This post will discuss the debates on whether we should track food. And the downside of tracking food. At last, the best practice for everyone that wishes to benefit from food tracking and still wants to break free.
While someone found food tracking daunting, someone that actually sticks to it might feel more comfortable following the data instead of guiding with their appetite (intuitive eating). Here are some of the benefits that explain why food tracking gets so much fame in fitness.
AWARE OF HOW MUCH YOU EAT
Let’s face the truth, there is research stating that most people underestimate the calories we consumed thorough the day. There are many reasons for this phenomenon occur, but the most obvious reason is that we lost sight on portion control and we tend to oversee hidden calories. Therefore for those that seem to overeat on a daily basis, food tracking actually helps them. The same goes for macro tracking, the method is different from the calories to macronutrition group, but the concept is well to provide nutritional details for the food that you had eaten.
HELP IMPROVE PHYSIQUE
Food tracking will be effective when you wish to improve your physique through diet. This is because any physique change happened when we actually make changes to the diet. In this case, specific changes need to be made. Tracking food will help an individual figure out the actual number that they need to add or cut in order to reach a specific goal. This is something that intuitive eating, however, is unable to achieve.
THE FIRST STEP INTO NUTRITION
This is true for most people that doesn’t comes from a background that educated us about nutrition content, tracking your own food is the best practical learning process to learn about nutrition. In the case of someone that wishes to know about nutrition value application in real life, counting calories will help you have a basic concept of how caloric dense the food have in different settings. For myself, I found I learn about nutrition faster when the time I actually look at my meal plate and carry out the calculation. It is a more practical way of learning instead of only studying the theory of food.
YOU GET PRECISE MEASUREMENT
Getting the actual number of food is helpful for those that carry out dieting plans on undergoing specific goals. There will be calorie and macros requirements for individuals that are into body recomposition, cutting or bulking. For this, having a precise measurement is crucial during the execution of the program. As they are progressing, they can have a better overview of how food intake affects their progress. Therefore making adjustments throughout the course. This is the glory of food tracking.
Any sort of food tracking, be it calorie counting or macros tracking, is the opposite of intuitive eating. While food tracking will ensure a successful outcome. There is some drawback once the intention of food tracking is being misused.
Another form of Disordered Eating Behaviour
Food tracking provides quality control to the food and helps to improve physique goals. However, it does lead to the same situation of restricted dieting for those that go over. It might cause obsession over calories or macro content, some mental health might cause over the long term.
When one person coming preoccupied with food or food becomes their main focus in life, this could be defined as disordered eating. Although it can’t seem much from the outside, the problem often occurs on the mental health of a person.
Lose Ability to Intuitive Eating
Food tracking will also make us lose the ability to eat intuitively. Actually, everyone is born with the ability to eat until the gut feels full therefore they could stop eating. However, this is not the case for those that tend to overeat/undereat or those that control their food intake through measurement instead of relying on the body signals. Over time, portion control will shift from our natural gut instinct to how much food is available (for overeaters) and caloric content (for restricted dieters). Once they lose guidance from the outer world, it is hard for them to eat according to their fullness.
It Doesn’t Care How Much The Body Actually Needs
The body regulates and constantly adapts to needs on a daily basis. Therefore actually the caloric requirement every day will vary from time to time. For different individuals, their metabolic rates also will be different.
However, when we look at the practice of tracking food, this appeared to be rigid. It often tells the users how much more to eat instead to allow them to eat according to their body needs. There is always a hard number that serves as guidance for those that wish to carry out a diet plan. When one follows it without reevaluating it, might end up hindering nutritional needs.
At the same time, tracking calories or macros often causes one to ignore the nutritional values of the food itself (such as vitamins, micronutrition etc). At last, not every calorie is the same.
Might Regain the Weight
Not sustainable, this is what I could say. When a disciplinary act gets too over, it will often backfire as this is human nature. In the same case as restricted dieting, tracking calories, by all means, is just another form of disordered eating. Of course, food tracking itself isn’t considered disordered eating, but for those that get too obsessive about the act, it definitely is.
The downside for any form of disordered eating is might lead to Yoyo-dieting or bouncing back the weight. Once they had returned to their normal behaviour or no longer held on to their self-restricted behaviour, they ended up overeating and regaining their weight.
People that will benefit from counting calories
The fact is, every method existed because it is still beneficial for certain types of people. The categories below are those that could benefit from the advantage of food tracking. Of course, not too obsessive about it.
For those that are into prep for competition. Tracking food is what they do as a part of their routine. Their diet needs to be highly controlled. In this case, tracking food will help them reach the ideal weight or body fat easily.
For competitive athletes, counting calories should be a part of their competition but for normal people like us. It is unnecessary to be as precise as them. In fact, they did not do it for a long time. Once the show is over they will slowly reverse their diet and back to a more sustainable dieting mode.
People That Always Tend To Overeat
For those that are already overweight and tend to overeat on a daily basis, food tracking could actually help them be aware of their intake. As mentioned above, people that overeat often lose insight on how much to actually eat in order to maintain their weight/stay at a healthy weight. In this case, intuitive eating might no longer work as their insulin tends to be on the higher side. Therefore, starting tracking food could serve as a guide for them to improve their nutritional quality.
People That Wish To Troubleshoot Their Diet
People that wish to troubleshoot their food’s nutritional value, can start tracking macros. Especially for those that are unhappy with their current physique — overweight or underweight. By this, tracking food will give you a detail on what to actually improve in terms of food nutrition.
For this, I wish to further explanation on why it’s also the case for those that are underweight. There are many times I’ve met people that are struggling to gain weight. It is hard for them to actually gain a single pound although they claimed they are ‘eating more’. However, when we finally worked on tracking the food they consumed throughout the day, it turns out that they are actually undereating.
People That Should Not Food Tracking
One type of people that should never ever track their food — those that are still recovering or under from disordered eating. In this case, food tracking actually did not help them have a better relationship with food. Instead, it just turns them into another mode of restricted dieting.
Food tracking should be carried out with an open mind and just a tool for reference to improve your diet quality. However, it should not be something that controls your food choices, even taking away one’s happiness.
For this type of person, a better solution is to slowly let go of the act of food control. Our body is more complex than we can imagine, however when sometimes we lose trust in it, it will start to behave in the wrong way.
Started practising intuitive eating, and listening to the needs of the body. Let the body heal itself instead of controlling it.
From the pros and cons above, whether to food track or not is still an ongoing debate. My answer is, that it’s always beneficial when used in the right way, but if too much is on the plate do not necessary means it’s good anymore.
It is always helpful to learn some basic nutritional knowledge such as calories, macronutrition along the fitness journey. Meanwhile, tracking food once in a while will give an insight into how much you actually eat.
Feel free to experiment around and improve the quality of your food intake. Eat better, not lesser. Then slowly proceeding into intuitive eating once the lifestyle change turns into a long-term habit.