Monday, October 14, 2013

Big plates of real food, the summer shift away from food tracking in long term weight maintenance

One great discovery from earlier this year was a shift away from food tracking. I used food tracking from the weight loss months through the first year of weight maintenance. In May of 2013, I did the low-carb challenge and got nuts out of my diet. That marked the shift of not tracking my food.

I started feeling full and eating 3 meals a day. It took some time to adjust to not eating 4-5 times a day, but eventually, the larger, very, very filling meals meant no or very little hunger between meals. I still get hungry, but it's a normal feeling just before meals OR if I've been very physically active.

Occasionally, my emotional eating brain will emerge and give me the wrong signals. I've trained myself to watch for that, and take action. 

I didn't know if I could really eat medium to large meals or not when I got to weight maintenance. I had it in my mind that I might  not be able to do this, and not track calories or log food.

For now, eating within my food template gives me a full, energizing meal and stable weight.

I can see the benefits of food tracking, but it's nice to be off the portion control and the daily food tracking routine.

The real break though came when I eliminated nuts and kept my carb range between 50-90 grams on most days. (Long hiking days mean I can go back to >100 grams of carbs- but we're not talking junk food here, just a little more fruit. Small slices of small portions of in-season apples, peaches, pears, oranges.

I typically only have fruit at dinner, and usually berries most evenings. That's been working well, and I'm aware that not everyone who reaches long term maintenance can have fruit or 85% chocolate, so I thank my lucky stars that I can have both.

I've run into people who are concerned about portion sizes. It's amazing to me, since upping the portion sizes of the right foods, I would be too full. Also, if I  even think about eating high carb, processed junk food, it just doesn't sound good at all! because I'm so full of the nutrient dense food. Never, ever did I think this would happen.

It took me a long time food and mind wise to get to this place. It was worth getting here, though. I feel great and full. Finally. WOW! Just wow. I think being worried about higher fat (even the right kind of fat) is something that I've put behind me. Especially with my latest blood work.

I can't help but think that getting my food template dialed in has helped with the emotional eating, too.  There has to be a connection. I think food tracking has it's place, it's just fun to try and to have found this success, it's almost like an early holiday gift to myself. 

Here's what is working now:
1. Tracking weight but not weighing, measuring, or tracking food on My Fitness Pal.
2. Eating a clean low-inflammatory, lower carb 50-90 grams, Paleo template.
3. Eating as much portion size as I want, and trusting my hunger signals.
4. Eating 3 meals a day.
5. Knowing that I can and will go back to tracking, if needed, to trouble shoot any problems.

Here's what did not work in the past:
1. Not weighing in AND not tracking my food. Refusing to connect those dots.
2. Not looking at my carb range at ALL.
3. Not eating enough of the right foods for my body.
4. Eating moderate portions of added-sugar and junk foods many times a day.
5. Not trying different problem solving techniques and moving on to the next tools fast enough.

PS- a big thanks to Dan French, Amy Kubal, RD, and Corbin Thomas for hosting the low carb challenge. And Jimmy Moore's Cholesterol Clarity book so I could finally not worry about my total cholesterol levels. Looking at Dietician Cassie's tweets of PFC- protein, fats, carbohydrates was in influencing, as well. The convergence of these events coming together helped me shift to a better place. That month in May 2013 was probably the best "shift" I've had all year on the food and weight maintenance front. Here's a big cup of coffee to salute to you all.
Just coffee, no bagels! Oceanside Harbor.


  1. I truly do believe that if we are eating healthy food cooked in healthy manners (or raw/uncooked), calorie counting just isn't necessary. To get there, we learn what portion sizes make us feel optimal. We learn that feeling 'full' isn't necessarily a good thing...that eating 'enough' to be sated is the goal, instead. Once we get that down pat, like you have, we truly are in the sweet spot.

    I still struggle with a desire for sugar. Not every day. Not in significant amounts. But enough to keep me from dropping the 5-8 final pounds I would like to drop. Grains are no problem; they never tempt me beyond my 2-3 times a month four onion rings. I have to decide if I want to give up the little sugar I do reach that final weight goal. I am pretty sure that I need to change my motivation from a number, to even better health that is accomplished from ridding myself of even more sugar than I already have. For whatever emotional reason, I'm not there yet. So continuing to have you as that shining brightly star to aim for and track behind, means SO much to me. Thank you!

    1. The longer I have been off sugar, the better I feel. I can't really dabble, except for the teeny amount in 85% chocolate, which I could give up in a second if I needed to.

      Good luck Gwen! I know you'll find your food template.

  2. I love that you have a plan, follow it, and see it work so perfectly!

    1. Thanks Diane! It feels so good not to feel hungry anymore. I can't help but think there are others out there afraid of natural fats. I was for years. Good to break free.

  3. Ditto to all that you have said. When you eat nutrient dense food, everything else follows. I am currently reading a book called "Appetite for Destruction" by Gareth Morgan, which is all about how bad fake food is and how we should be concentrating on real food, unprocessed and nutrient dense. Most of the stuff I know but it is reassuring to again read the message as to why this works.

    1. I've not heard of that book Lynda. I'll have to look for it. It's amazing how much easier long term weight maintenance is without package "food" products and real food.

  4. I think that calorie counting, at least at first, is necessary for many people to get a grasp of what amount of food they should be eating. That said, then you realize that the only way to eat filling food in the proper calorie amount is to eat unprocessed food. I tried to throw other stuff in, initially, but I just could not make it work. If a person comes to that conclusion without calorie counting, well good. But I think that most people who've overeaten for years, need to get a numerical/calorie reality check. When I finally started counting calories--I was like, OMG! I've been eating too much!!! And, yes, it was waaaay too much, not just a little bit too much. :D

    1. Counting at MFP did help me, Marion. For a long time, especially in the first year. It helped me realize what carb range I was going to need for long term maintenance. Had I not been tracking my food, I would have re-gained much, much more weight. True about the SAD diet. I also had the other problem- eating too little thinking I could loose or maintain my weight.

      Glad to have come full circle.

  5. I personally think if eating processed, then have to track, because there are so many variables (sodium for example). Just another way of putting it.

    I think "categories" and that helps me not have to track - protein, green veggies, etc.

    I actually do not think of myself as low carb, but the rest of the world, looking at what I eat, would (think low carb). That is why there are SO MANY diabetics out there. People are eating a hugely disproportionate amount of carbs. And they do not understand the ramifications. There are the blatant carbs (candy, junk, desserts, processed) then there are the common food carbs (bread, noodles, potatoes, rice, etc) then there are the tricky carbs (squash, fruit, etc). But there are also all the hidden carbs (in things like green veggies) that add up by the end of the day. Tracking is vital, in the beginning, to really understand that. But it does not work to just track total calories, have to track percentages (fat, protein, carbs within total calories) to really make progress long term. Some of the food lists are really helpful with this as they take many of the carb items off the okay list and that adjusts the percentages automatically.

  6. Real food ........

    What a difference it makes

    Well done Karen - you have and are doing great

    All the best Jan

  7. I would like to get to the point where I no longer need to track my food, but I think it is still a way off. Although I eat very little processed food now, I still eat fruit, dairy, rice, beans and oatmeal. I have no noticeable problems with these foods, but do wonder if I would feel even better without some or all of them. It is very interesting to hear about your diet/health changes. Thank you.

  8. Your meals always look so delicious. Is there a particular brand of sausage you like? (I think that's what's in the last picture?) I haven't found one that has a good protein count without substantial fillers and gross stuff.


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