Is tracking badly better than not tracking?

neffybetty Posts: 26 Member
I've noticed that some of my friends, in their food diaries, don't track exact products they ate, and don't weigh their food, they just use random entries. They still seem to lose weight though.

I'm wondering if I would still lose weight if I just wrote down what I ate on a piece of paper, and didn't weigh the food etc. I'm guessing weight loss would be a lot slower.

Ignore my daily diary, I had an off day today, so I didn't use exact entries or amounts. That is unusual for me. I do struggle with dinner times, because my mother usually cooks and she doesn't weigh each ingrediant or like telling me what she's putting in things, so I usually set aside about 1000 calories for dinner.


  • SuzySunshine99
    SuzySunshine99 Posts: 2,766 Member
    Many, many people have been able to lose weight and maintain their loss without tracking at all...much less tracking accurately.

    We know that weight loss comes down to consuming fewer calories than we burn. The question do we get there? Certainly, weighing and logging your food and exercise calories is the most accurate way. Even with the most careful logging, it's still an estimate, especially on the "calories out" end of things. But, it's the best you can reasonably do.

    That doesn't mean that it's not possible to be successful without accurate tracking. Some people follow "named" diets, or generally just make an effort to eat less and move more, and that can work if it puts you in a calorie deficit.

    In my personal case, I logged, but not terribly accurately. I never weighed anything, and I did a LOT of estimating. As a result, I lost weight very, very slowly. But, I did eventually reach my goal, and I have maintained it for years, simply by doing rough calorie estimates in my head and being more mindful about what and how much I eat.

    I would say, do what works for you until it doesn't work. And be patient...if you're not really accurate with your calorie counts, there is a higher likelihood of slower and more inconsistent loss. I was okay with that, maybe you would be as well.
  • Nursegirl_jax
    Nursegirl_jax Posts: 49 Member
    Agree with the above... I lost weight slowly loosely tracking and was also okay with it especially with my history of yo-yo dieting. If for instance I have a chicken breast, I'd use the old school method of 4 ounces is the size of my palm. For peanut butter a tablespoon is the the size of my thumb (I try to do a smidge less).
  • Xellercin
    Xellercin Posts: 878 Member
    edited June 24
    Yes, simply logging what you eat in a food diary has been shown to reduce intake. For a lot of people the biggest benefit of tracking is just to keep themselves honest about what they are actually eating. Knowing they have to write it down can stop a lot of people from choosing to eat half a cheesecake or 17 Oreos. Or if they do, can prevent them from conveniently forgetting that they did so just a few days ago.

    I personally lost all of my weight and keep it off without tracking. I normally only track when I change my diet so that I can get a good sense of portions so that I can just intuitively eyeball my consumption.

    Weighing and closely tracking becomes most important when someone's loose tracking isn't producing the results they are expecting. That's when it's important to really accurately learn what you are truly consuming, not what you assumed you were consuming.
  • COGypsy
    COGypsy Posts: 794 Member
    People have been losing weight without calorie counting databases for hundreds and hundreds of years. I find my results are pretty consistent whether I weigh AND measure AND scan codes AND search databases or whether I keep a running list either on paper or in my head. Right now my focus is more on nutrition, so I just keep a list of what I've eaten so that I can track whether I'm actually eating at least one fruit/vegetable a day (and hopefully more). It's a work in progress. Just that awareness though seems to keep me losing a little each week.

    Like everyone else has said, it boils down to what works for you. If lists work the same as detailed tracking, then save yourself the trouble. If you aren't getting the results you want, track more accurately. Like everything else in weight loss, it basically boils down to a series of experiments until you find what works best for you.
  • haydiz70
    haydiz70 Posts: 56 Member
    I try to track reasonably well, but I think it comes down to being mindful of what you're eating. It also helps to know exercise calories to know whether that candy bar, soda pop, or whatever it may be is worth it. For example, if I go over by 300 calories, I know I'll need to exercise enough to burn that off. That's quite a workout. I enjoy exercise but it's hard to fit into every single day. That keeps me from overeating, usually. :)
  • sijomial
    sijomial Posts: 19,750 Member
    edited June 24
    In a game of thousands (3500 per pound of fat for example) it takes a lot of errors and errors in the same direction to completely derail results. That average piece of fruit I logged for example could be inaccurate either way but it takes a hell of a lot of tens to build up to thousands.

    I decided very early on that I would only seek accuracy on items or meals that really mattered, I wasn't going to aim to be super accurate, just complete and consistent.
    Despite inaccuracy in both exercise and food intake calories my results seemed to show I was consistently only 1,000 cals off a week. Simply adjusted my goal calories by that amount and lost at the desired rate with the same degree of consistent inaccuracy.

    If someone isn't getting desired results then of course it's well worth looking at accuracy but calorie counting is a means to an end and not an end of itself.

    I'm fortunate that I can maintain (and adjust weight if I need/want to) without food logging now although I do find exercise logging helpful though as it's a major and significant variable for me.

    "I'm guessing weight loss would be a lot slower."
    Maybe, maybe not - are you a good estimator? Some people have an intuitive grasp of numbers and are simply good at estimating either intuitively or as a learned skill but many are not (including quite a few Accountants strangely!).
    Is losing weight slower but in a less demanding way a good thing or a bad thing for you?
  • Lietchi
    Lietchi Posts: 4,260 Member
    I'm an accurate tracker, or I am now at least, after nearly 3 years. But when I look back at my diary from when I started my weight loss journey, I am appalled. I can't actually remember being so awful in my food logging. And yet, despite the very approximate logging, and having chosen the slowest weight loss setting (less margin for error) I still managed to lose weight.

    I think it's fine as long as it works, but when weight loss doesn't happen, it should be the first thing to look at.
  • cwolfman13
    cwolfman13 Posts: 41,002 Member
    I mean calorie counting is just one of many methods people use to lose weight. I haven't logged anything in almost a decade and was able to maintain my weight pretty easily up until COVID and don't have any problems cutting weight without tracking anything. 10 years ago when I started all of this I had never even heard of MFP...I kept a diary on paper that didn't even have calories, just a diary of what I was eating and what exercise if any I did that day. Just keeping a diary helped me be more accountable to my diet early on and I was losing weight despite having zero clue about calories or how many calories was in what. I lost a good 20 of my total 40 Lbs before I even heard of MFP or calorie counting.
  • sbelletti
    sbelletti Posts: 133 Member
    I don't really worry about what works for anyone else. It only matters what works for ME. If you don't want to log everything, don't log everything. If you want to guess at entries, guess. If you want to log/weigh every crumb, you can certainly do that. Try different strategies... Your body (and scale/tape measure) will tell you how effective they are.

    For me, it was critical to log everything incredibly accurately at the beginning. After 40lbs down and almost to goal, I tend to eat a lot of the same things every day, so I don't log like I used to. If I have a day where I'm eating differently, then I'll log that day.
  • Chef_Barbell
    Chef_Barbell Posts: 6,525 Member
    I find that not paying attention to what others are doing helps in my weight loss. 🙃
  • IAmTheGlue
    IAmTheGlue Posts: 535 Member
    I lose weight when I pay attention and I’m honest.
    I do weigh everything with the exception of cucumber, lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower which I eat almost daily.

    I have been doing this for years and as soon as I stop paying attention, I regain. I can eyeball most serving sizes, I still like to measure everything out because for me, paying attention is how I lose weight.

    For your question, I think it matters how much weight do you (or they) have to lose. If you are a petite, tiny framed woman with a few vanity pounds to lose, it’s more important to log accurately than if you are a big, tall man who works a physical job who has a lot of calories to budget because there is a larger deficit to work with.

    Either way, I’m glad you are here and trying. Just keep going.
  • azuki84
    azuki84 Posts: 176 Member
    Everything is a tool, whether it is used effectively depends on you
  • xrj22
    xrj22 Posts: 138 Member
    Really depends on what your goals are and what works for you. I know that if I eat vegan, no sweets, no alcohol, and run 4 days a week, I will loose weight. So anything that motivates me to stick to that is sufficient. However, if you plan to keep the same general way of eating, but just eat less, then measuring and tracking would be more important. Also depends on whether you want a gradual approach, or all-in all-at-once. You could try tracking loosely and if it works for you, then stick with it. Or if you don't want to waste time on something that might not give optimal results, then start with tracking and measuring everything. I am more the gradual type.