Stay On Track with Food & Fitness TrackingNovember 16, 2015
You've had weight loss surgery, lost a significant amount of weight, and now you have either experienced a stall in your weight loss or have even gained a little (or a lot) of weight back. What should you do?
Over my many years of counseling post-op bariatric surgery clients, these are the most common concerns I hear. While there are many approaches to working through a stall or losing regained weight, tracking and recording your food intake and exercise is one of the most important, and one of the most often overlooked, approaches to dealing with this concern.
Self-Monitoring: Food and Fitness Tracking
The process of tracking and analyzing what you eat and how much you exercise is called “self monitoring”. Doing this type of monitoring helps you become more aware of how your eating and exercise habits are impacting your goals, whether that is weight loss, inches lost, or improved exercise endurance.
Research shows that those who kept a food record six days per week lost twice as much weight in a six-month period than those who recorded their food intake one day per week or less(1). Food and exercise diaries work because recording your intake (food) and output (exercise) provides accountability and increases awareness of where extra calories may be coming from.
Tracking Your Food
Tracking what you are eating will help you eat less and exercise more. Research has shown when people recorded what and how much they eat tended to eat less, which can lead to weight loss. You do not have to be specific or measure to the ounce. Just writing down what you are eating will make you more aware of what you are consuming.
If you would like to take it a step further, there are many websites and smartphone applications available for free or a small cost that can help you track your calories, protein, and other nutrients. Some of these apps even allow you to scan bar codes off different foods and automatically input the nutritional information onto the tracker. Some of the most common applications and websites include ObesityHelp's Health Tracker, My Fitness Pal, Spark People, and Lose It! These apps and websites will also let you go back and look at trends in your food intake and your weight history. That way, if you start to gain, plateau, or get off track, you can go back and see what did and did not work because it is all written down and recorded. Many of these applications and websites provide forums and communities that can provide additional accountability. Check with your surgeon’s office or registered dietitian for your calorie and protein goals as these can vary from person to person. I typically recommend 80 to 100 grams of protein daily, and 1000 to 1200 calories daily.
Tracking Your Exercise
The opposite holds true with exercise. Those who record their exercise tend to exercise more than those who do not keep track. One of the easiest things you can do is purchase a pedometer and to wear it throughout the day. Check the pedometer at the end of the day to see how many steps you have taken, write it down, and then try to beat that number the next day by 100 steps. Eventually, you will be taking significantly more steps than you were even just a few weeks before. Small changes in how much you are moving daily can pay off in the long run, but you have to start somewhere!
Tracking Your Measurements
Another tip is taking your measurements on a monthly or quarterly basis and write them down and look for trends and losses. Many times when you are not losing weight but you are exercising, you are losing inches. When you are putting on muscle with a new exercise regimen, you are likely losing fat at the same time. One pound of muscle weighs the same as one pound of fat, however, muscle takes up less space than fat does and is more metabolically active (meaning you burn more calories with more muscle on your body). This explains the plateau that many people see when they start an exercise regimen, the body composition from fat to muscle does not result in immediate weight loss, but rather inches lost. This is why it is a good idea to keep track of your measurements! Common measurements to take are: hips, waist, bust, arms, and thighs.
1. Purchase measuring cups and spoons. This will help you become more aware of portions sizes and ensure greater accuracy when logging food and portion sizes. Eventually, you will not have to use these as much as you will get better at estimating how much you should serve yourself and consume.
2. Record as you go. Write down what and how much you are eating as you eat it. If you wait until the end of the day, you are less likely to record what you ate, and may even forget what you ate. Recording as you go will give you greater accuracy.
3. Write down how you feel. Adding this extra step will help you identify if you are actually hungry, or eating out of stress, boredom, etc.
4. Find an accountability partner. This could be a significant other, friend, or someone that has also had bariatric surgery. Share your food & fitness tracking with one another for added accountability.
Hitti, M. Keeping food diary helps lose weight. 8 July 2008. www.webmd.com.
ABOUT THE AUTHORLauren Robinson is the Lead Dietitian and Manager at Bariatric Dietitian Services. She earned her BS in Nutritional Sciences with an emphasis in Exercise from Oklahoma State University and her MS in Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University. She has worked with over 5000 patients since beginning her career in bariatrics, and especially enjoys helping post-weight loss surgery patients get back on track!
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