measuring tape next to a food label

What 100 Days Of Calorie Counting Taught Me

The day started out like any other day. I naturally awoke out of my bed without the need for an alarm. As my eyes glanced at the alarm clock, I was quickly reminded that I had slept past my desired 5:30 AM wakeup time. The time reflected in my eyes flashed 7:30AM in bright red digital numbers.

“Oh well, there’s always tomorrow to get back on track”

With that thought I instantly hopped out my bed and began my morning routine.

I threw on my workout clothes, got a good dose of H20, and did 30 minutes of an abbreviated miracle morning. I then proceeded to the gym. My posterior chain muscles were on the menu that day. This was not a heavy weight day but more of a high rep day so I embraced my intensity and completed the workout.

Once home, I had my lunch as my actual post-workout meal. From there, I drove to my office and posted last weeks blog . In addition to the blog, I met with some new clients and put together a solid training plan.

I dragged myself home around 6 PM and ate my dinner with my lovely wife. Following dinner, we watched a couple of TV shows. As I was watching the TV shows, I entered my food for the day into my online calorie counter.

Somewhere between 9 PM and 11 PM I feel asleep on the couch. I woke myself up and went into the bedroom. That folks is how my February 16, 2016 ended.

02/16/2016

It wasn’t until four days later that I realized the significance of Tuesday, February 16, 2016. That date is the day I logged into Myfitnesspal for 100 days straight! When I logged into my Myfitnesspal account I was amazed that it stated I was on day 104. I had to do a double take.

“Wait, I’ve done this for 104 days? When was 100 days?”

I looked back and realized that it was 02/16/2016. A day that was just like any other day on this planet…. but it wasn’t.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016 was 100 days of me actually taking the time to document my actual calorie intake, day after day. I’ve logged in online food diaries before but NEVER for 100 plus days straight! This had to be celebrated and talked about. Thus I’ve put together a summary of what 100 Days of calorie counting taught me.

DISCIPLINE

monkkids
The only way to go that long was through discipline. I got a routine of documenting my food into my journal immediately after finishing a meal. It’s just like any habit; it takes more than 21 days for it to become a part of your life.

That’s what happened with me. The first couple of days, I kept forgetting and almost missed my daily documentation. But over the weeks that followed it became second nature.

DON’T TRUST FOOD LABELS

lays-chipsIf you ever look at a food database whether it’s from Myfitnesspal, Nutritiondata or myfooddiary, you will always see several entries for the same exact item. Which one is correct? If your database is good enough, you would be able to find the exact product in it (which is why I’m a big fan of Myfitnesspal. It actually allows your mobile phone to scan barcodes to find exact product labels).

Most of the time you’re eating just a simple single item. Let’s say you’re eating a apple. A search in the databases will give you at least 20 different choices. Chances are every single one of them has a different calorie amount. Which do you choose?

After doing this for so long, my best advice to you is to not take it so seriously. There are so many factors that go into how many calories you burn in a day and exactly how many calories are in a food. You should only use the database as an estimator. Don’t expect it to 100% accurate.

I always treat each day as if my calories may be off by plus or minus 200. That’s why I use more than one tool for figuring out if I’m gaining or losing weight. This is where waist measurements, pictures, the mirror and even the dreaded scale can help you figure the real truth.  Never rely on just one source of information.

EATING OUT IS HARD TO TRACK

familydinner

Without a doubt, the hardest time to track calories is when you eat foods you did not prepare yourself. Especially when you go out to restaurants or eat at friends/family gatherings. You find yourself constantly second-guessing what’s in the food.

“Hmmm did they use one teaspoon or one tablespoon of butter in these vegetables?”

“Shoot, that’s a homemade cake. How much flour? How much sugar? Is it too rude to ask?”

“The menu says it’s sautéed not fried…Is that really true? ”

When documenting the food in your calorie counter, you struggle between either logging every single food item, or just a generic search of the dish you had just eaten. When going to a local restaurant, chances are you won’t even find the menu items in the food database.

With all of this going on, a simple dinner out became a major annoyance!

HOW TO FACE MY REALITY

Guilty dog looking sad while pile of trash behind
The days I hated counting calories the most were the days I strayed from my normal eating plan. Boy were those the hardest days! Here I am, a fitness coach giving guidance to several folks on their own journeys, yet I had just finished a bag of potato chips, two PB&J sandwiches, 6 cookies and a homemade whiskey cocktail. How dare I give them advice!

From Christmas into most of January…………..that was rough! I knew what my past was and here I was repeating the bad habits. Seeing myself constantly inputting that information eventually allowed my old rational side to rise up!

Having daily totals of over 3,500 calories felt like a child screaming in my ears for attention! I had to do something about it. I couldn’t hide from it anymore. I had to face my reality and stop the bad habits!

CAN LEAD TO ISSUES

If a person had an eating disorder in the past, documenting for this long would only lead to more issues. I would only recommend documenting for about a week  to get a grasp of how many macronutrients/calories you are approximately eating.  When first starting a new eating plan and you want to make sure you are getting your marcros right, it makes sense.  Or if you’ve reach a point where you’re trying to problem solve your lack of progress.

Those instances make sense.  Just always remember that it’s more important for you to eat the healthy food than it is to check to see if you are eating exactly 50 grams of fat every single day.  That can lead to a compulsive behavior.

As a fitness coach I would NEVER EVER EVER EVER recommend a person go 100 days with documenting their journey. It can become very motivational at first because you have actual evidence of your eating habits. That motivation starts to wane down when it becomes your normal routine.

All of a sudden you might start to stray from your perfect diet. Then the real truth kicks in; are you going to actually document your embarrassments? Most people would not, and only start logging their good behavior.

I know from my experience that there were days I didn’t want to document what I truly ate because I knew someone would be watching (shout out to the MicVinny Fan Club!). I fear that a dieter would do the same thing if asked to document for so many days straight.  It just becomes easier to lie and falsely represent how you are truly eating.