You Don't Have to Track Forever
In order to lose body fat and reach your goal physique you're going to have to maintain a calorie deficit for an extended period of time. Like I outlined in this post, any diet will work eventually if it follows some form of calorie restriction. On top of that, to ensure your are eating the right balance of macronutrients, you'll need to have an idea of how much protein, carbohydrates, and dietary fat you are consuming on a daily basis and making sure it's aiding you on the journey towards your goal.
The Problem With Tracking
Tracking your macros is a task. You have to write down everything or put it into an app, You have to weigh your food and it's difficult to eat out without basically guessing. Many people, when I suggest this to them, are weirded out by the concept of tracking what you eat.
If you were running into money problems, surely you would track what you are spending your money on to help identify the problems in your spending habits—this is no different.
I do understand that this is added complexity to your life but tracking your macros is hands down the best thing you can do for your health. Not only can you ensure that you are making progress towards your goals but it will also give you a much better understanding of what you need to eat and also better inform your food choices on a daily basis. I'm not suggesting that you track forever, but even doing so for a one-month period will be the best thing you can do for your overall health.
That being said, can we move away from tracking, be less neurotic, and still make progress towards our goals? Yes, we absolutely can.
Moving Away From Tracking - Rules of Thumb
How do you move away from tracking and still make progress towards your goals? If you're not writing down what you eat how can you be sure that your still progressing? Here's a couple of rules of thumbs that will help:
1. Be Boring
If you've been making progress, you will have played around with your diet to fit in meals which fill you up and satisfy you. These? These are the staples of your diet, these are things that should keep eating week in week out. Why? Because you've tracked them before, you know roughly what's in them, you can reproduce the meals easily and they satiate you, meaning you're less likely to snack on other things. By eating the same meals as before, you can keep consistent.
A couple of staples that I have in my own diet are chicken salads and roasted potatoes. A salad (without too much dressing) can be very nutritious and a good source of protein with some lean meat as well as packing in a bunch of micronutrients.
2. Eyeball It
By this stage, it's time to take off the training wheels, put away the food scale, and use your eyes. That's right, you've been doing this for enough time that you have a rough idea of how much is in what as long as you're eating roughly the same foods. If you know that there's about 170g of chicken in a typical breast, and that's about 38g of Protein, then there you go. Now you know roughly how much protein you've got left in your day.
3. Track Your Bodyweight Progress
If you want to make progress you're going to have to track it. Not your macros—your bodyweight. Weigh yourself everyday and take an average for the week. We take an average to smooth out the daily fluctuations that can be caused by many different things like stress, water, bloat, or food in your system.
If week by week your still making progress towards your goal then great, keep going! If progress is slowing down, maybe you should take a closer look at your choice of foods or portion sizes to adjust.
4. Have a Diet Schedule
Having some kind of schedule to your diet helps a lot. By keeping to some kind of habit that works, you're far less likely to deviate from your goals.
For example, I like to have a lot of carbs in the evening as it helps me sleep and I prefer bigger meals so my daily schedule looks like this:
- Coffee in morning
- High Protein Salad ~ 1pm
- High Carb Dinner ~ 7pm
- High Fat Dessert ~ 10pm
The beauty of this is that it's simple—I'm basically aiming to tick off my macro needs throughout the day. It's a pretty simple rule of thumb but that's what works for me. A chicken salad for lunch satiates me without causing me to lose focus for the afternoon, a huge portion of roasted potatoes at night fills me up, and then I can still fit in a tub of ice cream later in the evening while maintaining a calorie deficit. Find a schedule that works for you.
5. Offset "Bad" Meals with "Good" Meals
You shouldn't label meals as Bad or Good, only more or less nutritious. Saying that, eating out at restaurants, or eating a tub of ice-cream isn't what I would describe as a "Good" meal. Sure you can absolutely eat well at restaurants, but typically they will add lots of butter and oil to make their meals taste better and make it difficult to estimate. Even some restaurant salads can net you up to a whopping 2000 calories, which is way more than most peoples recommended calories when trying to lean down. Imagine that?
I like to offset "Bad" meals with "Good" meals, for example I know that I'm going out to dinner tonight with friends and I'm going to eat pizza, not the most nutritious thing you could have, so I'll offset that by having a high-protein salad for lunch with a little bit of salad dressing. By following this rule alone you can make progress towards your goals without having to track.