Troubleshooting Your Food Tracking
Updated: Jan 7
So you've jumped on the bandwagon and have been faithfully using My Fitness Pal. (If you haven't, check out this blog post on whether this is a good idea for you or not.) You track every morsel that goes in your mouth. You've experienced the initial shock and awe of how much sugar/sodium/fat is in the food that you were eating, and you've made some great changes as a result. Everything was going so well - the pounds started coming off and you were feeling great about this whole tracking thing. But then something strange happened - the results stopped. You reached the dreaded...PLATUEAU!
Say it isn't so! Is this it? Is that the extent of your results? While it can be frightening when the results stop, there are some relatively simple things you can do to troubleshoot when your tracking seems to stop working.
Problem 1: I keep going over on my calories.
This is a very simple and relatively simple problem to solve - you need to plan better. First of all, stop tracking at the end of the day. This is basically guaranteeing that you are going to be really off, whether over or under. Second, know how many calories are in the foods that you normally eat; this will help you to plan regular "go-to" meals that you can rely on. Third, if you know you will be eating out, check out the website beforehand and make a game plan. Many restaurants publish their nutrition data, particularly large chains. It is relatively easy to figure out. (And plan to be shocked - restaurant food is notoriously extremely high in calories!)
Problem 2: I have a special event coming up and need to make sure I won't get off track.
Again, it all comes back to planning! If you know you have a special event coming up (wedding, special dinner out, etc.), lighten up during the day (e.g., less fat, less starches, less heavy food), get in a really good sweat session, and, again, try to figure out some of the options before you go, even if it means you will bring a healthier dish to pass at an event (try www.cookinglight.com for excellent suggestions that you probably won't even realize are "light").
Problem 3: I am hitting my target but still not losing weight.
Are you sure you are entering all of the food and drink that you consume? Even the stuff that seems inconsequential, such as a couple of pieces of candy from a coworker's dish or a few bites of dinner while cooking - this all counts!
Are your portion sizes correct? Make sure you pay special attention to exactly how much you're having, especially when cooking a recipe. Some trackers have special features just for calculating how much is in a combined recipe (e.g., My Fitness Pal). This can be a bit tedious the first time, but it's highly worthwhile!
Finally, are you eating out a lot? The calories that are posted on websites, while helpful for estimating, are for the way it's supposed to be made, but every chef might deviate a little (e.g., adding a bit more butter or sauce to the recipe). You can't ever know for sure, so this is why it's helpful to either cut back on eating out so you can control what you eat more, or order stuff plain and get sauces/dips on the side so you can control what goes in. If you do order an entree as is, it is often helpful to err on the higher side when estimating.
If all of these don't work, your target might be too high for your activity level (or by the same token, your new weight). Try cutting just 100-200 calories per day and see if this gets you moving.
I hope these tips help to jumpstart you back to progress if you found you've plateaued a bit lately.
If you are interested in learning more about how I can help coach you using My Fitness Pal and online meetings, please contact me here.
In good health,