Diet & Weight Magazine

Is Tracking Calories and Workouts Useful?

By Gjosefsberg @gjosefsberg

Is Tracking Calories and Workouts Useful?I’ve been pondering an app called Lose It! for the past few weeks. I’ve talked about it before and I think it’s an incredible tool for those who are looking to make a change. It can really help you identify what you’re eating, how much you’re exercising and where the difference is between where you are and where you want to be. However, is it something I, or anyone else, should use for the rest of their life? At what point does tracking numbers like this stop being beneficial and start being stressful? Is it worth it to pause in the middle of a wonderful dinner with my wife just to enter in the fact that I ate a burrito?

I would quantify the usefulness of Lose It! and other apps like it in three ways:

  • It’s helpful in learning more about your habits and really digging into the details of where your problems are
  • It forces you to face your issues by making your overeating or lack of exercise really obvious
  • It motivates you to keep working at your goals by presenting you with reports and daily reminders

Learning More About My Habits

I knew my eating and exercise plans pretty well, but even I can learn a few things from an app like Lose It! For example, I learned how much protein I was eating when I went vegetarian a few years ago. I learned how many calories running burned compared to the elliptical, or why walking the dog is not the same as lifting weights. It was also interesting to see just how many calories were in certain dishes, especially in the days before chain restaurants had to list all calorie counts on their menus (at least here in California). For example, did you know that “healthy” tostada salad has around 1400 calories??!?!

So yes, Lose It! was definitely useful when it came to learning things, but much of that value went away once I settled into a comfortable routine. I no longer needed to adjust anything or look up much.

Facing My Issues

It’s hard not to know you’re overeating when Lose It! shows your calorie surplus in big bold red letters. It’s hard to miss the fact that you haven’t exercised today or that you ate just a little too much. It’s hard to ignore how badly you’re damaging yourself with that chocolate binge when you have to enter in what you ate and that little bit of chocolate ends up being more calories than your whole dinner.

Sure, you can cheat, but then you have a very real reminder of that fact that the only person you’re cheating is yourself. It’s crazy to think about it that way and this app really made me aware of how much I was “cheating”.

However, this value also went away once I stopped cheating and settled into a new, healthy lifestyle.

Motivating Me To Keep Going

The app has a variety of ways to keep me focused on my goal. It sends me emails on my progress, it shows me reports on my weekly intake and outtake, it keeps a nice record of my weight over time and it even has a social function to let me show off my progress. All of these do a decent job of keeping me motivated, especially the social aspect.

But here too the value goes away once I get to my goal. If I’m doing good, why do I need to be motivated?

The Bigger Question

I guess the bigger question for me is, when I get as healthy as I want to be and when I get my eating and exercise to where I plan to get to, is there any point to tracking all these details? Am I just stressing myself out and overthinking what should be a very simple thing? Sure, I should occasionally check my weight but other than that, life should take care of itself without me needing to record every calorie.

I look at my friends, the ones who were never overweight and out of shape and they seem to do it without any effort. Sure, they work out and eat healthy but they don’t track anything, they don’t weigh themselves and they don’t worry about eating an extra cookie today or missing a workout tomorrow. They’re at a healthy equilibrium and they’ve got no reason to track things. Why track something if you’re not going to take any action based on it? Why worry about the details when you’ve already reached your goal.

A year or two ago I thought I had reached that stage but then life happened and I realized I still had a way to go.  That’s fine, I’ll get there again but I’m not quite there yet. So for now, I’ll keep tracking things and add “get rid of Lose It!” to my list of health goals.

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