Calorie Tracking vs. Calorie Awareness

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Written by: Heather Gerrish, RD

Calories. What’s the Deal?

You might be wondering by now, what is the purpose of tracking food every day? Why is this so important?

If you are finding yourself asking these questions, then let’s dive deeper in to the reasoning behind tracking and why becoming more aware of what you are eating plays such a large role in long term nutrition and health.

Tracking food can be tedious and time consuming, but it also allows you to see firsthand the differences in total daily intake that you otherwise would have been guessing. At the beginning, we all need to check in and see what and how much we are normally consuming. This helps us create a foundation to grow and develop our own unique approach to including more healthy choices or swapping out old habits and new, healthy ones that will help us reach our goals. Tracking and “counting calories” tends to be clumped in with restriction, elimination and and overall lacking (lacking in variety/flavor and fullness!) diet. We are not leading to pursue this rather sad rendition of dietary modification and tracking, but to track as a form of heightened awareness and perception of what you are eating and being accountable for the choices you make. It might not seem as important right now, but later when you can look back at the progress you have made, it can be a great motivating factor to keep you on track and further investigate ways to adapt to your new healthy lifestyle.

What is Calorie Awareness?

Continuing with last week's topic of accountability, tracking helps us keep accountable to our nutrition goals and become more aware of our choices. if we don’t have a foundation to grow on, then how do we know where to start? Tracking your daily intake allows us to take a deeper look at your choices and see where we can modify to encourage healthy options with the overall goal of making small, attainable changes you can keep with you long term. Creating this foundation is important because later on we want you to practice intuitive eating; being aware of not only the types of food but also being aware of the benefit that food choice will bring to you and your body. Thinking “How will this food benefit and nourish my body?” is a great take away from tracking and becoming more aware. This is the difference and bridge from calorie counting and calorie awareness and staying accountable to your nutrition goals.

We don’t want you to track your intake for the rest of your life, but periodically integrating this into your routine can be helpful in checking in and once again becoming more aware of what you are eating. It’s learning about food and the benefit food can bring you in terms of energy, nutrition and enjoyment while acknowledging your overall goals for leading a healthy lifestyle. It’s a lot to ask, but over time and by tracking and implementing this thought process it becomes less of a task and more of a routine.

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For example, if I were to track a snack comprised of a whole orange, ½ cup low fat cottage cheese and 6-8 whole grain crackers I would acknowledge the total calories and macronutrient composition of this snack, but I also would see the benefit this snack is providing me - vitamins and minerals - as well being as a great source of fiber by choosing fruit and whole grains as well as a lean source of protein with my choice in low fat cottage cheese. Not to mention how this snack will provide me energy and help fuel my recovery if I recently completed one of my TLAG workouts!

Viewing food as a way to fuel and nourish your body is important in long term adherence to making healthy choices. If you acknowledge your food choices as being a benefit and in what ways the macro and micronutrient composition of foods can help you in your goals, then you are on your way to calorie awareness and implementing “tracking” for life. It’s also important to not get too obsessed with tracking, as it is just a tool for you to use as you become more comfortable with recognizing healthy choices, so if you feel overwhelmed or need some extra assistance don’t hesitate to reach out at any time. That is what we are here for and we want to ensure that you feel supported as you progress towards your personal goals.

Danielle Gray