Healthy habits can be pretty elusive. I know from experience. I’ve been passionately interested in health and fitness since I was about 18 years old, and even after almost 10 years of generally healthy eating and regular exercise, I still struggle with some aspects of healthy living. One area is particularly challenging for me: moderation.
Everyone says that eating and exercising in moderation is the key to a healthy lifestyle. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong. I swear, eating in moderation is WAY harder than sticking to a strict diet.
If I go crazy and have lemon poppyseed pancakes for breakfast (ahem, like I did last Thursday) I’m probably going to be less likely to make healthy choices at lunch. My mentality tends to be that I’ve already screwed myself over the for day, so I might as well have a burger, bun and fries included, while I have the chance.
THIS IS NOT THE WAY HEALTHY EATING IS SUPPOSED TO WORK. I should know that having those lemon-poppyseed pancakes isn’t the biggest deal in the world, and that I can still have a relatively healthy day by making good choices at lunch and dinner. Instead, I give myself a pass to throw caution to the wind.
Luckily, I don’t tend to take this attitude toward exercise. If I have lethargic, sedentary morning, odds are I’m going to get restless and need some movement in the afternoon. I think that comes with the territory of having been active for so many years. Once you get into the rhythm of regular physical activity, it becomes taxing NOT to work out.
Side note: Speaking of working out, check out the amazing activewear I found this weekend while I was shopping with my sisters! Old Navy had a 40% off sale on their workout tanks, and I found the sports bras for under $15 each at T.J. Max:
Anyway, point being, indulging in moderation is HARD. And in my experience, tracking apps like MyFitnessPal make it even harder. Even if I take indulgences out of the equation, using tracking apps (my experience has been with MyFitnessPal, so that’s the one I’m concentrating on in this post) hinders my healthy living plans, and here’s why.
I’d Rather Practice Mindful Eating
When you’re constantly plugging foods into MyFitnessPal, you’re not eating them for pleasure – a concept I described briefly in my last post – and you’re likely to get less enjoyment out of your meal. Eating becomes a goal. A chore. A competition with yourself.
I prefer to eat mindfully. Instead of fiddling with my phone, I’d like to touch, smell and taste the meal I’m preparing. Then I’d like to savor it. Not only is this better for our minds, it’s better for our bodies – studies have shown that eating mindfully can help you eat less.
The Information Isn’t Always Accurate
If you’ve used MyFitnessPal for any length of time, you probably know that a lot of the entries in there aren’t accurate. Anyone can add an item to MFP, and I’ve come across plenty of entries that give me pause. I’ve even noticed verified foods whose nutrient and calorie counts couldn’t possibly be accurate. So like, why bother?
Obsessing About Macros Hinders My Progress
Now, this is the biggest reason I’m quitting MFP. I notoriously love trying new eating styles to see what does and doesn’t work with my body. I’ve been vegan, I’ve tried ketogenic eating, I’ve done the Whole30, I’ve gone paleo, I’ve done Atkins … I’ve done pretty much everything.
The thing is, macronutrient ratios throw me off. Big time. For those who don’t know, macronutrients are the three main nutrient categories: proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Nutrition and fitness experts have different opinions on what the ideal macronutrient ratio should be, but suffice it to say, there’s no clear consensus.
What happens, though, is that I see my carbohydrate levels have gotten a little too high, I eat a lot of fats to get the ratios back in balance – adding unnecessary calories to my day in the process. I’m not exactly one for calorie restriction, but there’s simply no point in eating for the sake of eating. If I’m not hungry, I don’t need to be eating an extra ounce of cheddar just because I had one too many strawberries. That’s just ridiculous.
If I Indulge, The Day is Shot
And finally, to my earlier point. If I add an indulgent meal to my MFP data, I’m going to see that my day is already a failure, tracking-wise. Those lemon-poppyseed pancakes don’t exactly fit within my set goals, so it suddenly becomes impossible to have a successful day. For me, seeing this represented visually on an app is bad news. I’m likely going to say “screw it” and have pasta for dinner.
If I didn’t know for sure how horrible those pancakes were for me, I might still believe that there was some hope left for the day, and adjust the rest of my intake to make room for them. And THAT is a much healthier way to eat.
Eating in moderation is always tricky, but it’s definitely something to strive for. I like to say that indulging in the occasional treat is good for the soul. It’s good for your social life, your mental health, your senses. It’s not indulgences that really impact your fitness, it’s your long-term eating patterns. For me, tracking my meals makes healthy patterns harder to achieve – so doing away with this practice is a no-brainer.
If you want to change my mind, by all means, let me know why you love tracking your diet!