My co-blogger Tracy explained why she despises tracking food and doesn’t do it these days. When we first talked about this blog we agreed that it might be fun to share some of our differences in approach to fitness. I offer up my different perspective on tracking not to counter Tracy’s experiences of finding it oppressive but rather to share my own experiences with food/exercise tracking. This isn’t a for/against kind of thing. Rather it’s different experiences of the same phenomena. Unlike my co-blogger, I do track what I eat. Most days anyway. But I don’t do it because I’m concerned with writing down every morsel I consume with an eye focused only on eating less and getting smaller. I try to do from the viewpoint of ‘sports nutrition’ not ‘dieting’ though like Tracy I recognize that’s a fine line. I’m much more concerned with seeing that I get enough to eat and that I eat the right foods to support my very active lifestyle. At different times in my life I’ve tracked different things, usually for my own purposes though I’ve sought feedback from some excellent sports nutritionists over the years. (Right now it’s Jennifer Broxterman but in the past I’ve worked with Tim and Deb at Synergy Wellness and Precision Nutrition’s Krista Scott Dixon .) These days I mostly track with an eye on protein, healthy fats, and veggie intake. I also care about calories and sometimes even count them. But again my focus is usually both on making sure I’m eating enough on my active days and on scaling back when I’m not so active. Hunger has never been a very reliable guide for me.
Here’s another take on why calories matter and why we should track food from one of my favourite fitness blogs Go Kaleo: “Calories DO matter, but most of us can eat a lot more than we think we can if we’re making good food choices and getting regular exercise. Tracking calories is NOT about restriction, and reaching/maintaining a healthy weight is NOT about being hungry and denying ourselves proper nutrition. Quite the contrary, it is about feeding ourselves adequate amounts of nutritious foods that support health, energy and vitality. Here is a tool that will help you determine how many calories your body needs to function properly (I’ve found that the calorie tracking websites, while good for tracking, tend to give a calorie target that is too low for most active people I’ve worked with). Many of you will be surprised at how high the number is. Mine is 3500 a day. Hardly restrictive.”
While I like the idea of listening to my body and eating what I feel like eating but I’m afraid our natural impulses get it wrong in both directions. Mine do anyway. Our urges to eat were developed in times of feast or famine, when stocking up on high calorie foods was a requirement of survival, so often what we want to eat isn’t good for us and the portions we want to eat are too large. But also I often don’t feel like eating as much as I need to do when I’m training hard. Without calories you can’t win races, build muscles. or recover well. So I plan meals, I count grams of protein, and I track. Mostly it feels liberating. Sometimes it feels like a chore. But in a hectic busy family with lots of meals, snacks, and groceries on the go my food log often serves as a way to remind me that what I eat matters. For me, it’s much more about making sure I take care of myself.