Should you be food tracking?

My thoughts on calorie counting/tracking foods and if it is necessary for making any aesthetic changes to your physique.

Keeping a food diary is not a new strategy among nutritionist and dietitians but with the rising popularity of apps such as MyFitnessPal and Lifesum, more people are being exposed to the idea of tracking their food or 'calorie counting'. The apps have made tracking your food and drink intake throughout the day extremely easy and accessible and making people question if they should be doing so in order to achieve results.

The apps have a database of vast amounts of nutritional information for food and drink from generic ‘apples’ to as specific as ‘orange skittles’. This allows users to scan bar codes or enter in the foods they are eating, edit the amounts and add it to their daily food diary. The apps go into much more detail with food plans, calorie targets, activity integrations and more.

There is quite a bit of discussion around the topic of food tracking, with some coaches and fitness industry professionals stressing how vital it is to achieve results and others the opposite.

In my opinion food tracking is a vital tool for anyone looking to make aesthetic changes to their physique in a SMART and SUSTAINABLE way. Most people are extremely naive to the nutritional value of the foods they are eating, which means they are unknowingly making poor decisions. I’m not saying that it has to be done 24/7 but most people could benefit from a few days - 1 week of tracking. This will bring an awareness to their personal habits, nutrition in the foods they commonly consume and understanding the impact of less nutritionally dense food vs whole foods.

Some may argue that they are in great shape and have never needed to track before - but what happens when these people want to make a change to their physique? How can anyone make smart decisions if they have no idea how many calories or the nutritional content of the foods they are eating?

For example if they were looking to lose fat, what would the approach be if they don't know anything about the food they are eating. It would likely be to a. reduce the amount they are eating b. cut out certain food groups or foods they think are ‘bad’ or c. skip meals all together

At least if they had the awareness they could make small changes to the diet they already had to manipulate in order to make progress? This might allow them to keep in the treats they enjoy, eat a normal meal at a restaurant and maybe realize that the peanut butter they were snacking on throughout the day actually totaled up to hundreds of calories. Then when they see their daily calories and understand that they only need to reduce these by 200 or so to get into an energy deficit, taking out the peanut butter snacking would be enough to get them there - instead of removing the bar of chocolate they look forward to every evening.

This bring me to the next issue; people will track in order to gain an understanding and be able to make changes but then lack the knowledge to use the information to their advantage. If a regular person now sees they eat 2,500 calories and want to be eating 2,000 they are possibly going to make poor decisions or struggle to adapt their diet into this new requirement - turning to silly low calorie / fads diets / shakes or anything they see to help reduce daily calories. It takes a professional, someone trained in nutrition to be able to manipulate this, your diet, the foods you enjoy, into a plan that will suit these and allow you to achieve your goals.

So - Should you be food tracking?

I do believe tracking is a very useful tool for first bringing about awareness and educating yourself and then paired with some nutritional guidance and professional expertise it can be a food proof way to make aesthetic changes. Please get in contact if you feel that you need this guidance. There are simple swaps and changes that can be made with minimal effort to everyone's diets to help them achieve their goals.

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