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Week 3 – Document What You Eat, And Watch Your Portions

This is the third in North Raleigh Fitness’, 7-week journey to “Stop Dieting.”  If you missed Week 1, you can go back and catch up on “Drinking More Water,” or  Week 2 which provided instructions to oust unhealthy food from your pantry.  Follow this path, build healthy habits and adopt them into your lifestyle.   And, get yourself off the dreaded, rotating wheel of dieting!

Do you know what you eat?  I mean really know?  Most people think they do until they write it down.  A bowl of cereal for breakfast…ah but wait, I did pour another half bowl of flakes.  Did I measure the milk – was it a ½ cup or closer to a cup.   I know I had a salad for lunch…uh but I did steal a half-dozen fries from my boyfriend’s plate.  And how much dressing did I put on the salad.

It adds up.  Quickly.  Write it down and you’ll be amazed at what you are really consuming.

By documenting what you eat you introduce awareness and accountability into your nutritional lifestyle. Awareness of exactly what you ate, how much of it, when you ate it, and, if you use one of the many internet based food trackers, the nutrient composition of what you ate.  This will give you objective data to help make adjustments as you evolve your diet.  And you’ll be accountable, to yourself of course, for what you are recording in your tracker.  Want that milkshake at lunchtime?  OK, but remember you’ll be logging its 600 calories later today.  You’ll find you’ll be much more judicious in blowing off your diet if you are responsible for recording your transgression in black and white.

Tracking also lets you see the breakdown of your foods.  Are most of your calories coming from carbohydrates, fats, protein?  You’ll be able to say; “I felt great today.  I was strong during my workout.” You can see if this happened to be a day with higher % of protein.  Having the data helps you make smart adjustments.

And if you do fall off the nutrition wagon, having the data helps your climb back on be a bit easier as well.   Maybe you’ve had a day that you really wanted that milkshake.   And you wrote it down!  It’s blip on an otherwise consistent calorie chart.   Just one point – among 20 other “perfect” points in your running 3-week chart.  Not a big deal.  Tomorrow’s total can come back down.   Of course, if your daily calorie chart starts looking like a heartbeat monitor, you may need to rethink some things….

I find the easiest way to track eating is to use one of internet trackers. MyDailyPlate, FitDay, myfitnesspal, and many others offer free tracking profiles that reference databases of literally thousands of foods complete with nutrient breakdowns that quickly and easily calculate your calories, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and other nutrients based.  Spend about 10 minutes every day entering your food and these tools do the rest, giving you an instant view to your intake and your trends over time.  Most have apps for your mobile device that let you record on the fly while you are traveling or in a restaurant.  Check these tools out.

If you can’t seem to master calorie logging there is another way, and perhaps much easier and your hand is all you need. Use can use your fist, palm, cupped hand, and thumb to practice calorie control – while avoiding the hassle of logging your calories. Here how it works:

  • Your palm determines your protein This is meat, fi­sh, eggs, cottage cheese, and greek yogurt. One palm usually contains ~20-30g of protein, or 80-120 calories. For simplicity round to 100 calories per palm of protein.
  • Your fist determines your veggie We are talking about broccoli, spinach, peppers etc… A serving of these vegetables contains little calories, so no need to estimate here.
  • Your cupped hand determines your carb The dreaded carbs. These should be “heathier” choices such as rice, beans, or grains. One palm usually contains ~20-30g of carbohydrates, or 80-120 calories. For simplicity round to 100 calories per palm of carbs.
  • Your thumb determines your fat Think oils, nuts, and seeds. These are calorie dense so we limit the intake accordingly. One thumb is ~7-12g of fat, or ~63-106 calories. We’ll use 80 to keep it simple.


Using this method, you can easily gauge what you are eating and with some simple math estimate your calories for a meal or per day. Let’s use an example for a woman trying to lose a few pounds and is targeting 1,200 calories for the day.

  • Breakfast: 2 eggs (about 1.5 palms, or 150 calories), 1 slice toast w almond butter (about 1.5 palms, or 150 calories + 1 thumb of fats, 80 calories) = 380 Calories
  • Lunch: Spinach salad with 1 palm grilled chicken (100), 1 palm quinoa (100), 1 thumb olive oil (80) = 280 Calories
  • Snack: 1 palm Greek yogurt mixed with a palm of mixed berries (100 + 100). 200 Calories.
  • Dinner: 2 palms fish (200) crusted with a thumb of almonds (80), 1 palm broccoli (0), 1 palm rice (100). 380 Calories.

This gives us 1240 calories for the day. Since these are estimates we are well within our target of 1200 calories. It can really be that simple.

Now notice our example didn’t include any liquid calories like soda or alcohol, and certainly no “fly by” snack you grab while passing the refrigerator. That is where all the unaccountable calories add up and your discipline needs to win out. Use your fist, palm, cupped hand, and thumb and practice calorie control

Whether it’s logging your food or using the hand method, try these and you’ll start eating better right away.

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