Better to eat less or track every calorie?

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Hi,

I was bouncing back and forth with whether it’s best and more realistic to eat less and more mindfully, or count every calorie using this app?

I feel if I track everything then it feels like a chore, and like I’m restricting myself.

If I eat less and am more mindful, I feel
That would make me feel more free. Has any one had success one way or the other?

Thank you
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Replies

  • lemurcat2
    lemurcat2 Posts: 7,885 Member
    edited January 2021
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    I found it helpful to track for a while, as a way to make sure you are eating less. One option could be to track what you normally eat and then use that as a way to see how to cut cals. Back before MFP existed, I did something similar -- wrote down what I ate in a typical week and then simply wrote down what I ate going forward as a way to make sure I was being mindful before it was a habit.

    If you think you can be mindful and consistently eat less than your maintenance without tracking, no harm in trying that for a while. If it works, great, and if it doesn't, you can try tracking.

    I'd also say that it might be possible to change your mindset about tracking--I found it interesting to learn more about my diet, useful as a way to focus on nutrition and make sure I was getting as much protein and fiber as I wanted, to see how many veg I was eating, etc. It also made sure I ate sufficient cals -- before I started MFP this more recent time I was doing the just eat less thing and when I started logging I saw I was eating too little and definitely could add some more indulgent foods (like cheese) back in, in moderation. I think if I hadn't seen that and adjusted I would have burned out.
  • cwolfman13
    cwolfman13 Posts: 41,868 Member
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    I've done both...my initial weight loss years ago was 40 Lbs...I lost about 20 of those pounds without tracking anything and the last 20 counting calories. The biggest thing for me was actually learning what I need and how to get it and what calories are in what and what appropriate serving sizes are for myself. I haven't logged in years...I've put on 20 Lbs over the course of 2020 due to injury for about 5 months and the COVID blues. I'm in process of dropping that now and I don't count calories, but I have a pretty good idea of what I need to do from having spent a great deal of time counting previously.
  • steveko89
    steveko89 Posts: 2,217 Member
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    For me logging accurately and exhaustively eliminates all uncertainty, which let me feel in control. I've been using MFP since 2012 but really locked in my weighing and logging in mid 2017 and have been far more effective at reaching my goals since then.
  • janejellyroll
    janejellyroll Posts: 25,763 Member
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    Better for you or better for me?

    I'd rather track every calorie, as I find "less" to be too subjective for comfort. I could eat "less," but is that a deficit? How do I balance that with different activity levels? How do I balance "less" with the relative calorie density of foods? I feel like I'd be pulling my hair out with the vagueness.

    Would it be better for YOU? I have no idea. You can always try it and see if it works.
  • callsitlikeiseeit
    callsitlikeiseeit Posts: 8,627 Member
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    Seeing as most people eat when they THINK they are hungry.... I don't know how useful only eating less would work for the 'average' person. I maintained my weight by only being mindful, but that was after 2 years of weighing and counting every calorie, so I had a solid background on how much I was actually eating.

    I can not lose weight by only 'eating less'. But by setting realistic calorie goals, and weighing and logging accurately, you are not restricting yourself (I have some variety of junk food nearly daily and eat out on a somewhat regular basis), but learning how to eat and make wiser choices in what and how much you are eating.
  • Theo166
    Theo166 Posts: 2,564 Member
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    Mikect1980 wrote: »
    Hi,

    I was bouncing back and forth with whether it’s best and more realistic to eat less and more mindfully, or count every calorie using this app?

    If your goal is to reduce the OCD aspect, I make it less of a chore by 'swagging' some things. Instead of looking every item up, I may just throw in 90 calories as a quick add to reflect several things I didn't add individually. This is how I acknowledge the ketchup and a few hard candies I may have eaten earlier in the day.
  • thisvickyruns
    thisvickyruns Posts: 193 Member
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    Mikect1980 wrote: »
    Hi,

    I was bouncing back and forth with whether it’s best and more realistic to eat less and more mindfully, or count every calorie using this app?

    I feel if I track everything then it feels like a chore, and like I’m restricting myself.

    If I eat less and am more mindful, I feel
    That would make me feel more free. Has any one had success one way or the other?

    Thank you

    Why don't you try not logging and see? I've logged for years in maintenance, however I've had periods of not logging and managed my weight fine then too. It's habit (and my pals) that keep me here!
  • 1poundatax
    1poundatax Posts: 230 Member
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    For me I track everything, but nothing is off limits. If I really want something I eat it even if it means going over my calorie goal. Most of the time I am well within the range I allow myself. Seeing what I am eating, and the nutritional value of it helps me a lot. I have lost about 25 pounds. I will say my weight loss is pretty slow, but I am ok with that. This is a lifestyle change, not a diet. I do try to be very mindful when I eat. I tend to eat quickly and I used to shovel food in without thinking about what or why I was doing it. I actually caught myself doing that a couple of times recently but I was aware of it and stopped myself.





  • Sand_TIger
    Sand_TIger Posts: 1,077 Member
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    I've logged and eaten mindfully, both. I lose weight when logging and measuring, I gain when just "eating less" because it's so subjective and easy to underestimate things. When I'm not logging it's way too easy to go "oops, I wasn't very mindful there, I'd better have a little more just to practice being mindful."

    When I am logging though, I think "okay, that's what fits in my calorie budget today, so I'd better darn well enjoy it otherwise what's the point?" So I tend to slow down and be more mindful.

    I might also add that with practice, you will learn the weights/measures of things and fall into a pattern of knowing what certain things are, so it becomes easier and quicker to measure and log. It doesn't have to be a painstaking ordeal but of course anything is harder at first.

    Bottom line: I like the peace of mind of KNOWING beyond the shadow of a doubt that I am doing what I need to lose weight, even if dinner is 600 calories of amazing homemade pizza.
  • J_NY_Z
    J_NY_Z Posts: 2,540 Member
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    How would you know if you are eating less if you don't log and find your starting point? Then you log after that to know you are eating less.
  • Fit_Happens_2021
    Fit_Happens_2021 Posts: 303 Member
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    The longer you do it the less of a chore it might seem to be simply because most of us eat the same things over and over, even a wide varied diet will have repetition. In the beginning, it was difficult for me as I cook most meals from scratch and didn't measure very much, but once I started using the Recipe tool I found it got easier and easier as could just open the recipe and see how much I put of each thing in. Also, the Meal feature helps me to quickly log things I eat together very often.
  • goal06082021
    goal06082021 Posts: 2,130 Member
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    I would so love to be the sort of person who can eat intuitively. But, "intuitive eating" got me to 250+ lbs, so clearly my intuition needs some fine-tuning. That's what the religious logging of every calorie is for. Maybe someday I'll retrain my brain, maybe I'll be on this app forever, but either way I have to start somewhere.
  • MsCzar
    MsCzar Posts: 1,042 Member
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    I'd say it depends of why you want to do either. If you simply want to make better food choices, become more fit and lose a relatively modest amount of weight, mindful eating may get you there. However, if you have a significant amount of weight to lose, logging is probably the way to go.

    You can simplify by saving things you eat every day under My Meals. I combine my daily coffee, half & half, evening tea and ~100 calorie fruit. I've also saved a few basic meals - (salmon & green beans, chicken thigh & baked potato, et al) Doing this saves me from having to log oft-repeated meals.

    What you might miss by not logging is a valuable planning tool. I sometimes plan the next day's meals by pre-logging. That helps me plan meals and adjust calories/servings to keep me in calorie deficit. I have a lot of weight to lose and so mindful eating would likely not work as well as scrupulously logging every morsel that crosses my lips.
  • paperpudding
    paperpudding Posts: 9,064 Member
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    It is not a false dichotomy of a) Just eat mindfully or b) Track every calorie.

    There is a middle road.

    You can loosely track calories, doing estimates, averages etc - and/or the sort of thing Theo said, just quick adding small number of calories to account for incidentals

    The key for you may not be deciding which or the two extremes a) or b) suits you - but of finding where in the middle your sweet spot is - the spot where you are logging accurately enough to be meaningful but loosely enough to be manageable.
  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 32,702 Member
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    It's a personal style thing, I think. Other people have said why. Either one will work for some people, sometimes. Neither works for everyone all the time (if one counts happiness and other psychological factors in addition to the weight loss side of it).

    I'm another person in the camp where counting is more freeing and relaxing, compared to trying to "eat intuitively". I was intuitively obese, for decades, even for over a decade while athletically very active. I've been at a healthy weight for 5 years now, counting most days still. For me, now, it maybe takes 10 minutes, tops, on an average day, and I get a huge return in health and happiness from that time investment. More than worth it.

    It took a bit more time when first starting out (there's a learning process), but it felt like a fun science fair project for grown-ups, to me. It appealed to my inner data geek/science nerd.

    IMO, a big part of achieving success is personalizing our weight management approach to our own individual preferences, strengths, and limitations. You know you best. As others have said, you could try whichever sounds most appealing for a couple of months, and see how it goes. It's not like this is a "decide once, for final" kind of thing.
  • Speakeasy76
    Speakeasy76 Posts: 961 Member
    edited January 2021
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    It is a personal preference, and it really depends on what suits you best. You can start off just by tracking everything you eat, not with the intent of restricting your calories, but to give you and idea of how much you actually are eating. By doing this, it holds you accountable, and the process in and of itself may naturally cause you to eat less. That's what I find for myself, anyway. I thought I was "eating less," but weight was either staying the same or some of the time, creeping up. It wasn't until I started tracking EVERYTHING I held myself accountable. I tend to eat a bit here, a bit there, but if I know I have to write it down, I'm way less likely to do so. After months of doing this, I don't really at " a little here, a nibble there" so much anymore.

    I love the idea of eating intuitively, but don't know if I will ever get 100% to that place--at least where I do that and am happy with my weight. I am trying, however, to eat more mindfully, which I think are similar but separate ideas.