Tracking Calories Successfully for the First Time…
For the first time in my life I’m accurately tracking calories… and sticking to it! I’d previously never stuck to calorie tracking – there’s a number of reasons for it.
The first one is because weight loss was never really a pressing need, so the consistency and dedication to entering every food into an app wasn’t a high enough priority for me. The ‘pain in the ass’ factor meant I didn’t stick to it for long.
Secondly, the app technology just wasn’t as good as it is now. Tracking calories is so much easier with the modern technology. Craig Salmon from Premier Global NASM points out “tracking calories is so much easier with the modern technology. I know that makes it sound like the apps are decades old, but the comparison between 2012 when I first downloaded MyFitnessPal and now is like night and day. The food database, the library of ingredients, the barcode scanning etc make it so much easier.”
The third reason is I was doing it on my own, without any real motivating factors. I didn’t really need to lose weight. I had no public accountability and when it’s a solo mission with no real ‘why’, it’s just too easy to not bother with.
So what changed?
I own a gym and one of the things we do with members is we run regular challenges. The challenge we’ve kicked the year off with is a weight loss challenge. We work with a nutritionist called Adrien Parry who is helping to facilitate the weight loss challenge, guiding the group members by helping them set their calorie and macro targets.
Speaking personally, the accountability is the biggest asset that is helping me to stick to the calorie tracking. The fact that I’m part of a group of people who are doing it has been helpful, because it means that if I fail, I’m failing publicly – that is a powerful motivator for me! Having my girlfriend do it alongside me is helpful too, because the temptation to have an extra beer or chocolate bar is removed for both of us, so it’s a shared suffering!
Finally, my ‘why’ is bigger now. Previously I’d thought of weight loss as something I’d try to do for vanity’s sake, but I was never really overweight. As a weightlifter I was lifting as a 94kg athlete, where my bodyweight was around 84kg previously – the intense training meant I added a lot of muscle over the years I was training with such volume.
When I stopped focussing on weightlifting, I’d maintained a calorie intake that frankly, I didn’t need. I was still training, but my energy requirements just weren’t the same – I’d gone from training at a super high intensity 6 days per week to training pretty hard 4 days per week. I just didn’t need the same amount of fuel. The net result was a slow, steady weight gain – I’d gone from around 92-93kg to nearly 99kg (218lbs) over a couple of years.
I wasn’t happy about it.
Addressing the weight loss approach…
As a fitness blogger and personal trainer, I like to test out approaches on myself. I can’t legitimately expect someone to follow my guidance if I haven’t experienced what I’m asking them to do. It means when I offer advice and guidance, I can do so from a place of experience.
When it comes to weight loss, I have personal training clients who follow a variety of different methods. Some like the black and white nature of fasting – they simply don’t eat for given periods. I know from experience how effective fasting can be for weight loss, and it has helped lots of my clients lose weight and get a grip of their eating habits in a really positive way. Others prefer to calorie control and whilst I know it is effective and I know how to do it, I’ve never really followed it myself.
But this time, I wanted to experience what it was like to take a tracking calories approach to weight loss. I wanted to be coached, to experience the weight loss journey from the other side of the fence, so to speak. It’d been years since I’d been coached in a meaningful way, so I was eager to use it as a growth opportunity.
I knew that the challenge was going to be run via MyFitnessPal and that this would be my excuse to really get to grips with tracking calories consistently. The fact that it was a public challenge added a layer of motivation to make sure I got it right. It’s also helpful having my partner do it alongside me. I re-downloaded MyFitnessPal and was hit with the stark realities…
Before I started taking weightlifting seriously, I was 84kg! By the time I started this challenge I was 97.3kg, down from an all-time-high of 98.6kg. Time to get my shit together and get this weight down! Training hard isn’t the issue… it’s the food intake that was going to need more of my attention!
Making tracking calories easier…
I’m a big believer in making things more simple. In my experience the more layers of complexity you add into something, the less likely you are to succeed. Knowing this, I set about making tracking calories as simple as possible. Here’s a few steps I took…
I bought some digital food scales
The absolute bedrock of calorie tracking is weighing your food accurately, so a set of good quality digital scales are a must. I bought some from Amazon that cost me £10 and are both accurate and really simple to use. They’re these ones below…
I batch cook
Another tip is to batch cook – I calculate the calories for the entire meal and then divide it equally into a set amount of portions. It means when I go to eat my meals later on, I can easily add the calories to my calorie tracker without having to weigh and measure every single ingredient.
Don’t be shy of using packaged meals
Packaged meals have a reputation for being crap, but they’re not all like that. Sure, you can buy awful quality meals but you don’t have to look hard to find better. I regularly buy soups and better quality microwave meals, because the MyFitnessPal app has a scanner that allows you to scan the barcode and the nutritional information of the food goes straight into your calorie tracker. Makes life so much easier.
Download an app
I’ve mentioned MyFitnessPal – that’s the one I use. I’m not affiliated with them in any way, it just happens to be the one I use. I’m sure there are plenty of others out there that do a great job, I just have experience of using MFP. I couldn’t imagine tracking calories without an app, because it makes the process so much easier!
Tracking calories – the journey so far…
At the time of writing we’re entering week 4 of the 6 week challenge and I’m 4.4kg down (nearly 10lbs). I was hoping to lose 5kg through the challenge, so I should manage to do that easily enough. I haven’t been hungry through the challenge and I’ve managed to train hard, so I’m really enjoying the process.
I’m going to write a more in-depth round up and a ‘what I’ve learned tracking calories’ type post when I’ve broken a few more weight loss milestones. I’m making notes about the experience tracking calories and what I know so far is that the process is much more simple than it used to be.
A combination of my age (maturity, actually), the improvement in the technology, a stronger why and the public accountability has made tracking calories a lot more simple this time. I know it’s not the ‘do this ONE thing to successfully tracking calories’ kind of thinking that the internet seems to love, but it’s a true reflection of how I feel so far. Successful weight loss is a combination of factors, not just one.
I’m excited to see where this goes…
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