Why You Shouldn't Track Your Food

You're going on a diet, so you download a food tracker because if you track every calorie and macronutrient (carbs, fats, proteins) then you'll be sure to lose weight, right? WRONG

An app that spits back inaccurate numbers that you probably don't know what to do with anyway, is not your ticket to health, happiness and weight loss. 

THIS is a good thing, folks! Now you don't have to pull your phone out at a restaurant while dining with friends to try and find the meal you picked off the menu in your app, only to not find it and then have to try to put each ingredient in one by one, then return to the 10 minutes of conversation that you totally missed!

If that's not enough to get you to quit your tracking habit, then I hope these 5 things will:

Calories In | Calories Out

For years, science preached about calories in and calories out. But the thing about science is that it's always evolving. New technology, money, and fresh brains allow us to continually better our understanding of nutrition and the human body. 

Different diets lead to different biochemical pathways that are not equivalent when correctly compared through the laws of thermodynamics. It is inappropriate to assume that the only thing that counts in terms of food consumption and energy balance is the intake of dietary calories and weight storage.
— Anssi H Manninen

Full article found HERE.

Not only does energy in = energy out defy the second law of thermodynamics but it also doesn't account for your body's need to be in homeostasis long term. Basically, your body needs a specific amount of calories AND nutrients for optimal functioning and your metabolism will shift (speed up or slow down) in order to achieve that. 

You're body wants to remain in homeostasis. That means, over time, your metabolism adjusts itself to remain stable. If you eat LESS that your BURNING, you're metabolism will slow down to conserve energy. You may lose weight quick at first, but within a few weeks, you'll plateau. The opposite is also true, if you tend to consume WAY more than you're BURNING, you're metabolism eventually goes into hyper drive to match and create homeostasis. Have you ever noticed that someone gains a lot of weight and then just stays at that weight for years?  Or you have that friend that barely eats but doesn't get any skinnier? Anything "clicking" yet??

Instead of focusing on calories in, calories out, as a whole, you should focus on NUTRIENTS. You're body uses micronutrients and macronutrients in many different ways. By focusing on what your body needs, you can get away with consuming a lot more AND not worrying about tracking every particle you put in your mouth!

Our bodies are not a math equation, but instead made up of millions of physiological processes that go far beyond a simple calculation. 

Inaccurate

These caloric calculators usually suggest WAY less than what your body needs to consume. Going back to calories in, calories out, this is counter productive as it will lead to SLOWING YOUR METABOLISM DOWN. We don't want that! 

Another way it is inaccurate is the amount of calories portrayed in certain foods. It's very easy to under or over calculate your calories. Whether the app is wrong or your portion is wrong, the math never quite adds up perfectly. 

This can leave you with an extra 200 calories for the day (that you actually don't have) and leads you to consume your favorite bedtime snack because of it! 

Maybe it's just me, but on my "bad days" I'd just not track altogether. What the app doesn't see, didn't happen, right?! 

Obsessive

Tracking every morsel of food is just weird.. and unnatural. JUST EAT! 

I know anything is a "disorder" these days, but seriously, becoming so obsessed with a number on an app is dangerously unhealthy! 

In life, there's a million lines to be crossed. Dieting (although I hate that word) and eating disorders have a fine line separating them. Becoming overly obsessed with tracking food is flirting with disaster. Not to mention, this is not the way to lead and live a healthy life!

Socially Awkward

Back to the restaurant scenario where you're thumbing through your app trying to calculate the pizza you just ordered off the menu: 

  1. It's not in the app. 
  2. Anything you put in its place will be totally wrong.
  3. You're missing out on time with friends and family by obsessing about a menu item.
  4. It's rude to be on your phone. 

You'll either not track it at all, track something that resembles it, or track each ingredient separately. 

Or maybe you won't even go to a restaurant because it's too hard to track your food when you eat out. 

Either way, can we all just agree that it's weird? JUST EAT!

Lasting Results

Are you really going to track your food forever? I didn't think so. 

You need to understand food, macronutrients, and the quantities in which you should be eating them versus tracking a calorie. The less you have to do to maintain or lose weight, the more likely it is that you'll keep it off. 

Apps are based on calories and reducing your calories might be the quickest way to lose weight but it's also the quickest way to gain it back. YOU CANNOT MAINTAIN A LOW CALORIE DIET! And why would you want to?! Food is good! 

Listen To Your Body

So, this might sound crazy but your body actually tells you when it's hungry or full! You just might not like to listen to it. But believe it or not, this is made to be your own PERSONAL "calorie counter". 

It's as easy as this:

Before you eat, ask yourself if you're ACTUALLY hungry.

If you are, eat... but eat SLOW.

While you're eating, ask yourself if you're STILL hungry. 

If you are, continue eating then repeat.

If you are NOT, stop eating. 

This is what you call mindful eating. We've got a hormone for almost everything, and while our on/off hormones for hunger don't ALWAYS work, for the vast majority of us, they do, we just ignore them. 

I challenge you to ditch the device and practice listening to your body. Mindful eating is amongst the first steps to a healthier lifestyle!

**Side note: there are occasions in which tracking your food can be beneficial. IE. Learning about macronutrients, sugar, monitoring specific diseases, etc. I don't suggest relying on it unless working with a dietician or nutritionist! 

 

Tess Chupinsky, BS Biology Pre-Med, Precision Nutrition 1