Why Tracking My Food Works Better Than I’d Like to Admit


Seven years ago, I lost 50 pounds and started this blog to chronicle that journey.

I’ve gained back anywhere from 10-20 pounds of that, depending on the day. 

The first few years of weight maintenance were GREAT. It was still novel, I guess, and I loved eating healthy and was good at being relatively strict with my diet. But a few years ago, I don’t know if I started emotional eating through some tough times or I just didn’t care, but I slowly let those super healthy eating habits slide, thinking “but I work out a lot! I run marathons!”

LOL. Hi you can’t out-exercise a bad diet, no matter how hard you try. Damnit.

Looking back, the number one thing that helped me lose weight was tracking what I ate. And especially since I was tracking it in such a public way, no way did I want to show y’all I wasn’t eating as healthily as I “should” have, and I’ve never been one to only present the good.

Over these past few years, I’ve tried quite a few times to lose some of that extra weight. By the end of last June, I felt really good. I started thinking recently about what I was doing then. 1. Lifting with our LTF program at work. 2. Tracking everything in MyFitnessPal. To be honest, I had mixed feelings about MFP, or at least how I was using it. I was getting too competitive with myself as I compared myself to my coworkers’ eating habits and progress. 

I’ve been trying a service called Rise, which matches you 1:1 with a coach who reads all your food logs and gives you feedback (basically, virtual RD.) In full disclosure, I’m paying for this with my own cashmoney (it’s about $48/month or $12/week, which is more reasonable than seeing an IRL RD) but that linky there gives both of us a free week.

The app doesn’t use calories, which is actually sort of nice. This post isn’t meant to be a review of Rise, by the way, though I might once I’ve done it longer/if I stick with it. I’ve been doing this for not even a week, and I can already tell it’s making me reconsider what I’m eating since I’m logging it AND helping me identify habits I hadn’t even realized (i.e. I really like something sweet in the afternoon.) I’ve already been making a really conscious effort for the past month or so to cut back on wine, and I’m ready to add on the healthier eating habits now. (Although it is easier to eat healthy when there is less wine in my life, just saying. 

I’m also already realizing how to not beat myself up for a “bad” meal (which is usually when I’m tired/stressed/etc) and let it go, realizing it’s just one meal out of the 21 or so I eat all week. I’ve also already noticed I rarely eat more than two meals on the weekends, what about you? I’m already feeling closer to moderation, and I’m now trying to figure out solid goals for myself to keep me on track through my Hamptons weekends.

tl;dr: It’s a pain in the ass to track, but it really works. 

I have so many questions for you:

1. Do you track what you eat? How/where?

2. How do you stay healthy through fun summer weekends? Loosely, I think my current plan is to ensure I DEFINITELY get in a Saturday morning workout while I’m away, and making sure I keep Friday night just tame enough that that can happen. I can be hungover and running, just as long as I’m running. 

3. Do you eat three square meals on the weekend? My college roomie Lindsay and her mom made fun of me her wedding weekend because I. needed. every. single. meal. or. else. 

25 comments on “Why Tracking My Food Works Better Than I’d Like to Admit

  1. Katie @ Live Half Full

    I’ve been tracking on MFP lately and it’s been interesting. I’ve noticed one day eating super healthy is easy and I’m well below my goal and feel satisfied and then another day I’ll have to really work to stay within my goal. It’s interesting to see how life ebbs and flows.

    I always forget lunch on the weekends. Which is also interesting to me! On the weekends my goal is always to move as much as I can and enjoy myself within reason- it’s worth it not to feel deprived all the time!

  2. katie

    I don’t track. because I’m lazy, and don’t want to see the truth in the mirror…maybe this would be a way to kick my ass into behaving? I’m not quite ready to commit.

  3. Danielle @ Wild Coast Tales

    I have tried a few times to track in My Fitness Pal and failed – it just takes too long to track and input everything. And while I agree part of it is calories in/calories out, I don’t think it’s the only thing to consider. Mostly I have tracked in a Google Doc – easy to access and use spreadsheet, and noted what I ate when, portions, and how it made me feel. It’s great for tracking trends! I also did Whole30 a few weeks ago and that was great for revisiting what I am actually eating.

    My eating usually gets messed up on the weekends, sleeping in a little later, eating out, having more time to cook, and long runs. I still eat mostly healthy, but perhaps out of my usual day-to-day… but I just accept that and get back on my “meal plan” come Monday.

  4. Cindy

    1. I’ve got a 421 day streak on MFP going. Given that I needed to lose a considerable amount of weight, counting calories was the only way to go if I really wanted to be honest and accountable. Sometimes it’s annoying if I eat out for example, but I’ve even started weighing my takeaway food and recording that to keep myself more accountable.

    2. I don’t have a social life, so I guess this doesn’t really apply to me ha ha.

    3. I generally eat the same way all week long, for the most part.

  5. Mari @ RungryLady

    I try keeping an excel sheet of my meals at the end of the day. Sometimes I plug it into MFP randomly just to see how my nutrition is. I also find that planning my meals out the day before is super helpful. I’ll write it out in my planner the night before along with a to do list so I have less to think about.

    Summer weekends are the hardest when there is booze and ice cream.. But definitely getting in a sweat session in the morning is fun or planning active things to do throughout the day. I typically will eat meals at or from home during the week so I save one or two fun meals for the weekend. It makes me savor them more and enjoy it. Also not placing so much guilt on eating it is helpful. Food is meant to be enjoyed! Life in moderation.. lol

    At the end of the day it’s trial and error and figuring out what works for you and what you can do in the long haul instead of just the moment. You got this Theodora!

  6. Christina

    I used the Lost It! app to lose about 75 pounds 4 years ago. Tracking – paired with workouts and running – was the only way for me to do it. I need to start tracking again though – because I’m up like 20 pounds right now and nothing fits right. Ugh. Marathon training did it – I swear.

  7. Nikki @ will run for pizza

    I used to use MFP pretty regularly, but after awhile, I wasn’t losing the 20 pounds that I had gained back. Started doing a beachbody workout and I got the containers with the program, and after figuring out which plan I should follow, I realize that I should REALLY only be having 2 servings of carbs per day (more though actually, because I do more workouts than just the beachbody workouts – hello marathon/tri training!), and 4 servings of protein….basically, I was eating 4 PLUS servings of carbs (omg carbs are just the BEST, aren’t they?!) and maybe 2 servings of protein….boo.
    So NOW, I’ve ditched MFP and switched to “colors” haha…In just a few weeks, I’ve noticed that 4 reds (proteins), and 2 (maybe 3 if I’m feeling rebellious) yellows (carbs), is making the changes. I don’t own a scale, so no clue about the numbers, but my clothes are baggy and I see some muscles that I’ve NEVER seen before!
    Needless to say, I will continue with this tracking method – it’s actually easier and more sustainable for a long term “lifestyle change” instead of entering everything in an app….

    1. Bobbie

      @Nikki @ will run for pizza: I have those containers with the 21 day fix. I scoffed at them though and didn’t use them. Maybe I should give them a try. Do you mainly just focus on the protein and carb portions and just wing the rest?

      1. Nikki @ will run for pizza

        Lol, yup. I thought the containers would be a joke. They sat there for 2 months before I tried them.
        So my plan is the lowest calorie plan – A – and yes, I basically wing the orange and blue. I don’t count any dressings, seeds, creamer…I already don’t have a problem eating 2 fruits (that is always my breakfast) or 4 veggies (huge salad for lunch), so that helps. Now I add protein to my salad, and of course other proteins throughout the day.
        I think the thing that got me, was, with MFP, I was eating ONLY my calories, but not the RIGHT calories…so the containers kinda helped change that. Now, I don’t really measure too many things because I know the measurements. I basically eat the same stuff everyday (except on the weekends, I splurge lol), so I know in my head how many “reds” I’ve had, or “greens”…
        If I want more drastic results, I’d stick more closely to ALL thelse containers, but I like my creamer and dressing and I’m happy so far with the results I’m getting lol. I’m not trying to be in a competition! Lol

  8. Bobbie

    I track in My Fitness Pal sometimes but I rarely stick to it for more than a week. I’m lazy and I don’t think I really want to know just how poorly I’m doing. I don’t eat horrible but I’m getting older and this whole weight maintenance thing is just getting harder and WINE and BEER.

      1. Bobbie

        @Theodora Blanchfield: It definitely gets harder as you get older. I haven’t changed too much about my lifestyle yet I’m about 15lbs heavier than I was just 2 years ago. Like you said, I can no longer out exercise my eating/drinking.
        I get torn b/c I want to be healthy/look healthy but I also want to enjoy my life.

  9. Wendy

    I use MFP to track my calories and my macros. It’s one thing to hit the calorie number but by paying attention to the macros I ensure that I am getting the right balance of nutrition as well. I try to treat weekends the same as I do weekdays although it is more challenging because there is less structure on the weekends. I also don’t forbid myself from eating something if I really want it. I have found by giving myself permission to eat what I want, I eat healthy 95% of the time. And when I do eat something that would not be considered healthy, I do not feel guilty about it at all.

  10. Gianna

    I have been on MFP I think for 5 years now? Having lost about 70 pounds, I pretty much track daily, it is such a habit now. I think it is also easy for me because I maybe eat out 3 times a week.. I make breakfast and lunch every day at home before work and rotate the same things so they are all right there. Also measuring. I still measure out SO MUCH. We are talking egg whites from cartons, meat servings, peanut butter, etc. I like being able to review what is working. I also like seeing macro breakdown. I don’t eat enough carbs (I know how is that possible) so am trying to balance that more to align with my increasing mileage. I haven’t fluctuated more than 5 pounds over the past few years so pretty sure it works!
    That being said I of course indulge in a few drinks every week and dinners (like bbq last night) I track as best I can (or just manually enter like 1500 calories lol) I may never have a 6 pack but balance is better I think 🙂

  11. Julie Wichler

    love this post..it’s true that tracking in some way is so helpful and effective, but for many people (myself included) calorie counting makes me feel competitive or anxious. I recently started using the app YouFood and love it. It is basically rise without the nutritionist..it’s a great way to see what you’ve eaten in a day (and all you have to do is snap a picture).

  12. Jen

    I have never liked mfp. I find it not the easiest to use. I feel like I have to search through to find the food item forever.

    I am an active person way older than you but I do not lose body fat easily. I can add muscle but that darn body fat gets me. I say I have too much fluff. What has worked really well is I signed up for a 30 day custom meal plan based on macros for my body. I have not lost a ton of weight. I lost 7 lbs in a month and my goal was 10. But now I am actually not weight focused at all but body composition and now my clothes fit. I have never been able to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time. I an a classic undereater and on this plan I struggle to eat all the food there is so much. I can see my body changing and not just getting skinny but looks good no healthy.

    On weekends I find I can easily adapt what I order or select food items that work for me. I also try to eat before I go somewhere or plan around my meal plan some. I have cut back a lot on alcohol. I think based on what I have researched it is better for my body to lose fat and also I eat better when I do not drink. I thought I would hate doing this counting macros but I love having all my food made for 5 days. I have found it to be liberating.

  13. Nicole Haber

    agree that tracking helps. so much of my eating is “mindless eating” where i am basically eating to have something to do, or just because something is in front of me. not b/c im hungry or particularly want whatever it is im eating. and worse – i barely remember having eaten it when i am done. tracking your food forces you to confront mindless eating, and i know for me, it helps me eliminate it. that added level of awareness makes me ask “are you actual hungry? or do you just want to do something with your hands?” now i drink tea when I feel like i need to mindlessly consume something.

    i like MFP

  14. Christina

    I tried to register with Rise yesterday and again today and it’s not working – it gets stuck Loading on the second screen. Any thoughts?


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