Saturday, July 31, 2010

When is it time to stop logging your food?

It seems like it's a hotly debated topic every time someone new reaches maintenance on the CK forums. It's almost as bad as the "Should I eat my exercise calories back?" question!  There are basically three strategies for a new maintainer to take when it comes to logging their food:
    • Cease logging entirely and attempt to eat intuitively
    • Continue logging 100%
    • Log x% of days a week
What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? 

Strategy #1: Cease all logging and attempt to eat intuitively

The idea behind this one is that you've been logging what you eat for an extended period of time, and you've become familiar with portioning and how much food you need to consume to sate your physical hunger.  This method means you'll always need to check in with your body to see if you're physically hungry or whether it's "head" hunger, but you will not need to log everything that you eat.

Strategy #2: Continue logging 100%

 This one is simple: Continue logging just like you did before, just with more calories to play with.  This is what I did this at first because I realized that I had trained myself to eat the smaller portions associated with weight loss, not weight maintenance.  I gradually increased my calorie target up to where it should be by roughly 100 cal/week and relearned what size a meal should look like for me. This is advantageous because it allows you to reassess what you've learned during your weight loss and apply it to maintenance.  It can feel like a bit of a nuisance though, having to log everything you eat now that you've reached your goal.

Strategy #3: Log x% of days a week 

Strategy #3 is a happy medium of #1 and #2, and what I am currently doing.  I aim to log about 70% of the week and don't sweat the days I'm not logging. I am trying to teach myself to eat intuitively and always make sure that I am physically hungry before I eat anything, but there are obviously little slip-ups on the way. I mean, I've been at goal for 7 months but I was fat for 8 years. It's going to take a little bit longer than 7 months to truly reach that point where I can just trust myself to eat without logging.

Weekly weigh-ins are still a requirement for each method, though! I find they help keep me accountable and give me an idea of how I'm doing that week. I am slowly aiming myself towards strategy 1 but it's a learning process so it'll take a bit of time to get there.