Log Your Food!

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If you read my weigh-in this week, you know that I was rather discouraged with the results. I listed several reasons why I thought I might not have seen the results, with “not counting calories” being the number one reason.

Did I ever tell you about the time I did Weight Watchers with some degree of success? I lost about 40 pounds before I plateaued, got frustrated, and quit. However, during the really successful part, one of the leaders asked those of us in that week’s meeting to share one thing that we felt contributed to our success.

Writing down every thing I eat and tracking the points,” I said.

Many of you have asked me how I’ve been so successful this time. “Using my body bugg and knowing exactly how many calories I burn vs. how many I consume,” I’ve told you. (The body bugg subscription service allows you to log your calories consumed and compare the two.)

So, why is it, when I obviously clearly know how important it is to log your food, I inevitably convince myself that I don’t have to do that now?


photo by o5com on flickr

Several of you recommended that I try My Fitness Pal. While it sounded very much like SparkPeople, which I’ve used before (and still have an account), I decided to give My Fitness Pal a try.

It’s only been a day and a half, but I love My Fitness Pal!

I like it better than SparkPeople and, honestly, I like it better than the body bugg site. Want to know why?

Massive Food Database. The food database is so comprehensive! I’ve found even the most obscure of the things I eat on the MFP database – like my favorite flax cereal, my granola from Costco, and my favorite wheat hamburger buns.

Whole Packages. Both of the other sites I’ve used have let you build your own recipes, like My Fitness Pal does, but MFP is the only one I’ve seen that lists a whole package of something as an option.

For example, if I’m making a casserole the calls for a pound of ground beef and a can of diced tomatoes, MFP lists a pound of ground beef or a can of tomatoes as a serving size option, rather than me having to multiply a single serving by how many servings are in the whole package of beef or can of tomatoes.

Ease of use, y’all. That’s huge!

Psychology. How many of y’all know that at least half of weight-loss is psychological? Did you all raise your hands? I’m thinking that, psychologically, MFP works for me.

See, I put in my height, my weight, and my goals. It came up with a custom plan for me that says I can eat 1200 calories a day. Um, are you crazy? My body bugg gives me 1500 calories a day and I have to burn 2300 – or something like that.

Here’s the psychological part: MFP adds any calories I burn through exercise to what I can consume for the day. So, if I want 1500 calories to eat, I have to make sure that I burn at least 300 in exercise.

That’s the same thing the body bugg does except it assumes that I’m going to burn that many calories, so it goes ahead and includes it in my calorie budge.

Now, my mind is saying, “I can consume 1500 calories.” The fact that I have to ensure that I burn my calorie goal is just kind of a footnote. I’m focusing on the 1500 it said I could eat.

With My Fitness Pal, it’s making sure that I know that I have to earn those calories if I want to eat them. Purely psychological, but I think that’s something that will work well for me.

Daily Updates. On My Fitness Pal, there’s a little button at the bottom of your daily food journal. You’re supposed to click the button when you’re finished entering your food and exercise for the day.

When you click the button it says, “If every day were like today, you would weigh X-pounds by ABC date.”


The first day, it told me that I would have lost 2 pounds in a month. Really? Two pounds in a month? I want to be losing 1-1.5 pounds a week!

Guess what I’ve been losing? About 1-1.5 pounds a month. Know why? Because I’ve been pushing the envelope with my eating. Because I’ve been telling myself that I know about what I’m eating each day.

If you’re telling yourself that you can lose weight without knowing how many calories you consume each day, you’re lying to yourself.

That goes for all of us.

In general we all overestimate our activity level and underestimate our calorie consumption. That leads to weight gain…or “plateaus” that we can’t understand.

Log your food! For best results, follow a tip that I read in an article on Active.com yesterday and log your meal before you eat it.


photo by fotoosvanrobin on flickr

I did that yesterday and discovered that the sandwich that I thought was about 400 or 500 calories was over 600 calories! Do you know what kind of difference mistakes like that can make on the scale?

I made some changes (one ounce each of turkey and ham instead of two, half a slice of Swiss cheese instead of a full slice) and shaved over 100 calories off my lunch! My sandwich tasted just as good as always and that’s 100 less calories I’ve got to worry about burning off.

Next time you see me posting that I “know about how much I’m eating” or that I’m not logging my food, you have my permission to tell me that I’m lying to myself and I’d better start writing down everything.

As far as I’m concerned, until I’m at my goal weight and purposely maintaining, the only reason I should not be logging my food is because I’m tired of successfully losing weight. And that’s not going to be the case until I’m at my goal weight.

Log your food!

Do or do not. There is no try.

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  1. Really needed a dose of your inspiration this morning! I can't seem to find the motivation to get started and as I sat down at the PC this morning I had all but decided not to work out. Now off I go!! Thanks girl!

  2. Thanks for sharing this tool.  I went to it this morning and am so impressed with it already.  I've never tracked caleries becasue it seemed to hard but this makes it easy and it has laid out a plan for me already.  I was going to go back to WW but I think I will try this for the next week and see how it keeps me accountable – plus it will save me money!!! 

  3. I've belonged to Spark People from the beginning but never used it successfully to log my food (or anything for that matter).  It all seemed very complicated to me.  I just joined MFP the other day after seeing it discussed here.  I like the whole setup better (cleaner and less cluttered looking), and I spent some time putting some of my foods for one day into it.  But I ran into the same problem that I did with SP and that is that it seems to take forever to put it all in there and I guess I'm lazy and just feel as if I don't have that kind of time to spend logging foods.  Maybe it gets easier once I'm used to finding things and have put in some of my favorite/usual foods and can just click a button to add them.  I plan to experiment some more with it and try to commit to logging a few days worth of foods to really see where I am.  I do think that I probably underestimate what I'm eating.  I have gotten myself back to measuring foods and eating serving sizes of things which I'd gotten sloppy about.  Also much more aware of putting bits of this and tastes of that in my mouth since I'm writing down what I'm eating. Off to try logging breakfast-to-be into MFP.  We can do this!

  4. Yay! You'll feel so much better after you work out! Sometimes it's hard to get started, but I'm always glad I did it when I'm done.

  5. I hope it works well for you. I've really been impressed with it — and with the level of accountability it encourages.

  6. I completely agree! I recently stopped logging for about a month. I only lost 2lbs that month. This week, one of my goals for the Sprint to the Finish was to get back to tracking. This week I lost 1.2lbs! Such a difference tracking makes!!!

  7. I am going to check out this site because I usually have no clue how many calories I eat.
    I love the last phrase, Do or do not. There is no try. So much truth in these words.

  8. I just joined. I've put off tracking calories for far too long. I hate doing it. That's my hang up and obviously it's not working! Thanks for sharing this!

  9. Wow! Great loss! I peeked at the scale this week and was down about 2 pounds from where I was on my weigh-in…now I've just got to hold on to that until my official weigh-in day on Tuesday. I'm thinking it would be a mighty fine birthday present to be down a couple of pounds…which would also put me over 75 lbs. lost, a huge milestone that I've been dying to reach.

    Logging your food is such a great accountability factor. It's hard to deny what you're doing when it's right there in black and white.

  10. Tracking can be time consuming at first, but this site really starts learning your preferences right away, from what I've seen. That makes it much quicker and easier to track as you go along if you're like me and tend to eat the same foods in a rotation.

  11. Thank you, thank you, thank you!  I found this website through your homeschool blog.  I need to lose about 45 lbs. and I have been at a loss to know how to get started.  Reading your story inspired me to think it was possible.  This tool will give me what I need to actually know where I stand.  I'm living overseas, and it's a little bit difficult to track calories in the Middle East with foreign foods.  But, I did it today, and with their database, I was able to make it all work!  In the end, I really wished I'd not eaten that square of chocolate.  But from now on, I'm gonna take your tip and log BEFORE I eat!  Great motivator to decide to skip it!!!  Thank you for sharing your journey with us–it's helping me!

  12. I'm so glad to hear that you've been inspired to get healthier! That excites me more than you can know. I'm also glad to hear that MFP is working for you. I've used it less than a week and I'm already so very impressed with it and how it's helped me to stay more accountable to my calorie goals each day. Good luck!

  13. MFP is the only tracker I have ever liked and stuck with. I am not doing it now, but I want to get back in to it. Love, love, love it. I will go to Spark People and use their feature of inputting recipes to get the nutrition breakdown, but then I will go back and enter it on MFP so I can log it.

  14. MFP lets you put in recipes, too, and I found it much easier there than at SparkPeople which I've used before. Maybe it's a new feature or did you just not like it?

  15. Kris,
    I'm going over to MFP right now! I started 3 weeks ago regularly exercising and watching what I eat. For several days I tried logging my food via pen and paper and looking up calories on random websites. I quickly grew tired of how time consuming/frustrating it was and gave up on logging the food.
    I have not lost any any weight over all. I'll lose a pound or two and then gain it back – even with regular exercise…very discouraging! I'm sure my lack of results is due to my calorie intake. I'm really hoping using Fitness Pal will get me on track with this.

    Thanks so much for this blog and your tips and encouragment!

  16. I bet you'll really like MFP, Shannon. It's a little time-consuming at first, but it quickly learns your favorites if you tend to eat a lot of the same foods, as I do, so it gets quicker over time…and, if my official weigh-in looks anything like the sneak peak I took today, I'll be in the "it's totally worth the time" camp. Hope you enjoy it and good luck on reaching your weight-loss goals!

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