Quit Tracking Your Food If You Want To Lose Weight
Putting my food into an app was the last straw.
That practice (and getting to my highest weight, anyway) made me give up dieting and apps (also a diet) for good.
As in, I couldn’t take another minute of it.
I love to eat and take great delight in food. It felt viscerally wrong to sit around logging individual figs and whatnot. Not to mention time-consuming and boring.
Bottom line, I couldn’t see treating food this way for any result, even one I greatly wanted.
At the time, I thought, well, this might be how people lose weight, but I can’t do it anymore. I didn’t know it, but that was my internal wisdom rising up and extracting me from one of diet culture’s worst ideas.
It turned out to be a great move. Ditching food tracking allowed me to explore what might actually work for a lifetime. I went on to lose fifty pounds and have kept it off for 13+ years and counting–without tracking my food, going hungry, or shunning carbs.
It’s important for you to understand why food tracking (and not you) is a failure so you can stop thinking it's a solution.
Food tracking is…
For these purposes, food tracking includes any method to write down what you’re eating: calories, points, colors, spreadsheets (kill me first), whatever.
Here are the three big reasons why you shouldn’t track your food to lose weight.
1. It disconnects you from your body.
We’re so accustomed to tracking, measuring, and listening to our smartphones that very few ask, is there a cost to this?
The answer is yes.
“Former dieters (like me!) feel anxiety around having hunger. We were told we didn’t have the points, calories, or exchanges….. to eat anything and were truly very hungry. We ended up miserable and ignoring our bodies’ signals because an app or piece of paper told us, “No more food!”
We can look to another area of life to see what’s really at play.
Have you ever used GPS to get to a location but didn’t really understand where you were going or even where you actually were?
That’s pretty common. It explains why you can navigate a city for years without actually learning your way around. A recent study outlines the issue right in the title: Habitual use of GPS negatively impacts spatial memory during self-guided navigation.
The upshot is that outsourcing your spatial reasoning to an app makes it difficult to learn the terrain. Eating isn’t terribly different.
Important learning happens when you know how to read your body for when and how much to eat. Letting an app stand in for that judgment interrupts a primal connection.
In addition, outsourcing when you should and shouldn’t eat means overriding your body’s hunger cues and, often, enduring hunger. Doing this trains us to fear our hunger and treat it as a nuisance.
Here’s an alternate view.
Your hunger is a useful tool to help you understand when to eat and when to stop.
Embracing your hunger, learning how to honor it, and cultivating practices that calm it is how you learn to eat naturally for a healthy weight.
I use the hunger practice (a tool I developed) every day, on every occasion I want to eat. It’s a deceptively simple way to turn inward to the wisdom your body already contains about how to eat for a lifetime healthy weight.
This is how weight loss turns from a gauntlet of undereating to a healing journey. Listening to and respecting your body offers a healthy weight and all the good feelings of daily self-care.
2. It pretends to teach awareness.
Most people think of food tracking as training wheels on a bike. This is where you learn to eat the “right” amount. It seems reasonable until you realize that’s not what’s happening.
Food tracking is a cautionary tale about adopting an idea based on the theory of how it’s supposed to work instead of what actually happens.
What’s really happening is that the act of logging puts downward pressure on your eating. That’s it. Once you’re no longer tracking, the mechanism suppressing your eating is gone, and your eating slowly returns to pre-diet levels (and the weight returns).
We see this repeatedly in regain rates once the app is put away. This is what makes tracking-based apps a business model and not a sustainable method to achieve and keep a healthy weight.
Some awareness about what you’re consuming is a good thing, but that doesn’t need to happen through the arduous task of looking up one food at a time (or worse, sitting around guestimating).
The best way to make that happen is to understand what foods support a healthy weight and then create simple measures to access them.
You can learn to calm and respect your hunger so that it’s easy to eat moderately.
3. It introduces disordered eating (and, by extension, a fear of food).
Simply eating less isn’t disordered eating by itself but consider how most people use these apps (is this you?):
- Download and implement judiciously on day one-three.
- Feel uncomfortable or hungry (or a little sad) at how much smaller the portions must be to make a low-calorie approach work.
- Make some adjustments or endure hunger and last a few more days.
- Go to an event, socialize, or have an unexpected treat and feel your grasp slipping.
- Get really, really tired of logging your food.
- Set it down.
The result of going through this process repeatedly is to make eating stressful all the time. You know your ‘regular life’ is putting on weight, so you’re stressed about that eating, but being on a diet feels difficult too.
Food is reduced to calories and points, and eating becomes a constant calculator. This is the slippery slope to disordered eating.
Just because something creates (temporary) weight loss doesn’t make it a good idea.
I know that food tracking is often the standard method people use to lose weight, but that reflects the paltry options far more than its efficacy.
If you’ve done it and dropped it, please know you aren’t alone. The business model these apps are based on counts on that to sustain their revenue.
They know what I know. At best, it's a temporary way to lose weight. At worst, it drags you into a quagmire where you’re never sure of what you’re eating or comfortable in the body that produces.
Food tracking for weight loss is an idea that hasn’t been sufficiently challenged.
I hope this helps you reconsider the practice and explore what might work for a lifetime.
We built a FREE workshop to show you a different (and much better way to lose weight).
You'll learn these insights:
1. The exact way to make healthy eating a breeze—without relying on willpower (or motivation) at ALL
2. How to spot what’s really sabotaging your self-control (and keeping you STUCK) without having to go on another diet
3. How to ENJOY your food–without measuring, weighing, or counting a thing
"What a terrific presentation! I wish it had been available to me years ago." - Kathleen