I don't count calories. Or macros. Or tablespoons of salad dressing. Or bites of dark chocolate. I eat a healthy, mostly plant-based diet and feel energetic, satiated, and happy, so I never felt the need to.
I also do intermittent fasting (IF), which I delved into almost a year ago. I started about eight months after starting CrossFit to help me lose a little stubborn baby weight and to help with belly bloat caused by overeating (it helped both!).
I did the 16:8 method, where I don't eat breakfast and stop eating around 7 p.m. It definitely helped transform my body, and I was pretty psyched about how I looked and felt when I hit my one-year CrossFitversary in July 2017.
But by the end of the Fall, I started gaining a little weight thanks to what I call "eating whatever the hell I wanted." It's a mistake many IF-ers make. Just because you're eating during a shorter window does not give you the liberty to consume a small family's worth of calories!
I was putting something into my mouth between six and 10 times a day!
Since I wasn't into tracking my calories or macros (it seemed too restrictive to me), I started taking photos of everything I ate. EVERYTHING. I realised that from noon until 7 or 8 p.m., I was eating all frickin day. Not just lunch and dinner. I was putting something into my mouth between six and 10 times a day! I'm not lying.
I'd start off great. Big salad at noon, banana and cashews at 1:30, and a piece of chocolate at 2:30. I had a protein smoothie at 3:30, some pretzels at 4:30 since my kids were hungry, and noshed while making dinner at 5. I ate dinner at 6, snacked on the leftovers on my kids' plates at 6:30, then nibbled on sandwich crusts and apple slices while making my kids lunch at 6:45. Around 7, I'd have a soy yogurt, a bar, or another banana with cashews (OK, or maybe three freshly baked vegan brownies).
Holy hell! I uploaded the photos into an app called You Ate, designed to make you more mindful of your diet. I became more than mindful. I became downright shocked! No wonder I felt zero hunger during my eating window. Aside from eating nonstop, I also realised that I ate huge portions. No wonder I was gaining weight.
I took photos of my food for three months. I knew that every time I was about to put something in my mouth, I had to take a pic. It helped me plan my day of eating better and to create more balanced, satiating meals. It helped me have more self-control about not eating just because I was bored or because food was in front of me.
Once I started taking photos of everything I ate, within a month, I noticed a difference in the scale, how I looked (hello more muscle definition!), and how I felt (energised, in control, and happy!). I still take photos of what I eat, and it's helped me stick with my goal of eating less often, of having lunch and dinner with one or two snacks or treats.
If tracking your calories or macros isn't your thing, try a photo food journal. And don't lie! If you grab seconds of mac and cheese for dinner, snap a shot! You can also use it coupled with one of those calorie- or macro-counting apps like My Fitness Pal, to help you remember what you ate, or if you like to track everything at the end of the day.
I'll add that if you have a history of an eating disorder, this could be detrimental to your progress. Taking photos of your food is only meant to help bring awareness to your daily habits to encourage a healthier, more balanced diet. It should in no way be used to make you feel crappy about enjoying your coworker's birthday cupcakes!