NON-TRACKING METHODS & HABIT-BASED GUIDELINES FOR NUTRITION
While tracking methods like tracking calorie intake or macros have a lot of benefits they are not for everyone. Even though tracking can be a great tool for educating yourself and helping to change body composition some people will find it monotonous, difficult, time consuming and it can cause some people to become neurotic and obsessive.
Tracking is also not a long term goal or sustainable for most people. For the majority of people the goal is to become educated enough and develop good nutrition habits so that you don’t have to track calories forever. The goal is to get to a point where you can maintain your ideal physique without needing to track i.e. effortlessly maintain your weight.
The good news is that there are ‘non-tracking’ methods and habit-based approaches that you can implement to help achieve and maintain your ideal weight / physique if you don’t like tracking.
WHAT ARE NON-TRACKING METHODS?
Non-tracking methods are strategies and methods you can implement to control your intake of calories to help you achieve your ideal physique, that DO NOT involve counting/tracking macros or calories in any shape or form. There is no tracking involved.
Non-tracking methods can include global guidelines e.g. protein at every meal, increasing fruit & vegetable intake or just simple strategies you follow e.g. portion control or skipping a meal.
PROS OF NON-TRACKING METHODS
- Less time consuming
- Potentially less obsessive
- Practical (able to be done most of the time)
- Help to build better nutrition habits
CONS OF NON-TRACKING METHODS
- Can be more restrictive. Restriction can stimulate the want to eat restricted food.
- Harder to manipulate
- Hunger can be a major issue
- Need good awareness of fullness factors and things that influence fullness e.g. food choices, sleep and food palatability
WHEN IS A NON-TRACKING METHOD APPROPRIATE?
- When your goals are not too time dependent (e.g. you want to lose 10kg but don’t mind how long it takes)
- When you want to build better nutritional habits
- When you don’t want to use a tracking method
WHO ARE NON-TRACKING METHODS GOOD FOR?
People who can’t stand the thought of tracking calories.
People who are at risk of developing disordered eating or eating disorders.
People who have obsessive tendencies (tracking can become a bit obsessive in nature for some people).
People who don’t like numbers and data.
When deciding if a non-tracking approach may be better for you than a tracking approach, it is a good idea to consider the following…
- The extremity of your goal (how extreme your goal is). Do you want to lose 10kg over 10 months or are you trying to lose 10kg over 8 weeks. The more extreme your goal is the more likely that a tracking approach may be better.
- How specific your goal is
- Your personality and preferences e.g. if you hate numbers you might not enjoy tracking but for some that love numbers they love tracking
- Your nutritional knowledge and current habits
- Your lifestyle (the method you choose must be realistic for your lifestyle).
Just because you aren’t tracking calories doesn’t mean that calories aren’t important.
Most of the methods that I’m about to share with you are designed to reduce your calorie intake to help create a calorie deficit which will lead to fat loss. Energy balance is still king and the energy balance principle will always apply (energy balance principle link here).
NON-TRACKING METHODS (FOR FAT LOSS) & HABIT-BASED GUIDELINES
These methods like any fat loss method are designed to reduce total calorie intake to help you remain in a calorie deficit when fat loss is the goal. For those that aren’t trying to lose fat these methods can help build better nutritional habits and improve your nutrition.
- Focus majority of intake on protein and plants (fruits and veg)
- Focus majority of intake on low calorie per bite foods. An extension of this is swapping higher calorie per bite food for lower calorie per bite food some examples include
- fatty steak → lean steak
- full fat yoghurt → low fat yoghurt
- Rice → Kidney beans
- Pasta → potato
- Soda → Diet Soda
- High calorie sauces → low calorie sauces
- Choose foods with low palatability (foods that aren’t as tasty are less likely to be overeaten)
- Reduce food variety
- Reduce sugar intake (sugar makes things tasty which makes foods easier to over consume impacting calorie intake.
- Have a protein shake before your evening meal
- Drink 1 glass of water before each meal
- Make one meal a large salad (light on the dressing)
- Get enough sleep
- Eat mindfully e.g. eat at a table (not in front of the TV)
- Increase protein intake
- Skip a meal
- Reduce portion sizes
- Eat a low-fat diet
- Eat a low-carb diet
- Meal replacement shake
- Remove carbohydrates from a part of the day e.g. not having carbs at dinner
- Have either a fat or carbohydrate source in a meal but not both at the same time (fat and carb separation).
- Intermittent Fasting (going a period of time without eating)
- Windowed Eating: Eating only within a specific time period e.g. 8hr food window from 11am to 7pm
- Alternate Day Fasting: Eat one day, don’t eat the next day but eat normally the following day.
- Eat, Stop, Eat: 1 day of not eating each week
As you can see there are many options for those that do not want to track calories. There is nothing wrong with tracking and in most cases a short period of tracking calorie intake can help to educate yourself on how much (how many calories) you are eating. Sometimes we need to check the speedo to make sure we aren’t speeding and sometimes we need to check our calorie intake to see roughly how much we are eating.
I think non-tracking, habit-based approaches should be the goal for the majority of people. Improve your nutrition knowledge, improve your nutrition habits and enjoy food while effortlessly maintaining your ideal physique.