Life Experiment 9: Recording what I Eat
+ Weight decreased from 158lb to 150.4lb a reduction of 7.6 lbs
+ Fat Mass decreased from 16.3% to 13.7%
+ I am consistently over eating fats and sugars
+ The items which contributed to most of my calories were: Cheese*, Chocolate*, Avocado* (not really surprising as I have 1 a day), beer, wine and yogurt*. * fatty fatty food items
+ I am under eating protein
+ I always thought I ate too many carbs, but my intake it about right.
+ Dinners and snacks contributed to a disproportionate amount of my calories.
+ Friday, Saturday and Sundays were my downfall, it’s as if my willpower had been depleted and I told myself that I deserved to splurge on the weekend. Despite these weekend woes, the recording of my food helped to slow down the downward spiral on these glutenous days.
+ Keeping a record of something, makes you more mindful and consciousness of your decisions, be it a good decision, such as working out, or a bad one such as drinking too much beer.
+Continue to record my food in order to:
1. Keep me mindful of what I eat
2. Act as a form of friction to slow down my eating
3. To analyse any improvements in my macro food groups (fat/protein/carbs), including:
+ Eating more protein, through grains and beans
+ Cutting down on fatty food and sugary food (my next experiment), as well as alcohol.
4. When splurging on weekends, I am going to avoid having breakfast in order to compensate for the other meals. I will also restrict these bad days to just one a week, keeping the items that I have relatively healthy (for example a vegetarian, wholewheat pizza)
5. Eat a bigger lunch, smaller dinners and less snacks.
This month I have recorded everything that I have eaten using MyFitnessPal. You may have heard of the expression “what gets measured, gets managed”, well I certainly found this to be the case, as I saw some amazing results over the last 30 days as well as having my eyes opened to some aspects of my diet which I thought were true but were in fact not.
I’ve been guilty of being very laissez faire with my diet, eating with common sense but often falling off the horse and indulging more than I probably should. If you think about your diet, it gives you the energy that we need to work, play and exercise as well as providing the nutrients we need to replenish ourselves when we get sick. Our diet should be the first thing we optimize or at least have some awareness of.
The prospect of recording everything that I ate was a little daunting. However MyfitnessPal has an extensive database of foods and a barcoder reader which made the task a lot easier than I had imagined.
Another factor which made the job of recording my meals easier was the ability to add frequently eaten meals. For example I often eat Noosa Yogurt (an amazing yogurt which you must try if you haven’t already), with blueberries and homemade granola as a snack or breakfast item. Instead of adding these three items individually, I can simply add them as a meal and all three will be recorded.
I used an app called ‘Pact‘ which connects with MyFitnessPal to add an element of gamification to the recording of my meals. With Pact, you choose an amount you are willing to stake (I chose $30) and the number of times you want to record your meals for the week (I choose 5). If you failed to record your meals for the amount you specify you have to pay the amount that you staked. This meant that I could potentially lose $150 if I did not record my meals. This money would then be placed in a communal pot and shared between the members who did complete their goal. There are other ‘pacts’ for exercise and recording your vegetable intake which I also took part in. In total I earned $13 over the 4 weeks , a nice bonus, but what was more valuable was the accountability to record my meals.
What I learnt:
In the same way that a budget forces you to confront your spending, the same was true with recording my food. I was less likely to overindulge as I confronted with my calorie goal for the day that was automatically programmed into MyFitnessPal, based on my weight and height.
MyFitnessPal gave me a breakdown of my macros, the proportion of carbs, protein and fat I consumed, breaking each of these down so that I could see which foods were contributing the most, allow me to be more aware about cutting these out of my diet.
I was always under the impression that I ate too many carbs, and was oblivious to my fat and protein intake. This experiment helped to open my eyes to that misconception, and helped me to realise that I needed to cut down on my fat and sugar intake.
I try and follow the pareto principle in my life, finding the things that make the biggest difference and increasing or decreasing them as required. As MyFitnessPal provided a league table of the foods that were contributing to my fat and sugar intake I know which foods will have the biggest effect in reducing the the percentage of fat/calories in my diet: Cheese, Chocolate, Avocado, yogurt , wine and beer.
Before this experiment, I ate semi-unconsciously, taking whatever I wanted but trying to be relatively healthy in my life. . I had an awareness of what was healthy and what was not however I did not know how many calories I had eaten or what the contingency makeup of the food was. I found that having to record everything has enlightened me to my diet and has helped to hold myself accountable to all the food I eat.