We’ve all been there. We get to the end of the day and realize we forgot to add in a meal. Yep, happens all the time!
Don't fret! Don't give up! There are ways to ensure you are able to get your food diary completed even with a super busy schedule. Here are some steps that have helped me tremendously when it comes to staying on track and learning how to take inventory of my body's needs for the goal at hand:
1) KNOW YOUR WHY
Why are you doing this? Why did you download the app and/or hire a coach to help you? What are your goals and why have you made this step to secure your health? Now that you have read those questions, write them down – NOW! Think about your answers and write them down also. Make them real. Don’t just let them be an idea in your head. Once you have done this, have the questions and answers hanging up in your kitchen, in your bedroom, in your living room – wherever you need to have them where you will see them every morning when you wake up. Look at them each morning first thing. It is important that we understand our goals and why they exist. If we just “say” we want to do something, but never make it real, we make it easy to simply “forget” about them or say things like, “I didn’t do it today, so I will start tomorrow.” Tomorrow becomes the next day, and so on and so forth. Here’s one fact for you – SOMEDAY is not a day of the week. If you got to this point where you knew tracking your foods would get you closer to your goals a bit faster, wouldn’t you want to explore that? Is making excuses and not taking action going to get you there? Not at all. We can have ideas and thoughts in our heads all day long, but putting forth effort is what makes those ideas and goals real. It makes them achievable.
Make your reason bigger than you. Studies have shown it can take a person up to 10 weeks to form a new habit. Up until now, your habitually just eating. You don’t know what you’re eating. You don’t know how many calories you’re eating. You just eat and hope you are doing what you need to be doing. You think that if you eat healthy and don’t track your foods, you will still reach your goals. You begin to wonder why, two years later, you have seen some progress, but aren’t sure why you haven’t been able to get over that plateau you’ve found yourself in. You begin to lose motivation. You begin to go back to the same old habits you had before. You then find yourself right back where you started.
2) PLAN AHEAD
The same as exercising, tracking your foods first thing in the morning or the night before is going to be way more beneficial than trying to recall everything you ate at the end of the day. Does this mean you have to eat everything exactly as you planned it? No. It is just a whole lot less time consuming to change up a snack or meal you ate and may not have planned than it is to try and remember everything. I do this all the time. Maybe I planned out what I thought I was going to eat, but something came up and I had to substitute a meal replacement bar for lunch. While the food I planned may have been what I needed and the bar may have me adjusting the rest of my meals for that day, it doesn’t have to mean you change everything.
Adjusting is way easier than trying to recall your entire day. Most of us are busy and running around all day. Think about the disservice you are doing if you don’t plan ahead. Not only that, but if you know you have a busy day the following day, planning your meals beforehand will help you pack them up the following morning and/or get them ready the night before. Knowing ahead of time what you plan to eat not only helps you with time, but it also helps keep you on track. Having your meals available to you on a regular basis and having your goals written all over the place, will keep you on track and eventually, you will just stick to it because it makes everything more routine.
3) BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF
Maybe you got off your plan and you went way over on your calories and didn’t hit your macronutrients for that day. Are you going to be honest with yourself and track it anyway or are you going to pretend it didn’t happen? I have news for you – pretending it didn’t happen isn’t taking ownership. You have to take ownership of yourself. You have to hold yourself accountable. Again, go back to why you started doing this. Let that be what keeps you on track. We all have those days where maybe we ate something we know we shouldn’t have. TRACK IT ANYWAY! I have good news for you – if you are trying to lose weight and you still burned more calories than you took in, that one meal isn’t going to sabotage everything for you. The fact you still were honest with yourself and tracked it anyway is what is going to help you establish a new habit. If you don’t put that meal in your food diary, who are you really hurting? Your friends? Your coach? NO! You are hurting yourself. You end up falling into this downward spiral, where you just say, “well, this meal won’t hurt me since I already messed up.” Then you just continue making excuses for your setback and continuing on a path of destruction. Don’t let that happen to you. Remember again why you are doing this. Everything along the way boils down to your why.
4) HAVE A BACKUP PLAN
Maybe you didn’t plan ahead. Maybe you are someplace and don’t get service on your phone. Have a backup. Have a notebook on you at all times or take pictures of your meals. While it is always best to measure for accuracy, loose tracking is better than no tracking. Most restaurants menus are listed in the My Fitness Pal app. Even if you have to go back later and input the meal you ate, having a picture of it to remind you is a whole lot better than trying to remember off the top of your head. Always always ALWAYS have a backup plan. Life happens. It’s not going to be perfect. You will have things come up and sometimes you will feel like life is just trying to go against you. That is far from the truth. You are in control here. If you have a backup plan, you are more likely to enter those foods into your diary. This creates what you need ultimately – consistency (step 6).
5) SET REMINDERS
New to diary tracking? Set reminders in your phone to go off each morning first thing. Wake up a little earlier so you make this portion of goal achievement priority. Don’t place it on the backburner. Forgetting about it doesn’t make it a reality. Doing it is what gets results. Once you see the reminder, do it right then. Don’t wait. You have to want it more than you want anything else. You have to remember you are doing this for you and no one else. If you don’t make it a priority, no one else will make it priority for you.
6) MAKE IT A ROUTINE
Tracking your foods doesn’t have to be difficult. Just like anything else in life, the more you do it, the better you get. We all have “more important things” going on in our lives. But shouldn’t our health be our priority over work or anything else? Think about step number one and what I said in step five. Every morning, first thing, make sure you are putting some time and effort into you. This means, sitting down and really looking at your reasons behind why you are keeping a food diary and why this is now important to you. This will keep you from veering if your reasons are deep enough for you.
Tracking your foods sometimes won’t get you where you want to be in a short time frame. Consistency is what matters. You need to make this part of your everyday routine. Otherwise, you will be months into doing this, and wonder why it isn’t working.
Are you going to perfect right out the gate? Not at all! If you are just starting out and you forget a day, just don’t forget the next day. We can never go back in time, but we can always move forward. One step in front of the other. You have to walk before you run. No one wakes up being amazing at something right off the bat. They may have natural talent, but in order to capitalize on that talent, they have to practice. If this is all new to you, it will take practice. Nevertheless, as long as you’re willing to continue, you will get better, and eventually, it will all be second-nature.
7) NUTRITION FIRST
If you have to make a choice between tracking your foods and going to the gym, choose nutrition first every time! I don’t know how many times I have had to do this. I’ve had so many people, and I am one of them, come to me and say, “I work out, but I’m not seeing results.” The first thing I ask them is if they know what they are eating. Usually I get a weird look. Most people think they are eating to their needs, but how do they really know? It’s not always about losing inches and weight. How do you know if you are properly fueling your body if you aren’t trying to keep track of it on a daily basis? Unless you eat the same EXACT foods every day, you should be tracking your food intake every day. Otherwise, the results will come a whole lot slower.
I struggled with this for quite some time. We all have those days where we just get busy and forget to track. My challenge to you is to use an alternate method, such as what I wrote about in Step 4.
I have literally had to skip the gym before to ensure my nutrition is complete for the day. Is it what I wanted to do? Of course not. BUT I knew it was more important to get my foods in order. I can still do a quick 20-30-minute workout and expend some calories and allow myself to feel better. The nutrition has to be priority though. Most of the studies you will find say that 80% of goal achievement in reaching a total health lifestyle comes from nutrition. I truly believe the percentage is higher. If you are lacking in this area, I have news for you – your workouts aren’t helping you toward your goals as much as they could be.
It’s time to stop the vicious cycle. It’s time to stop making excuses. It’s time to start realizing we are human and this is not something we are used to doing. It will be scary. In everything new we begin, it's not about if but WHEN we will make mistakes. Nevertheless, if we just keep putting one foot in front of the other, before we know it, we will start reaching our milestones one by one. Eventually, we WILL reach our goals. Then, you make more goals so you continue the process. We also can now share our journey to inspire others. We pay it forward.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you continue what you set out to do:
The journey is endless.
It won’t happen overnight.
Be honest with yourself.
Make this a priority in your life.
Then each day, pat yourself on the back because guess what? You did it!
You made the effort. You are already ahead of everyone out there who is still wishing and making excuses. Today is your day!