Monday, February 6, 2012

Keeping Good Records

One habit that was very difficult for me to develop is to keep detailed records of what I eat and how much exercise I am doing.  Before I lost weight, this was something I was always hearing - that I needed to write down everything that I ate. I never did. I mean, come on, I can remember what I ate today. I thought I just needed to watch it. I was wrong.

Now, I write down everything that I eat, when I eat it and I track the calories (and I am honest about it, if I under-count calories to make myself feel better, my body will know and eventually, it will let me know). I also track my exercise - what I do, for how long, and how many calories I am burning (again, I am careful to do this honestly), and how much water I am drinking. There are any number of online calorie counters and calorie counting apps to help with this. I use

Keeping records helps to lose / maintain weight in several different ways:
  1. It keeps me accountable for what I eat. I may think I am having a low-calorie day, but if I'm not, my records will tell me I'm not and I can adjust accordingly. 
  2. It helps me to figure out what is going wrong if I stop losing weight, or if I gain weight.  In cases where I stop losing weight or where I gain a pound or two - which happens from time to time - I can look at my records to see what happened. For example, I stepped on the scale this morning and was up a pound (which happens, used to freak me out, doesn't anymore) - when I look at my records I can see that I had a lot of salty food this weekend and, though I got some pretty good exercise, I did not get as much as I usually do on the weekend. So, there it is. The pound will come off, and some - it's part of a pattern - but I'll discuss that in a later post. 
  3. It provides me with information about the best way to lose and keep losing. I can also look at my records if I have a good week to see what I did right. 
  4. It helps me to make sure I am eating enough. This may sound odd, but I also need to make sure that I am eating enough every day. If I don't eat enough, my body will think it is starving and I won't lose weight (among other potentially serious complications).  I need to eat at least 1200 calories a day and / or I need to make sure that I am eating at least 200 calories more than I exercise (I need to net at least 200 calories).  Honestly, when I started my diet and I was medically supervised and eating less than 1200 calories a day... just doing shakes I really had to watch the 200 calorie thing - now, I don't have to worry about it too much - but it is something to keep in mind. (note that  for the 12 weeks that I was taking in fewer than 1200 calories a day I was medically supervised, I don't know off the top of my head what the research says, but personally, I don't think it is healthy to eat less than 1200 calories / day).  
  5. It helps me to make sure that I am eating enough fruits and vegetables. I need at least 5 servings of these a day. This can be a challenge on busy days, so record keeping helps to keep me on track here. 
  6. It helps me to remind myself to drink water. Not everyone tracks how much water they drink, but I have to. The most difficult thing I've had to learn is to drink enough water. I am not a water drinker. I hate it. But, water really helps in weight loss and with health in general - so I have to get my water every day. I still have trouble with this more than anything else - but keeping records and tracking my water helps.

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