In a recent post, I talked about various strategies to get – or get back – on track. One of them was tracking my food. And that is my basic food plan. I am not on a diet where I restrict a list of foods. In fact, there are almost no “off limit” foods for me. So how does that work?
I started using the My Fitness Pal app (it’s the one I read about in Cooking Light, January 2014). It takes some effort, especially in the beginning. But the more you use it, the more it knows about the foods you eat, so they are easier to look up and enter. You can use the app on your phone or the website on your computer. I use both, depending on what I’m trying to do. I set up my goals by telling it some basic information: my current weight, my goal weight, how much weight I want to lose per week (I started with one pound per week and now have it set to half a pound per week), and my activity level. Then it comes up with target nutrition goals. I focus mainly on the calories but am also aware of fat and carbs, as those are of course the things I crave!
After that, I start logging. I am most successful at staying within my target if I plan most or all of my food the day before. Of course I still make adjustments throughout the day, depending on what happens or what I’m craving. But having an idea of what’s coming throughout the day helps stop me from mindless snacking.
As I said, I do not deprive myself of any foods. I’ve gone down that road enough times to know it does not work for me. If I say, for example, that I can’t eat chocolate, I become this crazy person who can’t stop thinking about food and ends up eating all kinds of other things that are really no better. I become so irritable and most unpleasant to be around! And wasn’t I just writing about how this is still supposed to be fun?! I may be trying to make changes in myself when it comes to my body and my health, but that doesn’t mean that my personality has to suffer (especially at the expense of the people around me!).
So instead of depriving myself, it’s all about portions and balance. I measure most of my food (unless it’s already pre-measured for me, like in those 100 calorie packs). I have to admit, the math geek in me actually enjoys measuring! And I have some fun playing the numbers game. It goes something like this: “I really want some chocolate. But I only have 50 calories to spend. Okay, so that’s about 2 dark chocolate Hershey Kisses.” I used to be the person who couldn’t have just one or two – I wanted a whole handful, if not the whole bag! But now I can be much more disciplined about it … most of the time 🙂 And I really savor those one or two little chocolates.
Of course, I do try to make healthy choices, too! That is sometimes a struggle for me. I use another app called Healthy Habit Tracker to try to eat enough fruits and vegetables and drink enough water each day. It’s amazing how a day can go by so quickly before I realize I haven’t had enough!
The balance comes from looking at my whole day. If I want to have some light ice cream at night (I’ve become hooked on Edy’s slow-churned mint chocolate chip!), then I can’t have a cookie earlier in the day. So maybe I’ll have that cookie the next day instead.
So I still eat cookies and ice cream and chips. We still have hamburgers and french fries. We still order pizza. And we still go out to eat. In fact, my husband and I have date night every Thursday! When I eat out, I look up the nutritional info online, if it’s available. That means eating at a lot of chain restaurants – at least in the beginning. But now that I’ve gotten a better sense of food, I feel more confident to eat at other restaurants, too. I just look up the food I want to eat on My Fitness Pal and choose one from the list that sounds about right. And when I know we’re going out at night, or ordering pizza, then it’s especially important for me to plan the day ahead of time!
What I really like about planning out the day like this and balancing my foods is that I really get to enjoy eating! It takes the guilt completely out of the equation, because I’ve already accounted for it. I can really dig in to that slice of cheese pizza. Or savor the creaminess of the mint ice cream and the richness of the dark chocolate chips. Yum!!