If you’ve even so much as thought about losing weight, you’ll know that food tracking is one of the most commonly suggested tools to help. The idea is that you log the foods you eat and the calories that come with them and use the data to help you make changes in your life. But food tracking and calorie counting is such a polarized topic, so how do you know if it’s right for you?
There are upsides and downsides to tracking your food and calorie intake. It can feel impossible to make a note of every single thing you are consuming, and it can feel overwhelming and undesirable to do this all day every day. But food tracking can give you important data about your current eating patterns, so this week I’m sharing more about how to make it work for you.
My goal for this episode is not to tell you to track every single thing you eat. Instead, I’m offering a number of considerations and ways to view food tracking, as well as sharing some alternatives to tracking and counting. I’m diving deeper into what it actually means to track food, the upsides and downsides of tracking, and some alternatives to tracking your calories.
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What You Will Discover:
- Some examples of when food tracking might be helpful.
- How to use the information from tracking apps to change your nutrition and the way you are eating.
- Some reasons you might not want to track your calories.
- How to use the information from food tracking to make dietary changes in a healthy way.
- Some tips to make calorie tracking easier for you and some suggestions if you don’t want to track at all.
- A good exercise to get you familiar with portion sizes.
- Why you might be resistant to calorie tracking or food journaling.
Listen to the Full Episode:
Featured on the Show:
Full Episode Transcript:
You are listening to the Strong as a Working Mom podcast, Episode # 31.
Welcome to the Strong as a Working Mom podcast. If you’re balancing career, family, wellness, and some days sanity, you are in the right place. This is where high-achieving, busy, working moms get the tools they need to eat, move, and think. I’m your host, physician, personal trainer, and Certified Life Coach, Carrie Holland. Let’s do this.
Hey, how are you? What’s new, what’s good? So what’s good here is that today, we are going to talk about a controversial tool that I have been asked about many, many times by clients, friends, and now a number of you. So we’re going to talk about calorie tracking. And here’s why I decided to tackle this topic. Similar to the scale, I think of tracking your food as a tool; it’s a tool that you can use to give you data. And that is truly how I view it.
I’m going to talk about it in that way, similar to the way that I approached whether or not and how to use the scale. So as a reminder, if you want to review the upsides and the downsides of using the scale as a tool, if you’re looking to lose weight, go back to Episode 7. That’s where I pick it apart and offer you both sides of the coin.
And similar to when I dove in about the scale, before I go any further about tracking, let me add this disclaimer. If you’re someone who struggles with disordered eating or if you have a history of an eating disorder, this is not for you.
If you have an eating disorder, or if you’re concerned that your habits are leading you to disordered eating, please see your doctor. I am talking about keeping track of your food as a tool for people who do not have an issue with eating disorders or disordered eating. I want to make that clear from the very outset.
So part of the reason I want to discuss food tracking is because it is such a polarized topic. There are some people who believe that tracking your food is awful and will cause you to be obsessive. It will lead everyone to an eating disorder, and tracking your food is just another weapon of diet culture. Go on social media, and I guarantee you will find these polarized views in about two seconds flat.
And then there are some who simply think that the only way to lose weight is to track and be meticulous. You have to pull out your My Fitness Pal for every bite of food you eat; otherwise, why bother? So I imagine you’ve probably heard both of these perspectives. And in my experience, neither of these camps is subtle about expressing their views, nor are they helpful.
I don’t think it’s a fair assessment to say that no one should track their food. I don’t think it’s fair to assume that anyone who tracks their food is going to end up with an eating disorder or become obsessive or overly restrictive. I also don’t think it’s fair to say that anyone who wants to lose weight must track their food, and it’s the only way to succeed at weight loss.
Both of these perspectives are very black-and-white thinking, and I just don’t think it’s cool to make a blanket statement either way. I don’t believe that tracking is terrible for everyone, just as I don’t think that it works for everyone.
So with this in mind, here’s what we’re going to cover today, we’re going to talk about what it means to track your food. Then we’re going to talk about the upsides and downsides of tracking. We’ll talk about how to make it work for you if you do decide to track. And then we’re going to talk about alternatives to tracking your calories because you absolutely have options. All right, so let’s go.
When I think about tracking your food, I am talking about a way to log the calories that you are eating. There are loads of different ways to go about this. But the most commonly used method of tracking food is by using a calorie or macro counting app, and that’s where we’re going to start.
The most common tracking app I’ve come across is My Fitness Pal, though there are tons of others. Clearly, many people use it because if you go into the app store on your phone, you’ll see that it has over one and a half million ratings; I had no idea. And all this app does is keep a running daily total of the calories and macronutrients you eat throughout the day based on what you enter; that’s it.
There are a ton of other bells and whistles and ads and sales pitches. But if you keep it simple and go with the free version, you can log your food and be done with it. So like My Fitness Pal, most tracking apps have an enormous database of foods loaded into them. Both brand-name packaged foods and generic things like fruit and veggies. Many have barcode scanners so you can scan the package of what you’re eating.
If you know what your daily calorie target is, you can use the app to keep track and see if you’re hitting your goals. Most, if not all, of the apps I’ve come across will give you a macronutrient breakdown so you can see whether or not you’re hitting your goals for protein, carbs, and fat too.
Alright, so let’s talk about some of the reasons that you might choose to track your food. Here are some of the upsides and benefits of tracking. First and foremost, it gives you data. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, you can’t change what you don’t measure. This is true, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.
What this means is that by tracking your food, you get data. And you will learn a ballpark of how many calories you’re taking in if you choose to track. You’ll see that you stay on target and maintain a calorie deficit during the week but go off the chain over the weekend. There’s data. That data may show you that from Friday through Sunday, you essentially undo the calorie deficit that you created during the week.
Then you can use that information to change how you approach your nutrition over the weekend. If you are tracking consistently and accurately, I will get to more on this in just a minute, then you will have good reliable data.
Meaning there’s a big difference between “I think I overdid it this weekend” versus “I averaged about 4,500 calories per day on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday”, which by the way, is not at all hard to do. I’ve seen it. Numeric data is a little more specific than “I overdid it”. Alright?
Second, in addition to giving you data, for some people tracking food provides accountability. If you’ve made the decision that ‘if it goes in your mouth, it goes in your tracker’, then you might think twice about the fourth or fifth piece of pizza before you eat it. For some people knowing that they’re going to log that extra piece of pizza is enough to make them rethink their decision.
And to be clear, as long as this is done in a healthy way that does not lead to obsessiveness and restriction, your tracker may be useful to create accountability. So it’s important to note that for weight loss, and really in relation to any major change of your habits, self-monitoring is critical. This has been shown over and over again in the scientific literature repeatedly.
When I think of self-monitoring, I think of awareness coming off autopilot. It means learning the information you need to know in order to make informed decisions related to your nutrition. If you want to change the way you eat, you have to be aware of what you’re currently doing. So think of it as a map. If you want to know how to get somewhere, you have to know where you’re starting from. And for some people keeping track is essential for self-monitoring.
Alright, so third, tracking can reveal patterns. As an example, maybe you think you’re eating enough during the day. But when you go back and look at the numbers, you really aren’t. I’ve shared this story before, but I had a client who was actually gaining weight.
And when we started looking at her numbers, she realized that between 5 a.m., when she got up, and 5 p.m., when she got home from work, she was taking in, on average, 600 calories. And she did her workouts in the morning. So by the time she got home, she was hangry and totally overdoing it.
But it wasn’t until she got specific and looked at the numbers that she realized this pattern and was able to make some adjustments to her meals. So she came home less hangry.
When you have hard data in front of you, and especially when you have a few weeks’ worth of data, you’ll be able to determine patterns and make decisions based on those patterns. So to review, tracking your calories provides data. It can keep you accountable. And it shows you patterns so you can adjust your nutrition as needed.
Again, I’m totally beating this dead horse, but if you can use this information to make dietary changes in a healthy way, from a place of kindness and not obsessiveness, then tracking may be helpful.
Okay, so as far as why you might not want to track your calories. Really, it boils down to healthy behaviors. I tried to break this down further, but all roads pointed back to obsessiveness and unhealthy behaviors. If tracking your food will lead you to obsessiveness and unhealthy restriction, you’ve got your answer.
If you have a history of an eating disorder or disordered eating, then tracking is most likely not for you. I don’t want to overstate it; I probably already have. But that’s really it.
Okay, so if you are someone who feels that tracking might be helpful to you, let’s talk about some of the key pieces to making this work. How do you maximize your return on investment if you are going to track your food? So first, the app is only as accurate as you are at entering what you’re eating. Meaning a few things.
Just because you don’t track it, those calories still count. So the cream you put in your coffee, the extra scoop of peanut butter you have when making your kids’ lunches, that is totally me. The olive oil that you use to sauté your vegetables. Even if you don’t track those things, those little extras, they all still very much matter, and they will impact your bottom line.
I see it all the time. If I had $1 for every time someone told me, “I’m not eating that much, and I’m not losing weight.” And when we go through an entire day in the life, and I do the math, the difference in my number versus my client’s number can be staggering.
I had one client that when I did all of her math, she was consistently eating, on average, about 750 more calories per day than what she was tracking. So do that seven days a week, and you end up with over 5,000 more calories in the week than you had planned for.
You could essentially consider this another downside to tracking. It is frustrating. It is operator dependent, and it is only as accurate as you are at reporting what you’re eating. Alright? So please don’t get me wrong here. I am not calling you a liar. Okay? I promise. I’m not saying that you are lying about your food.
But what I am saying is that we are all pretty horrible at estimating. And our memories are just not as great as we think they are. And the literature totally supports this too. We are terrible at estimating our caloric intake, all of us. Some studies suggest that we underestimate anywhere from 20% to 50% of the calories we take in a day.
In fact, there is a study that’s commonly cited in the New England Journal of Medicine. This is a high-powered journal in the scientific community. And it showed that people significantly underreport their calories by almost 50%, and overreport their exercise by over 50%. Put those together, and that is a recipe for zero weight loss.
That study is a bit old now. I would love to see newer data to know if this has changed at all. But suffice it to say, if you’re going to make tracking work for you, there is a level of awareness and honesty necessary. And again, I will say this, until the science tells us otherwise, there is not a single person on planet earth who will lose weight by eating more calories than she needs.
So if you’re not losing weight, barring any medical or true metabolic issues, you’re taking in more calories than your body needs, no matter what your tracker is telling you. And I cannot stress this enough. This is a really important concept to grasp.
Alright, so second, consistency is key. This goes back to Episode 3. In order to succeed at any change, you need a Plan, Consistency, and Patience, PCP. I find that people commonly struggle with consistency around tracking, and there are a number of reasons for this. I’m going to pick them apart and offer you some solutions.
First, tracking during the weekdays and not tracking on the weekends can really throw you for a loop. Most of us eat very differently during the weekend than we do during the week. So if you are someone who sticks to your plan. And based on your tracking, you’re hitting your nutrition and calorie targets, Monday – Thursday, but you’re not losing weight, take a look at what’s going on over the weekend.
Consider tracking what you’re eating on the weekends and see where you land. Again, you can’t change what you don’t measure. So if you have no idea how much food we’re really taking in over the weekends, how can you make any changes?
The other thing I will commonly see is this. Someone may be tracking for a few days and not see any progress. But then, when we get down into the nitty-gritty, we’ll find that out of 28 days, she’s tracked for five of those days: She tracked one Monday, then didn’t track again until the following Monday and Tuesday. Then she tracked on a Friday, and then not again until the following Wednesday. And on those days, she hit her targets. But what about those other 23 days where we have zero data?
So those five days don’t give us a very clear picture of what’s going on. And we had no idea what happened in those other 23 days. It’s hard to pick up patterns when the habits are inconsistent. What I find, similar to the scale, is that people will use the tool when they think they’ve been “good”. I see it all the time.
You may only weigh yourself after a stretch of days where you feel you’ve been really steady with your nutrition. And avoid it altogether when you had a weekend of overeating. The same is true with tracking. I’ve seen it. Clients may track on days that they are on point. But when we get to talking about the pizza or pasta dinners, she won’t have tracked because she knew it was going to throw her numbers off.
So when it comes to seeing progress, I will repeat this, and we’re the fun t-shirt, it’s not about how long it takes. It’s about how consistent you are. Five out of 28 days is not consistent. Consistency matters. And this is true for anything. This is way beyond counting your calories. Okay?
Third, what do you do about recipes and eating out? I get asked this all the time. I’m going to keep this very simple. You do your best. You guesstimate it. And I know I just spent the last few minutes talking about how we’re terrible estimators, and now I’m telling you to estimate, but here’s why.
I would rather you estimate your recipes and stick something in there than get all frustrated and get all perfectionistic on me and say, “Well, if I can’t put this recipe in here, I’m ruined. Forget it,” and just go off your plan. You may laugh at this, but it is true for some of you. I have coached a number of women who are straight-up just not going to track at all because if they couldn’t put in an exact amount of a recipe, it was not good enough.
So that is perfectionism and all-or-nothing thinking right there in pure form. I can only encourage you to let that go. We’ve talked about it a number of times. Yes, if you’re going to track, I want you to get as good data as possible. But I also recognize that you have more important things to do than figure out exactly how many calories your grandma’s homemade lasagna is going to be.
But it doesn’t mean you throw in the towel. Don’t use that as an excuse to give up. And the same is true for restaurants, do your best guess, and that’s okay. Really, do not let these two things stop you. I see it so commonly, but it really does not have to be all or nothing. Don’t stress about this.
So fourth, if your inclination is to think that tracking is cumbersome and tedious, and annoying, I got you. I hear this a lot, a lot, a lot. And my response to this is, like anything, it is a pain in the booty if you make it be a pain in the booty. Maybe that’s a little bit of tough love, but really, it’s the truth. I have tracked my food, and it was not a big deal.
Because I didn’t make it a big deal, I made it part of my process. It was part of the daily boring work that led to my results. But if you come into tracking irritated and resentful, and if you see it as a pain, that’s what it’s going to be. That’s confirmation bias; what you believe, “tracking is a pain”, you will go and seek evidence to prove correct.
The people I most commonly hear this complaint from are people who have not established consistency with it. So like any tool, the more you use your tracking app, the easier it gets. If you use it very sporadically, as in my random 5 out of 28 days example, then yeah, it’s gonna feel tedious. And you’ll probably mess up and swear at your phone and declare that tracking is dumb.
I say that because I, myself, have been there and done that. I admit this to you. Technology has not been my strong suit. I turn something on, I want it to work, period, end. And when it doesn’t, I sometimes turn into a freak and have a hissy fit. However, I’m actively working on this, making friends with technology.
But my point here is that the tool works if you use it and you use it consistently. There are ways to make tracking your food less of a pain in the booty. In fact, there are a number of ways to make this easier for you. First, cut and paste. Many apps have a cut-and-paste option. So if you are a creature of habit like me and eat the same thing for lunch every day or most days, it’s pretty easy to cut and paste that meal over and over again.
Next, you can pre-track your food. So again, this goes back to planning, and you know what I’m gonna say about planning, it is essential. So if you have decided ahead of time what your meals are going to look like for the week, you can track them ahead of time. I’ve done this, and it saves a boatload of time.
Next, have some key go-to meals that you can repeat. Most apps allow you to save favorites or create custom foods. Take advantage of those options and use them. When you have a handful of established meals that you regularly eat, it makes it so much easier to get them into your tracking app and reuse them. This is especially true for recipes. If you have a recipe that you regularly make, save it.
Next, decide on the number of meals or snacks you’re going to have in the day and stick to it. If you do intermittent fasting, as an example, you may find the tracking isn’t so tedious because you’re likely eating fewer meals than someone who has three meals and three snacks per day. If you decide, “This is the number of meals and snacks I’m having,” then here’s the key, you stick with it. Then you should not be spending your entire day logging your food. All right?
And next, pick some simple foods. As in, a piece of salmon with a side of broccoli and some quinoa, done. If you are like me and you hate to cook or if you burn everything as I do, then this may be easier to manage than if you are a Martha Stewart in the kitchen. Right?
So please hear me, I’m not telling you to eat nothing but one-ingredient foods and bore yourself to tears with your meals. That is not at all what I’m saying. What I am saying is that simple-ingredient meals are easy to track. That’s it. So I hope that this gives you a couple of different ideas for how to simplify tracking and make it less of a behemoth. Okay?
All right. Before I get to alternatives to tracking, I want to mention just a couple of other important things to know if you decide to experiment with it. First, it is not a perfect science at all. There are a number of ways that tracking is just not perfect: Food labels do not always tell the whole story. Your measurements may not be accurate. Your estimation of two tablespoons of peanut butter may be more like four tablespoons of peanut butter. And that’s totally me. There are loads of ways the holes in the Swiss cheese can line up here to give you imperfect data.
But that’s okay, accept that it is not going to be perfect from the outset. Again, the idea here is simply to get data. We want to get the best data possible. But I also don’t want you driving yourself nuts trying to nickel and dime every single calorie you are taking in.
Here’s a key thing; you have to find your own personal happy place. I’m talking to you perfectionists, okay? There is a balance of perfectionism and estimation here that I’m asking you to find. If you decide to experiment with tracking your food, it is not going to be perfect. Okay?
Then second, this is really key; you do not have to do this forever. You are not designed to track calories for the rest of your life. In fact, I would never want you to, at all. That’s no fun. If you have never done the exercise of tracking how much food you eat in a day, it can be eye-opening.
So personally, I do not track my food anymore, at least not right now. And there are a couple of reasons for that. One, I’m happy with my weight; I’m not trying to gain or lose. Two, I’m a creature of habit, and I like to eat the same thing for most of my meals.
I have done the work previously to know how many calories and macros are in my meals, so I have a ballpark idea of how much I’m eating. And then I have a lot of time and experience tracking under my belt. I got skilled in eyeballing a serving of turkey or a serving of tofu. I feel fairly confident in my ability to determine portion sizes, so I don’t go over what my body needs.
But that only came from practice. I’m not saying this at all to toot my horn, not at all. I’m saying this to show I put my money where my mouth is, literally and figuratively, and did the work for months at a time. Because I wanted to learn about how much I was really eating. And I learned that I eat a lot more peanut butter than I think I did.
So I say all of this because you can use tracking as an educational tool. And then once you’ve gotten what you need from it, you don’t have to use it. Or you can come back to it, if and when you need it. Once you’re practiced enough to know about how many calories and macros you’re taking in, you may not need to use the apps anymore. This is key.
If you’re interested in tracking and are simply curious, you could try it for a month. And when I say that, I don’t mean five days out of the month. I mean, like true, real consistent, honest tracking. That’s how you’ll really give yourself good solid data. And then you can decide whether or not to continue.
Alright, so what if you have heard all of this and you’re like, “No, not gonna do it. Tracking is not for me.” That is totally fine. My purpose today is not to convince you to start tracking your food, you do not have to track your calories. I say this frequently because it’s true.
I think it’s an important reminder to keep your perspective. People lost weight before My Fitness Pal existed. People lost weight before smartphones and apps were even a thing. It is possible. And it may be preferable to lose weight without tracking. Okay?
Here are some alternatives if you don’t want to track. First, if you don’t want to do anything with any sort of app notes, pen, or paper, how about this? I’ve mentioned this before, but instead of tracking, you can build your plate with fractions. Meaning half your plate with veggies, one quarter with lean protein, and one quarter with grains or starches if you eat carbs.
And if you want more details on this, go back to Episode 27, where I described this and five other tools that you can use to simplify your eating. None of them involve tracking, so you can check that out if you want.
For many of you, simply changing the makeup of your meals so that the majority of your plate is filled with rainbow vegetables, that alone will make a significant impact on your total calorie intake. So half veggies, one-quarter lean protein, and one-quarter grains or starches like potatoes. For many of you, simply taking this approach to your meals and being consistent with it that will make a difference.
Next would be to start paying closer attention to your portion size. It is no secret that portion sizes for American adults have grown and grown over the last few decades. In fact, if you look at the size of dinner plates over the last few decades, it has increased from eight-and-a-half inches in diameter in the 1960s to 12 inches in diameter. Now, that is a lot more food.
So you could use smaller dinner plates, which will make a difference; your brain likes to see a full plate of food. And if you’re filling an eight-and-a-half-inch plate full of food versus filling a 12-inch plate full of food, that’s going to make a difference.
Or, if you bring your food to work in containers, your brain appreciates seeing a smaller container full of food versus a huge container half full of food. There’s literature to back this up. When your brain sees a full container or a full plate, it feels happy, it feels safe, and it feels secure. Even if it’s a smaller container than what you’re used to.
Studies have shown that your brain will accept up to a 20% reduction in size without having a fit; 20%. This is fascinating. Try it out. If you don’t want to get new dishware, you can practice portion sizes. I’m not telling you to get out your measuring cups or your food scale. Instead, you can use your hand to eyeball this.
You can most definitely google it and find all kinds of images for this, but for a quick primer: A serving of protein is the size of your palm. A serving of vegetables the size of your fist. Your cupped hand, that’s a serving of carbs or starches. And your thumb is the size of a serving of fat.
If you’ve never tried this before, I do think it’s a good exercise to get you familiar with portion sizes. So many people just don’t look at portion sizes. And as a result, have no idea how many servings they’re taking in. Ice cream is a prime example. A standard serving size of ice cream is two-thirds of a cup. Who the heck eats two-thirds of a cup?
If you have ever gone through the exercise of measuring this, you will see that is not a lot of ice cream. And so many people eat way more than that. My point here is that if you have never paid attention to portion sizes, it’s a great place to start creating more awareness around what you’re eating, and you can just use your hand.
Okay, so just a few other alternatives to tracking. I don’t want to spend a ton of time on these because they are pretty straightforward. Cook more of your meals at home. You have more control over the ingredients, including the salt, oil, and fat that you add to your food.
And then cut back on your processed food intake. Most ultra-processed foods are more calorie-dense than whole foods, like fruit and veggies. Alright?
So last, this is sort of similar to tracking but not quite. Okay, so what if you went old school and did pen and paper and simply wrote down what you ate in a day? That’s it, no amounts, no nickel-and-diming yourself. You just write down everything that you eat in a day; a bowl of oatmeal, bites of your kids’ French toast, a spoonful of ice cream standing in front of the freezer. That’s it.
You will see this referred to as ‘food journaling’; you’re just writing down the foods you eat. Certainly, more detail would be helpful. But studies have suggested that even just the simple act of writing down what you eat may be helpful for those of you trying to lose weight, more so than for those who do not do any sort of food journaling.
So this gets back to the concept of self-monitoring. It’s important to pay attention to what you’re doing in regard to any habit you’re trying to change. And you don’t have to get fancy, pen and paper works. And then you’re still getting data. You can look at what you’ve written down at the end of the day and look for patterns. Maybe you do fine through breakfast and lunch. But maybe you tend to eat more fast food or takeout at dinnertime, and that’s throwing you off.
Or, maybe you’re on track until after dinner, and then you review, and you see you’ve listed chips, gummy bears, and a few Oreos. All that after dinner. There’s your data. And then, you can choose what to do with that data and make adjustments.
I will add this, if you’re interested in journaling, it’s ideal to do it in real-time. Often, when you try to recall at the end of the day, what you’ve eaten tends to not go very well. Again, we’re not the best at estimating. And we are also not the best at remembering.
It’s easy to forget the handful of trail mix or the bites of your kid’s grilled cheese. So it’s important to do this as soon as possible after you eat. And again, if you’re shaking your head because you feel like you’d be constantly writing stuff down, that also tells me something.
I have found that many people are resistant to tracking or even food journaling because they’re snackers or grazers. Meaning you don’t eat actual meals, and instead, you graze throughout the day. Or, you eat your meals, but maybe those meals aren’t filling enough, and then you’re grazing on snacks throughout the day. So it makes sense.
If you are constantly grazing or snacking or grabbing handfuls of this and that throughout the day, then yeah, I can see how it would be a pain to write all that down. But again, that alone tells us something. And it underlines the question of why you feel the need to be constantly grazing. Do we need to look at your main meals and make sure that they’re filling enough, so you don’t feel the need to snack constantly?
If you do have snacks, do you need to bolster them so they keep you full? So you don’t feel the need for extras? Where are there adjustments that can be made to set you up for success? Whatever your case may be, I encourage you to get really honest with yourself and consider why you might be resistant to simply writing down what you eat in a day.
Because at the risk of ruffling some feathers, I have run into situations where people get really mad about doing this. They get mad because they don’t want to know. And if they’re honest and write down everything they eat, then they will have data in front of them that they can’t ignore. And then that assessment, but I don’t eat that much, it falls apart. That is hard for some people to accept.
Honestly, of everything that I have run into related to coaching, both men and women, around nutrition, it’s this; some people just don’t want to know. They just don’t want to see that they are eating more food than their body needs. I have had people test and retest their thyroid, get checked for hormonal imbalances, and have spent 1,000s of dollars, often unnecessarily, on lab evaluations to look for a metabolic problem that just didn’t exist.
When the real answer was that she was just eating too much. This is complicated. It is complex. But it is absolutely possible to work through this. And if this is you, consider this; James Baldwin said it; he’s spot on. Nothing can be changed until you face it head-on.
If you don’t want to know how much you’re really eating, ask yourself my very favorite question, why? And then, answer the question. What is the worst that happens when you write down what you eat and then you see what you’re doing on a day-to-day basis? What is the worst that happens if you discover that you’re eating more food than your body needs? Then what?
At the risk of ruffling your feathers even more, what are you afraid of? I’m asking this very hard question from a place of kindness. Because it is only once we really dig in and ask that very hard question that we get to the bottom of it. Are you afraid of what you will feel once you see what’s on your paper or in your app?
I ask this because I have coached people through this exact thing many, many times. I know the saying goes that ignorance is bliss, but it doesn’t get you anywhere. Once you have information, you can do something about it. This is instead of doing the same thing over and over again, and eating in the same way you always have, while expecting different results. That’s Einstein’s definition of insanity. And he is right. Instead, what happens when you make a commitment to gain awareness, and then you decide to collect data by either tracking or just journaling? Then you allow whatever feelings to come up when you see what you’re actually eating. What happens when you see that data and you practice being kind to yourself? This is key.
And then here’s the kicker, you do something about it. You make a small, subtle, one-degree nudge in a different direction. You eat one less takeout meal per week. You replace one packaged snack from the vending machine with a piece of fruit and some string cheese. You eat more at lunch, so you don’t come home from work hungry.
What happens if you take that approach versus the ‘I don’t want to know’ approach? I’ll tell you because I’ve been there and I’ve seen it. Food starts to lose its power over you. Your app or your journal, it is not judging you; you are taking care of that all on your own. But if you can use this data and feel whatever feelings come up for you and remember that no feeling can harm you, things start to change.
Maybe you can use your journal or your app as a source of data and nothing more. Maybe you see that it wasn’t as awful as you thought. Maybe you use that information to start eating differently. Food is not your enemy. Data is not your enemy. Denial, that is your enemy, seriously.
All of this is to say, if you can use food tracking or journaling as a tool and use it to make healthy decisions, go for it. And if you avoid it at all costs, that’s fine. Just get really honest with yourself and ask why. There is so much knowledge to be gained by asking yourself why.
And if it’s that you’re afraid to feel your feelings, go back to Episode 5 and remind yourself that it is okay. In fact, it’s necessary to feel your feelings. That’s where the growth is, whether you track your food or not. So again, I want to make this abundantly clear, my goal is not to tell you to track your food or to pull out a pen and paper and start writing down everything you eat. That is not my role.
Instead, I’m offering you a number of considerations and a few different ways to see tracking your food, as well as alternatives. More than anything, I hope that what I’ve shared today encourages you to get really honest with yourself. I do not have your answer; you do. All right?
So thank you again for hanging out with me, and I will catch you again next week.
If you like what you’ve been hearing, please review the show. I would love to get your feedback and ideas. Your suggestions have inspired episodes and will help me make the show better for you. And share this podcast with a friend, text a show link, share a screenshot, or post a link to the show on your social media. Be sure to tag me @CarrieHollandMD on either Instagram or Facebook, so I can follow along and engage with you.
This is how we get the word out to other working moms who want to feel strong, inside and out. If you know someone who wants to feel better or eat and move differently but she is too tired or too busy, it is time to change things up. And you know, making that change starts with how you think. And that is what we do here on the Strong as a Working Mom podcast. I’ll see you next week.
Thanks for listening to Strong as a Working Mom. If you want more information on how to eat, move, and think, so you can live in the body you want, with the mind to match, visit me at CarrieHollandMD.com.
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