Eating “healthy” but not losing weight? Do this.
You’ve stocked up on all the “health” foods. Your cabinets burst with chia seeds and goji berries.
You’ve cut down on portions, and started packing your lunches for work.
And you’re not even eating that much!
But no weight loss, no change in energy levels, no… nothing.
You’re starting to think it’s pointless to make all these changes, and still have nothing to show for all your hard work.
What are you doing wrong?
You’re not tracking your meals.
Here’s the thing, a lot of us think we’re eating healthy, but in reality we’re just not.
You probably are eating healthy sometimes, but just not enough of the time in order for it to make a difference.
Tracking your meals immediately sheds light on where you’re slipping up. And you can’t argue with it. You’re not relying on your memory of what you eat. It’s right there in back and white.
Keeping a food journal has also been shown to double your weight loss efforts.
I did a small case study (unintentionally) on myself so you can see what a difference tracking can make.
How I lost 10 pounds in 2 ½
So last year, I lost 10 pounds. ALL YEAR.
That’s great and everything, but who’s really tryna wait 2 years to lose 20 pounds?
Towards the end of the year, I decided to stop being lazy and start tracking my meals.
So I grabbed one of the 1.5 billion notebooks I own, and drew out a simple meal adherence chart.
For each meal, I drew an X if the meal was on track with my goals, and a star if the meal was off track.
I don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner.
Here’s my first week.
Laila: “I eat healthy! I don’t know why I’m not losing weight!”
Adherence Chart: 47% of your meals are adherent to your goals.
I was at 47% adherence. That means that less than half the time, I was eating meals that were on track with my goals.
In my brain, I was eating healthy. But on paper, my diet sucked.
Now let me say, I didn’t change anything in my diet before starting to track. (I think that 47% adherence proves that.)
But look at what happened the second week. (Again, I didn’t consciously change anything.)
And on week three.
By week four, I was at 81.3% adherence.
After a few months of tracking, I now hover around 70-85% adherence. And I lost 10 pounds in 2 ½ months instead of a whole year.
Again, I didn’t consciously change anything initially. I just started tracking my meals.
Tracking gave me instant insight into what my ACTUAL diet looked like. And it showed a very different picture from the make believe, perfect diet I was eating in my head. And once I knew better, I did better. I became more aware and started to ask myself at each meal if it was on track with my goals or not, which led me to make better choices.
Also, once I started start seeing all the X’s back to back I didn’t want to “break the chain”. Which became a motivator in itself.
Why tracking is so friggin
Here’s what I think was happening over the course of that year.
I was likely having weeks where I was eating really well (over 80% adherence) and felt good about those few weeks. And because I felt good about them, it would take away from the other weeks where I ate poorly (less than half adherence).
My brain chose to focus on, and over exaggerate the good, and undermine the times when I was eating like garbage.
My good days OVERALL outweighed my bad days, but barely. Which resulted in mediocre weight loss and below average results.
Now, I know this because I know the way my brain works. I’m a positive thinker but sometimes (clearly) this can work to my disadvantage.
But research also shows us that simple strategies, like having a food log to keep yourself accountable, can significantly impact your ability to lose weight.
And with that awareness, you can start to make changes more aligned with your goals.
Generally, if your meals are “on track” over 50% of the time, you’re gonna see results. Not quickly though. Like at a 10 pounds a year pace probably.
But if you’re around 85-95% adherence, you’ll see results a lot quicker.
The more adherent you are, the better your results will be.
2 Steps To Get Started
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you’re doing this on your own (without another human being keeping you accountable), you need to develop a very special life skill my friend.
You need to be honest with yourself.
If you play yourself by putting an X where you know there should be a star, you only have yourself to blame for not seeing results. (I say this with love.)
Okay. Now that you’re being honest with yourself, here’s how to start tracking your meals.
Step 1. Track each meal on preferred tracking method. (See section on methods below.)
Step 2. Decide if each meal (and snack!) is on track with your goals or not.
(For the first 1-2 weeks, don’t make any conscious changes to your diet. This will be eye-opening.)
Keep it simple.
The reason most people give up tracking their meals is because they turn it into this elaborate, drawn-out process.
Making this into a complex thing in the beginning is just gonna slow you down, and add yet another barrier to you actually doing the work. Tracking doesn’t have to be this formal, time consuming thing. It can be as simple as deciding whether a meal is on track, or not, and writing an X or a star.
Apps like MyFitnessPal can be too much of a time suck, and can cause some people to become obsessive over stuff like calories. (some people= me)
Now if being more specific, and tracking your intake on MyFitnessPal and the other calorie/macro trackers out there, sparks joy (Hi Marie Kondo!), then go for it my friend. If it doesn’t, use a simpler method. Simple is better, in my honest opinion.
(And after you’ve done the simple way long enough, and you’re no longer seeing much change with that level of tracking, you can get more specific with it.)
Two Methods of Tracking
You can be creative with this, but here are two options to get started with.
Manual- I made you a non-ghetto version of my adherence tracker! Print out 4, so you’re set for a whole month of tracking!
Digital- If you prefer to track on your phone, there’s a great app for this called YouAte. You can download it here.
There it is, my friend.
However you choose to do it, start tracking, and start getting better and faster results.