My Adventures With A Food Diary
It all started with me wanting to lose some weight. I’ve been working out 3-4 times a week, eating healthy (we’ll get back to that), getting enough rest but the stubborn scale kept showing 176 lb (this is an Honest Blog, remember?). I need to tell you that this is not my first year into fitness, far from that. I started working out back in 2012 and haven’t had a break longer than 2-3 months since. I’ve also been doing all the healthy lifestyle stuff. I don’t drink much, I’ve never smoked, I don’t eat processed foods, I cook at home, try to lay off added sugar and fast carbs. I’m saying all this so that you don’t think I’m some amateur who wanted to “get ready for the summer vacation” in one night.
And yes, I have heard the phrase “abs are made in the kitchen” a thousand times. And that the diet is 70% of your result, and exercise is only 30%. But I was keeping a healthy diet, okay? So I didn’t see the problem.
Why the food log?
Somehow I got an idea of a food diary. I saw somewhere an advertisement for workout and meal plans with a different calorie count. There were plans for 1200 cal, 1500 cal, and 1700 cal per day. And that’s when it dawned on me that I should count the calories I consume per day and try to keep it in some kind of limit. Considering that an adult healthy person should consume around 2000 calories per day to maintain their weight, I settled for 1500 and 1700 on the days when I work out.
What app I use
To keep track of the foods I eat and the calories I spend I chose My Net Diary. It has a clean, convenient interface and all necessary functionality. You create a profile and enter your meals, weight, the amount of water you drank daily. The app calculates the nutrition balance. It also tells you if you exceed your limits of fats, proteins or carbs. In the paid version, it’s possible to set the amount of each nutrient you want to consume. This is convenient in case you’re following a specific diet such as keto.
When creating a profile you set your goals: to lose, gain or maintain your weight. And the app calculates the recommended daily calorie intake for you. You will also receive reminders to log your meals in.
What was difficult
I quickly adopted the mindset of being conscious of what I eat at all times.
My biggest issue was measuring the exact amount of serving as cited on the package. Did you know that 1 serving of chips is 10-12 chips? Can you imagine the humiliation of counting exactly 12 chips from a bowl? And also, what kind of monster is going to get satisfied with only 12 chips?
Another big part was to calculate the nutrients in home-cooked meals. Did you know that calorie intake of an egg changes once you boil it? I understand frying - you add oil, duh. But what's up with boiling?
I didn’t refuse from any products completely, changed the amounts. I don’t like to demonize any particular food or ingredient. Except for processed sugar. That is white satan, and you need to stay away.
So I didn’t care too much where my calories came from, as long as there was the right amount. I mean, I wasn’t eating Twinkies for every meal of the day. But if I wanted to eat a donut, I would add it to my daily log and see how many calories I had left in my budget. As easy as that.
What I learned (Shocking reality)
Three days into this fun (not really) journey I realized that I was eating way more than I needed to. I would use up my daily calorie budget, which was less than I used to consume before, and wasn’t hungry. At first, I was surprised and thinking about how I was going to lose weight if I wasn’t even hungry which meant there wasn’t calorie deficiency in my body. Later I understood that I’ve been overeating this whole time. I didn’t gain weight only because I was working out like a crazy person 4 times a week in my kickboxing class. Side note: according to my food log app, kickboxing is the type of workout where you burn the most energy.
Another shocking revelation was the number of calories that some of the foods have. Yes, I realized that a donut was rich in calorie intake, but I couldn’t even imagine how rich! I had to rethink the amounts of almost all my food choices. And that’s considering that I was eating healthy already. I started drinking 1 glass of wine per day, not 2 or 3 like I did before. Not that I wanted more of that wine, but hey, the bottle is already open, right? No, not right. This experience taught me to listen to my body more carefully.
Sugar is EVERYWHERE! Bread, butter, sour cream, plain (!) yogurt, kombucha, cottage cheese, basically all the dairy products, you name it. Since it’s nearly impossible to avoid sugar completely, I try to choose products that contain less than 10 grams of sugar per serving. It is still way more than I need, but this is as best as I can do without cutting out a lot of foods out of my diet entirely.
Now to even more devastating part - calorie burn. How much energy do you think you use during 1 whole hour of weightlifting? Feels like 1000 calories, right? Apparently, it’s only 260. It’s less than a donut! It’s not even half of one normal meal. You’ll use the same amount of energy by walking! Yes, the exact numbers depend on your speed, distance, and body weight, but you get the idea.
I stopped seeing my workouts with weights as a way to lose weight. They became a way to build and change my body instead. I stopped rushing through the workout in hopes to use more energy (and also to be done with this hell earlier). Instead, I started focusing on every move to make sure I keep a good form every rep.
Moral of the story
We often think that we’re doing better than we actually are. Another moral: if you are working towards a change and that change doesn’t happen, revise your actions. Stop lying to yourself and reevaluate what you’re doing. And stop overeating.