When It's Time to Drop the Data
If you've ever worked with me, you know I collect TONS of data from my coaching clients. We check in regular metrics from weight to body fat to muscle mass to water intake to steps count to sleep.
In my opinion, if you're not measuring it, you're not managing it - and when you're trying to make a major lifestyle change to your fitness, nutrition, and habits - the more specific the better.
One of the cornerstone habits of food education and weight loss nutrition, then, is food logging. Whether it's in photos, "by the numbers" (like MyFitnessPal or using my app) or old-school like writing in a journal, keeping abreast and mindful of food intake by logging is one of the most scientifically well-documented ways to lose weight (and, if I may note - learn more about the components of what you're eating and how they help or hinder your goals!).
I always joke with clients that I have a "Ph.D." in "MFP" (shorthand for MyFitnessPal). I was an early adopter to that system known as "macro tracking," whereby every food input gets broken down into its component parts (calories, protein, fat, carbs, fibre, and sugar, among others) and converted into a running tally that can be tracked and adjusted over days, weeks, and even years.
And for me, years it was. I tracked almost every single meal on MyFitnessPal, barring only extreme illness and my two immediate postpartum recovery periods, from 2009 to 2022.
You read that right. I faithfully captured my food intake, using food scales and measuring cups and scanning labels and all of the trappings of that process, for THIRTEEN YEARS.
For most of the thirteen years, I wasn't even on a weight loss journey, I was simply so invested in the data. I loved watching patterns emerge when I changed things up (such as the ill-fated six months of 2010 where I mistakenly tried vegetarianism only to emerge listless, undermuscled, and heavier) or watching my calories track similarly across my two pregnancies (me, pregnant with Arch: was I really eating this much with Louise? *scrolls back 18 months* oh yeah, I guess I was).
But then, this year, come January 1st: I just stopped.
It wasn't a single event or a "turning point" or any sort of epic revelation that made me want to stop logging - more of a combination of factors (time and trying to limit unnecessary phone use being the biggest!) that led me to realise:
I just didn't "need" that data anymore.
I had mastered my nutrition intake, my exercise output, my healthy weight maintenance (within 500 grams from start to finish of 2022, a huge goal of mine!), my body composition, and my ability to "see" foods for the macronutrients they contain.
I'd fine-tuned my diet to a place where I was eating such similar meals throughout the week, and across most weeks, that even the occasional blowout restaurant meal or kid's birthday party or lazy pizza order didn't derail anything, because my foundation/baseline had become so rock solid (and yes, proudly, so repetitive).
My current approach to food is much simpler: find some "go-to" meals that work for your personal calorie/macro target (for us, it's a rotation of about 3 different breakfasts, 2-3 different lunches, and 4-6 dinners), and execute those 80% of the time.
This means that yes, you'll be cooking at home (or, if you prefer, ordering in from the same tried & tested healthy spots) more often than not, and yes, you'll probably be eating some similar meals over and over again (that's why it's crucial that your "go-tos" are appealingly tasty as well as healthy!). But you'll also be "freed" from the time/discipline it takes to log all your meals, you'll have the (guilt-free) flexibility to go out and enjoy restaurant/social meals in that remaining 20% of the time, and you'll always have a steadfast healthy eating baseline to return to if things fall off track.
Remember, data is powerful - and there's a definite need for it in the beginning of a weight loss, nutritional reset or body recompositioning journey. But if you're stepping on the scale every day out of habit, tracking calories because you think you "should," or obsessively holding the handles of a bioimpedance machine looking for tiny 0.1% changes in body fat - it might be time to try a simpler, "freer" approach for yourself this year, too.