Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The pros and cons of logging your food

Today we’re going to talk a little about logging food and how it works for me and might (or might not) work for you. I’ve mentioned it before on the blog, but I use a great app to help me hold myself accountable- My Fitness Pal. (You can also use Spark People)
my fitness pal logo
I don't use this app 100% of the time 365 days a year. I use it when I am finding myself "falling off the wagon" a bit in terms of portion control and overall healthy eating (darn, sweet tooth!) OR when I am training for a race and need to make sure I am eating enough carbs and calories (and not so much junk). I wanted to write this because I get mixed reactions from people when I tell them I log my food and exercise: “But you don’t need to keep track of what you eat, you’re already at a healthy weight”; “I thought you said you don’t diet”; “So, you gonna log that last slice of pizza?”; "why don't you just eat what you want when you want and stop when your full?"
Or when friends express interest in losing weight and I recommend MFP: “I don’t want to keep track of what I eat, I just want to eat better”; “That just seems too obsessive for me”
I have a slightly different philosophy when it comes to tracking my food. I don’t believe that logging food has to be the same as restricting food. My calorie range varies greatly depending on my exercise level. I’ve found over the years that I’m most comfortable somewhere between 1700-2000 a day depending on how hungry I feel and how active I am. When I am training for a half marathon, this can go upwards of 2500 calories a day! That is not restricting food.
Now, I’m not an expert in any way or a registered dietitian/nutritionist, but I do know what works for me. I also need to stress that what works for me might not work for you. That said, I want to address some of the comments on using a “calorie counting” app and use it to illustrate some pros and cons of this type of system.
“But you don’t need to keep track of what you eat, you’re already at a healthy weight”
First off, thank you for thinking so. Secondly, I’m not at this weight by magic, I promise you. No, I don’t follow a strict diet (well, I try to eat unprocessed and mostly vegetarian), but I can’t eat whatever I want all the time and stay my size. I love to eat and HATE being hungry. As I’ve gotten older my body has naturally changed and it takes work to maintain a weight that’s not only healthy and realistic, but that I feel great at. It does require effort to maintain a healthy weight.
PRO: Learn what foods give you the most energy and finding a calorie goal you can stick with comfortably.
“I thought you said you don’t diet”
I don’t diet. I log the pizza, the wine, the pasta, the bread, the cookies, and the chocolate (yup, everyday) . The beauty of tracking calories this way is that you can learn balance- no food are off limits, but you may need to make some adjustments later to stay on track and still indulge in things you love. Today, for instance, I had a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast, which is much more than my normal two eggs and a banana, so I made adjustments at lunch.
PRO: There are no “forbidden” foods or food groups
“You gonna log that last slice of pizza?”
dinner log
CON/PRO: If you stick to it, you need to log everything. Accountability can be great, but it can also give you a rude reality check. My dinners are usually big like the one above. I make sure I save room for them!
“I don’t want to keep track of everything I eat, I just want to eat better”
Sadly, most people don’t know what that means. Just because you ordered a salad doesn’t mean you ate healthier than someone who ordered a steak. See this perfect example from the nutrition calculator on the Outback Steakhouse website:
Outback comparison
Beyond the fact that the salad has more calories, it also has way more sodium and saturated fat. The steak, on the other hand, is higher in protein and fiber. Knowledge is power, people.
PRO: Using a tracking app can help you educate yourself about what you’re really eating.
It’s not about staying under the calorie goal. There will always be times when I go over, but the goal of using a tracking app (for me, at least) is to become educated about what I’m eating. Beyond just calories, I like to see if I’m getting enough vitamins, potassium, fiber, etc. It’s a lot easier to keep track of that stuff if I can log it somewhere and take a look at the end of the day.
“That just seems too obsessive for me”
And here enters the biggest CON of logging your food. For some people, logging your food can become obsessive and could turn into a real problem. I don’t recommend using MFP for anyone who has a history of an eating disorder or an unhealthy relationship with food. I have had eating struggles in the past, so I am very cautious and in tune with myself about how I am feeling when I log my food. If I ever feel old habits coming back, I stop. However, I have found that logging actually HELPS me NOT slip back into old habits because it is all scientific, creates balance for me (which helps prevent binges), and makes me feel very much in control of my health and food intake.
Logging my food is great for me because I LIKE numbers. I enjoy collecting data and figuring out what it means for me. Analyzing my ratio of carbs/protein/fat is interesting because it helps me make better decisions in the future, especially when I am training for a race.
The reason MFP works for me is that I separate the “numbers game” from reality. At the end of the day, food is just food. If I go over my sugar goal or calorie goal for one day, it doesn’t ruin my week. I’m not going to skip dinner because I met my calorie “goal” by  2:00 PM (however, I would be extra conscious to have a smaller meal meeting the nutrients I still needs that day). What it does, though, is help me to live a lifestyle that follows the 80/20 rule so I can be healthy, but also live a little. I still eat big celebratory meals on birthdays, special occasions and on vacations. I also still LOG my foods on vacations to make sure I don't go too crazy. This app has helped me stop treating food as a reward and more as a way to maximize my energy and my mood. 
I realize that many people might not agree with me on the validity or usefulness of tracking apps. I’m not affiliated with My Fitness Pal in any way, in case you were wondering. I think that using this app can help people get more in touch with their body through food and, in turn, help intuitive eating. I’m definitely interested in hearing your thoughts or experiences on logging food and/or counting calories!
What are your thoughts of food tracking apps?
*This post was copied and edited by myself from here*

Monday, April 21, 2014

Traveling is my favorite

Well, hello!

I am back from all my travels, and I had the best time. I think I say that every time I get back from a trip:) I most definitely have the travel bug. The second I get back from one place I am already thinking about my next trip! Greece- where are you?!

There is too much to say about my trip so I will let the pictures do the explaining! Though, I do fully believe that I am meant to live in California at some point in my life- the lifestyle, weather and pace is my kind of living! Who wants to help me get a job out there?!

Oh, and this trip was the first time I have ever been stuck in an airport overnight due to weather (thanks, springtime in Chicago)! Luckily, I got a distressed hotel rate and was able to stay the night in a nearby hotel and only got into LA 12 hours later than scheduled. But in the future I will be avoiding Chicago as a layover spot unless it is the summer.

I went to the Cherry Blossom Festival in D.C. before my trip to Cali


Welcome to Hollywood! View from Griffith's Observatory.

We're so cool we gotta wear shades!

On the lookout for celebs!

Famous palm tree-lined streets!

Loooove Pasadena!

Redondo Beach!

Yay for VA friends in LA:)

Goodbye drinks for Sarah!

The Jeffersonian!

I wish they had been filming...still it was very cool!

Pretty rose gardens where Booth and Bones got married:)

On the set of Bones in LA's City Hall! 
Warner Brother's Studio tour!


Star's Hollow set!

Luke's from another angle!

Missing the gazebo, but the center of town:)

Star's Hollow High school to the right

More angles...

Friend's set!

Car from Harry Potter!

Sound stages! We saw The Big Bang Theory's...

Venice Canals:)

Venice Beach

Pacific view!
I'll miss you LA!
It was a great, busy trip! All the food was great, the weather was perfect for walking around, and the company was wonderful. I also got to experience the Metro numerous times, and saw everything on my bucket list! California- we will meet again!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Blossoms & Billionaires

Guess what?!

Spring Break is HERE! I do not know how I would have made it to today if we had not had all those snow days. The stretch from Winter Break to now is LONG! Those 10 snow days (not quite as many for me since I am on a different contract and had to come in a few times with no students) and starting a new job also helped break up the long stretch.


Speaking of new job, things are going well, and I am even more excited for when the new school will be up and running in the fall! I have been working on student recruitment, dual-enrollment plans and getting the new programs filled and running at the new school. My new coworkers are great and the atmosphere is fun and relaxed. Right now I am working out of the current Chesterfield Technical Center, and we are supposed to move into our new building in July. We’ll see if it happens on schedule! I have been enjoying getting to know my new role and going to a lot more meetings/trainings. I am one of those weird people who likes trainings and meetings because I can network and talk with my friends from around the county. I also like learning new things, even if it doesn’t directly relate to me:). It is important to stay informed on what is going on in all areas of education. So all in all things are good, even though I have to use more of my own time for vacations due to working a 12 month schedule. Don’t worry, my traveling will not be interrupted by my new position, and I am using my newly acquired vacation days strategically:).

Speaking of traveling, I have a busy week ahead of me! Tomorrow I am heading up to D.C. to visit my friend Meredith and her hubby, and we are going into the city to see the Cherry Blossom Festival! I have not been to this festival since I was in 3rd or 4th grade (I have a cute picture from it), and going into the city is always fun, so I am excited. The weather will be perfect for a day of walking around outside.


Then on Monday, I am heading to Los Angeles! It has been on my bucket list of places to visit, and since I enjoyed my trip to San Francisco so much in January, I had to plan a trip. I have many college friends in the city and two cousins out there, so it will be nice to see so many people!  My goal is to tour Warner Brothers’ Studios (I really want to see the Stars Hollows set from Gilmore Girls), visit “Hollywood,” and to see the beaches. Other than that, I will soak in all the scenery and, hopefully, starsPerhaps a selfie with one? Oh, and a hopefully a run or two in the warm CA , smog-filled air:).


Updates to come, of course, but enjoy this beautiful weekend! Tell me about your spring break trips?! Anyone else just exponentially happier now that the weather is nice?