Track Star Wanna Be

A new spin on the age old conundrum:  Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

That’s the question I asked myself when I was thinking about tracking my eating.  And NOT tracking my eating.

I’ll explain.

I knew that I’d need to be very careful with my eating post-surgery.  Since for weeks I would not have the calorie burn of exercise.  So I decided to go back to the proven technique of tracking what I eat.  “They” say that journaling what we eat is a very effective tool.  Not only does it provide awareness of what is actually going into our mouths, but it has the added benefit of acting as an eating deterrent.  I’ve tracked off and on over the years.  Mostly off.  I find it a lot of work and often forget to do it.  But, I was going to give it another shot.

My tracking method of choice is (the free version of) fitday.com.  Which has one big negative, in my opinion.  You have to calculate nutritional information for recipes if you want to input them.  Hassle.  Regardless, I was off and running.  (Well, not really running.  But you know what I mean.)  And I tracked faithfully for over a week.  And I ate really well.  And then I made a new recipe and got lazy; I didn’t want to do the math, didn’t want to calculate the nutritional values per serving.  So I took the day off from tracking.  And another.  And my eating was not as good.

So… which came first? Did my “not good eating” lead to not wanting to track?  Or did not tracking lead to my not good eating?

Either way, there seems to be a correlation.  So it’s time to get rid of the excuses and go with what works.  Time to be a track star.

Still up for debate is how I’ll track going forward.  I like fitday.  But that whole recipe calculating thing just drives me crazy.  And I need to take the extra step of getting on the computer.  Maybe for a while I’ll go low-tech and write things down on paper.  I’m not sure if the numbers matter as much as just seeing the food listed in black and white.  Or, maybe I’ll go all wild and crazy and start another blog, a food diary, just to post what I eat.  For the public accountability.  But just thinking about it scares me somehow.  Putting it all out there.  Which suggest that may be exactly why I should do it!  Would I eat more veggies and less crackers if I knew someone could see?  I think maybe so.  But how’s this for an excuse… when I actually sat down one day, not too long ago, to set up the food tracking blog, I got caught up in finding the perfect name and everything I came up with was taken already!  What’s in a name?  Maybe nothing; maybe something.  So the jury is still out on a food diary blog.  As for including my food on here… I’m thinking my posts are long enough already!

For now, I’ll walk before I run.  Journal what I eat without getting caught up in the forum or format.  Cross one hurdle at a time.

Do you track what you eat?  And if so, what method do you use?

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74 Comments

Filed under cheating/overeating, dieting, goals, making a change

74 responses to “Track Star Wanna Be

  1. I do track and have for years, even when not eating properly. I’m weird though because unlike most people, I actually ENJOY the process of writing it down and seeing/analyzing the numbers. I use an EXCEL spreadsheet I developed years ago and I also use caloriecount.com which I like better than fitday.com. Having years of those records is really helpful when looking back to see patterns of what I was eating when losing was easy (if it ever was!!).

    • Karen

      I think it would be great to have that historical data. I’ll have to check out caloriecount.com. I have used fitday for so long that it would be hard to change, not just because it is new, but because I do have some past info on there. Like what I weighed at certain times. I’m not great with spreadsheets:)

  2. Hi Karen. Yes, for the month of February I have challenged myself to track my intake. I had come to a complete standstill with weight loss and felt that tracking would help me see where I was going wrong. It has — I’m losing again! I can see that I had gradually allowed my portions to increase and was beginning to grab tiny bits of food as I worked in or walked through the kitchen each day. Hey! They were tiny! That doesn’t count, does it?? Duh….

    I use http://caloriecount.about.com/ for tracking. When I first started losing last year, I tried just about every online program there was, and I liked CalorieCount the best — I like their articles, tools, and found their calorie counter easiest to use, but not great. Recently they’ve improved the calorie counter and it is much better.

    I used to use this wonderful little software program called Lifeform — http://www.lifeform.com/ I used it starting with Windows 95 so you can see how old it was — but I couldn’t get it to work on Windows XP so I sadly tossed it. Now, apparently, the developer has fixed it so it will work with XP and 32-bit VISTA, but I no longer own the software. Rats. The biggest downside to this program is the price — I think I paid $5 for it when I first purchased it, but it is now $29 ($39 with manual). It is a nice alternative to anyone who wants a software version instead of having to be online, but I’ll continue to use CalorieCount.

    • Karen

      You are the second person to mention that site – I’ll be checking it out. Portions size is another whole issue! If I track on paper, in theory I don’t need to be as precise in portions. Like, measuring my morning bowl of beans. If I use fitday and want to see the nutritional counts, I gotta measure. Another thing I hate. The only thing I routinely measure is almonds when I snack on them. I’d count out cracker servings too but that hardly counts since I went back time and time again!

  3. I track most days and I use the free version of fitday and have exactly the same frustrations with it that you do. I’ve come to pretty much the same conclusions – that the tracking is the important part, not the specific calories. The tracking is acknowledging what I’m doing so that I remain more mindful.

  4. Roght now I use Lose It, http://www.loseit.com/index.jsp#Home

    I find it easier/faster to use that MyFitnessPal and way more user friendly that FitDay.

    I come and go with how detail I track. When I hit plateaus or reverse perform i find I get more serious about the detail. WHen I am cruising along losing weight I tend to back off.

    I am looking for two things; first is validation I didn’t exceed my caloric range goal for the day, which is 1500-1800 daily but I wont kill myself if I go up to 2000. Over 2000 and I chalk that day off as a wasted opportunity.

    The other thing I look for is to see I operated at a caloric deficit that day. Since I can add exercise into Lose It it calculates that for me. Now I really am not sure I agree with how many calories it says I burn when I exercise, seems like allot; so I look at that as a reference only.

    Now ask me if I like tracking? Go ahead… I HATE IT. And I will not do it for a life time. But until I can get myself to behave with consistency, which will only happen from knowing what I am doing right/wrong and learning from it, I shall continue to do so. I may do so through to hitting my goal weight. But really I do not want to do it one more day than I feel I have to.

    • Patrick, I took a look at the tracking site you use, loseit.com and like it very much. I think I’ll give it a try — love the little food icons next to the foods.

      • Karen

        I’m going to check it out too! I envision me trying them all – how crazy is that:) I have input my exercise in fitday pretty consistently for the past year, maybe longer. But I am never sure how accurate the calorie info is. And they don’t even have ellipticalling!

  5. I track old school, in a notebook, writing down thoughts, feelings and quotes along the way. I love it.

    • Karen

      So I was actually thinking that I maybe should write down some other stuff too – like how hungry I was when I ate and what I was feeling.

  6. No, I don’t track it. I have far better things to do with my time. To me. I am OCD, but I can’t go down that road. I think it would be way too much of a slippery slope for me. I don’t like and don’t think it would be mentally healthy for me to focus that much time and effort on being that meticulous with what I’m eating. It would make being healthy too all-consuming. For me, it would become an unhealthy focus on being healthy, if that makes sense. 😉

    But if it works for others, hey, that’s great! 😀

  7. The chicken came first! It hatched out of an egg laid by whatever came before the chicken.

    I respectfully suggest you change the name of your web site to a more positive one. Maybe “no more time to waist.”

    • Karen

      In the back of my mind I have always thought I’d write a post about how I came up with the site’s name. To me it has many meanings. And I have also wondered if I would want to have a different name someday. Maybe.

  8. I track it all no matter how painful it may be lol. I use sparkpeople.com and while you have to also input everything you can save food groups and so if you have recipes you can either input the recipe as a whole and say how many servings there are and it’ll divide it up for you- or you can put in a bunch of foods together that count as one serving and save it under “food groupings.” Over time it’s been easier and easier for me so input foods this way.

    • Karen

      Interesting! In fitday you can’t save groups. I calculate a whole recipe and then save the info for a serving size. It is easier over time when I have put more and more custom foods in there. I hear a lot about spark people so will check that out too.

  9. I’m tracking right now with WW because I’m only tracking the things outside of lean protein and fresh fruits and vegetables. That works for me right now.

    • Karen

      When I did WW I always tracked in those little paper booklets. When I went back to check it out I got info about tracking online and thought that would be great but then realized it wasn’t free:(

  10. sunnydaze

    I must track or I get out of control. I track old school in a small notebook. It only takes me a second to figure my stuff and write it down since I’m doing WW and know the points easily. No hassle. 🙂 I don’t think I could do it if I had to use an online program.

  11. I don’t track, but I’m thinking about getting back into it…

  12. Jan

    I monitor my food intake using the Livestrong web site – http://www.livestrong.com/ There is a free and a Gold version.
    Why bother? Because there is adequate research to convince me that successful losers who become successful maintainers continue to monitor their food intake in some manner. I think the method one uses should match whatever way of eating one is trying to follow. This simpler the eating changes (avoid or minimize certain foods) the more basic the method. Heck, even just writing down “1 cupcake” keeps you aware of what went in your mouth, just like continuing to step on the scale or measure your waist.

    • Karen

      I’ll check out that one too. I was just thinking about livestrong the other day and how huge it has gotten and that it is so much more than what it started as.

  13. i am a huge tracker everything that goes in mouth goes on paper it is the only way i am accountable. i found out over this last year i did alot of nibbling.

  14. I have the same problem you do. I get so frustrated trying to find what I ate on the trackers out there. I grow weary & quit.

    I’ll try Patrick’ suggestion too.
    Lori

  15. I know that tracking is important. I was a therapist on a weight loss study ad I have see it work for others. I am just like you and get it started and then it falls by the wayside! I have also found in the past that it makes me overly conscious/obsessed with whether I’m losing weight.

    This post is reminding me how important it is. I think I’m going to give it another try, now that i have other, better habits in place to focus on that will hopefully keep me from getting to obsessive about my weight.

    I have really like an iPhone app called Lose it! because it tracks weight progress and goals along with food (and you can store meals you eat often). Thanks for the reminder!

    • Karen

      I wish I had a phone with apps! I caught my husband in the pantry yesterday and when I asked what he was doing found out his phone can take a picture of the scan bars on packaging and give him the nutritional info! I’m envious.

  16. This has been a big one for me. There was a time when I counted every single calorie and tracked it… in a notebook perhaps accompanied by a spreadsheet with graphs. It did keep me on track. When I’d eat in a restaurant and not know the precise number of calories, I’d stop tracking for a few days and tended to eat whatever whenever. Then, I’d get back to it.

    The problem was that I was obsessed with the numbers. It was putting the locus of control on external things rather than on internal things. So I agreed to STOP tracking and take it one meal at a time. I need to eat reasonable portions at reasonable intervals, and that’s really all there is to it. Easy in theory, difficult in practice. BUT it’s better than feeling like a slave to the tracking notebook, which made me feel like a failure when I wanted a restaurant meal or holiday meal or just a moment away from having to calculate what was in my food or else not eating it.

    • Karen

      Thanks for sharing that. I can identify with the part about the restaurant meals. Or, any other that I don’t know the info for. I’m pretty sure I won’t obsess about the numbers but I do appreciate how already eating is too big a focus in my life. Hmmm.

  17. Hi Karen! My sleep in day so I get here late. AND I am actually doing another post on this next week. You know I write about it often!

    OK, the recipe thing – do you ave standard recipes you make? If yes, calculate them out ahead of time if they are similar most of the time so you have them handy & ready to log. If it is a new one, why not do it at some point in the day anyway so you know what is going in the bod since you are having trouble getting off the few pounds you want off AND SAVING it for the next time.

    Also, you can use your cell phone to take pics of your food if you get lazy so you remember what to write down & also when you are out, take pics on the cell phone.

    I know, more of the “I don’t want to do that & it is such a pain thing”. BUT, for me, I did do the calorie thing way back when & I don’t anymore… BUT if I bring in a new food, I make sure I know what the portion size is & the calories associated with that portion size as I add it into my daily food….. after all my years, I have a pretty good feel for what I can & can’t eat & bring in by knowing the calories per serving & portion of that food – portion control. If my weight goes up by 3-5 pounds or my jeans are too tight & not fitting right for more than 5 days, I take action.

    BTW, on your comment to me on Google reader – I have about 5 bloggers’ posts that show up to my email at least a day too late like mine to yours so I try to remember to check them before I ever get the email. Stinks that they show up so late & I think the ones on mine are Google reader too.

    HUGS & feel better!

    • Karen

      I never think of using my cell phone. Hmmm. Now you have me thinking…

      Yep, if I calculate the recipes once, I can input the info into fitday or wherever. Just gotta do it. Oh, there’s that nike slogan again:)

  18. It’s so tough to really SEE how much you are eating without having it right in front of you. I food journaled for years. During the times I was thinner…when I stopped…it was always super easy for me to start putting pounds back on. I also thrive on accountability. That’s why I weigh daily instead of weekly. If I don’t see that scale going up and down every day – then I’ll feel too good about choices and indulge too often. Just the way I work.

    Good luck with the “tracking”. I’m sure you’ll be a wonderful track star!

  19. I’ve tracked on and off (like you, mostly off) and (like yuu) found it to be quite a hassle, yet there is the observable correlation between eating and tracking.

    I’m wondering if there’s a way to track, possibly pencil on paper, that is more simple… like “cup of new recipe with fairly high fat and carb content”… just an awareness on paper of what is going into our mouths rather than a numerical analysis? I’m thinking about trying that for a few days, just to see how it feels.

  20. we’re on the same page, that’s for sure!
    I don’t know about fitday, but myfitness pal has a way you can make your daily food diary public if you want to.
    Or how about just making a page on this blog and using your clever name for it. Then it won’t be part of your regular posts, but it’ll be there for the record if anyone wants to follow along?
    Yesterday I lost count and ate too much. Back on track today. I’m a believer.
    I added a recipe to myfitness pal and it was pretty easy. They add in the basic info for you, but not all the “other” things. Just cal/carb/fat/protein. And they have an amazing database.
    Also free.
    goodluck!!!

    • Karen

      I’ll check it out. I think I may have to do an experiment and try several, maybe I’ll report back. I know that I can link fitday to my diet forum. And a separate page is definitely and option. If I am willing to put it all out here:)

  21. When my eating is getting out of control, I do track. I simply measure servings and count the calories. That really seems to work for me; it’s a pain sometimes but it works and keeps me accountable. It’s not for everyone though. You either tolerate it or you hate it.

  22. what is wrong with me??? I do not track. O vow I am going to . I swear I am going to. Then I do Not! I HAVE to start!
    Have a pretty day Karen,
    Kristin

  23. I’m a now-and-then tracker.If I want/need to track, I mostly just estimate the calories I’m eating and jot them along the edge of my daily to-do list. If I don’t feel that’s helping, I use Sparkpeople. Also free, but you can enter your own foods/recipes and save them so you only have to calculate once.

    • Karen

      I am going to check that one out. I see lots of bloggers mention it and get the impression there is more to it than just the food tracking.

  24. Back when I tracked I used Fitday and loved being able to input custom foods and recipes. I tried some others but always went back to Fitday. It was helpful for a while and I did it consistently, but then became something I hated. I think part of it was that, like many things, I saw it as an all or nothing proposition. And if I didn’t do it one day or whatever, I got all down on myself. I thought I had to do it perfectly every day. I haven’t tracked in well over a year but every once in a while I will use Fitday to calculate a recipe!

  25. I do not track. I don’t eat anything with animal products, and I try not to eat too many white carbs, so I figure if I stop eating when I am full (IF), then my weight will go down. And it does! It’s amazing how that works!

  26. I use lose it on my itouch. If anyone wants another friend on there add me… auds_ends @ yahoo dot com

  27. Ewa

    Tracking does not work for me at all. I eat and then write all down all the yummy and often unnecessary things I ate. Maybe if I did it in reverse, wrote what I am about to eat it would make me stop and think before I put that stuff in my mouth.

  28. Good post Karen. I track food, but not calories. I just plan out the 5-6 small meals daily and go from there. Cheers, Rick

  29. Karen, I do track what I eat have been since 1/09 on http://www.livestrong.com/dailyplate

    Its easy and they have just about everything you can think of in there; however, if you can’t find what your looking for you can add it.

    I also have the free app on my iPhone and I love that so much more than the website. Its about convenience for me and it works.

  30. Cindy

    I track my food/calories on dietpower software…

    Use a sticky note to make notes throughout the day & input the stuff on the software at night… It helps me see what nutritional areas I should work on and where I am already doing well…

    Gives me a caloric guideline based on my goals and what my weight has done with the food and exercise that I have logged into the program…

    Well worth the cost of the software – as I have used it for many years off and on…

    I am “On” right now and by logging things I feel that I am holding myself accountable to myself… And it seems to be working this go round. (as I have lost a bunch in the past as well…)

    • Karen

      I had not thought about combining taking notes to later input. Such a great idea. Thanks. Hopefully this will work for me too.

  31. I keep a spreadsheet on my laptop, but I only write down what the foods were. I don’t count calories, just watch my portions, so I feel it’s too complicated to use one of the sites where you’d have to measure everything, etc. I always remember what I eat in the day, so I just plug it in at the end, and it only takes a few seconds. I do think it keeps me accountable more, because I know, even a small bite of something, I will have to write down. No one else sees it, but it still seems to help.

  32. You really are a great writer, Karen. I love the way you put things. Very good post today. Tracking is my only way to success. I seem to “forget” what I don’t track. I found FitDay to be to onerous. I liked Spark People when I finally got through setting it up. I find that WW is the easiest to track…no brain drain. Not much bookkeeping.

    • Karen

      Thank you:) I went to a WW meeting a few weeks ago to check out the new program and thought I’d try tracking online but then realized it wasn’t free unless I did a monthly deal. Darn.

  33. hahaha–I feel you girl! For me, I always stop tracking when I start eating bad but it may have been the opposite for you. I use sparkpeople.com, and they have a recipe builder (sparkrecipes.com I think?–it’s connected so you can find it through sparkpeople if you make an account–it’s free) and although you have to enter each food and how much of it is in the recipe, they calculate the calories per serving based on what you input. When you’re first learning how to use it, it is slow but I’ve been doing it a hwile and can get a recipe calculated in just about a minute. There is also a website, caloriecount (http://caloriecount.about.com/cc/recipe_analysis.php) where you can just type the recipe’s ingredients and it analyzes it for you, based on the servings. It can be easier, but sometimes it doesn’t recognize things and I wonder how accurate that one is, but it would be your easiest option for calculating recipe calories.

  34. I go back and forth with the tracking, when the scale goes up or the jeans feel tight, I go back to tracking by writing down everything I eat and the WW points.

    When I feel like I am doing well, I just keep a mental tally going all day long. However since I seem to have some senior moments (but I’m not a senior citizen) I don’t always have the best memory when it comes to the mental tracking!

    Do what works for you and what isn’t too difficult!

  35. Yes…I track…for the most part…I use SparkPeople…I have tried TONS of others but always come back to that one. I have a spreadsheet on my computer at work that I track during work days (seems to be when I do the most of my mindless munching) and then email it to myself before I go home…and log at the end of the day!

    • Karen

      I am going to check that out, and others, to see which I might like. Seems like Spark People has a lot of stuff like the community aspect and articles. Not sure if that is a plus for me or not:)

  36. We are very much alike this way, Karen. I mean I WANT to be a track star…but it is such a hassle and I forget. Just recently I found Fat Secret on my Blackberry and it is cool. Very simple to use…has all the counts for restaurants and popular brands. You can find it on fatsecret.com Give it a try!

    With that being said I only track like 3 days a week then it’s not all day. I forget or just get lazy. I DO KNOW that when I DO track…it does make ALL the difference. Gonna be a Track Star today!!:)

    Have a great weekend, Karen:)

    • Karen

      I just checked it out. I decided I’ll try several and see which I like. Wish I had one for my phone but I am low-tech. I am so motivated right in this moment!!!

  37. What would be great is if you could just take a picture of the food, or put a spoon full of it in a machine and out spit all the nutritional information.

    • Karen

      So after reading the comments, my husband found an app for his phone that scans bar codes and gives the information! Wish I had a fancy phone that could do that:(

  38. Great post! I’m a personal fitness trainer, and this is the first thing I make my clients do. The ones who resist tend to be a bit less successful in meeting their goals.

    I use the PC version of Fitday. I like it for the most part. Sparkpeople.com is another good one. But my fave is just a good, old-fashioned spiral notebook.

    I found your blog on The Lady Bloggers, BTW.

    • Karen

      Thanks for stopping by, Rebecca. I’m working my way through a bunch of methods right now and have, for the moment, given up my excuses for not tracking:)

  39. I’m with you – tracking does seem to correlate with my level of success. I used to get really irritated by that fact, but it is what it is.

    I think I get amnesia when I don’t track so I switch back and fort from a paper tracker to electronic. I find the paper journal the most effective. I’ve been on WW for years and I like their 3-mos. journal. I know you follow a different kind of plan, but what I like about a 3 mos. journal is that I have room to also jot down a few feelings and also track the times/places that I think I’m hungry. It think that provides a lot of insight.

  40. Yes, I do, for the most part track what I eat. When I started blogging I tracked on my blog, but this quickly became more cumbersome. So, although I am a tekkie, I track the old fashioned way: paper and pencil.

  41. I tracked all the way through my weight loss and stopped tracking when I got to maintenance. Now I’m back to tracking again because I’d like to slim down a little. I LOVE livestrong.com/myplate – it’s much better than fitday.com in my opinion. Way more foods, and way more accurate. FitDay’s search drives me nuts, but Livestrong is blocked at work so I’ve been resorting to FitDay again.

  42. My best way of tracking was Weight Watchers with points, and I used a bracelet i made. Just moved a little portable clasp across the 24 beads, which were points, all day. Worked great.
    Stopping by and following from Lady Bloggers Society. Love your airy blog and great writing. Come see me over at Lighten Up!

  43. For me, it is definitely the bad eating leading to not tracking. I don’t like to put in bad stuff! I’ve been using Livestrong for the past 10 months and like it pretty well, though the site has definitely had some growing pains and can be sloggy (did I just make that word up?). I used to use Sparkpeople and found it cumbersome and don’t think the database is as good. I’ve been experimenting with MyFitnessPal and I like it so far, but haven’t decided to commit yet. (I also feel like trying them all and have been working on a post about it, I might finish in a year or 2 at this rate.)

    • Karen

      I am using 5 right now! Yikes. I will narrow that down pretty soon. I haven’t tried a custom recipe yet and that might make the difference.

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