Weighing your food – a little neurotic? Probably. Difference in your routine? Most likely. Not as tedious as you think? You got it!
A food scale is the first tool I recommend, next to a food tracking app, to get the nutrition side of your health and wellness fully dialed in. You can usually find one for $15-30 – a small investment for a lot of information. Knowing how much of an ingredient or food you are actually eating is so important. Some foods come pre-packaged and you can use the information written to figure out how much is in a serving. Problems arise with the bulk ingredients (that you SHOULD be going after) that only give nutrition facts off of weight. At first it will seem strange to weigh everything but over time I have found it to be just another part of food prep and even found it to be a time saver. Here are three “features” and uses I have found:
Tare Function – place an item on top of the scale and press “tare”. This re-zeros the scale for another food. This recipes super fast as you can add ingredients with exact weight and tare the amount in-between.
Food Scale Instead of Measuring Cups – certain liquids are only measured by volume and measuring cups are still needed. However, most foods have their exact weight (given in grams typically) on the nutrition facts label.
ex. 1 Two tablespoons of peanut butter is a serving. Rather than dealing with it sticking to your tablespoon and not being sure if it’s an exact amount, just weigh it (32g) and be done with it.
ex. 2 You have 6 ingredients that would all use measuring cups normally. Rather than making a bunch of dishes, you can add each one and tare in between!
Exact Portions – once you enter a recipe, you can weigh the final product and use that number to figure out portions.
ex. Box of pasta and can of marinara sauce is 55 oz. An 8oz portion is 8/55 of those two ingredients (easily added to a tracking app like MyFitnessPal
The power of knowing exactly what you are eating is huge for people looking to lose weight, build muscle, or just eat a little more healthy. If you are tracking and not getting to your goals it becomes extremely easy to adjust your nutrition because you have accurate CORRECT data that isn’t guessed with “dollops” of this and a “pinch” of that. It may not seem easy or convenient but it’s what works.
Here is my story as concise as I can make it:
Unlike some people, I wasn’t in the “best shape of my life” coming out of high school. I wasn’t too into sports and didn’t work out at all. My nutrition wasn’t great but I was also benefiting from a youthful metabolism that nullified most of the poor eating habits I developed. Starting college, with a diet worse than before, I realized that my metabolism was no longer immune to my food choices; I had definitely put on some weight without really realizing it.
From a fitness perspective, I still wasn’t doing a lot and decided to start going to the university rec center. I played basketball and lifted weights here and there — inconsistent at best. Outside of the gym, I found water and snow skiing incredibly enjoyable. While the extra activity was great, I was still out of shape and was 165lbs (top left picture) at my heaviest weight in 2007.
I started realizing that I didn’t have a plan and didn’t have any idea what I was doing. I tried fixing it with just “eating better” but it was inconsistent and unsustainable (not eating breakfast, small lunch, gigantic dinner…continually fluctuating and not having the know how or answers). Knowing what I know now, I can’t believe I made that work for so long.
In the summer of 2010, I decided to try P90X. I was a little skeptical and knew that I would not be able to do a lot of the exercises out of the box – I couldn’t even do more than two real pull-ups. Two rounds later I found a lot of positives. I was able to do more pus-hups and pull-ups than I ever thought possible and I was enjoying working out. I went three more years only doing P90X in the summers and found it to be enjoyable. From a results standpoint I found that my weight stayed about the same after an initial drop 150-155lbs mostly because of my nutrition and lack of consistency in both nutrition and working out (once the school year resumed).
In the summer of 2013, I decided to commit more to the workouts and did a round of P90X and P90X2 (top middle picture) in a row. I dropped 5lbs and increased my weights in all of the strength training workouts. I felt good but decided to commit to better nutrition at the start of 2014. I tried to follow the P90X3 nutrition guide but didn’t have a lot of support. I certainly didn’t lose my progress but after 3 months, I knew I needed more help — just in time for me to find TD Nation. Three more months with proper macros and hitting my calorie amounts daily I finally got results I was proud of (bottom left picture). More importantly though, I felt connected to a group of people with the same goal who I could relate with, help, and collaborate with moving forward. With the momentum from TD Nation, I decided to make new goals. The goal of “just getting fit” transformed into seeing how far I could push myself. I realized the next step was to add muscle mass. I am currently back up to 150 lbs but feel much stronger after doing P90X hybrids for 6 months and almost 4 rounds of Body Beast.
Fitness has truly become an integral part of my life and I can’t imagine it any different. I stay locked in because I am involved with a group of people who make it fun, and because I enjoy helping other people reach their goals with the information I have come to use in my new way of life.
Consistency is key. We all have heard those three words countless times but it’s a phrase that must not be overlooked. I personally believe that we live in a society that overvalues quick fixes and is reactionary instead of proactive. We go on diets because we are overweight instead of living a healthy lifestyle routinely. We start exercising only to stop because something else is more important. I was guilty of this for a long time. I would hit my P90X hard during the summer when I had more time. Then, as I got busy, I would start missing workouts every now and then until October/November when I would just stop completely and wait for summer to come around again. I changed that and have had my workout routine/nutrition dialed in for the last 2.5 years and feel better than I ever have. Here are some elements of what I do:
- Workout 5-6 times per week for 30-60 minutes. That’s it. I get it done before school because that’s what works best for me and I move on with my day. I don’t let myself skip and I stay with on track with a schedule
- I track my progress with a calendar that I print out and cross off the days I complete. This gives me a visual aid to keep me locked in.
- Weight, Body Fat, and Nutrition are tracked precisely so I can make adjustments to my diet as needed for my goals.
- I track the “fun” foods. And yes, I still have cake. I just am concerned about being precise and fitting the bonus foods (in moderation) into my calorie and macro-nutrient goals. This way I don’t have “cheat meals” that break the consistency and aren’t tracked.
- Make the above a high priority and it will slowly become habit. This didn’t happen all at once for me but now it’s a part of who I am.
If you are frustrated with your fitness level, ask yourself if you are being consistent. If not, I challenge you to make the commitment to turn that around. Take small steps to make the change, don’t get discouraged if you fall, and make being consistent your new goal!
Excellent 5 minute video on how we easily misconstrue calorie values just because we think it “sounds” healthy. Mike is a great follow and simplifies nutrition for novices and experts alike. Here is my quick take:
- Didn’t know the salad was that high in calories (even considering all of the fixings)
- Don’t let this get you down: Proper nutrition is a marathon. The more you learn and experience, the more knowledge base you have to make decisions on the food your eat. At first a goal might be to get rid of soda. If that’s the case, the “Juice” he talks about might be a good option. Even though the calories are the same, the sugar is from a better source, there is less sugar, and you are avoiding some of the other chemicals found in sodas. On the other hand, if your goal is to cut calories by not drinking soda but having the juice instead, then Mike is obviously right on.
- Always be on the lookout for what works for you as you learn to make better decisions. My #1 rule for nutrition is do what you think you will be able to sustain and make small adjustments rather than large drastic ones. Staying consistent with this philosophy will get you to your goals.
I should start with a small disclaimer: I don’t mean to overly promote MyFitnessPal (MFP) the brand. In the end, there are several apps that work in a similar fashion. That said, I have used MFP consistently over the past year and a half and feel I have met my personal goals in large part to it. Therefore, I’m going to talk about it, hype it up, and explain how to use it for yourself but only because I truly stand behind it from experience. Fore some parts of this post, the same is true for MyFitnessPal and any other calorie tracking app but not always. The below is a “How To” on getting started using the app:
Step 1: Download the app or go to the website and create a login.
Step 2: Go through the set up but don’t worry about what goals you have activity level, etc. That is for later.
Step 3: Track what you normally eat for 1 week. Be diligent about catching EVERYTHING. A food scale is almost a must and a small investment for your kitchen. DON’T WORRY about what calories, macros, grams of protein, etc. you’re getting. This is just to set you up.
*Optional Step*: Look up the username “tribley” and add me as a friend!
Honest Truths – During your “calibrating week”, here are some things to be aware of:
- It’s easier to be exact by eating at home and using your food scale.
- Use the barcode scanner and if you’re searching for a food, try to get the green badge “verified” next to it.
- Foods labeled “raw” (ex. “Carrots – Raw”) are good indications they are correct (probably from USDA)
- Check the break down and see if it “adds up”. There are 4 calories per gram of protein and carbohydrate and 9 calories per gram of fat. If it says 30g of fat but 200 calories that can’t be right.
- If you eat out, see if you can go to place where the nutrition facts are online (Chipotle, Subway, Potbelly’s, Roti are my personal go-to’s). You can enter the information yourself or search to see if someone else already has.
Where will this take you? It’s all up to you but tracking is not the miserable task so many people make it out to be. MyFitnessPal is doing the “calorie counting” for you. All you have to do is enter your food and even that gets easier the more you do it as the app saves your previous foods, recipes, entries, etc. It’s no different than tracking your gas mileage or being good about a budget – like them, you just have to commit to doing it. You have to know what your issues are before you can fix them and nutrition is 90% of the battle. Better yet though – logging your food to align with your goals also gives you the freedom to work in foods you might have thought you “could never eat” on a nutrition plan. How good is that!?
Do the 3 steps above and if you want more information going forward, get in contact with me, and we can start working toward your goals.