Food Logging – Why Should You Bother?

Do you ‘eat clean’? 🙄

Smoothie bowls, superfoods and avocado toast all day right?

Maybe you’re an avid CrossFitter, 7 WOD’s a week (what’s a rest day), plus interval training and Barbell Club.

Or training for a marathon, racking up the miles and ‘fuelling’ yourself with aaalll the carbs because your body ‘needs’ it.

So why do you still have excess fat?

Because you don’t know where you’re going wrong – that’s why.

Acceptance around what you eat is important, and the first step is knowledge and awareness of what’s in the food you’re eating. That way you’re empowered to make a decision about whether you want to eat it.

You’re not ‘bad’ or ‘cheating’ on your diet if you have a pizza or a chocolate brownie. Let’s stop that fucking language right away.

Equally you’re not better than anyone else, or saintly if you choose to eat nothing but salad (you’re probably really fucking hungry though 😉)

The simple truth is most people don’t really know what or how much they eat, or even what the fuck is in it!

Thinking you’re eating the right things in the right quantities is way different to actually doing it.

If you think you’re being ‘good’ and don’t know why you still aren’t losing fat it might be time to shine a light on the situation!

Eating well in a way that nourishes you both physically and mentally and is line with your body composition goals? 

That shit is HARD. It’s a skill that needs to be learned.

How do you approach learning a new skill? You learn by doing. By being curious.

One of the best pieces of advice anyone ever gave me was to treat fat loss (and anything else you do in fact), like an experiment – detach yourself from the outcome (emotion), collect data, observe results, make adjustments.

Being a massive fucking nerd I am on board with that! 🤓

Knowledge is power – power to change your diet, your habits and ultimately your health! How do we get this knowledge about our diet? We track our food.

Why should I track my food?

Food tracking is not about perfection. It’s about awareness.

It’s about having a clearer understanding about where you’ve been going wrong and how you can improve. It’s about gaining knowledge about what you eat and using that knowledge and awareness to make better decisions.

Always feel bloated and sick on a Monday? Not sure what’s causing it? It’s all there in black & white for you. Record data, observe, adjust.

Think of tracking as a ‘conscience’ – a little Jimminy Cricket (or in my clients cases, a little Ninja), on your shoulder…..it will influence you to make better choices even when you don’t realise it.

It educates you too. You’ll find out the truth about those ‘healthy’ muesli bars, yoghurts and smoothies you’ve been eating. You’ll find out what foods fill you up without eating into your calories. Still want to eat that muesli bar? That’s OK….you now understand the consequences of your decision.

You’re making an informed choice! Basically you’re adulting.

And, according to MFP 88% of people who track for seven days in a row lose weight. 88% – that’s some compelling shit right there, and what’s 7 days out of your life in the grand scheme of things?

Once you learn to eat this way you will NEVER need another fad diet, Instagram ‘guru’ or nutritionist 🤔 again. You’ll be self-sufficient!

Do I have to use My Fitness Pal?

No.

You can track your food using:

🖋 Pen and paper

📷 Taking photos

👊 using your hand to measure portions

📱 using any tracking app

All of these methods will give you the awareness and information you’re looking for. 

However my clients (and I) use My Fitness Pal (MFP) as it’s quick (once you know how to use it) and can be used for forward planning rather than just retrospective logging.

What are macros and why can’t I just count calories?

Can you lose fat eating 1200 cals of Maltesers every day? If that’s a calorie deficit for you then absolutely. But you WILL feel like shit doing it.

As well as eating for their body composition my clients eat for HEALTH (physical, mental, emotional health). 

Mostly whole foods is the way to go for great energy levels, better mental focus and productivity and even shiny hair 💁‍♀️

Being aware of macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, proteins and fibre), as well as calories can make fat loss a hell of a lot less painful.

To make things easy for my clients, we concentrate on hitting protein goals to:

  • retain muscle mass
  • feel fuller for longer

and fibre goals to:

  • feel fuller for longer
  • get a wide range of nutrients
  • have a bigger plate of food with high volume, high fibre, low calorie foods like veggies and fruit

For the rest of their calories, they can eat whatever the fuck they like!

Does this mean I can’t have any ‘treats’?

Firstly, they’re not treats. You’re not a fucking dog. 

Plan in less nutrient dense foods and work around them. If you know you’re going to Pizza Express this weekend and you’re going to eat aaallll the dough balls, plan them in. Work out how many extra calories you’re going to eat and subtract it from the previous days. Dough balls demolished, goals intact.

Does this mean I advocate the ‘If It Fits Your Macros’ (IIFYM) approach? Absolutely not. Eat shit, feel like shit, so using around 80% of your calorie allowance on whole foods will make you feel like a winner 🤲

But I heard that tracking apps are inaccurate – why should I bother?

Whichever way you choose to track your food it won’t be 100% accurate. The same way as the food nutrition labels you read in the supermarket are not accurate (20% leeway allowed). But you still read them and they (mostly) influence your choice when you’re out food shopping.

Food tracking is the same. Not accurate – but it’s better than not having a fucking clue!

I haven’t got time to track all my food.

Have you got time to fail with diet after diet? Time to invest in reading up on the latest  ridiculous set of ‘diet rules’ and trying to implement them into your life?

The great thing about logging – YOU ARE IN CONTROL! Use it as a forward planning tool – it’s not for retrospectively adding food in (when you do this you misreport/forget things you’ve had during the day).

Take 10 minutes out of your TV time in the evenings to log what you’re going to eat tomorrow. It doesn’t matter if you change your mind. It’s easier to adjust as you go rather than enter from scratch.

You can even do this on a weekly basis, make a shopping list from it and save time doing your weekly supermarket shop ONCE instead of ‘popping to the shops’ every other day because you forgot something.

Still not convinced? 

Start small – just track your breakfast each day. Experiment with it until you get one that’s right for your macros. Once that’s nailed, move on to lunches. Or just try logging one new recipe and make big batches so it covers your dinner for 3-4 days.  The point is you can always start somewhere and do just a little better than you’re doing right now.

Isn’t tracking home-cooked food a pain in the ass??

Sure it’s not as quick as scanning a barcode on your ready meal (which you can do on MFP), but with a bit of forward planning (seeing a theme emerging here 🤔) it can be just as simple.

Here’s a clever hack I share with all my clients:

  • Create a recipe in MFP, add the name and set the serving size to 1 serving.
  • Add all the ingredients in with the raw weights. You can do this while cooking, or enter in advance, and edit the recipe to adjust the weights as you cook.
  • Cook the recipe, and once finished, weigh the WHOLE recipe. For example, if you’ve made a big bolognese, weigh the whole bolognese.
  • Let’s say the Bolognese weighs 1200g when cooked. Edit the amount of servings on your MFP recipe to 1200 servings. Save the recipe.
  • You now have the nutritional information for that recipe per gram.
  • Weigh out the exact amount you need to hit your macros for that meal. Simples!

Using this hack you can cook the same dish for the whole family without worrying whether you’ve split it into equal portion sizes. You can thank me later 😏

But does it ACTUALLY work?

I’ve coached over 100 clients using food tracking and had some pretty astounding results, so based on my experience, yes it works.

Here’s my client Jess

She achieved these amazing results in just 5 months. 

She didn’t cut any food groups out, she didn’t follow any fucked up diet rules about when & what she could eat, she just logged her food every day. 

Here’s what she had to say about the process:

“I’ve been working with Hayley for a while now and honestly she is amazing. She has an amazing approach to health, she doesn’t put you on some fad diet, or tell you to starve yourself. 

She teaches you about food, about health, about sleep, about exercise, about how you can reduce your stress levels. There’s nothing that’s not covered. 

I no longer feel like a fat fuck, I’m moving more, I’ve got the best energy levels I’ve had in years and I’ve learnt so so much about to be a badass business owner. I’ve made changes to my business, to my diet, to my exercise, to my routines – because of this my mental health has benefited massively and so has my waist line!”

You can also watch a summary of Jess’ journey here

So, now you’re feeling motivated and ready to be all about that tracking life, here are FIVE quick MFP Tips!

  • Number One – TRACK FIRST, EAT AFTER – cannot stress this one enough!
  • Track everything. Not tracking it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. And now you’ve skewed your data and can’t make proper adjustments.
  • Use the barcode scanner where possible – it saves loads of time.
  • Do a common-sense check. Anyone can add a food into MFP! If you enter a Snickers and it comes up as 12 calories, you need to search again (regardless of how much we all want a Snickers to be 12 calories)! Check for results with the green tick which means the nutritional information has been verified.
  • Get accountability! Add friends in MFP, open your diary to them so you can spy on each others food choices 🕵️‍♀️ Or get a coach 😉

Why not give it a go? All you’ve got to lose is some fat 😉

Hayley Food Ninja

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