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06/16/20

Should You Leave The Food Scale Behind For Good?

“You know, I’ve been doing this for a long time and I think I’ve got a good handle on most of this. I’m going to take a break from weighing and measuring my food once this next session wraps up.”

A member I’ve known and coached for a long time said that to me a few weeks back when we were coming to the end of their session. It was the first time I’d ever heard her make mention of leaving the food scale behind. She’d previously talked a bit about how tedious weighing and measuring felt and how sometimes it was just flat out annoying. And to be honest, I get it. Weighing your food can feel exhausting sometimes. Especially in the beginning of any journey, when it can seem like a weirdly obsessive thing.

When you starting the Stronger U we make a big deal over the fact that we’re asking you to gain an accurate picture of how much you’re eating. This is something we help you do by weighing and measuring our food using tools like food scales and liquid measuring cups so that you can soon learn what proper portion sizes look like. This is the secret sauce to the whole Stronger U program. It’s accountability through education. It’s how you learn more about the foods you eat. It’s how you begin to see the ways in which you could best structure a day to eat for your goals and still enjoy the foods you love.

Not familiar with weighing your food or need a primer on some of the big things to pay attention to? Don’t worry, we’ve got here. Here are some of our favorite tracking tips:

  • The food scale will be your primary tool here. Weigh everything with your food scale, except when measuring a liquid or a beverage, which you can do with a liquid measuring cup.
  • Develop some familiarity with your food scale. Learn how to weigh various foods on it. Learn functions like the “tare” button, which allows you to zero-out the scale with something on it.
  • We have added entries to MyFitnessPal for many basic food options that will be accurate for you to use. All are raw unless specified. To find these entries in MyFitnessPal add “Stronger U” to the search bar for that food.
  • We recommend you weigh and log all of your meat and dry-bulk foods raw, before cooking. This allows for more accuracy in the logging process.
  • All nutrition labels and entries in MyFitnessPal, unless otherwise specified, reflect the nutritional value of raw food. 
  • While we recommend weighing and logging your food raw, we understand that’s not always possible. So at the end of the day, always log food the same way you weigh it (if you weigh food raw/uncooked, enter raw/uncooked. If you weigh it cooked, enter it cooked). This is important because food can lose water while cooking (like chicken or other meats) or gain water while cooking (like rice or pasta).
  • Many of the popular tracking apps allow for user-generated entries from individuals and larger organizations like restaurant chains. This can be helpful when we’re searching for a particular dish, but because of this everything won’t always be 100% accurate. To double-check the accuracy of foods, use the USDA’s FoodData Central.

Through practicing these habits over time, this allows you to understand where your calories come from, which foods can best help you meet your macronutrient targets, and then plan a day effectively so you can eat for your goals and enjoy the foods you want in the appropriate amounts. It’s a system for accountability and informing your food choices that can’t be beaten. Can it feel like a bit of a pain at times? Sure. Especially in the beginning. But it’s also a major piece of the Stronger U pie that allows you to achieve your results and maintain those results for the rest of your life. It can also help you understand that you’ve never actually eaten a regular-sized serving of peanut butter.

(Credit to CrossFit Sycamore for the outstanding picture!)

That picture is a perfect example of why we teach you how to weigh and measure everything you eat. That process is an active-learning experience, and the lessons that you learn while making weighing and measuring a habit are lessons that don’t soon leave you. But just because we don’t forget those lessons doesn’t mean that we should just up and leave the tools that taught those lessons behind. 

Sometimes we all need to be reminded of the importance of the basics, especially in the food world. It’s easy to get a little diet cocky after awhile. We diet and control our food choices for a while. We get comfortable with tools like a food scale. And over time, we see progress. But the story doesn’t stop at seeing progress.

Just because you’re ready to leave the nest doesn’t mean you’re ready to fly.

And herein comes the real point of this blog: for many of us, once we’ve hit our goal there’s a natural inclination to ease up off the gas pedal. It’s totally understandable. After all, you’ve done all this hard work and paid attention to so much and you’ve got results to show for it. Who wouldn’t want to relax a bit?

But that turns into a slippery slope. We start to cut ourselves a bit more slack with weighing and measuring what we eat until we’re eye-balling everything we eat. We forget to plan days. Where we might have over-indulged one day during the week that turns into two days, which becomes three. 

All of a sudden we wake up one day and realize that all that progress we worked so hard for has started to reverse itself. 

Why does that happen?

Because we get loose in our behaviors. The things that were keeping us in check, like the food scale, have been left behind. For some of us, that very well might be the right choice. As I’ve mentioned here, weighing and measuring what you’re eating on a daily basis can feel like a tedious process. And the whole point of weighing and measuring isn’t so that we can do this forever, either. It’s to teach us enough about portions and food so that we can one day eat to support our goals and still enjoy what we’re eating, all while flying on autopilot.

But getting to autopilot with this doesn’t happen overnight. It happens through continual practice. But that practice doesn’t stop when a session is over. Like any life-long change, we need to give ourselves time to make it a piece of who we are. So instead of quitting the food scale cold turkey, if you’re feeling ready to leave it behind, try easing yourself into that. A few good options that might help you do that:

  • Practice eye-balling. Before you weigh something, take a guess and see how close you are. Keep doing this with everything you weigh and measure. Over time you’ll start to get closer, helping calibrate your tracking eye.
  • Plan for one day a week where you’re not weighing and measuring your food so you can get a sense of how it feels not to lean on that tool. And as a bonus point, this can help you test your estimating and eye-balling skills. 
  • Try different tracking strategies like aiming for protein + total calories. This way you’re giving yourself a break from playing macro tetris and can practice a more relaxed approach to eating and tracking, which will be more in line with how you might live your daily life.

A reminder for all of us:

There’s very real power that comes from learning how to accurately measure and log your food. That process teaches us invaluable lessons about where our calories come from, and those are lessons that we don’t ever stop learning. Even the most experienced trackers amongst us, coaches included, still spend periods of time tracking during the year. They do this because if we stop with important tools like the food scale altogether, it makes it far more likely that we’ll begin to fool ourselves into thinking we’re eating how we should, when reality says far different.

Humans are notorious at finding ways to justify our choices and look at the past through rose-colored lenses. Weighing and measuring is an antidote to that uniquely human tendency. It’s a built-in source of accountability and education. Even if we take time away from that practice, it won’t ever stop being useful. 

So if you’re at a point where you’re unsure why your weight is creeping up, don’t be afraid to get back to the most basic piece of this program. Weigh and measure everything you eat. Every little bite, lick, and taste. Plan your foods and meals into your day. And give yourself time and grace. Nobody is perfect at any of this, even us coaches. Coming back to tools like the food scale doesn’t make you a failure, it means you’re being responsible in taking care of your food intake. 

Tanner Baze
Content Manager