Food label and measuring tape

What 200 Days Of Calorie Counting Taught Me

I accomplished a major milestone on the morning of Friday, May 20th 2016. That was the day I finally reached my Countdown to 195 goal of achieving 195 pounds. Getting down to that weight was not as easy as it’s been in the past.

When it was finally achieved I felt a huge relief. As I was writing Week 27’s post , I logged into my Myfitnesspal account to copy that week’s food journal. To my surprise I saw that I had been logging for 194 days straight.

“Hmmm, I only got 6 more days until 200. Should I keep going?”

In What 100 Days Of Calorie Counting Taught Me, I talked about the pros/cons of calorie counting for 100 days straight. With 200 day so close I decided to keep logging and share the lessons I learned.

Here’s some additional lessons I learned after logging for 200 days straight:

I’m (Too) Honest

How many people do you know brag how easy it is for them to lose weight in a couple of weeks if they truly tried? How many of them actually did it and allowed you to follow them on their journey?

During my Countdown to 195 posts, I brought the readers along for my quest to drop 15 pounds of fat by the end of 2015. At that time, I naïvely expected the countdown to only last 5-6 weeks. Weight lost was easy for me in the past, so I thought this would be an ego-boosting breeze!

With the holiday season as my biggest obstacle, the countdown was going to be the perfect challenge and test for myself. I had just released Release The Beast, so it was impeccable timing to show that I backed what I wrote.

When six weeks turned into ten weeks that turned into sixteen..boy did I start to feel embarrassed. That was definitely not in my plans!

Here I was… a best-selling fitness author and online coach struggling to meet my fat loss goal in a timely fashion.

Most people I’ve seen would just stop posting the updates. I know countless weight loss journals that have been abandoned and left for dead. When asked about their progress, they would dodge around the question as if it was never asked.

“Fat loss? What are you talking about…I never said anything about me wanting to lose weight. You must have me confused with someone else.”

Well you see I’m proud of the fact that I was completely honest from the start. Every bad eating day was documented to a “t”. If I ate half a cake, you better believe I logged that into my food journal.

With 200 days of journaling, I realized very quickly that there was no place to hide. If I was going to hide, I should have not opened my mouth.

And that’s the honest truth!

Abraham Lincoln statue

Turning Cheat Meals Into Cheat Days And/Or Cheat Weeks

Looking at half a year’s worth of data reveals interesting habits when you stray from your diet. I’m a big believer of John Berardi’s philosophy of following your diet plan 90% of the time. That extra 10% leeway allows you to be human. There’s really little drop off from following your diet 100% of the time vs. 90% of the time.

You can do the calculations yourself and find that if you eat 25 meals a week you can afford to only have 2 cheat meals for the week for 90% or better compliance. Or you can simply have one cheat meal a week to keep things simple.

What you don’t want happening is turning cheat meals into a cheating binge. Looking at 200 days worth of journals, I clearly saw how I was not having just cheat meals, but cheat days and cheat weeks.

That’s a big no-no.

People who claim they are doing all they can to lose their weight fall into this trap easily when there’s no data available to them to see the truth.

After looking at my journal, it was clear to me that I did not need to do more cardio. I did not need to add an extra workout during the week.

Nope.

I just simply had to stop having cheat days & weeks.

You See Patterns

My biggest cheat days occurred during the weekends. I would notice that a late Friday cheat meal normally would extend into me eating at least one more cheat meal on Saturday. Whenever I did eat something “naughty”, I would continue to feel that I needed to finish the whole dish off that night or the following day.

That was a bad pattern.

I also saw how when having a normal day to day routine like going to work, it was easier to make healthy eating a part of that routine.

You See Your Addictions

Milk shakes, cheeseburgers, hamburgers, french fries, onion rings

I don’t’ know what it’s like to be a drug addict, but I do have an idea of what it’s like to be a food addict. There were periods where I was conscious that I was in the middle of a food binge. I knew I should stop, but I kept going.

I told myself,

“You’re better than this, don’t’ worry you’ll stop tomorrow”

Those tomorrows became increasingly embarrassing, as I had to input my data into my food journal. Looking at that information is what kicked me out of the habit.

Of course, it should have happened the instant I went overboard. But the journaling did act as a constant reminder that:

“Hey, at least you’re consistent with this one thing…documenting everything. So what will people think about you when they see this week’s entries?”

That was the thought that help me kick the bad habits.

You Need Persistence

It takes a very special something to continue to keep recording your food intake. It’s a great test of persistence. It shows that no matter what, I’m not giving up.

The recorded data is going to save my health in the log run. Whenever I need to do research on what Mike was doing from Thanksgiving 2015 through Spring 2016…these journals will be proof of what I SHOULD NOT be doing as well as WHAT I SHOULD BE doing.

There will be no more second-guessing because I have all the data I need to make informed decisions in my life.

The foods that caused me pain before were still causing me pain during the challenge. Why do I need those foods in my life? That persistence paid off to my future self and plans.

You Should Enjoy Eating

Some folks are too tied down in trying to make their macro’s fit the precise percentages. If on a 40/40/20 split, too many folks are focused only on eating exactly 40% of protein, 40% of carbs and 20% of fat.

If their fat numbers are down, they will force feed some oils into their foods to make the calorie goods happy.

Take a deep breath and…Relax!

Women eating salads and laughing at a outdoor patio restaurant. Photo is courtesy of WiseGeekWhen losing weight, it’s important to keep track of calories from time to time. But if you aren’t enjoying your meals and the process, what’s the point?

I understand that there will be times when food will be restricted but that doesn’t mean it HAS to be bland and boring. There are way too many food options on this planet. You should find ways to enjoy that meal.

Don’t just think of it as numbers (fats, carbs, protein, calories, etc.) on a restricted page.

When eating dinner, appreciate the communion that should be going on with that meal. Somebody took time out of their day to package the items in it, give thanks!

If at a dinner table, try to socialize with your family & friends!   After all, you are logging your food journal to be a better person right? That doesn’t just stop with those macros, actually interact and engage the world!

200 Days Of Food Journaling Is Too Much!

My final advice is that nobody should be attempting to log for 200 days in a row! A couple of days to maybe a few weeks are more than enough to tell you what you need.

I only recommend logging when you can’t figure out why you’re not dropping weight and/or to be accountable. If you keep doing this for too long you start to lose focus and might even fudge some of your numbers which isn’t the point.