A Health Coach’s 4 Simple Tips to Overcoming Food Tracking Road Blocks
You’re likely here because you’re just getting started food tracking, or are getting back into it, and have some hesitations. You’ve come to the right place! I’ve been helping personal training clients and Wishrouters get over food tracking woes for years, and today I’ll give you some mindset tips to work through them so you can find success with your healthy eating goals.
Keeping a food log has been recommended for years by wellness experts -- whether done in an app or on a pad of paper, it can provide powerful insights into your eating habits and be very effective for making positive changes.
Food tracking can come with a lot of emotional weight from having to be honest with yourself about what you’re eating. Each of us has a unique relationship with food and there’s no shame in having anxiety -- your feelings are valid and normal! We’re here to help you be more mindful of your mental blockers, give you tools to work through them, and remind you to be kind to yourself. Let’s dive in!
What stress around food tracking can look like:
- Guilt over not eating the “right thing”
- Shame for going over or under your allotted calories
- Uncertainty around what you’re “supposed to be” eating
- Pressure to track all your food 100% accurately
- Worry that you’ll need to make a lot of changes
With all the feelings of self-criticism surrounding food tracking, it’s no wonder why many of us start and give up quickly. If you’ve ever experienced any of the above, you’re not alone! Now let’s talk about a few mindset shifts to help you overcome them...
Remember information is power
One way to take the emotion out of tracking is to lean into the logical and objective side. It’s easy to get caught up in thought patterns that align your self-worth with the numbers you see, but in reality, it’s just data you can learn from!
- Look at it like a scientific experiment: try to take the attachment/personal side out of it and make it a neutral task. Assess, course correct, and set goals backed by numbers
- Make it a habit: Track at the same time in your routine (like after dinner or right before you sit down to each meal) to make it a daily to-do list task (like brushing your teeth) instead of something you have to actively remember to do
Acknowledge your feelings
- Switch up your self talk: Turn "I hate that I ate this, I don't want to track it" moments into a mantra of "I'm learning about my habits,” to create power through knowledge and mindfulness while also prioritizing kindness towards yourself
- Watch out for the perfectionist mindset. Feel the “all or nothing” feeling creeping in? Remind yourself it’s okay to not be 100% accurate in the beginning, you’ll get better as you go! Keep the barrier to entry low and just get the food in the tracker, one meal at a time
Consistency is key (perfection isn’t)
- Keep going. One off-plan meal won’t tip the scale, just like one on-plan meal won’t either. It takes time for your body to change! Keep this perspective in mind: if you feed your body nutritious food and positive thoughts, over time you will literally be rebuilding yourself, one cell at a time.
- You don’t have to track everything if that’s not what you want/need. Have a hard time with afternoon snacks? Just track your snacks. Trying to fit more protein into breakfast and dinner but okay on lunch? Just track your first and last meals. This is a tool for YOU so use it in a way that adds value to your goals. It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing.
One off-plan meal won’t tip the scale, just like one on-plan meal won’t either. It takes time for your body to change!
Information with accountability is even more powerful
- Get an objective source to help. We tend to be harder on ourselves than we are on others, so it helps to have someone to report to like a coach or accountability buddy that can help you keep things in perspective - that’s where we come in! You may only be seeing the “over calorie” notification, but an outside source can help you to see that you made positive change elsewhere (like you swapped a bag of chips for carrots at lunch)
- Accountability leads to consistency. Tracking keeps you accountable to what you ate, but having someone else checking in on you will help you stay consistent on the tough days (we all have ‘em!)
All this being said, tracking doesn’t have to be the rest of your life!
If tracking every day helps you to feel grounded in your routine, by all means, track 365 days a year - but don’t feel like it has to be a lifelong habit to maintain results. Tracking and measuring your food helps you understand and balance your current routine. Once you have a good sense of your go-to food serving sizes and the appropriate mix of foods, you can learn to “eyeball” your portions and may not need to track every day. If you’re sticking to the right nutrition mix naturally, you’re good! Usually a disruption and change to your routine prompts needing to track again to create a new normal balance. A change in your weight or energy is a signal you may be in need of a reset-- open up your app (or journal) and start tracking again!