How to Become a Successful Food Tracker

Food tracking is a 15-minute a day proven tool for weight loss and maintenance. Those who track daily get the best results.

If you have the best intentions but struggle to track regularly, you’re not alone. Here are some common barriers to consistent food tracking and ideas for overcoming them.

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One

 You don’t have time.

It takes about 15 minutes a day to track your food intake. You can do it while waiting for an appointment, riding in the car, watching TV, or talking on the phone.

Two

You start strong but quickly lose interest.

Be specific about what you’re tracking. If you’re not sure what your goals are, you won’t know if you’re meeting them or not. You’ll soon lose interest.

In addition to tracking protein and calories, you may want to set short-term goals. For example, if you find you’re skipping breakfast, a plan may be to drink a protein drink on your way to work. Once you get that habit in place, you may decide to track something else.

Three 

Highly processed food is easy to track. Home-cooked food is more challenging.

  • Select a similar item from the app’s list.
  • Calculate the nutrition information in your recipe. If it’s one you use a lot, it may be worth the time. There are a lot of free sites that will do this online. MyFitnessPal also has this feature.
  • If you don’t have time at the moment to figure out the nutrition info on a meal, take a picture and go back later when you have a few minutes.
  • Don’t expect perfection. You will become more accurate with more practice. You’ll also find that tracking gets easier over time.

Four 

You forget.

Put reminders in place until tracking becomes more automatic. You may set the alarm on your phone, put notes in conspicuous places (in the refrigerator, on your desk, in your lunch box, etc.).

Get in the habit of tracking before you bite. Go back and adjust the amount if you eat less (or more) than you intended to.

Five

You aren’t making the best food (or drink) choices and are embarrassed to write them down.

Rather than giving up, be kind to yourself. Try to take the emotion out of it and learn from the data you are gathering. Look at the numbers and plan to correct course and get back on track. Consistently tracking, even on the “bad” days, will help you reach your goals.

You don’t need to track forever. Once you get into a sound eating routine and your weight is stable, you may be able to back off. Just pick your tracker back up again if you have a significant change. A new job, a new family member, an injury, or training for a running event can throw your eating plan out of balance.

 

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Will Food and Exercise Tracking Actually Help Me Reach My Goals?

The odds are in your favor. Studies have shown that people who track their food intake and exercise are more likely to lose weight and keep it off. It provides priceless insight into current habits, areas for improvement and helps achieve progress over time. This is why it works:

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Tracking brings awareness.

Most of us do a lot of mindless munching. Without monitoring, it is difficult to recall what we ate even the previous day – go ahead…try it right now. Do you know how many days you reached your step goal in the last month or made it to the gym? It’s easy to see how tracking helps keep us aware of what we eat and how much we move.

Understanding.

We often select foods that we think are “pretty healthy,” only to discover they are higher in calories or added sugar than we realized. Tracking gives us a better understanding of the nutrition content of individual foods and how those can work together to help reach specific goals.

Control.

Tracking may provide a “pause button,” enabling us to make more deliberate food choices. When confronted with tempting, highly processed food, it can be easier to select a more rational option to meet your goals. Food choices become based on taste, availability, and how they will impact the goals you’ve set up.

Measurements.

Tracking gives you actual numbers to work with. Calories, protein, number of steps, vegetable servings, water intake, consistency of supplements, whichever numbers are essential to you, tracking gives them to you. In place of a vague, “my portions seem to be larger,” you’ll have concrete numbers to work with.

Real Numbers.

The nutritionists have calculations that can estimate calorie needs, but each person has an individual caloric requirement. It can vary based on:

  • The number of diets previously attempted – the cycle of weight loss followed by weight gain often leads to a change in body composition and a lowered metabolic rate.
  • The amount of movement in a day – this includes intentional exercise and activities of daily living.
  • Other factors, such as age, genetic, medical conditions, and medications.

Accountability.

During times of stress, you may resort to more highly processed foods and foods with added sugar. Calories may creep up. Tracking allows you to see how shifts in your intake and lifestyle over time impact your weight and may help you get back on track sooner.

Reality Check.

A portion of almonds is 24 nuts, but if you’ve allotted 100 calories for a snack, 15 nuts are your personal portion size. Even after weight loss surgery, portion distortion is a real thing. Food packaging, restaurant meal size, and societal norms require that we stay vigilant to keep portions small.

Motivation. 

Tracking steps, squats, the number of yoga classes, or any other exercise goal gives you a sense of accomplishment and encourages you to do more. Ditto with hitting food goals – the more milestones you reach, the more motivated you become to keep going.

Use these tips to establish a successful tracking habit if you’re ready to give tracking a chance.

What to Track 

First things first, decide what to track. You’ll want to be sure to record the information that is most helpful to you personally.

Fitness app concept on touchscreen. Mobile phone and tracker on the wrist. Icons for web: fitness healthy food and metrics. Flat style vector illustration.

  • Food intake should include a minimum of calories, protein, and ounces of fluid. You could also record feelings, level of hunger, servings of vegetables, fiber, time of meals/snacks, or other essential factors.
  • Exercise logging should minimally include a measurement such as steps per day, minutes of aerobic exercise, or the number of classes. It could also include the amount of weight and reps used for strength training exercises, the number of sit-ups, etc.
  • Food and emotions can be tightly intertwined. Learning to “feel through” emotional situations rather than numbing with food is an important skill to develop. Recording your feelings can help you to identify some of the emotions that you’re experiencing. For example, if you feel that you really need some chocolate, ask yourself what you are feeling at the moment. You may find stress, anger, loneliness, sadness, joy, or other feelings that may best be resolved in another way.
  • Full-length pictures help document your weight loss journey and can often capture the changes occurring before you do.
  • Weight is significant to track; just don’t become a slave to the scale. Once a week or at the most, once a day will help document your loss.
  • Measurements of arms, waist, thighs, and hips can often change even when the scale is stuck and provide motivation during a plateau. You can also include:
  • The number of medications you have been able to discontinue
  • Improvements in blood sugar levels,
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Your energy level (on a scale of 1-10)

How to Track

Next, find a format that works for you. Are you a pad of paper and pen tracker? There’s nothing wrong with that—sometimes the simpler, the better. Some prefer a little more structure in the way of a spreadsheet or log form. Free websites or apps are available, and many find these easy to use. These may have the advantage of syncing with your fitness tracker.

How often will you update your tracker? There are undoubtedly several options, and it’s crucial to find the one that works best for you. No matter what frequency you select, it’s important to record everything you eat, even those splurges you’d rather not record.

  • One option is to plan and record your meals and snacks a week in advance. Update any variances daily. An advantage to this method is that you can have the nutrition information in advance, allowing you to make adjustments to the plan that better meet your nutrition goals. You can also schedule exercise for your week.
  • You may want to update your tracker daily—setting up an end-of-day routine to record your intake and exercise. This works well for those who are reasonably routine and have good memories. Keep in mind that it’s not easy for many of us to remember every bite throughout the day, so you may sacrifice some level of accuracy by using this method.
  • Recording as you go works well for many people. Right before or after eating, record intake and track exercise as you go. This method allows for adjustments throughout the day based upon intake and output so far. It is also the most accurate way to record food intake.

Tips for Tracking

Be accurate with portions. Measure portions regularly at first and then on occasion. The tendency is to underestimate portion size, and that can skew food tracking significantly.

Include the extras. The mayo on your sandwich, the cube of cheese, a handful of nuts—all adds up. Even 100 extra calories a day can slow weight loss or start weight gain.

Don’t feel the need to be perfect. There is no perfect eating and exercise plan. Don’t let the fear of not being good enough stop you from starting tracking. If you slip up, pick up where you left off.

It gets easier over time. There can be a bit of a learning curve to tracking, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. Once you have it set up and have formed a habit, you’ll find that it takes very little time – about 15 minutes a day.

Something is better than nothing. If you can track food and exercise right off the bat, start with one. If you can just spot-check your progress once a week, start there. Establishing a tracking discipline and seeing the benefits can inspire you to expand your efforts.

Review, Reflect and Adjust

Take time once a week to review your logs—reflection is an important piece. If you’re unsure what you should or could do differently, don’t hesitate to share your record with your Barix Nutritionist for feedback.

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You’re Just One Step Away From Feeling Happier

Modest amounts of exercise, like daily walks, can be a powerful tool that reduces depression and anxiety, improves energy, and helps you feel happier. Exercise improves physical health and is vital for maintaining a healthy weight, for sure. Though, those who exercise regularly are generally motivated by the almost immediate rewards and the enormous sense of well-being it produces. In return for their efforts, they gain a higher level of energy, better sleep, a sharp mind, and more positive and calming feelings.

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How Does It Work?

What we know about how exercise helps improve mood and well-being:

  • Exercise increases serotonin, regulating mood, sleep, and appetite.
  • It reduces immune system chemicals that can make depression worse.
  • Exercise increases the level of endorphins – natural mood lifters.

Return on Your Investment

We all have only a finite amount of time. When you invest a portion of your time and energy into regular exercise, you can expect to reap these rewards:

  • Better concentration and clear thinking. Exercise stimulates the grown of new brain cells, prevents age-related decline, improves concentration, and sharpens mental focus.
  • Feel strong and powerful. As you invest in your health and well-being, a sense of accomplishment fosters feelings of body acceptance, self-worth, and confidence.
  • Sleep improvements. Even smaller amounts of exercise help establish healthy sleeping patterns, protect the brain from damage, and improve energy and focus.
  • Less Stress. Exercise reduces stress on the body and helps feelings of anxiety be replaced with a sense of calm.
  • Fewer Worries. Exercise provides a distraction from worries and helps break the cycle of negative thoughts that can fuel anxiety and depression.
  • Better Coping. When faced with challenges, exercise can help you cope in a healthy way, instead of resorting to alcohol, junk food, or other negative behaviors that only make symptoms worse.
  • More energy. If you’re new to exercise, start slowly, but be consistent. Boosting your heart rate amplifies long-lasting energy.

It’s Easier than You Think

Thirty minutes of moderate exercise five days a week will allow you to begin to reap the mental health and happiness benefits of movement.

  • Break it down into two 15-minute or three 10-minute sessions if that is easier for you.
  • Start slow. It works well to set a time of day and then do even a little exercise at that time to begin to establish a pattern. You can add time, intensity, and a variety of activities as you go. As a habit develops, your energy will increase, and you’ll feel like doing more.
  • Pace yourself, so you are breathing a little heavier than usual but aren’t gasping for air. Your body should feel warmer but not overheated.
  • Schedule exercise when your energy is highest – first thing in the morning, at lunchtime, or right after work.
  • Focus on activities you enjoy. Any movement counts – walking your dog, gardening, cleaning your house, window shopping, or working on a home improvement project.
  • Add music. Pairing music with movement doubles the happy vibes.
  • Be comfortable. Wear comfortable shoes and clothing, and select a setting that you enjoy – a nearby park path, your neighborhood, or your living room.
  • Be social. Working out with someone else can be more fun and motivating.

What’s Standing in Your Way?

Even when you know that exercise will make you feel better, it can be hard to move past the obstacles in your way and get started.

Fatigue. When your body is exhausted, depressed, or stressed, it can be hard to find the motivation to move. Knowing that regular exercise is a powerful energizer may not be enough at that moment. However, if you can push past the lethargy for just a short walk, you’ll start to build a routine that will reap results.

 

Time. The thought of adding another “to-do” to your day can seem overwhelming. Try to build more activity into the things you’re already doing. Park farther away, take the stairs, walk to another area of your work rather than calling, walk extra aisle while shopping, or walk in place during commercials.

Feeling overwhelmed. Start slowly, perhaps going for a short walk or turn on music and dance. Search YouTube for free exercise videos for any experience level. Keep it simple. You don’t need new clothing or a gym membership.

Lack of Confidence. Maybe you think that you’re too old, too heavy, or too out of shape. Perhaps you fear that everyone is laughing at you. If you start to look around, you’ll notice that very few people look like the images in magazines. And most people would cheer your efforts, not criticize you. Exercise at home if you want privacy, and keep in mind that accomplishing small fitness goals will boost your confidence and improve how you think about yourself.

It’s Time to Get Happy

Now you know – long hours in the gym are not required to reap the mood-boosting benefits of regular exercise. Find activities you enjoy, start small and build from there. Soon you’ll notice that you’re feeling better and getting more out of life.

 

 

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Are There Benefits to Taking Probiotics after Weight Loss Surgery?

The addition of a daily probiotic supplement may reduce digestive discomfort, help you maintain a higher vitamin B12 level, and increase weight loss after weight loss surgery.

Your Gut is Full of Bacteria

The digestive system is full of bacteria. It’s incredible what these tiny single-cell microbes do for us. They help the body:

  • Digest food
  • Absorb nutrients
  • Make enzymes, vitamins, and amino acids
  • Produce short-chain fatty acids
  • Promote gut health
  • Protect against pathogens
  • Keep “bad” bacteria from growing out of control

The number and variety of bacteria in the gut can change from stress, diet, medications, age, and disease. A reduction in the number and diversity of good bacteria can result in inflammatory bowel disease, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and cancer.

Obesity and Gut Bacteria

We have learned that there are differences in the population number and types of bacteria between moderate-weight individuals and those with obesity.

  • Overweight individuals have more firmicutes and fewer bacteroidetes than moderate-weight people.
  • Those with obesity have less diversity in their gut bacteria, and those with the least variety tend to weigh the most.
  • Transplanting gut bacteria from obese mice into lean mice results in the lean mice developing obesity.

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are living microorganisms, bacteria, and yeast, which help maintain a proper balance of good bacteria in the gut. Probiotics are found in foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, and sauerkraut. They can also be taken as a supplement.

What do Probiotics have to do with Weight?

Probiotics may affect weight in several ways:

  • Reduce the number of calories absorbed from food
  • Change the levels of hormones related to appetite and fat storage
  • Decrease inflammation, a driver of obesity

A study using probiotics with overweight men and women had positive results. Those taking the probiotic for six months lost weight, decreased waist size, and positively changed gut bacteria activity. Ten billion colony-forming units (CFUs) per day of B420 of the probiotic Bifidobacterium lactis B-420 (B420) was used for this study.

In 2009, a Stanford University study found that those taking a probiotic after gastric bypass had few digestive complaints, higher vitamin B12 levels, and lost more weight.  The study used a supplement containing 2.4 billion colonies of Lactobacillus.

Choosing a Supplement

If you would like to try taking a probiotic, be sure to:

  • Consult with your health care provider first if you have an immune disorder or serious health condition.
  • Choose a product from a trusted manufacturer and check the expiration date.
  • Consider the form that works best for you – pill, capsule, powder, liquid, or chew.
  • Look at storage instructions – some need refrigeration.
  • Look for a probiotic supplement that contains at least 5 billion CFUs per dose. Those with a variety, at least seven different bacteria strains appear to be the most effective.
  • Follow the instructions on the label.

Every Bit Helps

A probiotic supplement might just fit into your weight loss plan. Use in in combination with a wholesome diet, regular exercise, good sleep habits and a healthy lifestyle.

 

 

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Are There Benefits to Collagen Supplements After Weight Loss Surgery?

Collagen supplements are the rage right now, with claims of fewer wrinkles, a full head of healthy hair, and thicker nails. It’s big business, but does it deliver what it claims. Here’s the scoop so you can decide for yourself.

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What is Collagen?

Collagen is the form of protein most abundant in the body – making up about a third of the total protein mass. It provides structure, strength, and stability and is found in joints, bones, teeth, and skin.

Collagen is a family of proteins. There are 28 different types of collagen, each with a unique amino acid (protein building block) combination. Collagen is rich in three non-essential amino acids, lysine, glycine, and proline.

As a Protein Supplement 

Collagen is an incomplete protein, meaning it does not include all the essential amino acids that the body needs. Better options to reach protein goals include low-fat meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, whey protein supplements, or soy products.

Collagen and Skin

In the skin, collagen provides structural support and elasticity, giving the skin a healthy appearance. People make less collagen each year, starting at age 20. As collagen declines, structural support and elasticity are reduced, fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging skin begin to appear.

Collagen and Hair Growth

Collagen plays a significant role in maintaining healthy hair follicles. It is found in the skin surrounding each hair follicle. During the growth stage, the amount of collagen surrounding the hair bulb thickens. And then naturally thins as the hair follicle goes into the resting stage.

In the case of thinning hair after bariatric surgery, stress, rather than a collagen deficit, is likely the cause. The surgery itself, followed by a low caloric intake and the resulting rapid weight loss, creates stress in the body. This stress can cause more hair strands to go into the resting phase than usual and then 3-4 months later fall out. Hair grows back once the condition that caused the hair loss is corrected, although it can take months before the hair returns to its previous thickness.

More Collagen In Doesn’t Necessarily Equate to More Body Collagen 

When collagen is consumed from an animal product or supplement, it is broken down into single amino acids. Those amino acids are put together in different combinations to make whatever proteins, including any collagen the body needs. The amino acids may form enzymes, hormones, make red blood cells, or other needs the body has. It may not be used to plump up the skin or promote lush locks.

The body will form more collagen with a balanced diet of protein-rich foods and a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Nutrients that may support collagen production include:

  • Adequate protein intake. The amino acids that make up collagen are non-essential, meaning the body can produce them if it has the right building blocks.
  • Foods rich in vitamin C like oranges, strawberries, peppers, and broccoli.
  • Copper-rich foods like shellfish, nuts, and red meat.
  • Dark green leafy and orange vegetables for vitamin A.

Limiting Collagen Breakdown

Collagen production naturally decreases with age. Although science has yet to figure out how to slow aging, other factors that lead to lower collagen levels are generally within our control:

  • Excess sun exposure
  • Smoking
  • A poor diet
  • A high sugar intake
  • Excess alcohol intake

What Do the Studies Show?

Most health professionals agree that the studies into the effectiveness of collagen supplements for skin or hair health are lacking. Those that have been done have small numbers of participants and are often funded by supplement companies.

Potential Downside

Manufacturers of collagen supplements don’t have to prove their effectiveness or safety before selling them.

Collagen supplements come from animal collagen especially, bones, skin, and fish scales. These can potentially contain toxic heavy metals.

U.S. consumers are expected to spend $293 million on collagen products in 2020.

Yet, there is Some History

In China, women have considered collagen a fountain of youth for centuries. They consume collagen sources like pig’s feet, shark fins, and donkey skin. They must believe there is some benefit.

Gelatin, a cooked source of collagen, has been a long-standing treatment for hair, skin, and nails in the United States.

And the Word-of-Mouth Testimonials

Some people swear by collagen supplement. They feel their hair and skin improve significantly after taking supplements.

The Bottom Line

There is no good research showing the effectiveness of collagen supplements. The studies that have been done are often funded by the supplement companies themselves. However, there is some history to the use and a lot of word-of-mouth testimonials.

If you decide to give it a try, buy from a reputable manufacturer and let us know what you think by posting on the Barix Clinics Facebook Support Group.

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