Each day I start by adding a few things I always eat; my breakfast, a protein shake in the afternoon, and my snack right before bed. I usually eat the same foods for those meals, and in Myfitnesspal they are easily recalled by copying from a previous day or choosing from the "meals" I have saved in the app. Then I can see my remaining balance of calories for lunch and dinner which I mostly eat out at restaurants. On the weekends I like to cook dinner at home.
At first, logging foods from restaurants was a little challenging, but now it's super easy. All chain restaurants are required to publish their nutritional information, and Myfitnesspal has captured all of this information, and it is readily available in the app. Locally owned establishments probably will not have published nutritional information, some do, but logging the meal is still pretty easy once you learn how to estimate portion sizes. By now, after logging for 1,234 days, I have all my favorite meals from my favorite restaurants saved in the app. I only had to put in the work one time for each new meal. It didn't take long to build up the list of everything I like to eat around town. I can easily adjust past meals or create new ones too to keep an interesting variety. I also have saved all the recipes I cook at home. You can import any recipe from any website with a few clicks straight into the app, and then customize them if you like tweaking recipes for your preferences.
The benefits of this little bit of work each day are huge. I can dial in my body weight with near perfect results. The key is to making it all work is to know my "maintenance" calories. That's level of intake I need to just maintain the same weight each week. With this baseline number, if I want to lose fat, I cut back calories and eat below maintenance. When I want to push hard in the gym to gain muscle and strength, I eat a little more calories. I can control a slow weight gain and not worry or feel guilty about gaining a few pounds because I planned to do it. If you have never tracked your food before, just take a week or two to log what you normally eat and keep track your body weight. Don't worry about making any changes. You might be surprised how much, or how little, you actually eat.
Tracking allows me to eat anything I want, even while actively losing fat. By that I mean my diet has zero restrictions on food choices. Last month I ate real full-fat ice cream every day for ten days in a row and didn't gain a pound because I know that half a cup of Breyers Chocolate Ice Cream is 140 calories. I used Myfitnesspal to scan the bar-code on the box, and it automatically pulled up all the nutrition facts. It could not have been any easier. If my friends or family want to try a new restaurant, it's no problem. Most times I can look at their menu online and choose a meal before we go. That way I won't have to take out my phone during dinner. Or if we decide on a new place last minute, it's not hard to use the app and quickly figure out a meal that will fit into my daily goal.
Getting started with tracking calories is easy. If all you do is just track calories, any reasonable weight loss goal is achievable and sustainable. But, if you want to get more detailed, Myfitnesspal can be set up to track "macros." Many people still don't know that all foods are made up of both Micronutrients, which are the vitamins and minerals, and Macronutrients, which are Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fats. All the food we eat is some combination of the three macronutrients. The macros are where you get all your calories. Each gram of Protein and Carbohydrate has four calories, and each gram of Fat has nine calories. Myfitnesspal does all the math and helps make choosing foods that fit my macro goal very simple. By dialing in Protein, Carbs, and Fat intake, you can optimize fat loss, increase athletic performance, and improve workout recovery. "IIFYM" or "If It Fits Your Macros" is a very popular phrase in the fitness community to describe a what is essentially Flexible Dieting. For more information about macros and flexible dieting, I suggest following Dr. Layne Norton, and using his websites, www.biolayne.com and www.avatarnutrition.com. With a few simple macro guidelines, I was able to strip off useless and dangerous fat, while gaining useful and metabolically beneficial muscle. For more about that check out My 500lbs Deadlift article.
Will I ever stop tracking my food? Right now, I can't think of any reason why I might want to. That's like asking If I will ever stop using a smartphone. Maintaining body weight is so important for overall health. So many issues can be avoided by simply not being fat and sedentary. I don't have any restrictions on foods. I don't "crash diet," ruin my metabolism, and then get fatter. I can slowly adjust calories up or down and never worry if I might look terrible in a bathing suit next summer. The technology for tracking is so quick and straightforward to use, and will only keep improving over my next 1,234 days.
What I did stop doing 1,234 days ago was mindless eating. It's my opinion that mindless eating is a big reason for the increasing obesity epidemic. A Grande Frappuccino with whole milk and whipped cream from Starbucks has 430 calories. That could be 25% or more of a typical person's maintenance calories for the day, all consumed in just one drink. A 12oz Coke is 140 calories, and every restaurant I've ever visited gives free refills. Unlimited calories. Mindless eating is ordering those drinks and not considering what else you ate or plan to eat that day. It only takes about 500 extra calories per day to gain one pound of fat in a week. Do that for a few months and now you're morbidly obese. Once I started logging my food, I started thinking about the foods ate and how they impact my health. For example, at restaurants, I drink water or unsweetened ice tea. I'm not afraid of the sugar. I just don't want the extra calories. If someone brings donuts for the office, do I want to have one now and cut out something from lunch or dinner? If I have two donuts, should I just skip dinner and starve all evening? Probably not a good idea. Maybe I eat two donuts and have a regular size lunch and dinner and that's okay too if I don't mind gaining a little fat. The crucial point of tracking is that now I think about my food choices and make informed decisions. At a birthday party, maybe I'll have two slices of pizza instead of 3 and then have a piece of cake. No problem. The cake tastes better when you can have a piece and be confident it won't make me fatter. How many times have you heard people regret their food choices right after swallowing the last bite? I can totally avoid that guilty feeling, and have my cake, with just a little bit of forethought.
Tracking my food for 1234 days was pretty darn easy. The benefits are immense. I can confidently eat all my favorite foods. All I have to do is just think a little bit and I'll never get fat. With just a little more thought about food choices, I was able to optimize my diet for performance and lifted500lbs off the ground. I have never felt or looked better. My question is why doesn't everyone do this?