Is food tracking the secret to surviving the holidays?

Keeping track of what you eat can help your waistline and overall wellness. 

Food journaling isn’t new. Just like a budget helps you plan your finances, holds you accountable and provides a clear picture of the amount of money flowing out of your bank account (I spent HOW MUCH on takeout last month?!), tracking what you eat does the same. 

For years, heralded by weight-loss gurus, nutritionists, and mindfulness practitioners, food tracking has become more sophisticated thanks to apps that help you go deeper than a paper and pen can. And when it comes to getting through the holidays with your waistline relatively unscathed, food tracking (one study found that participants who tracked their food lost twice as much as those who didn’t) just might be your secret weapon. 

So what is it, exactly?

Food tracking involves writing down (or inputting) precisely what you eat in a day (and we mean precisely! Snacks, grazing, those chocolate chips you snuck while baking cookies; the handful of almonds you ate while preparing a snack for the kids), to give you some awareness of your eating habits.

Depending on how detailed a journal you keep, food tracking can give you a picture of the following:  

  • How much you’re eating 
  • When you tend to eat the most
  • What you eat in a day
  • How many calories you eat
  • How food affects your mood
  • How your mood affects what you eat
  • What you’re missing in your diet
  • Where you can cut back
  • What kind of changes you need to make 
  • How much money you’re spending on food 
  • Food intolerances 

Some app trackers can also help you plan your meals, provide motivation and accountability, offer tips and education and recipe ideas.

How does this help me eat less during the holidays? 

Tracking your food during drawn-out occasions like Christmas and other holidays can help you plan, make good choices, and help you determine when you can indulge and when you should be a little more strict. 

It can help you avoid indulgent or impulsive eating by setting you up for success. For example, if you know you have a big event in the evening, you can plan your day around that. By allocating specific calories earlier in the day, you know what’s left for later and can make allowances for that piece of pie after dinner or stuffing and gravy with your turkey. 

Here’s a sample of how to get started:

  • Wake up, weigh yourself, and write it down or input it into an app
  • Write down what you eat right away. If you wait until the end of the day to record things, you’ll end up leaving some things out.
  • Drinks count! Be sure to include them.
  • Did you order takeout? Skip a meal? Eat a donut at 3 pm? Feel yucky after eating something? Make notes of it all. 
  • At the end of the day and the end of the week, read over your journal and see if you can detect any patterns. 
  • Armed with awareness of how you eat and in light of your goals, make appropriate changes.

Food Tracking for Mental Wellness

Tracking your diet can also lead to more mindful eating. Research shows that mindful eating can help cut calories and lose weight, as it helps create awareness of when you’re hungry when you’re full, what your cravings are, and choosing your food with more awareness and greater purpose. 

It also has mental health benefits, as mindful eating has been shown to help us slow down, enjoy our food, and appreciate the tastes and textures. It also makes you aware of how food makes you feel or how emotions can trigger you to eat the things you do. 

So, when you’re at a holiday party or Christmas dinner, you’ll take note of the available appetizers and choose what’s healthiest or only your absolute favorite; you’ll truly savor each bite of stuffing that you only get to enjoy once a year; you’ll leave those last few bites of mashed potatoes before you’re stuffed because you’re aware of when you feel full. 

And because of this, when you step on the scale, you won’t have an unwelcome surprise once the new year rolls around. 

Your food-tracking partner

You could simply keep an old-school food journal with nothing more than a notebook and pen. However, if you want to dive a little deeper into your eating habits and craft a plan as part of an overall healthy lifestyle, FitTrack’s got your back. 

Our new premium MyHealth+ app includes a handy food tracker that scans your food, counts calories, and helps you set goals and plan your meals accordingly. There’s also easy meal logging and shareable progress charts. 

Coupled with one of our smart scales—like the Dara Smart Body BMI Scale—which measures 17 body composition metrics, the app can help you reach your goals 8x faster than going it alone. In addition, you’ll get a nutrition plan based on your health goals and Dara metrics, tailored fitness programs, daily motivation, and personalized body insights and recommendations. 

“It’s about educating people on what their body is made of,” says Evan Lee, Head of Fitness Programming at FitTrack, who recommends stepping on your smart scale every day. “Any change begins with awareness. You can’t set a goal or create an action plan to accomplish your goals without it. 

“So the scale is about empowering people with knowledge.” 

Lee says the next step is the premium app. “So here’s the data, and now here’s what you can do with that. It’s where you connect awareness to action.

“It provides a framework to build your schedule around.”

He says the food scanning feature “makes tracking your food way easier,” and you can even track your macro and micronutrients, helping you see what’s missing from your diet and ensuring you’re getting the nutrition you need to meet your goals. 

The app “makes you aware of what you’re putting into your body … and is creating context behind the awareness.” 

It IS possible to survive the holidays while still focusing on your health. Tracking your food is a big part of that, both physically and mentally, helping you create healthy habits and a daily routine that will carry you through the holiday season and into the new year.