I seem to be pretty good at self deception and rationalization when the time calls for it. Usually this occurs right when I start thinking about what I would like to eat next.
Do I deserve that donut? Should I make cheesecake tonight? I haven’t had dessert in two whole days, surely a big slice of pie tonight won’t show up on the scale tomorrow!
When I find myself fighting my jeans a little bit more than I would like, or when I come home from a long vacation and know that I have let myself slip a little bit, that usually means that it is time to find my calorie and macronutrient tracker, and force myself to be honest about what I’ve been eating. If I write it down in black and white, it’s pretty hard to lie to myself and act like I haven’t snuck in a few extra snacks, or drinks, hoping there would be no consequences.
There are always consequences. Which is a bummer!
A few years ago, I wanted to closely monitor what I was eating, every meal, every day, to get a rock solid idea of what I was actually eating, to learn why I had been gaining weight or why I was having trouble losing weight. But I didn’t like the phone apps that I saw, and I didn’t want to bother with having to dig out a pad of paper each time I cooked up a meal or went out for dinner.
So I made my own worksheet. With exactly what I was looking for. I wanted to track my calories each day, and also be able to track and forecast my macronutrient balance, to make sure I assembled my daily caloric load in any manner I thought best.
I also have taken the time to add almost 200 of my most commonly used items to my “database”, so that on most days, I can simply cut and paste my daily intake to get a pretty granular idea of how close I stuck to my ideal diet for that day.
Here’s an example, coming back from a vacation a year or two ago, I noticed that I was about 10 pounds overweight, according to me. If weight isn’t your thing, but rather your body fat percentage, that’s fine, I was a few points higher than I would’ve liked in that regard as well.
Instead of simply stating that I was going to diet and try to eat less, without really knowing where I was or where I wanted to go, I stepped on the scale and recorded my weight and body fat percentage. I entered those two numbers on my macronutrient worksheet along with a caloric deficit that I was willing to endure until I got back to my maintenance weight.
I also broke down my total daily calories into macronutrients, so that I could give myself guidelines as to how much protein I’d like to aim for each day, as well as carbs and fat. Usually, when I’m trying to lose some weight, I try to limit my carb intake to 100 grams or less, and then allow myself to relax a little bit when I hit my numbers.
So I start with carbs, and limit myself to about 100 grams, and then I calculate protein. In order to help maintain the lean muscle mass that I already have, I aim for 0.8 grams of protein for each pound of lean muscle, which for me is about 140 lbs times 0.8, or 112 grams of protein each day.
Over the past few years, I have added a few food items that I tend to eat on a regular basis, so that I can quickly copy and paste those nutrient breakdowns into my worksheet, to make tracking and planning much easier. I find that it also helps in slowing down and realizing what your favorite foods really look like and what they might be doing to/for you.
For instance, I really enjoy an occasional gin and tonic in the evenings. But tonic is almost 100% sugar, it’s over a quarter of all of the carbs I want to eat in day, and about 50% of the sugar I’d like to have in any given day. That’s quite a hurdle for just one drink. Maybe a glass of red wine would work out better for me. Or maybe club soda? There are almost always alternatives, and really digging into the dietary worth of some foods has been very helpful in deciding whether or not they are worth eating anymore.
Naturally, I set up my worksheet with a few formulas, so once I figure what percentage of my calories come from each macronutrient, I can see exactly how many gram of each I am trying to reach. Which means that I can simply tweak my percentages as I see fit, to reflect my mood and body composition, and the worksheet will automatically update with my new targets.
After a few weeks, I have a pretty good idea of what it takes to lose a little weight, and I find myself consulting my spreadsheet less and less. And then I’ll hit a plateau, or maybe gain a few pounds, and remember that I’m probably not being totally honest with myself, maybe I’m not counting the few extra nuts in the afternoon or the few bits of ice cream before bed.
And when I’m not making the progress that I desire, that always means that it’s time to look at my calorie and macronutrient worksheet. Watch the movie above to see exactly how I use this tracker, it hasn’t let me down yet!