What I Learned From Nutrition Tracking

I have a lot of clients who use the My Fitness Pal website to track their calories. I decided to make an account and try it so I could become familiar with the process.

It has been several years since I have bothered with nutrition tracking. I believe if you eat the right foods you shouldn’t have to count calories. I learned something interesting though; I don’t eat what I thought I did.

Mistake #1: I thought I ate more calories. I have always struggled to eat more than 1200 cals/day. I figured since going paleo, the additional fat in my diet would fix that. Nope. Still barely making it to 1200. This is too low, especially for an active individual.

Mistake #2: If my carbs are low, my sugars are low too. In my world, these are the same thing but MFP breaks these into separate categories. My carbs are doing well with under 120 grams most days, but my sugars are typically going over the recommended amount. That means the majority of my carbs ARE added sugars. Not good at all and probably the reason I still crave sweets. I’m feeding the monster without even realizing it.

I have also realized that the simple act of logging my food intake helps me make better choices. I feel guilty if I have to confess to eating something I shouldn’t. It’s there in black and white right in front of me, driving up those sugar grams!

My opinion on nutrition tracking has changed somewhat. I DO think it’s a good thing to do. Do you have to do it forever? No. Should you become obsessed and stressed out with your logging? Hell no! But logging can be helpful to determine where you are actually starting so you can more realistically define your goals and change your habits.

MFP is free and easy to use. It is a little time consuming at first while you build your library of foods that are typical for you, but it does have a pretty extensive library which makes it easy to find foods, even specific brands and restaurants. There is some guesstimating involved but it doesn’t have to be perfect.

A note on MFP: It automatically calculates target macronutrients based on your goals. These numbers are based on the USDA food pyramid and therefore, not accurate for those following a different diet. Your protein and fats may be in the red, while it expects you to exceed 150 grams of carbs/day. You may need to mentally adjust the targets to support what works for you.

UPDATE: Yes, you can change your macronutrient profile! Took some digging to find where to change the settings, but you can adjust these goals to fit whatever diet works for you.

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Target nutrients based on weight loss goal of .5lbs/week.

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2 thoughts on “What I Learned From Nutrition Tracking

  1. This is definitely a near idea. I feel the same as you – that I make healthy choices so I don’t feel like I have to track what I eat but it would be interesting to see how it all adds up on a daily basis!

  2. It’s amazing how those grams of refined sugar just sneak in isn’t it? The place I’m staying at now has added sugar in everything, even though I’m still technically eating only “home-cooked” meals. I went from having 0g of added sugar in my diet to well over 30g a day, aka a can of soda PER DAY. Note that this added sugar is different from overall carb intake, which has always been higher for me since I added grains back into my diet; it’s only the sugar though that has resulted in a marked decrease in fasting capacity (I would have said “energy quality,” but gluten and soy and random additive chemicals are now confounders on that front, vs the signature blood glucose “dip” feeling. UNLESS, I suppose, one of the chemicals is acting an insulin antagonist, but that’s a theory for another day). Based on that admittedly non-rigorous reasoning, I conclude nonetheless that added sugar is a slippery slope that is best avoided completely. I can’t really think of any downsides to having that as a rule, especially if one doesn’t stress about the occasional sugar hit at a social event — getting it out of the daily routine is the key.

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