Waking Up to What You're Really Eating

By , SparkPeople Blogger

If you have been following along with my weekly blogs, you know this is the second in a series.  Last week we talked about WAKING UP and beginning to LIVE again.

How many calories do you eat in a day?

Did you stay within your recommended calorie range?

When did you last look at a label to know what is in the food you're buying?

Do you know what your BMR calorie burn is for a typical day?

You aren't sure about any of those answers?  I wasn't either when I started but I am here to tell you it is all at your fingertips.

This month, I'm sharing my personal success factors that helped me lose 100 pounds and keep it off.

Step 1: Know WHAT/HOW much you eat daily (track it).

Here's the deal: If we really want the outside of our body to look great, we must take care of what we put IN our bodies.  I'm sure we've all heard that saying "garbage in and garbage out."  Well, it's true.  If we put garbage in our bodies, then that's what we'll get out of our bodies.  Your body is a very meticulous machine.  Learning to FUEL your body is not easy; however, you'll notice a difference fairly quickly if you pay attention to what you put in it.  Yes, this means that if you give up a few things like fast food and soda alone, and replace them with a healthy snack and 8 cups of water a day, you will see a huge difference. 

I have to give massive props to my wife for the idea of looking at the labels at the store.  She did the homework and realized that changing our family's lifestyle meant we needed to start paying attention to the packaged products we bought.  If there are words on the ingredients list that we cannot pronounce, we simply don't buy it.  There are other items that we no longer buy if the sugar content is too high or the sodium is out of control.  We no longer buy something simply because it says it is fat free.  This can be deceiving unless you look thoroughly at the nutrition label and ingredient list.  Knowing WHAT you are putting in your body matters. 

Once you get a better understanding of what is going into your body, now you need to determine how many calories you are taking in during the course of one day? 

When we all signed up for SparkPeople, we completed a series of questions to establish our starting points and our goals.  We were then given a recommended range of calories to eat and calories to burn to accomplish those goals.   How cool was that?  We got this expert advice that comes from years of experience absolutely free!  Are you using this to your advantage?

SparkPeople's Nutrition Tracker is the most amazing tool to track this information.  This tool is very simple to use and doesn't take more than about 5 minutes to complete each day's meal tracking.  The main database is very extensive and I'd say that nine of 10 items anyone eats can probably be found there.  If you can't find an item, look at the foods entered by other members.  That's what makes SparkPeople so great: people helping people!  This database is massive, but if you can't find something, you have the opportunity to add an item and share for the next member.  How simple is that?  But there is more!  The ability to add foods to your favorites list OR create a food grouping if you eat the same foods for lunch daily all help in making the process speedy quick.  (VIDEO: How to Use SparkPeople's Nutrition Tracker)

Now that you have tracked your nutrition for the day, you KNOW how much you have eaten.  You can tell if you stayed within your calorie range or not.  Knowing this information is CRITICAL to your journey. Without this information, your success will be hindered, period.  Can you have success without tracking?  Probably, however I'd venture to say that most major success stories track everything. 

But wait, there's even more!  The reports section contains amazing information about your nutrition, fitness and calorie differential. Did you even know they exist?  Using these reports you can see your nutrition intake for a week or month.  This is crucial information.  The reports will hold you accountable to your daily calorie count of a given period of time.  These reports were crucial to my personal journey and I used them daily when I was in weight loss mode.  Knowing how my calorie intake was affected by my calorie burn thus giving my differential was absolutely amazing for my journey.

Get to know the nutrition tracker, learn about what you are eating.  Pay attention to what goes IN your body to enhance your daily performance.  Your performance might be as an athlete or simply to get through the daily grind we all face.  Whatever your needs are throughout your day, remember to fuel your body, not fill your body.

Tracking your food, knowing WHAT/HOW much you are eating daily is crucial to your journey.  I can't stress this enough. 

Disclaimer: There days when I fail. There are days when I go crazy with my calorie intake, some days it seems that my metabolism is raging and I simply can't get enough to eat.  I don't beat myself up over it.  I make every effort to learn from the mistake and move on, not stressing about it.

Men, I have a challenge for you.  I challenge every man who reads this blog to do two things. 

1. Make a habit of tracking your food, you WILL see a difference. 

2. Comment below. Put it in writing your commitment to track it. 

Let those who might read this blog after you, know that you are committed to your health.  Something you say might spark the next person into action, and there is nothing more rewarding than that!
Are you ready to wake up and start tracking what you're eating?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
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Thanks for this blog - most of us will "think" we are watching what we eat but it only works if you write it down - I love the nutrition tracker and I do use it every day - I don't lose if I don't measure and count and weigh!! Report
"This database is massive, but if you can't find something, you have the opportunity to add an item and share for the next member. How simple is that? "

* I am amazed at how many times I find a food that is obscure and the tracker has at least a couple of entries from the SparkPeople community. this tracker has really given me a compass pointing north with the tacking and analysis.

Between that and my SparkFriends (who I love very much), success is pretty much a lock. Report
So true! As soon as I stop tracking food, I stop losing or worse, start gaining! Over the last few weeks (post-holiday....) I started omitting some of the things that was eating (grazing again...) and my weight loss stopped. Yesterday I got back on track and my weight is already coming down and I feel much better. Report
i've tried other weight loss programs that don't tell you to track your food and i never lost weight or gained it right back. I've been on Sparkpeople since September and (tried to) consistently track my food, and I've dropped over 30 lbs. Seems pretty obvious that tracking makes a difference!
I do wish there was a way to eliminate duplicate entries on the food database. Sometimes I'll see 8 or 10 entries for the exact same food with the same nutrition data, so the multiple entries only make it confusing, but the confusion is a small price to pay for the success I've enjoyed so I can't complain too much! Report
I agree with tracking EVERYTHING. I notice on days I fudge my tracking by omitting a Hershey's Kiss or 100 Calorie Yogurt thinking what's the big deal, those are the days there is no weight loss or have a gain. So to me tracking is the key to make sure you eat the correct calories, carbs, protein and fats and reminds me to drink that water. Report
Tracking food is the only way I lose weight. I know what to eat, but when I am not tracking, I always take seconds or more of this or that. By tracking I know I am hold accountable for my daily intake by the tracker and thereby by me. And it motivates me to stay within calory range. Report
This is just what I needed to hear today. I have been tracking successfully and losing weight but my eating last night was out of control. Reading that you've had the same problem but just picked yourself up the next day and moved on really helped me to get back to tracking today and put yesterday behind me. Thanks. Report
Jerome my Spark Friend you are becoming famous! Good for you. I will admit to becoming VERY lazy about my tracking. I resolve to get better about it. Report
Using the tracker works but I HAVE to use it. I'll commit to using it again. Starting today. Report
Not everything natural is good and not everything synthetic is bad. If you can't pronounce it, look it up, see what it does. I track my food, but find the BMR has me undereating, I track my TDE - Total daily expenditure. Eating to my BMR is great if I lie in bed all day, but i don't. I workout, clean my house, go to work, clean their house and take clients out and about. I'm active about ten hours of the day. I burn 2500 cal a day. If I ate to my bmr, 1500, I'd be in an undereat of 1000 cals a day. Tell me where that's healthy. Report
I started tracking again after seeing no progress in weight loss over several months. I've lost 3lbs in two weeks. Enough said... Report
Now that I have lost my weight and into maintenance now for the last year, I STILL track my food everyday and STILL check to see how I am doing nutrionally. I cook healthier now, then I did a year ago. I am always looking for healthy alternatives. Report
I need to work on portion control. Tracking does help me. When I track consistently..I see my weight go down. I go through times even healthy food just tastes good to me and it's hard to stop. Interesting to note that when traveling sometimes I just crave healthy foods. I am changing! Report
Do I have to be a man to reply? ^_~

One thing I love doing in the reports section is looking at my weekly averages rather than the more widely varied day-to-day changes. One day out of whack is minor and not worth worrying about IF we get the weekly average in range. I also used the weekly and monthly reports to make an effective goal with a specific number to boost my protein consumption. Comparing a daily or weekly sodium intake to scale fluctuations could be eye-opening for some.

Admittedly, I'm a fan of spreadsheets in general. Tracking what I eat doesn't feel like a chore, doesn't make me feel deprived. Instead, it makes me feel empowered, able to tweak what I eat during the day to make room for a specific dinner item or adjust my snacks to add more of whichever nutrient is struggling that day.

Any concerns that things aren't in the database - by four months of consistent every day use, almost everything I eat semi-regularly has been found or entered. I've learned to "Save to Favorites" on everything. Most of us have tried and true regulars we eat. Once they've been entered once, or found once, we're set.

I have had issues with how entered foods aren't always clear about serving size. (When I enter, I include grams at the end, but some things I still enter as "1 serving" which makes it harder to calculate. I'm trying to fix mine slowly now that I figured out how to edit my manually entered ones.) Report
This is the best thing ever. It makes me take control of my eating Report
I have used it since my first day here , almost two full weeks now. I plan on continuing to use it. Great blog! Report
I've been faithful about using the Nutrition Tracker for about a year and a half. It's the smartest move I ever made in terms of learning to eat properly. The next smartest move was to weigh my food until I really learned what a proper portion sizes look like! Report
I find the more I track my food on the Nutrition Tracker, the more I view food as fuel as opposed to something that squelches hunger. Report
I have been amazed at some of the nutrients or lack of in particular foods. Am still using the tracking as a learning tool. What I can & can't have, and how to keep in balance. Report
I agree tracking makes a huge difference. I never had an issue with putting good food in my body but once I learned what portion sizes were correct for me that was an even bigger wake up call. Report
It is absolutely crucial to track food even on maintenance. That is where I messed every time I lost weight before. This time I have been able to keep on track and maintain the loss that I worked so hard to achieve because of the logs I keep. Thanks for the post! Report
I've found from experience that when I journal I always lose. Measuring, tracking, and exercise works every time. I fail (gain back all the weight +) when I stop doing these things. Love the food database, and the trackers; they really help me to keep my portions in control. I rarely feel deprived since I am getting the proper nutrition now. Report
This seems right to me but needs to go farther. I don't Have that much difficulty with sweets or processed junk food (ok I really like plain cheese pizza but if it is freshly made with honest ingredients I don't think it really is junk). What I need to track is portion control. I am back to using my kitchen scale every day. I do wish SP had a way to search the food database for foods that include weights in their serving selection. Report