Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Simple Food Tracking Plan

So I don't like calorie counting.

But not everyone likes portion control systems by palms/cupped hands/etc.

Portion control can be tricky in the edge cases - How many eggs is a palm? What about stews? Is a squash a veggie or a starch? Tomatoes are fruit, do they count as fruit or veggies?

So here is another option.

Write, Measure, Adjust

This option dispenses with either calorie counting or portion control.

Step 1: Write down everything you eat.

That's it. Eat it, write it down.

Write down how much, and when. Do your best to estimate the size (measure precisely when you can, if you like - it'll help.)

For extra credit, write down how you felt for the next few hours after eating the food. Good? Bloated? Gassy? Light? Energetic? Sluggish?

For even more extra credit, write down how you feel logging it. Just Good, Neutral, Bad.

Step 2: Measure.

Check your weight, body measurements (I like using waist - at the belly button - and hips - around the thickest part of the glutes), and body fat (an impedance scale is fine here.)

Check the same time and situation each time. I like to do mine right after waking, after a trip to the bathroom.

Step 3: Adjust.

If the measurements are moving in the direction you like, great.

If they measurements are moving in the other direction, adjust. Cut the junk if you aren't leaning out, and either replace it with a little less but better food. Add more healthy food if you need to add to your frame and what you're doing isn't doing so. Of if the wrong measurements are going up (waist is expanding, but only the waist, say.)


This isn't a plan that's going to get you to a sub-5% body fat and up on a stage as a physique athlete. But it'll get you started and keep you on track without anything besides a note app or an actual physical journal.

I won't lie - this is simple but not easy. Just the sheer act of tracking everything isn't trivial. But it will work. You'll be more likely to eat food you know is good for you. You'll eat less junk. You'll be mindful about everything you consume.

It also starts answering a critical question - what am I doing now? Many people want to change how they eat but don't know where they are starting from. And swapping in any kind of ordered eating plan (even a fad diet) usually beats out an unorganized eating plan. This organizes what you are doing. It makes it plain to see what's going on now, giving you the information about what to change.

And ultimately, it will give you a wealth of information. What did I eat? How did that affect me? How did I feel? Did I feel better or worse without that food?

It's not as precise as calorie control can be. It's not as tracking-free as portion control. But it's simple. And it's what you really want to know. How does eating this food affect the sample size of one that is me?

What about exercise? You should already be writing down your workouts, and if possible, how you feel as a result. Tracking your food in a similar fashion can work, if you're just as consistent about it.

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