Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Getting Started Tips: Food Tracker

In my opinion the single most useful tool for weight loss is a food tracker.  Others may disagree with me if they choose, but I believe that tracking your food allows you to be more aware of what you are eating, and how much you are eating.  There is a lot of focus on the exercise aspect of weight loss and I believe that there is too much emphasis placed on exercising.  Yes it is important, but if you are not eating properly then your exercise is for naught.

Now, if I already knew how to eat, and how much to eat then I wouldn't have been in the predicament I found myself in back in January 2013.  I believe most people share a similar story.  If we knew how to eat, what to eat, and how much to eat we wouldn't have a problem!  I believe that eating right is 75% of the battle and that exercise is 25%.  You need both, but if you are going to pick only one to tackle at a time I recommend that you tackle food first.  Food because you eat every day, food because it is what we always think about.  Food is hard wired into our systems, we need food but in today's society we have too much food and all the wrong kinds of food.

That is where the food tracker comes in.  First you need to know how much food to eat.  There are two great programs that help with this.  The first is the one I currently use because they have accommodations for nursing moms, and that is Weight Watchers.

I do their online program which is about $18/month as I think that their meetings are way too expensive ($11/meeting and you are supposed to go every week totaling an average of $44/ month.)  The online program is basically a food tracker where you track how many points plus are in the foods that you eat.  The Points Plus program takes into account fat, protein, carbohydrates, and fiber.  I like how they take into account all the nutrients of food instead of singling out one category.  If you feel like you need support you can participate in their online community.  However this program does not teach you how to eat but it does focus on making healthy choices and the best part is that vegetables and fruits are 0 points!  I love this, but you have to use it carefully because if you eat too many fruits it can stall your weight loss (a problem I have yet to encounter).  You are also given a weekly points allowance of extra points that you can use for anything you want.  (Example: Extra points for dinner, or dessert, or if you want to eat peanut butter and avocados which are high points foods you can and then apply that towards your weekly points allowance.)  You can also trade exercise points for more food if you like.  I do not recommend this as if you use all your exercise points you are essentially eating the same amount as you are burning and I find that it slows down your weight loss.  You can track online or on your iPhone.  They also have tools for creating recipes so if your recipes don't contain nutrition information or you want to make your own recipe you can plug your ingredients into their recipe maker and find out how many points plus are in your recipe.  They also have a bar code scanner which is great if the food is actually in their system, which I have come to find that most foods aren't.

If you need more support from a community and want more interaction with other people in person then you can do the weekly meetings, and that works well for many people.  You are able to buy the monthly pass for about $9.75 a week which makes it cheaper and gives you access to the e-tools from the online version.  Otherwise you get to use paper and pencil to track your points if you are a meeting member.

The second food tracker is My Fit Pal, which is FREE!  I will be switching to my fit pal as soon as I am no longer nursing.
 My fit pal is a calorie counter.  You create a profile and it will tell you how many calories to eat every day in order to lose x pounds a week.  They also have an iphone/ipad app and I believe they also have an android app as well.  There is also a community on my fit pal and you can link it up to your Facebook account and chat with your friends who also have my fit pal accounts to gain support that way.  They also have a bar code scanner which has just about everything in existence in their database so it is very useful.    I have not used My Fit Pal in years so I do not know all of the new features.  I will update this post after I use this product more once I am finished nursing.  But I love that it is free.

Another great program that I have recently learned about is Feel Great in 8.  This is basically an 8 week challenge that tackles not only weight loss but helps you become more well rounded.  To enter into the challenge you pay $18 and you are given points for completing tasks and points are taken away for making poor decisions (such as unhealthy food choices).  Whoever has the most points at the end of the 8 weeks gets half of the money that every contestant put in!  It is definitely great motivation for those who are competitive.

This is also a good way to boost your weight loss if you have stalled or plateaued or are lacking in motivation to keep going. This is directly from their website " Feel Great in 8 is an eight week competition that challenges you to become healthier physically, mentally and spiritually. For eight weeks challenge participants gain and/or lose points based on healthy or unhealthy choices. Weekly points are reported to Tiffany (me! the challenge creator/host). Each participant contributes $18. $10 to the prize money "pot" and $8 to pay me for my time as host. At the end of the eight weeks, the competitors with the most points will get a share of the prize money! There is also a small prize for the participant with the greatest weight loss percentage.
I have been hosting these challenges for almost 4 years now. In the past, winners have gotten as much as $250, and the greatest 8 week weight loss so far is 36 pounds!"

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