The Sugar Quiz
June 15, 2017
Good food vs bad food
June 15, 2017

Logging Your Food

logging food

True confessions, I quit food logging for 15 days. It was the first such lapse in about 6 years. It was more of a deliberate experiment than a lapse.

But aren’t calories meaningless? Yes and no. They are not a perfect science for lots of reasons. Your needs can vary from time to time and it’s tough to perfectly measure foods. Also, not everyone needs the same amount or loses or gains at the same rate. I’ve still never seen a study showing that any diet caused weight loss without also reducing calorie intake.

Having said that, if any person doubles their caloric intake they’ll gain weight. If anyone eats 10 calories per day, they’ll lose weight on their way to death by starvation.

The other angle is that calories can predict weight without predicting health. You could get your calories from sugar and transfats and likely be able to control weight despite wrecking your health. Food quality matters but that doesn’t mean that calories don’t also matter.

At the time of writing this, I’m a few pounds over my goal of staying at my high school weight. I thought that after all this time I could follow my appetite, try to stay a little hungry, and drop a few pounds.

I had a good start for a few days, but at the end of 15 days, I had made no progress. It’s a bit of a relief to be back to food logging. If I were sedentary I think I could work it out but when I do long rides or hikes and I don’t track calories, one of two things happen. Either I ignore my hunger, eat far too little, and left too weak to exercise for several days or I follow my hunger and pig out.

A book I read about human hunger argued that we have really only 3 settings to our hunger. One is being famished, one is being stuffed, and the last is feeling like we could eat if the situation presented itself. Imagine that your hunger was represented by a speedometer that goes to 100 miles per hour. 0 – 2 would be starving, 97 – 100 would be miserably full, and 3 – 96 would be ‘I could eat something.’ Even though 5 is different from 90, they both seem the same to our brains.

Right now I just had a shake and I’m not hungry. But if I were with my dear departed Grandma Christianson and she said: “Here honey, I baked these cookies just for you, I barely used any sugar. Won’t you try one?” I think I’d get struck by lightening if I said no. Yes, I could eat one even though I’m not hungry.

That’s what I love about food logging is it gives me clarity on that 3-96 range. I’ve used myfitnesspal for many years. They do not pay me to promote them, but it seems they still have the easiest app to work with.

Along with being aware of my food needs and how they change with activity levels it also helps me stay on top of my macronutrient ratios (protein / fat / carbs) and some of the micronutrients. Today it looks like I’m doing well on sodium and due for some more fat with dinner.

A few tips:

  1. They do give you recommended calorie targets and these are reasonable to start with. If after a few weeks your weight is not going down enough or quickly enough, feel free to manually reduce by 100 calories. Same idea if it’s going down too much, adjust upwards.
  2. Accuracy matters. I use a digital scale for foods in the kitchen. When eating out, if they don’t have the restaurant you’re in entered in their database, find the same meal name in their database from another restaurant. If multiple options show up, choose the one with the most calories to log.
  3. Exercise logging – You can log exercise to be credited calories. I don’t log weight lifting, calisthenics, or aerobic activities under an hour. For activities over an hour, I take the number of minutes spent and divide by 2. For example on a 3 hour (180 minute) mountain bike ride, I’ll log 90 minutes. Most users have found that if you log all of your exercise accurately and eat that many calories, you’ll gain weight.

To your health,

Dr. C