I resisted nutritional budgeting for years, but now that I’m on board, I’d say it made the biggest difference in my weight management success. Simply put, it takes the guess work out of losing weight.
Think of it as treating your body like a business. Each day you have a certain amount of capital (calories) to spend. You spend it on food and drink, then record what you spent the calories on in your ledger. You can also earn extra calories with exercise, so if you know you’re going to have a big meal, you have time to go out and earn that meal.
If you ran your business without tracking your expenditures and income, your business would likely fail. It’s the same principle with weight management. If you don’t have an accurate reading of your caloric input vs. your output, you’ll never know why you’re succeeding some days and failing on others.
I recommend Myfitnesspal.com because it’s the best I’ve seen when it comes to generating an accurate makeup in order to generate your complete nutritional goal. It has a bar code scanner and memory that makes tracking meals easy along with a great library of exercises to see what you earn towards your next meal. Plus, you can group individual foods and ingredients into meals for easy entry on future dates.
Some tips on budgeting…
Yes, it is tedious at first. That’s where the power of habit comes in. Force yourself into the habit of tracking your food and exercise and soon enough it will become automatic. Having the phone app is a huge help.
The restaurant dilemma. If you eat out at a franchise, odds are their food is going to be registered in the app’s database. However if you’re at your favorite neighborhood place, you’re probably going to have to piece your meal together. Knowing some basics will help there. Normal servings of meats and vegetables are 4 oz (1/2 cup). A slice of cheese or normal amount of shredded cheese is usually one ounce. Beer is either 12 oz (can/bottle) or 16 oz (pint). For pizza you can always compare to one of the big delivery chains.Thankfully, once you track all the ingredients in a meal the first time, you can save the meal for future events. Most of the time I’ll use comparable meals from chains that make their nutritional information available.
Don’t do your virtual self any favors. The tracking isn’t perfect, so when in doubt, overestimate your calories in and underestimate your calories out. Your iPhone isn’t going to gain or lose any weight based on what you enter, so there is no reason to cheat the numbers. Your body knows what you did.
Track everything! I put in my 2-calorie cup of coffee in the morning. I add in shredded lettuce on my sandwich. I never leave out beer. The beauty of accurate tracking combined with regular visits on the scale is that you have honest data comparing your net calories and nutrients to your weight management. I learned several things I’ll discuss in future posts and my guess is you will as well.
Stand in your truth. I stole this line from Suze Orman, but it’s a good one. You will be tempted not to log your high calorie/low exercise days, mainly because you don’t want to feel guilty about what you ate, but you’d be surprised about the impact it can have on your future food decisions. The app allows you to view your budgets with graphs that spawn full weeks or months, so you can see how a high-calorie day or week impacts your overall goals. I can assure you that one bad day will not ruin your diet. Some would actually argue that they can be good for you.
Add a friend. You can actually share your successes with other friends that are on myfitnesspal.com. You can set it to share your workouts, your diary and your weight loss. I think it’s useful sort of the way I like editors to check my writing. If I’m struggling, they may see a pattern that I can change. You are welcome to friend me if you’d like to see my days…good and bad. Just enter my email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading.
Author’s Note: This is the third in a series of stories I’m writing about healthy living as I prepare for my first 150-mile fundraising bike ride in support of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. To learn more about the ride or support my fundraising effort with a donation, click here.