When it comes to treats, though, gauging just how much you can indulge in can feel really daunting and scary, especially if you've already started to lose weight. "What if I eat one cookie and I gain the 5 pounds I lost?" "What if I eat one cookie and I go back to all of my old habits?" "What if I eat one cookie and I grow another head?" How can we make choosing to indulge in treats less scary? I’m glad you asked! Today, we’re going to talk about how the power of data collection — in this case tracking treats — can be the greatest tool to helping you get to your goals.
First, though, let’s go back to that guilt/shame/sadness I mentioned earlier. Over the course of our lives, we’ve learned that eating healthy foods is “good”: “I was good today, I ate a salad for lunch!” We’ve also learned that eating not-so-healthy foods is “bad”: “I was so bad today, I had a burger and fries at lunch.” If you’ve been on and off of the diet “wagon”, you’ve likely felt “bad” more often than “good”. Does that help you get to your goal more easily? NOPE.
Here’s the thing: FOOD HAS NO ETHICAL VALUE. It is neither good nor bad. Eating a fridge full of vegetables every day does not make you Mother Theresa, just like eating a fridge full of chocolate pudding does not make you Charles Manson. The food you eat does not reflect the kind of person you are. I can’t stress this enough. And this is where data collection comes in.
What and how much you are consuming is doing one of three things: Getting you closer to your goal, helping you maintain where you currently are or is getting you further away from your goal.
Here’s how you figure out how many treats you can choose to have depending on your goals:
- First, decide how you’d like to measure your progress (scale weight? waist circumference? the way an item of clothing fits? something else?). Take that measurement the day you start keeping track of your treats. DO NOT MEASURE AGAIN FOR AT LEAST ONE WEEK. In my opinion, taking measurements every two-three weeks is ideal because it gives you a more accurate picture of your weight loss trends. But if you're not ready to wait that long, every week is OK to start. (Read this for more info about why I think taking measurements more than once/week can be detrimental.)
- Keep a log of what you snack on throughout the day. This means any bite/sip you have outside of your breakfast, lunch and dinner and includes liquid calories (lattes, wine, juice, etc).
- This log can be in any form that works for you: An index card you carry around with you in your purse or pocket, a piece of paper on your fridge, a food tracking app, the notes app on your phone, and Excel or Google spreadsheet… Use whatever is the easiest for you.
- Remind yourself that this is DATA ONLY. Writing down the second glass of wine is neither good nor bad. It is simply information that will help you figure out how many treats you can choose to have in a given week.
- After at least 1 week, remeasure.
- Did your weight go down? Assuming this is your goal, this means the number of had is still getting you closer to your goals. Keep on enjoying them!
- Did your measurements stay the same? This means the number of treats you chose to have is great to enjoy to stay where you are. (NOTE: This can be SUPER helpful information during times when maintenance is key and NOT weight loss. Think vacations, special events like weddings, etc.)
- Did you measurement go up? Unless weight gain is your goal, take a look at your log and see what you can happily take out of your week.
- Track again.
- Collect more data.
VIVE LES TREATS!