Tuesday, January 5, 2010

To track or not to track

Studies show that you are significantly more successful in your weight loss efforts when you write down everything that you eat. In case you want to read more about it, you can read a few articles here.

So if writing everything that you eat down (or tracking) is one of the tools for success, why do we resist so much?

Tracking all of what we eat was the subject at last night's Weight Watchers meeting. I know that a lot of you don't utilize Weight Watchers, but I think that the message of this post is the same regardless of what system you use.

It's probably my least favorite topic. In fact, when someone even mentions the word, I inwardly (and sometimes outwardly) roll my eyes.

A part of me feels like it's this kiss-up answer that we give to the leader. Anytime she asks a question about how to get back on track, how to get motivated again, or how to kick-start the weight loss, someone mentions tracking. It's like the universal right answer - and a part of me feels like it's lame that tracking is the magic pill that we all need to master in order to lose weight.

So go figure - I struggle with tracking.

When I first started my weight loss in July of 2008, I tracked religiously. I almost never went to bed without having tracked - and even if I went over my points, at least I KNEW how it happened and where the gain came from.

I tracked for 20 solid weeks. And then, when I switched from the weekly coupons to the monthly e-pass, I stopped.

So I guess I've figured out that even though it might be easier and more convenient to track online or on my iPhone, I do better at tracking when I write it down.

Last night, during the meeting, our leader read this little poem with an adaptation of "10 Little Indians." The poem counted down Weight Watchers members instead of Indians and listed all the reasons why when people don't track, they're not successful.

At one point during the meeting, she mentioned that she was horrible at tracking and that she doesn't track her food intake now. I've heard her say this before, and honestly, I think I took it as an excuse for me to not track. Then she said that it took her 2 years to lose her weight and that if she were better at tracking, perhaps it wouldn't have taken her so long.

I don't know if it was that statement or if it was hearing ten ways that not tracking isn't helpful to weight loss, but I left the meeting with a renewed resolve to track. The repetition and dwelling on this subject resonated with me somehow and I guess I started opening my eyes to how tracking isn't just lame, it's necessary.

It's easy for us to sit around and whine about how the pounds aren't coming off, to say that everything is SOOO hard when it comes to losing weight, or even to complain that "nothing works." But how can we know if anything works if we're not documenting what we're doing? Aren't we worth taking the extra few minutes to double check points values?

I try to practice mindful eating and the fact that I've kept the weight that I have lost off as much as I have is proof that I'm getting better about being contentious in my eating. But I know that I can really lock into what is going on when I at least document the facts.

If I really want to accomplish my goals this year, tracking is likely going to have to be a tool that I learn to use - at least until I can monitor my progress in other ways.

It's almost as if I'm a baby and I've been thinking to myself, "Why bother learning how to crawl? Years from now, I'll only be walking or running - I shouldn't HAVE to learn this!" What I think it's easy to lose sight of is that the crawling prepares us for the walking and running. Similarly, tracking prepares us for being able to judge, accurately, how much we're eating. When we get better at judging our intake of calories, we can get better at figuring out how much exercise we need to shed excess pounds.

My goal is not to track for the rest of my life. But I guess that I've come to terms with that it's necessary if I want to continue losing weight. I've gotten pretty good at judging how many calories (or points) I can eat each week to stay within a five pound range...heck, that's what I've done for almost the past 9 months.

To move forward in my weight loss, I must bite the bullet and realize that I need to recalibrate - through tracking - how much I am able to eat while losing weight.

Tracking is STILL not my favorite subject. It's never going to be something that I'm going to leap with happiness to do. But I do plenty of things in my life that I don't want to do. I mean, I get up each morning and go to work when I'd rather sleep an extra hour. I even get a yearly PAP smear and I think we can all agree that that appointment isn't much fun.

I guess I've figured out that I don't have to love it to appreciate it and recognize it's benefits.

And so - today - I'm choosing to track.


Kait said...

I just started WW online and I don't mind the tracking at all. It's simple enough to do and taking the ten seconds to record what I've eaten through the day lets me know whether or not I really can have that ice cream tonight.

Misspudding said...

OOoh, awesome!

When I started WW, I lost 15 pounds pretty fast. And then I stopped tracking religiously and I haven't lost weight since. Like you, I think I'm fine with maintaining (I didn't gain over the holidays, yay!) but if I want to lose more weight, things have to change.

Over the holidays, I completely stopped. I go to my first meeting in three weeks in about an hour...here's to tracking from here on out!

lindalou said...

Wow, good post...it's hard work to get fit and healthy. there's a lot to do....so easy to just stay fat. if only being fat looked good in clothes. if only staying fat felt good - but it doesn't. so back to tracking for me, too.

Bdubba said...

I am trying to track using the etools online and just that "change in tracking venue" has renewed my commitment to track.

Margie M. said...

As a Lifetime member of WW I have to admit that I don't track religously. However, when I've run amuck for a day or 2 I do try to track my food carefully. Even if I don't figure the exact points immediately, I at least write down what I ate and then get back to the point totals when I have time in the afternoon. You do begin to do a mental add up after a while, but those "bites, licks, and tastes" can add up quickly. Those I have to watch out for.

This was a great post at a good time....New Year and a renewal of efforts. Thanks!

carla said...

it is so so unique to the individual huh?
when I was struggling to lose weight tracking made this misfit crazy :)


Florida Food Snob said...

Great post - Glad to see that you are going to your meetings. I am a huge fan of tracking, everyday it gets easier. Once you memorize alot of the points values it is second nature.

POD said...

When I tracked religiously, I lost 50lbs. I have been going to ww for the past year and just goofing the f off, not tracking. I have gained and lost and gained and lost and WW is religiously tracking all my gains and losses. I'm going to pay us both back this year and track my food and lose some gd pounds again.

Amy Pousson said...

Saturday's meeting was about setting goals. And the leader (wasn't my regular meeting) mentioned "non-weight goals" and it stuck for me. So my short term goal is to track daily for the entire month of January. If I write things down, it's for real and it sticks in my head. It's how I can write directions to someone's house down, leave them at home and still know how to get there. The physically writing them is what makes it stick. So that's what I am doing. Even if I go over (like I did today). You know what caught me today? Eating a not so healthy lunch plus a normal amount of 2 point snacks throughout the day. I can do one or the other but not both!

Anonymous said...

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Kellie said...

Tracking my food has actually helped me keep myself accountable for what goes into my mouth. When I wasn't tracking my food religiously, it was so easy to not count a nibble here or there. But all of those nibbles probably added up to a lot at the end of the day.