10 Things I've Learned From Tracking Food


I've tracked everything I've eaten, every day, for the past 8 weeks. I'm 6'3" and weigh 217. I also know all the measurements for my chest, belly, arms, and legs, but that's a story for another day.

I've been fat. I think about 330lbs, but I was too ashamed to get on a scale. When I decided to do something about it, I started running (well, walking, then jogging, then running). I ate better, but I honestly have no idea exactly what I ate. I remember trying a couple of quick-fix diets which made me way too hungry, so I just stuck to eating better and running more. Over the years, I started playing basketball and lifting weights. All this exercise worked and I made my way down to the 230lbs. I felt great, then I broke my wrist.

A broken wrist was a big setback. I turned to food for comfort for a few months and put on a good 20lbs or so. Clothes were getting tight and I was pretty ticked with myself. My wrist cast came off, so it was time to get back to work. It was slow going. Weak wrists and arms didn't help with lifting or basketball (you try not moving your wrist for 4 months then shooting a free throw and tell me how it goes). I was determined, yet still frustrated. I was having a really hard time losing weight this time around (I felt stuck around 240), so it was time to get serious.


Leonard, a friend with a hard-earned body that looks like a superhero, challenged me to track my food. I mentioned to him that I was having a hard time getting over these food cravings, so he said, "Every time you crave something, add it to a list. After 8 weeks of tracking food, eat everything on that list on one day". He laid out a simple plan for me to track against. Higher carbs on lifting days (fruits, grains, fish, birds, veggies), higher fats (veggies, nuts, pigs, cows) on rest days. Simply live by the "if it fits your macros of carbs, fat, protein for the day, you can eat it".

Well, I've made it 8 weeks. Tomorrow is my "Epic Cheat Day" where I get to eat everything on my cravings list. I'm going to log everything I eat, maybe even take pictures. Why am I doing it then? Because it was part of the plan. I'm a little scared, because I know it will set me back from the progress I've made. I've lost 4" off my belly, lost 14lbs, and I'm getting much stronger. I have more ambitious goals to reach by the end of the year, so I'll follow up on those when I get there. Here are some things I've learned about myself in the process that I wanted to share.

10 Things I've Learned

1. You get stronger every time you say "no"

It's not like the temptations or go away, but I did seem to develop a greater willpower to say "no" the more I did it. Health requires a ton of effort and patience.

2. Hunger is worse than cravings

Want that cookie? What other food are you willing to sacrifice to eat it? I started to identify "junk" food as food that literally wasted carbs and fat away in my macro budget. Junk food becomes way less appealing if you're going to have to go hungry the rest of the day (and we all know how junk food just makes you want to eat more junk food).

3. Inches Are Better than Pounds

You can feel your belly getting smaller. You can feel your clothes getting looser. I haven't really felt lighter. I'm learning to focus more on measurements and photos than actual pounds on a scale.

4. I Don't Enjoy Cooking or Meal Planning

I've never enjoyed using a recipe to throw a meal together and a stricter diet didn't help. I'm fine with tossing some fish in the fridge in the morning to thaw throughout the day then bake for dinner, but that's about the maximum effort I'm willing to put into it. I still pretty much eat what I can find based on what my macros allowed for the day. Unfortunately, I often end up a 5pm (or earlier) having already eaten my allowed macros, then I'd just have to make it to the end of the day. That might sound bad, but I'm used to it and it works for me.

5. I'm lucky I love fish

I rediscovered my love for fish because my macros pretty much forced me into it. My wife hates the smell and my kids don't eat it, so this was a solo effort. If you're okay with fish, shrimp, etc and just tossing it in with some greens and a tiny drizzle of dressing, then you're good to go. Otherwise, you'd better love birds.

6. Tracking Food Becomes a Habit

I almost subconsciously reach for my phone to log my food whenever I eat now. It was a huge concerted effort when I start, but now it's natural. Although, it does add another level of "Where's my phone?" throughout the day.

7. Let Numbers Be Your Guide

Having choice is hard. Having choice without restrictions to reign you in can lead to disaster. Having specific numbers to try and reach my goal gives me a sense of accomplishment each day that "I did something good for myself today".

8. Knowing What You Eat is the Foundation of Health

Sugar somehow has the magic ability to shut down your brain and force you into a zombie-like eating state. Mindlessly eating (not eating minds, that's real zombies) is a recipe for disaster.

9. Putting Food Back is Hard

It's difficult to reach into the pantry, read a food label, realize you can't eat something you want, then put it back. Same with measuring food on a food scale. If you pour out too much, you've got to put some back. It's hard, but necessary.

10. Serving Sizes Are Tiny

Using a food scale on every meal is an eye-opening experience if you're like me and you've always simply eaten until you were full. Luckily, over time, your stomach (the organ) shrinks back down to a normal size and you get fuller faster, but you do have to readjust by going through periods of hunger. It's hard, deal with it.

What's next?

I'll follow-up at the end of the year. There will be lots of pictures and data to scour through. I talk to Leonard all the time about progress and planning. For now, I'm just going to stay the course until I hit my goals.

John Lindquist

Head Egg at http://egghead.io

Twitter: @johnlindquist