About a month ago, I wrote a blog post about how I was going to give calorie counting a go. So how did it go? It went… okay. I wish I had a glowing report to bring back about how keeping a food journal changed my life. If I had stuck to it better, maybe it would have.
Even though I did not track every single thing I ate for one straight month as I intended, it wasn’t a total failure. I did learn a thing or two. And perhaps the reason I didn’t stick to the plan as strictly as I wanted to is because I didn’t want to know to much about the things was I was eating! Here are some of the ups, downs, and tips from my on-and-off month of food journaling.
An app is the way to go
I always have my iPhone within an arm’s reach, so it made sense I would use it as my food journal. There are quite a few apps out there, and I had heard good things about My Fitness Pal. It’s free, and you can log in either through your phone or online. The app is much more intuitive than the website. It seems like it was really designed to be an on-the-go smartphone app, and the website may have been an afterthought. That’s fine by me, because I mostly used the app.
My Fitness Pal tracks pretty much everything there is to track — calories, plus nutrient details day-to-day and week-to-week. It will translate all that data to fancy charts and graphs and let you know how you’re doing on carb, fat, and protein intake.
Pre-made meals are easier to track
I prepare about 75 percent of my meals at home, both because it’s better for my budget and healthier. But these homemade meals take longer to log on an app like My Fitness Pal because every item must be individually entered. For example, if I prepare one of my go-to dinners, shrimp curry, I have to enter each ingredient — shrimp, red peppers, green peppers, onions, coconut milk, brown rice. Plus, I guesstimate proportions of each. So part of my frustration with this system is that it takes longer to log healthier meals.
If I were eating a pre-packed dinner, like a Lean Cuisine Indian-Style Marsala, for example, all I’d have to do is type that into the search bar. My Fitness Pal searches data other people have entered, so there’s a lot of information saved from typical “diet” meals. There’s plenty of information saved from “non-diet” foods, too. I find it funny that the whole McDonald’s menu is available on My Fitness Pal. That’s not so helpful for healthy eating!
The more you use it, the easier it is to use
Even though it takes longer to log these homemade meals, My Fitness Pal will save the foods you eat more frequently. So take my favorite homemade shrimp curry for example. I only have to input those ingredients once, and the next time I make that meal, I can find those ingredients quickly.
It becomes easier to track meals the more you use the app because you’re likely eating many of the same foods. So I’d say the first week or two might take more time, but once you get going, you can quickly log your favorite foods and move on.
Snacks add up fast!
I already knew I was a champion snacker, but logging what I ate helped me realize the effects of all my unnecessary nibbling throughout the day. Sometimes the total number of calories I consumed from various snacks was higher than one of my meals. I don’t intend to completely cut out snacking completely, but I can be more conscious of what I snack on.
Weekends are challenging — and have the most room for improvement
I mentioned that I didn’t stick to food journaling very strictly, and my weekends are to blame. I’d usually start out the week just fine and would log everything, down to every last Hershey’s Kiss. But when the boozy brunches and late-night tacos of the weekend rolled around, I steered clear of the My Fitness Pal app mostly because I didn’t want to know the damage. And every day I didn’t stick to food journaling made it easier to fall off completely.
I’m going to try to keep logging food and hopefully can make it through a consecutive month. I’m spending Memorial Day with my grandparents, which is always a struggle for me because they stock their fridge and cupboards full of their granddaughter’s favorite snacks. I hope that by using the My Fitness Pal app, I can be more conscious of what I’m eating during my visit and hopefully stay on track.
Betsy Mikel | betsymikel.com