I lost 140 lbs without counting calories or carbs. Honestly, I found that exhausting. I also found it exhausting to use apps where I had to search a database for a food and wonder if it was “close enough” to what I was actually eating. I had done the calorie counting thing before. Sure, I had lost weight but never kept it off. Thank God I finally realized (and understood) exactly why calorie counting is so inaccurate and misleading.
I needed to start paying attention to how foods made me feel. Which foods satisfied my hunger and which didn’t. Were there specific foods or types of foods that led to out-of-control cravings? What strategies led to the most significant fat loss? What contributed to weight gain or plateaus? What behaviors or food choices became more challenging when I was tired, stressed or emotional?
Getting answers to these questions was absolutely critical for lasting fat loss. I knew how to lose weight fast and put it back on. I didn’t want that anymore. I wanted permanent results. I was willing to work for the progress but I didn’t want to pile the weight back on ever again.
I learned that fat loss is about hormones. It’s our hormones that determine whether we’re in fat burning mode or fat storage mode. It’s our hormones that trigger hunger. It’s our hormones that trigger cravings. It’s our hormones that impact the quality and duration of our sleep. And I understood that my hormones were signaling me all day long but I wasn’t paying attention.
I wanted to find answers. I wanted to understand my body. I knew that the key to lasting fat loss was just that: listening to my body and responding strategically instead of reacting instinctively.
I started tracking. I tracked on paper. I made note of what I ate, how much, when and my hormonal biofeedback. Over time, I’ve refined the way I track and it is now a non-negotiable part of my process with my 1:1 coaching clients. We all track. This is where we find answers. This is where we make progress. Inside this document is everything we need to know about trials, opportunities, what works, what doesn’t and what we need to adjust to get significant, sustainable results.
Because I talk about it so often on the podcast, I get a ton of questions about how to track. What should you monitor? What should you use to keep track of things? What format do I use? Can you see an example?
I’m going to tackle all those questions and then some today! If there’s something I leave out, don’t hesitate to email me and ask! The best way to get in touch with me is by getting on the free VIP email list. That way, you’ll have easy access direct to my inbox but you’ll also get my fave recipes, workouts, motivations and more. I digress. Let’s tackle your questions about how to track.
You’ll want to keep track of what you eat, how much and when. I don’t recommend calorie counting, carb counting or tracking macros. For more information on why I think counting calories or macros is misleading, definitely listen to episode 62 of the podcast.
I know that if you’ve ever counted calories, carbs or macros you are probably resistant to tracking. You probably think it takes a lot of time and energy. It does not. This shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes each day. Everyone has a couple minutes. If you want results, you need to make this a priority. By keeping track of what you eat, how much and when, you’ll identify really important patterns that offer clues and keys to sustainable fat loss.
All you need to do is jot down what you put in your mouth, approximately how much (you do not need to measure) and what time you ate.
This is probably the hardest part but also the most important. When I talk about biofeedback I’m referring to things including:
- Quality of sleep – Did you fall asleep and stay asleep? Sleep like a rock? Toss and turn? Wake up tired?
People have a difficult time knowing how to track this and when. Oftentimes, they’ll say they don’t notice anything significant or don’t know how to quantify it. Here’s what I recommend: make note of what DOES stand out. When you’re really hungry, you know it. When you have extreme cravings, you know it. When you are totally exhausted and want to put your head down for a nap, you know it. Make note of the extremes. Rate them on a scale of 1-10 and jot down the time.
So for example, if your energy is a 2 on a scale of 1-10 at 3pm, just note that. If you are furiously angry at 7pm, rate it and note it. These extremes, in either direction, provide very valuable information.
If you find yourself going through the day and thinking, “nothing stands out!!” don’t worry about it. Like I said, when you’re super hungry (or have no appetite), you’ll know. When your energy is crazy high or really low, you’ll know. The extremes will stand out. Pay attention and make note.
This one is pretty simple. Sleep is significantly impacted by your hormones and your hormones have a massive impact on fat loss. When you wake up, make a quick note of approximately how much sleep you got and the quality of your sleep. If you were tossing and turning all night, write that down. If you slept like a rock, indicate that, too. If you hardly slept at all or crashed for 12 hours, just write a quick summary of your night’s sleep.
Your ONE Thing
Pick one thing, one goal or focus for the day. Initially, your one thing might just be tracking. Writing down what you eat and monitoring your biofeedback. Maybe your one thing is to eat a fat loss friendly breakfast. Maybe your one thing is to prioritize sleep. Pick just one focus, one goal for the day. Tackle it as early in the day as possible, if possible.
If you get in a workout, big or small, write down what you did and for how long.
Thoughts & Associations
You can spend as much or as little time here as you want. Some days you might just track your food and biofeedback and that’s fine. Other days, this might serve as a bit of a journal. You might write about how a stressful day at work contributed to less-than-stellar choices for dinner. You might note that you woke up feeling lean and strong and you’re so glad to be making progress towards your goals! Over time, you’ll learn what is significant and what you want to keep track of.
When my clients share a big win or significant challenge during our calls, I encourage them to go back into their document and write about it. For example, if they’re feeling proud that they sat through a meeting and weren’t tempted by the cookies on the table (which they normally eat 2 or 3 of), that marks a really significant improvement. Those wins should be captured. Eventually, patterns will emerge. Certain ways of eating reduce cravings and reduced cravings lead to these kinds of wins.
Similarly, if you’re beating yourself up, feeling frustrated or like it’s just not worth it, it’s worth capturing those sentiments, too. You don’t have to spend 20 minutes writing, but a few sentences about your thoughts and feelings about your day, your food choices, etc – it provides super important information.
I was recently talking to a coaching client who was feeling like change is really hard. She was struggling. She hadn’t been making great choices. She was kinda down on herself. Because she had been tracking for months, we were able to point out a really important pattern: during periods where she was making great choices and making progress towards her goals, she never felt like it was hard. In fact, when she was making great choices and resisting temptation, she would write about how easy it felt. How much energy she had. How excited she was and how proud she felt of her progress.
But, when she was making not-so-great choices, she’d write about frustration, disappointment and how hard it is to change. It was making poor choices that was hard. Once she shifted back to make good choices, it felt easier. It was only when she wasn’t doing the work that doing the work felt hard. It was the energy required in thinking about it that overwhelmed her. Not in actually doing it.
Recognizing and understanding those powerful patterns can be the a huge stepping stone. You’ll only see them if you track.
You guys know how I feel about this. You’ve got to have objective information to go along your food and biofeedback monitoring. My clients routinely update their tracking document with:
- their body weight
- waist and hip circumference
- progress pictures
Many of my clients go through periods where they feel like they aren’t making progress but when they take a progress picture, the results are clear. Major fat loss. Be sure to take your pictures in the same clothes so you have similiar comparisons.
Add your weight, measurements and progress pictures into your document no less than every two weeks. Your pictures won’t lie. When you hit a rough patch, you can look back through your document and see what mindsets, food habits and sleep schedules produced the greatest results based on your pictures and your measurements. Do not skip this part!!!
Examples of How to Track
Personally, I love Google docs for tracking. I don’t like apps that require calorie tracking. It’s cumbersome to find the right food and I think it puts your focus on the wrong things like calories and macros.
Google docs is totally customizable and super convenient. You can access your doc from your computer, tablet or phone. It syncs automatically so a morning update from your computer will be reflected when you open the app on your phone later.
Personally, I use a blank Word-like document and copy and paste a new day each day. Some of my clients find it helpful to create a table within the google doc. Each day, we start a new day on top of the previous day so the most recent day is always on top and we can easily scroll back to view previous days and weeks.
Here’s an example of my own google doc and below that an example of a chart-style view.
Whether you use Google docs, a paper journal, an existing app or a post-it note – it really doesn’t matter. Do what is easiest for you. Do what you can continue to do with ease. Some of my clients take pictures of what they eat and upload those into their doc. Some literally write down notes on a post-it and upload a pic of their post it at the end of the day. The method doesn’t matter as much as the commitment commitment to paying attention and staying accountable. It makes a difference.