so in a high-intensity situation or environment. Some people need a more gradual discipline (something that I am an advocate of) and gradual behavioral change to succeed.
University of Vermont: How Much Time?
In a University of Vermont study, they based their study on the perception of tracking your food being so unpleasant that most patients aspiring to lose weight didn’t track their food intake, despite research showing that it is “the single best predictor of success”. Crazy right?
But their study focused on the total amount of time spent tracking food intake per day. Their study found that participants spent a total of 14.6 minutes on average per day tracking their food. Not a lot of time at all right? The craziest part is that they tracked calories, grams of fat, preparation method, and portion size, which is a fair amount of information.
But you don’t have to track that much information, if you don’t want to. You can start with the food and calories consumed (but don’t forget to take into account the portion size when counting your calories! If you take two servings, count two servings!)
I personally recommend using S Health, the app that comes bundled with your Samsung phone. It shows your macro split, allows you to put in recipes you make online with calorie and macro counts, and helps you track what time of say you consumed these items.
T-Nation: How to Resist that Pesky Burger or Ice Cream Treat
T-Nation, a great source for everything lifting (even though their primary audience is male college students), wrote a really interesting article about resisting the temptation to “treat yo’self”.
A study conducted by Andrea L. Courtney, et al. showed less brain activation in the portion that controls eating behavior when the calorie count was presented than when it was not. Those that were dieting showed less brain activity overall, but those who were not considered dieters showed significantly greater decreased activity when shown the calorie counts.
So if you’re looking to stay healthy while eating out but you’re tempted by the ooey-gooey cheese fries, ask for those nutrition facts or look em up online before you go out. Your body will thank you.
Keeping a food log and taking just 15 minutes a day to do so will help you create mindfulness and awareness of what you’re putting in your body on the daily.
My Personal Recommendation: S Health
If you’re a Samsung user (sorry iPhone), then S Health is one of the more comprehensive, user-friendly apps out there that you can pair with an activity tracker like FitBit. S Health allows you to track your macro split (more on this in another article), manually input your meals (especially helpful when the nutrition facts are provided for a recipe on a website), and gives you weekly feedback on your progress through gentle reminders.
MyFitnessPal is popular, but I find it cumbersome to navigate and, now to track your macros and other features you previously got for free, you have to pay for a premium version. So unless your coach is using it to see your food intake and provide individualized feedback, I’d try another tracker.
While we might think that writing down everything we’re biting into is excessive and laborious, once you’re in a routine, it takes less time than you think and can help you stay on track. If you want to be successful, science says start looking at those calories and writing down what you eat. Pretty simple.
And remember, we’re using food as fuel for all the things on our bucket list and to achieve our goals. But it doesn’t have to be bland or dry. It can be flavorful and delicious. Food nourishes us and gives our bodies everything they need to love us back.
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