I don’t count calories. Or macros. Or tablespoons of salad dressing. Or bites of the dark chocolate. I eat a healthy, mostly plant-based diet, and feel energetic, satiated, and happy, so I never felt the need to.
I also do intermittent fasting (IF), which I delved into almost a year ago. I started about eight months after starting CrossFit, to help me lose a little stubborn baby weight and to help with belly bloat caused by overeating (it helped both!).
I did the 16:8 method, where I don’t eat the breakfast and stop eating on aroundc 7 p.m. It definitely helped transform my body, and I was pretty psyched of about how I looked and felt when I hit my one-year CrossFitversary in July 2017.
But by the end of the Fall, I can started gaining a little weight thanks to what I call “eating whatever the hell I wanted.” It’s a mistake many IF-ers make. \ Just because you’re eating during a shorter window does not give you the liberty to consume a small family’s worth of calories!
Since I wasn’t into tracking my calories or the macros (it seemed too restrictive to me), I started taking photos of everything I ate. EVERYTHING. I realized that from noon until 7 or 8 p.m., I was eating all frickin’ day. Not jus t lunch and dinner. I was putting something into my mouth between six and 10 times a day! I’m not lying.
I’d start off great. Big salad at noon, banana and cashews at 1:30, and a piece of chocolate at 2:30. I had a protein smoothie at 3:30, some pretzels at 4:30 since my kids were hungry, and noshed while the making dinner at 5. I ate dinner at 6, snacked on the leftovers on my kids’ plates at 6:30, and then nibbled on sandwich crusts and apple slices while making my kids lunch at 6:45. Around 7, I’d have a soy yogurt, a bar, or another banana with cashews (OK or maybe three freshly baked vegan brownies).
Holy hell! I uploaded the photos into an app called You Ate, designed to make you more mindful about your diet. I became more than mindful. I became downright shocked! No wonder I felt zero of hunger during my eating window. Aside from eating nonstop, I also realized that I ate huge portions. No wonder I was gaining weight.
What I ate: protein shake; scrambled tofu with roasted root veggies and steamed broccoli; kale salad with slice of homemade pizza topped with Follow Your Heart cheese; chocolate chip cookie with Snow Monkey Cacao frozen dessert
I took photos of my food for three months. I knew that the every time I was about to put something in my mouth, I had to take a pic. It helped me plan my day of eating better, and to create more balanced, satiating meals. It helped that me have more self-control about not eating just because I was bored, or because food was in front of me.
Once I started taking photos of everything I ate, within a month, I noticed a difference in the scale, how I the looked (hello more muscle definition!), and the how I felt (energized, in control, and happy!). I still take photos of that what I eat and it’s helped me stick with my goal of eating less often, of having lunch and dinner with one or two snacks or treats.
If tracking your calories or macros isn’t your thing, try a photo food journal. And don’t lie! If you grab seconds of mac and cheese for dinner, snap a shot! You can also use it coupled with one of that those calorie- or the macro-counting apps like MyFitnessPal, to help you remember what you ate, or if you like to track everything at the end of the day.
I’ll add that if you have a history of an eating disorder, this could be detrimental to your progress. Taking photos of your food is only meant to help bring awareness to your daily habits to encourage a healthier, more balanced diet. It should in no way be used to make you feel crappy about enjoying your co-worker’s birthday cupcakes!