A food tracker can be a powerful weight loss tool. When used correctly, it can give you a ton of data about your eating patterns and caloric intakes. For many, tracking food can mean the difference between eating enough calories and eating the right kinds of calories. However, the ultimate goal for the majority of #crushers is to be able to live and eat without the aid of a food tracker.
Intuitive eating vs. Food tracker
The goal to stop tracking comes with an important caveat. You have to actually track your food for a period of time in order to stop tracking later. So for many, this means understanding that if your goal is to stop using a food tracker, then you must be able to perfect intuitive eating, by knowing how your food choices line up each day.
By tracking, this allows you to see each day where your calorie intake actually hits, and where your macros fall in. This allows you to make notes of what you need to eat daily, and how your choices affect your macros for each meal. Paying attention to your daily food habits will set you up for success when the time comes to stop tracking. Your understanding of how to hit that protein goal becomes apparent after you track consistently.
Another good reason for using a food tracker is seeing if there are patterns in your moods and hunger cues. By tracking your moods daily using the notes section of your diary, you will be able to see if there are patterns to certain issues. Things like skipping breakfast causes you to binge eat later in the day. Or a pattern in eating a certain food brings on the bloat or gives you headaches/migraines. These cues can tell you a lot about your eating habits and how to troubleshoot them long after you stop tracking.
Finally, tracking your food allows you to be self aware. It keeps you accountable to your daily required calories, and hitting those macros. Both are necessary for fat loss. It also gives you the stepping stones to make these changes in your food a habit. Habits which need to be solid before you begin intuitive eating.
The goal for everyone is to eventually stop tracking food. But take the steps now to track so your foundation is solid in the future.
In order to plan for success in the fall, dieters need to focus on preparing for changes than happen after summer. Fall is usually a time when school is back in session and colder weather emerges. Holiday seasons also begin to race into high gear. There are two reasons why you tend to fail in the fall: You don't have a plan, or your plan is not realistic. Regardless, planning is even more vital in the colder months than it ever was during the warmer ones.
Seasonal habits need changing
During the summer months, many dieters believe that it is easier to plan to stick to your eating habits and workout routines. Hot weather can drive gym goers inside for air conditioning, and swimming and water sports become more prominent. We also tend to wear less clothing in the heat, which motivates us to look and feel our best. Fresh produce is in abundance, making it very easy to find healthy options to eat. So with the heat, we tend to eat better and are more physically active than any other season.
Somehow, the minute the colder weather starts to set in, our habits also seem to freeze and a stale mate begins with our routines. Generally, routines should be easy to keep. But many underestimate just how busy they tend to be come September and there is no consideration for the mental space that takes up.
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail
It is important that you have plans in place for when the weather changes. School begins and kids tend to take up all our time, with extra curriculars and events. If there is no plan in place for how to deal with the change in schedule, then failure is inevitable. We know these things come every fall, so plan ahead of time for how you will fit in your workouts and gym time. Colder weather tends to make us want to hide indoors and not go out. So a plan needs to be in place for how you will handle poor weather conditions. This might mean having some gym equipment at home for the days you don't want to travel. If you are a home gym user, then proper scheduling of your time needs to be considered.
Fall often brings a change in food options and eating habits. Fall and Winter are “Sweets and Junk” season. Football and Hockey season brings out all of the tailgate type foods, that are high fat and high sugar. This makes way for holiday season, which – for many – is a general “free for all” in eating options. There are less fresh produce options in the colder weather, which can make it difficult to have healthier options.
This is not something to beat yourself up over, attempt to “white knuckle” through, or throw your hands up in defeat (until the New Year) – instead, think ahead and arm yourself with a plan!
Planning ahead for the colder weather with a decent food plan can make or break your fall season. Utilize tools like a crock pot or instant pot to help make meals ahead of time. Plan out a few meals in advance and freeze them so you always have a good food option ready to go rather than grabbing take out. It is also important to allow yourself the ability and freedom to still eat some of the less healthier options. Framing your goals during the colder months can help keep you on track, and upbeat about your progress.
Know what your natural patterns are in the fall season. Know that you will tend to want to move less and eat more. Have a general plan in place for how you will combat the colder weather. Have both a workout plan and an eating plan in place. These things will allow you to continue to make progress in the colder months, and your next spring and summer to go as planned.
Do you alternate between “perfect” eating and stuffing your face? Not sure how you can ever accomplish your goals, when you don't wanna give up your fave foods? Always feeling like it's all or nothing (chicken breast and broccoli OR chicken fingers and cheesecake?)
With the explosion of social media, and being able to (supposedly) see what everyone else is doing, thinking, and eating and drinking – it can sometimes cause conflicting thoughts. The virtual celebrity or fitness model you follow/admire seems to subsist on tilapia and asparagus, but those IRL (in-real-life) peeps at home are hollering for nachos and wings. You live in the real world, and sometimes life takes over and you find yourself falling headfirst into a box of Krispy Kreme. Part of you wishes you had the willpower of that fitness model, but the other half secretly screams “why can't I just eat junk and lose weight?!”
We don't feel that you should be forced to waste your tastebuds on (what you perceive as) mediocre-tasting foods, just for the sake of fat loss. But, be sure to call it both ways. There are just as many bad tasting junk foods as there are bland-tasting health foods. There are also total yum versions of both. If you really want to eat what you love, then DO it. An eating style that doesn't includes foods you love is doomed to fail. BUT…make sure that you aren't including your “default” foods (easiest, habitual, most convenient) in the list of things you don't wanna give up. Especially if they aren't even good TO you. Get back into the habit of actually tasting your food, and use your tastebuds as the measuring stick for what you “can't do without.” There are plenty of more, nutrient dense, foods that can make better use of the cals your “so-so” foods are taking up. It's perfectly legit to stop ordering the fries at your fave burger joint if the fries just don't knock your socks off like the burger does. Eating fast food isn't the end of the world, but step away from the combo meal mentality to see if you even WANT everything that you typically default to eating together.
My motto: “If I'm gonna eat, it's gonna taste good. If I'm gonna ‘waste' cals on ‘so-so,' best believe it's gonna be a macro powerhouse ‘so-so' “
This way of thinking takes some being honest with ourselves, though. It's so much easier to just claim not changing on “oh I just can't…I like food too much…” or “I don't wanna eat food that doesn't taste good” – not realizing that often the stuff we are eating out of convenience isn't all that great-tasting either. If it's TRULY yum, eat it. If it's not, why waste your taste buds on mediocre AND nutrition-less? Keep things you LOVE in your diet, and slowly work to swap out “meh” items for just-as-convenient, equal-or-better-tasting foods with higher protein and fiber. Even better, keep these items on hand for mindless munching moments, or to hold you over until you get to the meals/foods that make your heart melt. Matters of taste can't always be changed, but matters of convenience…can. Sometimes we are just fighting the wrong battle.
While you may not be able to only eat junk and lose weight, you should be able to find a happy medium that includes a hefty amount of whatever floats your boat. Though it seems new-agey to say “be present” when you eat, it's the first and biggest step to having more yum in your life. This video talks more about default eating and learning how to dissect your meals so that you can hit your goals while still eating the YUM foods you love.
SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube Channel for weekly info and motivation.
Holiday feasting always started early in our house. The cooking was complete by 9:00 in the morning and Thanksgiving dinner was served by noon. The menu was simple and has been the same for as long as I can remember. Once the feeding started, we continued until it was all gone – nothing was ever thrown out.
Post-Thanksgiving week went something like this:
Breakfast: Egg custard pie (It's a southern thing!)
Lunch: Turkey, dressing + pie
Dinner: Turkey, dressing, string beans + pie
This pattern of eating lasted until we polished off each item (not surprisingly, mom's 8 pies were always the first to go!). Then, we'd repeat the EXACT same scenario with the EXACT same meal at Christmas. The insanity of eating that way never really hit home until I was well into my thirties, as in a measly 5 years ago! I mean, it was the holidays and this meal was only prepared at this special time of year, so didn't I deserve to cut loose? Never mind the fact that it took almost half the year to undo the damage from that 4-week period.
Even after changing my diet for the other 48 weeks of the year, I still accepted that during this period all bets were off and it was ok to eat this way because I could ‘work it off'. At some point it clicked that this kind of excess just didn't jive with my lifestyle. Stuffing my face with all of those rich foods, meal after meal, day after day went against everything that I stood for – moderation, balance, nourishing my body and not being a slave to my taste buds. Nothing beats my mom's holiday spread, but I can appreciate a single meal without putting an entire year's worth of effort or my health in jeopardy.
One of the best things about this time of year is undoubtedly all the delicious holiday-themed treats and smells coming from the kitchen. Party invites are probably being thrown your way and you might already be wondering how you will enjoy the festivities without totally wrecking your progress. You will surely be tempted by tasty treats and delicious drinks while enjoying the company of family and friends and, by all means, should enjoy them. Use these holiday eating tips to indulge with moderation and avoid falling face first into the seasonal fat traps.
Set Your Day Up in Advance If you already know that you will be enjoying a favorite treat, like my mom's egg custard pie, make adjustments to the rest of your meals for that day. So, if some of your favorite foods are carb dense, eat less carbs throughout the day. The same practice can be applied to fats. Making adjustments to other meals will improve the overall macronutrient balance for the day.
Party Full- Another option to consider is having a healthy meal before you go. If you show up ravenous, you are more likely to make poorer food choices. Just like they say never go grocery shopping hungry, showing up to a smorgasbord with an empty stomach isn't the best idea either. As if all the decadent desserts aren't tempting enough, being around these things when you’re in need of food increases your likelihood of overindulging. Try eating some lean protein and a mix of fats and carbs before heading out.
Practice Moderation Living a healthy lifestyle doesn't mean you can't partake in the holiday's bounty. Rather, it means you understand the importance of moderation and you practice it. Decide up front that you will indulge mindfully, eating the way you do the rest of the year with a treat or two added in. One approach you can take is to follow an 80/20 rule (80% healthier choices, 20% less than healthy). This way you won't feel deprived of any foods, yet you won't have to carry around the guilt or the pounds from overindulging.
Eat Slow & Stop Before Full This recommendation stands all the time, but doesn't hurt mentioning again here. Although you may want to dive head first into the goodies, slow down your eating. If it is a once-a-year meal act like it and savor each and every bite. Not only will you appreciate the meal more, you will give your brain and gut time to communicate fullness and help you recognize when to stop eating. Once you start to feel full, you know it is time to stop.
Forgive & Forget-If things don't go according to plan and you somehow find yourself polishing off an entire pie (it has been known to happen!), let it go and move on. Listen, we’re all human, and as such we are fallible. There will be times we overdo it, but holding on to that guilt will do more harm than good. What matters is how you move forward. Acknowledge your overindulgence, try and figure out what triggered it, and carry on. Live in the present and let go of the past.
Remember What Food Is & Isn't- Sometimes we find ourselves uncomfortable in a room full of people or relatives we are glad we only see once a year. Being stressed or nervous can increase your chances of eating one cookie too many. During these times, remember what food is and isn't. Food is sustenance. It is not a problem solver. It’s not a friend to confide in. Mindlessly eating in response to an awkward or uncomfortable situation won't solve any of your problems, it just creates a new one – overindulgence! See food for what it is and don't let it be your crutch.
Whether fall and winter or spring and summer, these rules apply year-round. By sticking to the nutrition and exercise habits you've established and indulging mindfully, you can increase your chances of staying svelte through sweater season and ready to rock come summer. Always check in to the real meaning behind each holiday and recognize that it isn't just about the food. Most importantly enjoy this time with your family and friends!
Many of today's popular diets share a similar characteristic where you eat from a list of approved foods or food types and when you choose not to, you are cheating. Thankfully, it seems, a few diets are getting away from this notion of cheating such as flexible dieting and IIFYM, however, the practice of eating a cheat meal or having cheat days is still widely followed by those restricting their diets.
If what you eat on the weekend is drastically different from what you eat during the week, you are doing it wrong.
As you know, EM2WL does not endorse any specific diet, but we do make the following basic recommendations:
• Eat sufficient protein
• Eat sufficient fiber
• Eat enough food to meet your level activity
Pretty basic stuff, right? Nothing too scary and probably something most people can get with. Sure, there is more to it like balancing macros, whole vs processed foods, nutrient timing, staying hydrated, etc. but at a basic level, this is what it looks like.
My gripe with having a cheat meal has ZERO to do with the quality of the meal itself, but how the meal is labeled and the potential backlash it can have. The problem with labeling foods as cheats is that we are dangerously close to being right back at the good vs bad food mindset. As we've seen in the past, this often leads to putting foods on a restricted list, which can introduce binge eating and other forms of disordered eating.
Cheat: to practice fraud or trickery – Merriam Webster
Think about this – When has cheating ever been associated with something positive? Cheat on a test? Bad. Cheat on your spouse? Bad. Cheating death? Ok, that is a good one, but even that seemingly good cheat has an ominous feel to it, like the grim reaper might be lurking around every corner to settle the debt.
Labeling a meal as cheating implies some form of deceit and has negative overtones. I am a big believer that framing things positively impacts how you feel about it. Are you really “getting away with” eating a cookie, enjoying some pasta or anything that is not on the sanctioned food list? If so, maybe your diet is too restrictive. The reality is that you are just eating food. Period. There are no food police or other authority that you need to outwit or who is waiting to lock you up.
Food is food. Every food has a nutritional profile and you should gauge its value for YOUR diet and then make a determination if it is something that you want to eat often or in moderation. In general, eating foods that are more nutritionally dense AND that you enjoy is a good idea. Sprinkle in the foods that don't offer as much nutritional value, but you simply enjoy eating. Maybe for you that is a 50/50 balance or an 80/20 balance. Whatever that balance is, it is your call to make, but avoid labeling foods in such a way that it may potentially trigger some guilt about eating it afterward.
In part 1 of this series we reviewed the basics of macronutrients and why each one plays an important role in your diet. While it's important to understand what macronutrients are and how they function in your body, what most of us want to know is how to turn that into practical information we can use in our daily lives.
An approach often recommended and used by the EM2WL coaches is eating based on your body type. As with most things related to fitness, every body is unique and finding what works for you and your lifestyle takes some trial and observation. Two people with the same body type may have different diet histories, different external stressors, hormonal imbalances, etc. which may impact results even when eating the same diet. That being said, eating for your body type takes into account metabolic differences based on physical attributes and can guide you with your diet choices.
A somatotype, or body type as it is most commonly referred to, is a method of categorizing people based on their physique into one of three groups – endomorph, mesomorph, and ectomorph. It is believed that people with similar physiques share other characteristics, such as metabolism, which can inform one's nutrition. Thus, determining your body type gives you a starting point with your macronutrient breakdown.
Carbs, carbs, carbs!
Ectomorphs are naturally thin with smaller bone structures. Their metabolic rate is fast and they tolerate carbs well. You may think that having an ectomorph body type is like hitting the physique lottery, but it comes with its own set of challenges including being able to increase muscle mass or put on weight. For that reason, ectomorphs are also known as hard gainers. Because ectomorphs tolerate carbs well, they are prioritize in their diet.
For ectos, a good starting point would be: Carbohydrates 55%, Protein: 25%, Fat: 20%
Ok, I have to admit that having an ectomorph body type is definitely like hitting the food lottery!!
Mesomorphs have athletic builds (i.e. V shape) with a medium bone structure. They are testosterone and growth hormone dominant which typically translates to more lean mass and lower body fat when active. Mesomorphs are generally able to eat what they want without encountering too many issues. They also aren't too challenged when it comes to putting on or taking off weight.
Like ectomorphs, carbs are tolerated fairly well and play a starring role in a mesomorph meal plan: Carbohydrates 40%, Protein: 30%, Fat: 30%
Endomorphs have the largest bone structure and tend to carry more body fat as well as muscle mass. They tend to have pear shapes, gain weight easily and are often challenged when trying to lose weight. Endomorphs fair best with more fat and protein in their diet with carb intake kept at a moderate level and arranged around their activity.
An endomorphs' intake might look like: Carbohydrates 25%, Protein: 35%, Fat: 40%
Choosing a Body Type Diet
If you’re wondering into which category your body falls or thinking that you could be categorized in more than one category, you’re probably right. Most people do in fact show characteristics of more than one body type.
Trying to fit perfectly into one category is not the goal here. Rather decide which category you feel you fit best in, choose the appropriate macro breakdown and adjust from there. Undoubtedly many (primarily women) will try to fit into the endomorph category. Even classic ectomorphs will readily identify as an endomorph when trying to lose weight. However, I caution you NOT to immediately assume that your body type is endomorph simply because you are carrying “extra” body fat.
To help determine your body type, have a spouse or friend take a picture of you and compare the pic to the body type images (pictures are more objective than mirrors). You might be surprised to find which category you best align with.
Regardless of which category you best identify with, be sure to allow yourself sufficient time to evaluate how your body responds before making ANY changes. Then, once you feel you want to make an adjustment, start small and observe again. Over time you will determine what worked best for you and what didn't.
Photo credit: Norbert Sobolewski, Egal, Ruthie, DenisNata/bigstockphoto.com