Quantified Self – What I Track: Health & Fitness, Calories Consumed Version

Posted by on Feb 13, 2012 in Blog, Life Experiments | No Comments

I attended a quantified self meetup last week, and was inspired to post about what I track, and also some analysis of the numbers. This is the first instalment.

I’ve been tracking daily calories consumed for about a year, off and on.

There are a ton of apps that you can use to track your food intake. I use MyFitnessPal (mostly the app, but they also have a website), because I like their extensive database of foods. They allow users to add foods, so almost every major brand/restaurant food item is already in their database. This makes it easy to track your meals without entering in all the nutrition info yourself.

I try to log most days, though sometimes I get sick of it. By now, I am able to get a good idea about how much I’m eating without looking everything up, so the need to track isn’t as strong. Also, I’ll admit, some days I know I’m going to eat too much or crappy food and then I won’t track that day, because what’s the use? (Then sometimes I know I want to eat things I shouldn’t, but force myself to track it anyway, so I am at least aware of how much I am consuming.)

Why track? My main goal in tracking every calorie is to keep under a certain daily goal. I’m not really tracking to analyze the data over time or anything–it’s to teach me how to modify my food intake to stay under my goal. The eventual ideal is that I moderate my food take by myself, without tracking.

How? Most of the times, I track as I go, and size my meals appropriate to how much I’ve already had that day. Then other times, I use it as a planning tool, and enter in my meals the day before, so I can be sure it all adds up, and there’s balance between the meals. The latter is usually when I’m making all my own food–it’s a bit hard to plan like that when eating out.

McDonalds is great for calorie counters! Because they are so consistent, and post calorie counts for every item, it’s easy to control how many calories you eat. In most non-fast food restaurants, you don’t know how many calories are in the food, and it’s likely more than it appears. They make food taste better by adding more butter! This is why making your own food is better in every way, since you can control exactly what goes into it.

Get a food weigh scale if you want to count calories. It makes tracking so much easier; I use mine all the time! It basically replaces measuring cups, too.

I don’t see myself doing this forever. The main goal is to gain awareness of how much I’m eating. Once I’ve learned to do that on my own, I will drop the tracking.