Managing food intake is essential when it comes to weight loss. Essentially, as long as you’re taking in fewer calories than your body requires to maintain its weight, you will lose weight.
Where things get a bit more complicated is when it comes to deciding how to manage your food intake.
- Track calories or macros
- Plate portion sizes or use the “hand method”
- Utilize intuitive eating
As you can see, while your goal during your transformation challenge may seem rather simple, choosing which route to take to reach your goal can be a bit confusing.
That’s where this article comes in!
We’ll give the pros and cons of each food tracking method to help you decide which method is best for YOU to get the best results possible.
Let’s get started!
With tracking calories and/or macros, you log everything that you eat.
You can either track total calorie intake, or if you want to be a little more meticulous with your food-tracking, you track macros (macronutrients -- protein, carbohydrates, and fat).
Pros of Tracking Calories/Macros
Tracking calories and macros is the most accurate way of logging your food intake compared to the other methods we’ll discuss later. This makes it one of the most effective ways to track nutrition for consistent weight loss results.
When you track your food, you have to input the data yourself so that you know exactly what you’re eating and when you’re eating it. You’ll be able to see if you’re eating in a manner that supports your goals or not. You also realize if you’re deficient in certain areas (protein is often the macronutrient that most individuals struggle to consume sufficient quantities of.)
Highlights Need for Action
When you are tracking your food intake, you’ll be able to identify certain patterns and trends in your diet.
Since you’re keeping a diligent log of what you eat, you’ll have the raw data that can be traced back weeks (even months or years for some individuals), which can be used to identify sources of “hidden” calories in the diet, such as the glass of orange juice for breakfast, which might seem like a healthy addition, but is actually delivering a lot of unnecessary sugar into the diet (that’s not doing much to fill you up).
Cons of Tracking Calories/Macros
Reduces Internal Focus
When relying solely on food logs to determine whether you’ve had enough to eat or not, you may ignore your body's internal cues and make it more difficult to sense if you are actually hungry or full. You become so focused on the numbers in your log that you ignore basic hunger/satiety cues.
Difficult to Transition to Intuitive Eating
Some individuals may experience a sense of trepidation when coming off calorie/macro counting and transitioning to less data-intensive ways of tracking food intake. The main fear is that they won’t be able to maintain their results if they aren’t meticulously tracking every morsel of food they put into their body.
“Takes Too Long”
Perhaps the biggest complaint/argument against counting calories/macros is that it takes too much time. The truth is that once you get used to weighing and tracking food, it barely takes any time at all, especially if you tend to eat the same foods more or less each week.
It also helps to have the right food-tracking app. There are a number of options available (both free and paid), and like all things in life, some options are better than others.
The 1UP Fitness App allows you to easily track both calories and macros. We’ve developed the app with the end-user (YOU!) in mind to streamline nutrition tracking. So often people get hung up during their weight loss journey because tracking nutrition is confusing and/or takes too much time.
Those challenges are subdued with the 1UP Fitness App as we’ve made it easier and more convenient than ever.
Simply download the FREE 1UP Fitness App (on iPhone or Google Play) and have access to our comprehensive food database as well as customized meal plan suggestions for those times when you just don’t have the time or energy to figure out what to eat.
Plate/Hand Portion Sizes
In addition to using a food scale and food-tracking app, like the 1UP Fitness App, you can also estimate portion sizes using everyday objects like a regular-sized dinner plate or your own hand.
With this tracking method, you have a rough idea of how much you’re eating without having to be so meticulous about weighing and logging every morsel.
Here are the pros and cons of the portion size food-tracking method:
Pros of Plate/Hand Portion Sizes
Easy to Learn
This could also be applied to calorie counting and macro tracking as well, but plate/hand portion sizing your food is very easy to learn.
You simply divide your plate into certain portions and fill each portion of the “pie” with its dedicated food group. This helps individuals to understand appropriate portion sizes without all the number crunching of calorie counting.
Less Reliance on Technology
We’re more attached (addicted) to technology these days than ever before. Using the plate and hand portion method allows you to not be tethered to your phone, tablet, or computer while you’re eating. It’s provides a much needed opportunity to unplug and realize that you’ll survive if you’re not on the internet 24/7.
Cons of Plate/Hand Portion Sizes
Not As Accurate As Calorie / Macro Counting
While you don’t need to use an app to track your intake with the plate/hand portion method, what you gain in not being attached to the food scale/food app, you lose in accuracy, meaning that you won’t have as firm of a grasp on your exact calorie intake as you would if you were weighing and logging your food.
Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t get results (or maintain them) with plate/hand portion sizes -- you certainly can -- but if you’re in contest prep for a physique show for instance, you’ll want to be as accurate as possible with your nutrition tracking.
Eyeballing your portions provides some much needed mental relief from food logging, but at the same time, it’s easier to veer off the path by piling your plate too high (even if it’s in the right portion of the plate) and/or going back for seconds.
Requires Smart Food Choices
Not really a con so much as something of which to be aware is that with the portion method you have to make smart food choices. The reason for this is that you’re not relying on a tally of calories and macros to tell you if you’ve had enough to eat or not.
Combining too many calorie dense foods on a plate can still lead to overeating, even if the portion sizes are right for their spot on the plate. As such, make sure to fill your plate with minimally processed whole foods, like fruits, veggies, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats.
Intuitive eating relies on following your body’s inherent hunger and satiety cues for when to eat as well as when to stop eating. It’s not strictly meant for weight loss so much as a means to help people relearn how to focus their attention on their food, be present in the moment, and listen to their body.
Pros of Intuitive Eating
Enhances the Dining Experience
Intuitive eating is heavily rooted in mindfulness -- being present in the moment and giving your full attention to what you’re doing (i.e. not scrolling through social media while shoveling down your food).
Intuitive eating helps you learn to savor each and every bite as well as enjoy the fun and fellowship of the individuals with whom you are eating.
Combines with Other Food-Tracking Methods
Intuitive eating can be combined with the portion method as well as calorie/macro tracking. It’s all about being present in the moment. So, once you tabulate your calories and macros for the meal that you are about to eat, then put away the phone, turn off the TV, and sit down to enjoy a meal for all of its wonderful aromas, flavors, and textures.
May Be Helpful for Individuals Struggling with Disordered Eating
Intuitive eating doesn’t have you tethered to a device or some fad diet. You choose foods that you enjoy and rely on your own personal hunger scale instead of fretting about how many carbs or fat macros you have left to squeeze in.
Cons of Intuitive Eating
Takes Time to Learn
Intuitive eating takes longer to get used to and proficient at then tracking macros and using the plate/hand portion control method, especially if you’re someone who is used to mindlessly munching away on lots of processed food.
It will take time for your body to reset and recalibrate itself to get used to listening to innate hunger and satiety cues.
Lack of Accuracy
Since you’re relying on internal hunger and satiety cues, your ability to precisely track your calorie intake will be hindered, especially compared to calorie/macro counting. This is why it may be beneficial to combine intuitive eating with calorie counting.
Not for Everyone
Just like the other options on this list, Intuitive eating isn’t for everyone. Some individuals like to be meticulous and have control over every detail in their diet while others desire a more laissez-faire approach to their food-tracking.
As such, if you try intuitive eating and it’s not for you, then don’t fret. Utilize a method of food-tracking that does jive with your lifestyle and goals and work it until it doesn’t work for your situation any more.
Tracking food intake is essential to losing weight and getting the results you want from your transformation challenge.
Three of the most common methods for tracking food intake are calorie counting, portion sizes, and intuitive eating. The most accurate of all is calorie counting as it allows you to track all of the data and see exactly what you’re eating and whether or not you’re sticking to your calorie/macro goals for the day.
Now, calorie counting and macro tracking can seem daunting for some individuals, especially those not used to tracking nutrition, but that’s why we created the 1UP Fitness App, which is available for FREE, to help you be consistent with your food tracking without getting frustrated or wasting lots of time.
Finally, we realize that no matter which food-tracking method you use for weight loss, you’re going to deal with hunger and cravings at some point or another during your diet. That’s why we created 1UP Appetite Suppressant.
1UP Appetite Suppressant is a stimulant-free weight loss support aid specifically formulated to help combat cravings and suppress hunger, helping you stay on track with your diet so that you can get the best results possible!